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Your 6-point plan for developing an effective international email marketing campaign

Running international email campaigns? Looking for advice? We've hooked up with email marketing experts dotMailer, which has all the answers you need.

This post comes from Tom Corbett over at dotmailer, who is deliverability and best practice manager there. This post has great tips for international email marketing from dotMailer's perspective. Enjoy!

Email marketing across international markets and territories can bring outstanding ROI.

Crucially, it enables you to engage affordably with your clients and prospects Europe-wide and globally, track response, and optimise your approach across each territory.

This 6-point plan will help you focus on the key areas you need to nail down when developing an effective international email marketing programme that will save you resources and deliver results.

1. Metrics

Understanding the right tactics to drive maximum email engagement in each of your international territories requires a local approach. The KPIs of a successful email campaign in one country can differ from those in another.

For example, cultural differences may mean that a high click-to-open rate in one territory indicates a successful campaign. Conversely, in another country, where culturally, recipients are less likely to click through but more likely to respond with a phone call, the click through rate will be less significant.

Be aware too of the importance of tracking by device. Penetration of mobile device usage may vary considerably by country, meaning your approach to the importance of using mobile friendly content and responsive design could and should vary in the same way.

Lastly, ensure you have ROI tracking in place so you can track the effectiveness of your email campaigns beyond clicks, and through to conversion on your website (whatever your website conversion goals may be, e.g. a purchase, a download, a webform submission, etc).

Localised benchmarking

The most effective approach is to benchmark KPIs for each individual territory. Don’t rely on industry average benchmarks. Establish your own, for each territory, using a systematic and consistent campaign testing and optimisation programme.


A comprehensive split testing programme, focussed locally on each different country, will help you identify your key metrics and optimise your results.

For each individual territory, split test your campaigns by:

  • Subject line
  • Content
  • Day of week sent
  • Time of day sent
  • Frequency of sends

2. Privacy and consent

Different international laws relating to distance selling, privacy and consent can seem daunting and confusing, and feel like a barrier to undertaking international email campaigns. This needn’t be the case.

While specific requirements and details of compliance will vary in different countries, the underlying principals relating to data protection, privacy and consent are universal.

The overriding principal is that of transparency. You will be on the right side of the legislation if you always ensure that you are transparent throughout the process of collecting and using customer data.

Make sure you follow the best practise for opt-ins, data collection and the right to opt-out.

In your email programme:

  • Send an automated welcome email following signup, reiterating the benefits of subscribing to your emails, setting expectations in terms of email message frequency, and stating clearly that the recipient can opt out of at any time
  • In each subsequent email you send, state clearly at the top of the template why the recipient is receiving the email. e.g.

‘We’re sending you this message because you signed up on our website to receive our monthly newsletter. There’s lots of good stuff for you in this issue, but if you’ve changed your mind and no longer want to receive it, just click here to unsubscribe.”

  • Provide a prominent unsubscribe button or link at the top of the email. Don’t hide the unsubscribe link down in the footer.
  • Be entirely transparent about who you are. Provide clear company contact details, registered address and a link to your privacy policy.

NB, this content is intended for practical guidance only and does not constitute legal advice. For more information on distance selling and legal compliance see the OFT’s Guide to Businesses on Distance Selling

Learn more about changes to the ICO’s approach here

3. Email marketing content

A localised approach to content is essential when developing an international email marketing programme.

Use an email marketing platform that enables you to create and lockdown email templates centrally, to guarantee consistency of branding and layout, while allowing you to easily change the content depending on the country you are emailing.

Varying the message

The strength of your brand locally may drive the need for differences in content for different countries.

For example, if your brand is well established and well known in one country then you needn’t focus content so heavily on your credentials and trust building.

In countries where your brand is less established you may choose to focus email messaging, at least initially, on introducing your brand’s credentials and building trust.

Content variables to test

Use split testing to establish the most effective content for each territory, including testing by:

  • Length and volume of content
  • Use of images, offers and pricing
  • Calls to action and contact preferences
  • Email clients and devices used to open your emails

4. Timing and calendars

I talked earlier about testing for optimal times of the week and time of day for sending emails, and how cultural differences may mean you need to send at different times to different countries.

Remember too that time-zone differences may be a significant consideration. Ensure you use an email marketing platform that enables you to schedule (and automate) your campaigns by different international time zones.

Local holidays and seasonal calendar dates

Be sure to draw up a calendar of local holiday dates in each of your target countries so you are aware of when not to email.

Similarly, create a calendar of local ‘event dates’ for each country which will provide additional opportunities for marketing.

Some of these ‘event dates’ will be unique to each country, and others, while seemingly universal, may fall on different dates in different countries: for example, Mother’s Day.

5. Language

Ensuring your email content is translated to the optimal level for driving response is a critical aspect of your international email programme planning.

It’s important you use a professional and experienced translation company whose linguists understand the importance of not only translating language but also translating concepts and nuances unique to the cultures of the target countries.

Localised response pages

Remember that your unsubscribe links need to point to local language unsubscribe pages. Be sure to you use an email marketing platform that enables this automatically.

Localized platform interfaces

If your organisation has local territory marketing teams editing and sending emails in their respective countries then you will need to consider an email marketing platform that provides local language interfaces.

6. Delivery

Your inbox delivery rate (the proportion of emails you send that are successfully delivered into your contacts’ inboxes) relies in part on the content of your emails.

Your content will be subject to a 2 stage process: vetting by the ISPs and spam trap filtering by the email servers. Be clear about how your email content may impact delivery before investing in content translations.


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