The Email Marketing Agency of the Future: The Trendline Model

Andrew Kordek

7 minute read

At Trendline, we believe that much of our success so far has come down to three key areas:

  1. Our focus on email marketing
  2. Our unique culture
  3. The solid foundation set by our five core values

Ownership, integrity, and collaboration drive us to always deliver for our clients. By focusing on innovation and continuous improvement, we’ve been able to leverage the right technology as part of our own digital transformation.

This not only affects how we deliver for our clients and their customers but how we operate our business.

For companies to successfully navigate digital transformation, they must put customers at the center of all that they do.

In fact, Forrester’s four rules for digital transformation heavily emphasize the power of consumers and technology to transform your business:

  1. Deliver easy, effective, and emotional customer experiences.
  2. Focus operations on things customers value.
  3. Build platforms and partnerships to accelerate and scale.
  4. Innovate at the intersection of experiences and operations.

Transformation isn’t just for enterprises, either.

Trendline is the perfect example of an agency that is both client and audience focused. We’ve harnessed technology to create operational efficiency, which allows us to execute at scale.

Our model embraces tools for better collaboration and better processes. It even transforms how we communicate, inform, and manage client relationships.

As an agency of the future, Trendline embraces everything that technology offers to transform our organization for the better.

Trendline’s digital transformation model is focused on the 7 Keystones of Email Marketing Excellence, although they can be applied to any organization looking to transform how they work.

The 7 Keystones of Email Marketing Excellence

Although email marketing platforms have innovated, the email marketing industry is still very much siloed in how it operates—even after two decades of change and growth.

Instead of accepting the status quo, Trendline embraced transformation. We developed a new set of tools and services to create a customer centric service model.

For some agencies, fast is their goal. But to succeed, you can’t sacrifice speed for quality.

The result is a more flexible organization that’s talent-driven. Thanks to our Keystones of Excellence, we’ve been able to scale talent, boost expertise, and increase our value without over-hiring.

The 7 Keystones of Email Marketing Excellence


Strategy isn’t about having an idea.

Real strategists know that strategy is about developing the right solution to address a business or consumer issue—strategy is having a specific approach to solving a problem.

Benchmarks and best practices will help you see what works well. However, strategy for email marketing is about day-to-day action instead of quarterly reviews.

Trendline is unique in that it has broken strategy into operational principles that center on data management and integration, creative optimization and experience optimization, campaign/journey sequencing, and operable analytics.


Email is largely a production art.

It’s unlike any other marketing channel in that the recipient’s ’ experience is governed by the ISP that delivers the email. However, ISPs operate by their own rules and guidelines.

Trendline has transformed the way it manages the production side of email marketing.

We’re able to connect teams through a variety of collaboration tools, processes, and other methods of accountability like live interactions, video interactions, and process monitoring tools.

This allows the agency to scale across many diverse client operational environments.

The ability to adapt to the client’s environment in diverse ways that connect talent in efficient and accountable processes is the key to Trendline’s success in managing global email programs.


Creative expenses account for more than 50% of campaign costs.

Template systems, responsive design, and more advanced content management systems allow the agency to build efficiencies into this creative process.

Still, Trendline recognizes that there’s a fine line between delivering template experiences and usability that inspires action.

Trendline has embraced creative flexibility by infusing user experience testing and design into the production process.

But we do more than A/B testing.

Trendline looks at content as an end to end experience for the user. This includes the content itself, content format, and user device.

The transformative areas of creative center on new processes, design frameworks, proofing tools, and rapid templating.

These tools allow brands to focus on the window experience versus how email will look after four scrolls.


Technology is the root of digital transformation, with customers at its center.

However, the agency of the future won’t just be the “integrator” but the test bed for new technologies.

Trendline incubated its own innovative technology. We’re currently working on software that will:

  • Integrate flexible data so all customer touch points are in a central hub.
  • Answer customer questions in real time with data visualization.


You can’t manage what you don’t measure. That’s why brands of the future embrace data and analytics.

Trendline takes a holistic approach to analytics. We use custom analytics to measure more than simple email opens and clicks.

Thanks to embracing innovative analytics solutions, we offer our clients data that no one else can.

Features like real-time data, self-service dashboards, cost analysis, and data assessments take Trendline to the next level.


The world of email deliverability has evolved over the years. We have better tools for ISP monitoring and identifying potential blacklisting.

Overall, marketers are able to better understand deliverability and the customer inbox experience. We’ve also seen a major change in how ISPs gauge whether an email is wanted or not.

Engagement is the new norm. Agencies can no longer send email unchecked until ISPs react and filter your emails.

Instead, ISPs look for engagement trends that are specific to each brand. As such, deliverability has become more than monitoring and remediation.

Now, it’s a front-end customer exercise that combines the receiver, the device, the frequency, and how permissions and preferences are managed over time.

