Email Marketing 101 25 Best Practices

21 September, 2017

Justin Palmer asked:

I suppose I can title this article “25 Email Marketing Mistakes I’ve Made.”
But rather than focus on the negative, below I’ve outlined the best practices
I’ve come to adopt over the years. Hope you find something here useful.

Diversify your Content: If your entire email focuses on one product,
service, or topic, you risk alienating all but the few people who will be
interested. Unless you have segmented your database based on previous behavior,
do not send an email on only 1 topic. I consistently find that the click through
rate increases in proportion with varied content.

Don’t Stress about Spam Words: Many experts will tell you to avoid
words like “free” or “sale”. In my opinion, ISPs tend to be moving away from
content based spam filtering in favor of reputation based filtering. In other
words, your sending IP address and from email are more important than whether or
not your email contains certain words. Personally, I’ve used words like “free”
in the subject line without any affect on delivery rates.

Make it Readable with Images Disabled: Always take into account the
appearance of your email with images disabled. For email clients such as
Outlook, this is now the default feature. Even popular web mails like Hotmail
now disable images unless the sender is in the address book of the recipient.
The best tactic to create readable emails with images block is use an alt

Create an Online Version: Always provide an online version of your
email for users having trouble viewing images. I’ve calculated from emails I’ve
sent in the past that around 5% of users will use this feature.

Don’t Over or Under Mail: If you send too much, you’ll get deleted or
marked as SPAM. Oddly enough, if you send once every 3 months you may have the
same problem. Keep your brand top of mind for your customers by finding the
perfect balance between over and under mailing.

Forward to Friend Feature: Many users automatically do this, but it
doesn’t hurt to ask. First time potential customers can be very open to company
when it is introduced by a friend or colleague.

Subscribe Feature for Forwards: Make it easy for potential new
subscribers to subscribe if they receive your email as a forward. Include
somewhere in the body a subscribe link.

White List Reminder: If you want your subscribers to add you to their
white list or address book, you need to ask. Sure, not everyone will add you.
However, those who do are likely the people who care most about receiving your
emails and, therefore, you have the most to lose if your emails get flagged as

Unsubscribe at Top: I know what you’re thinking, “At the TOP!?” Yes,
at the top. Lazy unsubscribers have a tendency to click the SPAM button instead
scrolling down to find the unsubscribe link. By placing the link at the top, you
might increase your unsubscribe rate, but that’s better than an inflated SPAM
complaint count.

Single Click Unsubscribe: I generally recommend keeping the
unsubscribe as simple as possible. However, you may want to confirm the action
if you place your unsubscribe at the top of every email in case users click the
link on accident.

Privacy Policy: Always place your privacy policy at the bottom of
every email. Assure customers that you obtained their email address in a
legitimate fashion, and you will not sell their personal info.

Call to Action: Each section must contain a specific call to action
that avoids vague phrases like “click here.” You’ll be surprised how an
effective call to action button or link can improve your click through rate.

Mix Freebies with Products: Too much selling can burn people out.
Engage your subscribers with useful, free content. For example, if you sell home
theater equipment, send out an article on the explaining the benefits of newer
technologies. When you provide additional value to your customers with learning
resources, they are sometimes even willing to pay more for your merchandise. In
addition, strategies like this keep your brand top of mind.

Find Your “Tuesday”: For the eCommerce sites I’ve worked with, Tuesday
morning has always resulted in the best open, click-through, and conversion
rates. However, every company is different.

Same Day, Same Time: Be consistent in the time you send your emails
for two reasons. First, the ISPs see inconsistency as a possible SPAM flag.
Spammers can care less when they send out mass emails. Second, your customers
will begin to anticipate your emails at a certain time each week, possibly
increasing the likely hood of them opening and clicking through.

Keep the Good Stuff above the Fold: Remember that many email clients
will obscure a large portion of your email unless the user scrolls down. Make
sure the top 400 pixels are as engaging as possible. I can’t tell you how many
times I’ve had to send artwork back to the design department because the top of
the email failed to grab your attention.

A/B Test 1 Variable at a Time: It took me far too long to learn this.
For years, I would change several factors in each successive email blast, but
never could find that perfect mix. If you really want to find out what works,
you can only change 1 variable. For example, should the subject line be short or
long? Keep the same content and split your list in 2, sending half a longer
subject and the other half a shorter one. Do not change any other variables!

600 Pixel Width: Due to the limitations of many email clients, stick
with a width somewhere between 500 to 600 pixels wide.

Experiment with Subject Lines: I wish there was a magic principle I
can share with you about subject lines. Unfortunately, there isn’t. The best we
can do is test, test, and test again. Sometimes short subjects are better,
sometimes long, sometimes intriguing, sometimes urgent, whatever works best for
you. Here’s a great article on email subject lines.

Remove Inactive Subscribers: Inactive subscribers are the most likely
to get you in trouble by clicking the SPAM button. Consider automatically
removing a subscriber that hasn’t opened an email in several months.

Proofreading: Always have every email proofread by at least 2 detail
oriented people. There’s nothing more embarrassing than a typo in an email

Monitor Replies: When you send out thousands of emails, you’re bound
to get a few replies. Occasionally, you’ll get some good feedback from your
subscribers. In addition, some people reply with unsubscribe requests.

Don’t Rent Lists: Some may disagree on this, but I’ve never seen
anything good come from a rented list. Don’t risk your sender reputation with
emails from questionable sources. If you want to reach a new audience, consider
a joint venture with another firm in a similar but non-competing industry.

Develop your Brand: Remember that your emails will slowly build your
brand in the minds of your subscribers. Even if they never click-through and
make a purchase, be sure to keep a consistent and accurate corporate image with
your email content.

Begin Segmentation & Personalization Now: In a few years, email
marketers that don’t practice segmentation and personalization will be left in
the dust. There are an endless number of ways to segment your email list. Some
popular ways are by purchase behavior, geography, or ordering frequency.

As a long term strategy, I would also greatly encourage researching
transactional and trigger based email marketing, as they tend to product much
better open, click-through, and conversion rates.

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