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Operational vs. Marketing Email

Operational Emails (sometimes called Transactional Emails) are used to share critical, relevant information with current customers. Recipients who opted out from receiving marketing messages can still receive operational emails as long as there is a legitimate interest in sharing the content. Therefore, marketers should use caution when developing content because including marketing messaging in an operational email may negatively impact the organization’s credibility. In simple terms, the information shared in operational emails must be helpful for and needed by the recipient.

In terms of when and how they are sent, Operational Emails are typically sent individually (manually) or via a trigger campaign based on a recipient’s specific activity or status. The cadence would be to send only when necessary.

Examples of Operational Emails include:

  • Purchase information/confirmation 
  • Event information (examples: registration confirmation or details of a meeting that changed)
  • Purchased product support information: update release notes, product documentation, system outage notifications, and others
  • Customer service information (how to contact, when to contact, and similar details)
  • Newsletters? Probably not! See Marketing Email examples. 

Marketing Emails are typically used to promote an event, product, service, partner or brand and can be sent to prospects as well as current and past customers who have not opted out of receiving marketing emails.

Marketing Emails can be sent by batch (ex: email inviting contacts from purchased list of trade show attendees to visit trade show booth) and by trigger (recipient downloaded a gated asset from the marketing company’s website kicking off a related nurture campaign). The cadence for marketing emails varies but in a typical B2B setting, connecting with known contacts 3-5 times per month (about once a week) is a recommended practice. 

Examples of Marketing Emails include:

  • Product information on a product the recipient has not yet purchased
  • Marketing event announcement or invitation
  • A new partnership announcement
  • Newsletters: If the newsletter contains messaging that attempts to upsell/cross-sell or otherwise promote a product or service, the newsletter should be considered a marketing email. If the newsletter contains only critical information on product(s) in use such as update release notes, a newsletter could be considered operational. If a newsletter contains update release notes and an announcement about a brand new service offered by the organization, it should be considered a marketing email.

Key Takeaways

  1. The goal of Operational Emails is to share critical information with customers. Depending on the location the organization’s policies, even if the customer has opted out of receiving Marketing Emails, it may still be possible to send those customers Operational Emails. 
  2. The cadence of Operational Emails is only when necessary. 
  3. Operational Emails are typically sent individually (manually) or by trigger depending on their status or behavior.
  4. Adding marketing information to Operational Emails to get around Marketing Email unsubscribes may have negative repercussions for the marketing organization.
  5. The goal of Marketing Emails is to promote products, services, brands and partners to prospects and customers.
  6. The cadence of Marketing Emails can be approximately weekly to known recipients in a B2B setting.
  7. Marketers should always respect the opt in/opt out preferences of prospects and customers
  8. Marketing Emails are not typically sent individually (manually) and instead are sent by batch or trigger campaigns.

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