Trendline has blended the technical side of deliverability with customer experience frameworks, all while embracing an agile process of optimizing delivery without sacrificing scale.

Privacy & Legal

Global compliance and privacy rules are under constant attack. The risks of data breaches are as high as ever.

Digital transformation in this area is focused on ensuring that proper consent is obtained and documented, and that global restrictions are adapted to and embedded into everyday production.  

Privacy transformation is an art of collaboration and knowledge transfer.

This also requires systems and processes that ensure marketers adhere to guidelines and react to customer inquiries about their data and privacy.

This was previously a manual process. But with GDPR taking hold globally, Trendline navigates compliance and builds a response in our process to satisfy in-country laws.

Digital Transformation and the Email Agency of the Future

The Keystones of Email Marketing Excellence can be applied to any organization. It’s the framework upon which you can grow your agency through innovative tools.

Using this Trendline Model, integrate these six processes and tools to innovate your practices for transformation.

Account collaboration

Coordinating teams is a never-ending battle.

Fortunately, the days of quarterly reviews and planning are soon to be things of the past.

They will be replaced by more agile practices that extend knowledge transfer, ensure team alignment, and increase collaboration.

Disruptive collaboration tools have made this amazingly efficient. The agency of the future uses multiple collaboration tools to connect without requiring meetings at all.

Sharing in rapid fashion and ideating asynchronously was simply not possible ten years ago, but today it’s a reality.

Tools like Google’s G Suite, Slack, Shift, and Workfront help you manage documents, assets, and versioning.

Remember, the tools themselves are not the transformation. The speed at which they are deployed and adopted is.

Workflow efficiency

Email marketing is a daily challenge of managing handoffs, approvals, change management, and project tracking.

ESPs today offer far more advanced automation capabilities, asset management, and data management.

Use the tools that come natively with your ESPs and other software to seamlessly manage workflows.


When marketers toss around the term “optimization,” most think of testing.

But the agency of the future is thinking about scale advantages.

Where can you replicate efforts while mass-customizing to market timing?

The agency of the future adopts transformative ways to test dynamically on the fly, optimizing process with speed and accuracy.

Many are blending towards what some call the ML/AI agency of the future.

This includes technologists, strategists, analysts, and data scientists centered on using the power of data and algorithms to answer real-time business, market, and channel questions.

They are the left brain to an agency’s right brain that’s solely focused on how to leverage data in predictive ways. This, combined with a hyper-focused customer experience team, leads to more options for brands to grow.

Optimize existing programs and create timely programs to capitalize on market conditions, competitor dynamics, and even resource constraints.

Success-centered analytics

Email has gotten a bad rap with analytics. The C-suite doesn’t accept loose performance insights tied to non-impact metrics like opens and clicks.

The new agency leverages disruptive methods using real-time analytics that center on effective reach, engagement, and customer-centered metrics that can be tied to revenue impact.

The agency of the future is the inner eye of customer success. It builds cloud-based analytics environments that connect many sources of data to allow for real-time exploration.

Delivery optimization

Let’s not forget about the inbox, though.

Email marketing lives and breathes by its ability to get to the inbox, yet we’re seeing a dramatic shift over the last ten years to mobile viewership.

There are more out-of-home digital engagements, which is a huge demographic disparity to how people read or interact with email based on age.  

Trendline is transforming how brands optimize the inbox, the device, and the time of day.

This is necessary in a world where most consumers switch devices throughout the day, sometimes while doing the same task.

Formerly, it was the agency’s responsibility to make sure Gmail or Yahoo didn’t filter your emails. Today, that’s still important.

But real transformation happens when you look at your customer demographics, use patterns, and device biases.

For predicting future behavior, where and what device they are using is as valuable as any other form of data.

With this view, it makes optimizing experiences become far more programmatic in nature.


While agencies have always had some degree of regulatory oversight, it was rare to find agencies that added operational value with their compliance knowledge.

GDPR will be an ongoing issue for marketers to navigate. Marketers must disrupt and rewrite how they manage data privacy.

While we can’t replace internal privacy or legal teams, our agency is the operational oversight that helps others navigate local privacy laws and GDPR.

It’s no longer enough to update your privacy policy. Data regulation is a day to day, collaborative process that must be operationalized.

Engineer solutions with an understanding of data, regulatory issues, and how they affect brands.


Digital transformation continues to gather steam. However, there’s a big difference between understanding digital transformation and implementing it across your company.

True transformation is about scaling for customer needs.

Through technology, collaboration, data, and knowledge, brands can hold their teams to another level of accountability.

The result: deliver an amazing brand experience each time a customer interacts with your brand.


Learn more about disruptive technology and trends in Digital Transformation.

For questions regarding your email program, contact Trendline.

Trendline Interactive

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About the Author(s)

Andrew Kordek

Andrew Kordek is a Co-Founder of Trendline Interactive.

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