Email Marketing in 2021: The Pros Weigh In

a colourful collage of headshots from the marketing experts featured in the blog post

This fall, we conducted our annual Email Marketing Benchmark survey. We polled thousands of Marketing and Marketing Ops pros, and here’s what we found: 

✔️ 60% said they expect the frequency of email sends to increase over the next 12 months.

✔️ 99% said they believe email will be equally or more important as a marketing tool in the coming year. 

Since inquiring minds want to know, we reached out to a select group of our favourite Marketing and Marketing Ops pros to ask how they’re preparing for email marketing in 2021. Their responses are as varied as they are insightful, so we’re sharing them here so you can be inspired too. 

Here’s who we’re featuring: 

Matthew Smith – Founder – Really Good Emails and Fathom & Draft

Find him on Twitter

“I strongly believe that email is relationship-designed. People are probably getting tired of hearing my little horn toot that all day long, but it’s what drives the commerce of value and service across industries and verticals. 

“Brands can move from transaction to relationship via email in a personal way that just isn’t available in social. I don’t know when 2020 ends and 2021 begins. I’m not sure it really matters anymore. What matters to me is learning to listen to customers and clients with curiosity and empathy so I can provide them with a product & service that has functional – not just perceived – value. In short, we should be using our email as a tool to ask questions, and we can look for answers in reactions and replies.”

Back to top

Josie Garcia – Principal, Deliverability Consultant – Salesforce Marketing Cloud

“2020 has been a year with a wide range of challenges, from health to employment, but in my opinion, the most important thing in email for 2021 is still going to be your audience. If a Marketer’s subscriber base is not actively engaged for any reason, there could be a degradation in list quality. When that happens, one or both of these things will happen: 

  • ISPs will block the emails 
  • The IP will be added to a blocklist 

“This will negatively affect a Marketer’s ability to reach valid subscribers.

“To that end, I’m helping Marketers prepare by auditing their lists before the new year to weed out problematic email addresses and domains. Additionally, I recommend setting up quarterly win-back journeys to keep subscribers active, avoid List Fatigue (overwhelming subscribers with too many emails sent within a short timeframe), and closely monitor sender reputation.

“Reducing list size can be a hard sell, but when presented with valid reasons for negative impact to sender reputation, education, and actionable solutions, Marketers are more willing to follow recommendations. Showing them how our recommendations improve inbox placement and open rates is the icing on the cake.”

Back to top

Sara McNamara – Solution Architect, Marketing Technology, and Pardot Pro

Find her on Twitter

“I’m preparing for email marketing in 2021 by making sure I’m leveraging all of the data I possibly can – even data that sits in sales tools like Gong and Outreach. A lot of folks don’t realize that these tools are data mines for marketing segmentation and personalization. For example, when Gong detects a lead speaking about a competitor, I can automate the movement of that person into a targeted competitor nurture, helping sales close the deal.”

Back to top

Kim Greenop-Gadsby – Marketing Automation Specialist – Proact Group

Find her on Twitter

I believe 2021 will be the year of data. 2020 has been difficult, and email marketers are busy juggling so many tasks sometimes database maintenance can be forgotten. 

“Like the start of any new year, I see this as an opportunity to reflect on the past and prepare for the future, and what better way to do that than by cleaning out the cobwebs and doing a massive database purge to keep your lists as targeted and validated as possible? 

“While I get my feather duster ready, let me break down the cleaning/scrubbing (when you remove or segment those unengaged subscribers) process:

  • Remove unsubscribes
  • Remove hard bounces
  • Remove Spam or test contacts
  • Remove/segment inactive subscribers (ready for re-engagement campaign)
  • Clean up segments/lists

“Once you’ve gotten rid of the noise, start validating the data. Automate your cleaning and validation as much as possible, and don’t forget your sales department. Work with them to keep customer data as current as possible. It benefits both parties to work together.” 

