best practices for email marketing

“HEY, printers! How will you use email in 5 – 10 – 20 years?”

Have you thought about it? Have you planned how email will be part of your business? How will you use it to make money and get print customers?

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane to 25 or so years ago. 

Think back to the first time you started using email back in the early 1990s. If you are too young for this journey, imagine a world where you had to take an old-fashioned phone handset (no, not like the one Oliver Wendell Douglas, Sam Drucker and Mr. Haney used on Green Acres) and smash it into a rubber pad to get an internet signal. You’d hear the connection sound, soon to be associated with AOL, and you were off to the races. 

You’d log into your email, and there would be messages from:

  • Your crazy uncle, who sent jokes and cartoons forwarded around in an endless loop;
  • Your mom, who clicked on, believed, and forwarded everything; 
  • Your boss, who couldn’t quite get the hang of this email thing; 
  • Your co-worker who blind cc’d and replied to all in an attempt to entrap you into saying something you could get fired for…..

Back then, your email address ended with…


… (for real –>. )


Clearly someone thought email was fun! 

If you worked for a print publishing company, as I did, your boss probably said:

“HEY! Let’s figure out how to make money off email.”

And there’d you be, learning code and trying to make a pretty email newsletter with ads in it, back before such a thing existed.

Flash forward 25 years, and, really, email has not come very far. We think it has because it is so ubiquitous, but really it is the same.

This is my definition, so if I don’t get it exactly right, I’m just using it for illustrative purposes:

A bunch of code delivered in a “container” to an individual or a group using an email service provider to convey the message and hand it off to the recipient’s incoming server. 

Ridiculously simple, and yet so important to those of us in the printing world.

Your email list is one of the most valuable assets you have.

In fact, today a printer asked me:

“Hey, what’s more important? SEO or our email newsletter?”

Newsletter, hands down.

If Linkedin, Twitter, Google, Bing, Facebook, et al, went away, you would still have your list of email subscribers who opted in — AGREED — to receive email from you. 

As you know, I am a huge fan of mixing email and print to amplify results, so your print-mail list is important, too. However, because it does not require permission on the part of the recipient, I put it a notch below your email list. 

And if you’ve been emailing regularly for years and years, which all of my clients have been doing, your list is like gold. 

So here we are in the second decade of the 21st century. As we think back to the earliest days of email and then project our imagination into the future — mobile, desktop, mental computing? — something will change. It MUST.

What will it be? 

I recommend you put on your stretchiest thinking cap and start brainstorming about what email (and email plus print) will look like in 5 – 10 – 20 years. 

  • What should you do now to PREPARE for that future? 
  • What can you do now to DRIVE better results in that future? 
  • What can you do now to CAPITALIZE on the reality of that future?

Our communication tools and technology will change, you can bet on it.

As you look at what plays well with print, and which tools you currently use to reach and persuade prospects, think of the future and do a little backwards engineering. Write down what you come up with. Plan around it. Send it to yourself in an email and schedule it for April 1, 2025.

If you do, I bet your future self will say:

“HEY, I was pretty smart back then!”

Share your ideas for the future of email below, and read more from Sandy here.

Sandy Hubbard has been author and contributor at Print Media Centr since 2011. She is a Marketing Strategist and Business Consultant who serves print, publishing and media businesses. Sandy helps clients build their businesses using solid, proven techniques and a systematic approach. She hails from a long line of printers, publishers, authors, and newspaper owners. For 22 years she published a magazine for the printing trade, counseling her readers about how to make better business decisions and grow in an evolving print landscape.

Connect with Sandy on LinkedIn and find her on Twitter at @sandyhubbard every Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, leading or co-hosting #PrintChat with Deborah Corn of @PrintMediaCentr — Join in the fun at social media’s most popular chat for the global printing industry!

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