7 Email Marketing Best Practices

Email marketing has been around since, well, probably almost as long as emails have existed. And, why not? Email is another channel with which to communicate, so using it as a marketing medium makes a lot of sense.

The difference between email marketing and plain old emails is that plain old emails from a friend or colleague are not intrusive, or at least they shouldn’t be. Email marketing can be. So, email marketing has evolved over time to address issues that we, as recipients, don’t appreciate, and that we as marketers need to respect.

As a marketer, keep these email marketing best practices in mind when creating and sending emails to your recipients.

1) Send emails to a list of people who have agreed to receive information from your company.

Marketing emails are considered to be “spam” if sent to someone who has not opted in to the list (directly or through a 3rd party). Marketers can get in trouble if sending “spam” emails, or emails that the recipient has not agreed to receive. So, make sure—before you send emails to a list—that the list has opted in to receive information from your company, or you are marketing via a legitimate 3rd party list that people have opted into.

2) Know your audience and be respectful.

Email marketing should offer something of interest and value to your recipient. An invitation to an event, an offer to receive a product discount, complimentary information, or a discount, something that you know they would like and respond well to. Make the offer (also referred to as the “Call to Action”) clear so it’s obvious what you are asking of your recipients.

3) Write engaging subject lines.

The best subject lines are the ones that get people to open the email, assuming you aren’t being deceptive or sneaky with your subject line. Some folks say short is the way to go; others opt for longer subject lines. I love subject lines that are questions. Good questions draw in the reader. A subject line like: “Want to know the #1 mistake every company makes?” would grab my attention. Or, make the subject line super direct: for example, when offering content, make the subject about what someone can take away from reading this email, e.g.,  “The top 5 mistakes every company makes”.

4) Determine the sender.

If you don’t have your own database of email recipients, or your company is new and no one knows it, you should consider using a 3rd party list with a well-known name that allows sponsors (advertisers) to send a marketing email to their list. (You don’t get access to the list; you send your email to the company that sends it out on your behalf.) Think of it this way:  if The New York Times is sending out your email to their subscriber list (who have agreed to receive 3rd party information), then the likelihood of the recipient opening that email is much higher than if the sender is “No Name Co.”. Also, think about whether the email sender should have a person’s name vs. the company name. Different approaches work based on what the content is.

5) Keep mobile in mind, always.

Many people are viewing emails on their mobile devices and that trend is only growing. For those reading emails on their SmartPhones, you need to keep the snippet text (aka preview text or preview header) relevant—it’s the blurb that summarizes what the email is about and is viewable after the subject line. If the subject line is interesting and the snippet text is relevant, you will get more opens. Another thing to keep in mind: if your emails include graphics, you want the graphics to download quickly; this is super important with mobile users.

6) Timing in life is everything, right?

It used to be that companies wouldn’t send marketing emails after work hours or on weekends. Now that people are viewing their emails on their devices around the clock, you may cut through the clutter in the evening or on weekends. Test your send times to see when you get the best open rates.

7) Last, but most importantly, think like your customers and prospects.

If you wouldn’t like, read, or respond positively to an email that you are about to send to your list, it’s likely your recipients won’t either. (This ties back to the “be respectful” comment above.) Be clear about what you are asking of them. Make it easy for them to learn more about your business, your offerings, and most of all, make it really easy for them to buy from you. After all, that’s what marketing is all about.

Interested in learning more about email marketing? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:

5 Tips for Writing for Mobile
How to Write Strategic Calls to Action