Back to top

Jen Capstraw – President & Co-Founder – Women of Email

Find her on Twitter

“2020 was the year of the pivot, and I hope to see marketers carry pandemic-era lessons forward into 2021 and beyond. Virtually every vertical had to make bold shifts to adapt to a changing and unpredictable world, resulting in a year of innovation.  

“Pivots came with relative ease to operations with best-in-class tech stacks and teams with a scrappy growth mindset. Change was a bit more painful for marketing orgs with less flexible cloud solutions and status quo cultures, but they made it happen too, and they should be proud.

“For 2021, Marketing and Marketing Ops teams should be re-evaluating culture and technology to ensure they can operate with more agility and respond to opportunity whenever it presents itself. 2020 crises helped teams understand what’s possible when they’re under the gun and will hopefully inspire that spirit to continue as we move toward greater global stability. 2021 is the time to normalize evolution and innovation in our niche.

“I’ve heard lots of email marketing practitioners say they’ve been spread incredibly thin in 2020, and anecdotal evidence from my own contacts at email service providers support this as they report higher-than-ever email marketing send volumes. In 2021, organizations should be asking whether they have the right people, the right solutions, and the right attitude to retain an innovation mindset in perpetuity. And they must keep in mind that burning out valuable talent is not a sustainable path to this end.”

Back to top

Andy Caron – Marketo Champion, Head of Martech Consulting – Revenue Pulse

“With teams, budgets, and markets shifting so drastically over the last 10 months, accurate and actionable measurement has become even more critical. If you can determine how emails are performing, where leads are coming from, and what is or isn’t turning into opportunities and revenue, you’ll be able to pivot more quickly and avoid wasting your increasingly precious resources. 

“In preparation for 2021, I have been focused on increasing the types and depth of measurement available, from top of funnel SEO impact to velocity by channel and impact on revenue. These measurements mean that I am arming my team with the tools they need to remain agile in this constantly shifting economy and environment.”

Back to top

Don Le – Marketing Automation Manager, Global Business Marketing – Facebook

“Our 2021 priorities will center primarily around data and building more sophisticated pipelines into Marketo.  As we piece together a more complete picture of how customers are engaging with our products and services, the requirement to double down across all digital channels becomes natural evolution.

To paraphrase a timeless Spiderman quote, ‘With great data comes great responsibility.’ Richer datasets unlock new possibilities for how we approach email programs – triggers, nurtures, etc.  Once the foundation is laid, lowering the barrier to email creation will be Marketing Ops’ focus.  

“We’re focused on finding ways to build an effective, reliable, self-serviced ecosystem for our blog writers, influencers, and industry experts. How can we give these thought leaders direct access to their audiences? Traditionally, email creation has been a process wrought with friction and disarray. As we head into 2021, much – MUCH – work still needs to be done, but with the investments we’ve made into data hygiene and platform efficiencies, there’s renewed confidence in our ability to provide a more thoughtful, relevant, and personalized experience to our customers.”

Back to top

Pierce Ujjainwalla – Co-Founder & CEO – Knak

Find him on Twitter

“With more emails being sent than ever before, we’re focused on helping Marketers create emails that stand out. We’re getting ready for 2021 by listening to our customers and creating the products they need for their own campaigns to succeed. We’re also looking ahead beyond 2021 to ensure that we’re equipping Marketers to inspire, create, collaborate, and sync emails for deployment anywhere in a codeless environment.”

Back to top

Genna Matson – Senior Salesforce Marketing Cloud Engineer – DEG

Find them on Twitter

“Considering the expected increase in email volume, streamlining workflow – from segmentation to creation to reporting and gaining analytic insights – will become evermore important in 2021. More time is spent on the day-to-day creation of commercial communications in our industry than any other area. 

Now is the time to ensure your segmentation and reporting processes are fully automated and that your email template is using data-driven dynamic content. This will allow for time savings and make way for increased volume.” 

Back to top

Warren Stokes – Marketo Engage Champion, Senior Consultant – Kniva

“A while back, I compared our 2019 mailings to our 2020 mailings, and I discovered that we had emailed the same database 15x more this year than last. Hitting up that same group over and over was damaging our reputation, and it goes without saying that the campaigns were underperforming. 

“So, we’re going to do better segmenting so we get better results. Campaigns don’t get magically better because you send them more. The basics still apply: You need well-crafted ideas and a good target. Do it correctly and with quality, so even if your campaign is surrounded by noise, it will out-perform everything else.”

Back to top

Pierre Hage – Chief Marketing Officer – Knak

“I’m excited about the critical role emails will continue to play in 2021 – not just for marketing departments, but for entire organizations. We’ve heard for years now that emails are dead. If 2020 has taught Marketers anything, it’s that emails are here to stay.

“Communicating to your audience with authentic, thoughtful messages will continue to be one of the most important ways to build and foster relationships in a time where face-to-face contact isn’t possible and everyone is suffering from Zoom fatigue.   

“Our team is investing extra time to plan our strategy in order to ensure that our audience is getting the most out of every email we send. We want folks to be excited when they see a Knak email come in because they know the content will be relevant and useful, and the design will be inspiring.”

Back to top

Joi Brooks – Email Marketing Specialist – Inbox Army

Find her on Twitter

“COVID-19 has been the perfect disruptor. As retail shifts to e-commerce, and brick and mortar stores are replaced by fulfillment centers, companies are beginning to understand the importance of the Customer Experience (CX). We’re seeing this play out in the Q3 email marketing metrics: we see more opens, more clicks, and more unsubscribes. Marketing emails have become the new window shopping

“To adjust, brands must integrate their digital teams and their data. Get them all out of the silo: the data needs to be shared and analyzed, and the intelligence must be converted into marketing strategies that can be synchronized and deployed across channels. And teams must be agile because brands, products, and services are innovating on the fly.

“I suggest:

  • Find an email service provider with advanced functionality that will serve your brand’s specific email marketing goals 
  • Create short, sweet, smart email marketing campaign content
  • Design clean, eye-catching layouts and CTAs that work
  • Invest in business intelligence that tracks sales through digital channels
  • Segment contacts to reach the right customer at the right time
  • Encourage digital channel teams to collaborate
  • Test email marketing campaign frequency and time of day”

Back to top

Ajay Parikh – Senior Manager, Digital Strategy – Edwards Lifesciences

“We value building strong relationships with our customers. 2020 showed us the importance of building and maintaining customer relationships using digital channels when in-person channels were not available. 

“In the coming year, we plan to add tailored, persona-based emails that are incorporated into our account-based marketing initiatives while continuing to leverage our standard email marketing strategy. As such, we anticipate a large increase in the volume of emails that need to be built, and we are glad to have a tool like Knak to help us scale.” 

Back to top

Dr. Ada Barlatt – Chief Analytics Officer – OperationsAlly

“To prepare for 2021, my clients and I are focused on improving our use of email automation. Specifically, we are using the data collected in 2020 to identify opportunities to improve our existing use of automation and introduce new automated sequences/funnels.”

Back to top

Subscribe to the Knak newsletter!


Tania Blake is Knak’s Marketing Manager, where she’s known for her strong attention to detail and unique ability to balance "process" with "getting stuff done". When she’s not juggling a million and one projects, you can find her cooking up a storm, doing yoga, or hanging out with her family.

Most Popular

Knak places No.80 on The Globe and Mail's fifth-annual ranking of Canada's Top Growing Companies.

[PRESS RELEASE] Ottawa, ON – Knak is pleased to announce it placed No.80 on the 2023 Report on Business ranking of Canada’s Top Growing Companies.

Why the tech sector should adopt (some) Parisian values

How long should business lunches actually take? When is being slow a good thing? After a trip to Paris, Pierce shares his thoughts how the tech sector could benefit from adopting a few Parisian values.

How to Build Marketo Email and Landing Page Templates to Scale Your Marketing Campaigns

Learn how to streamline Marketo email & landing page template creation to supercharge your marketing campaigns. Explore the technical requirements involved, access leading template examples, and understand the power of no-code builders.