18 Proven Email Marketing Best Practices
“Email is dead,” some people say. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Marketers know email marketing is here to stay.
The number of daily email users is anticipated to reach 4.3 billion by 2023. Email has a proven effect on customer behavior: Experian found transactional emails have eight times more opens and clicks and can generate six times more revenue than any other type of email.
Email is very much alive and kicking.
So, what are the main email marketing best practices? We’ve identified 18 different methods to boost the effectiveness of your email campaigns.
In this guide:
- Test your emails and adjust accordingly
- Identify and track KPIs
- Establish the right cadence
- Never spam your contacts
- Clean your email list
- Build your list, don’t buy one
- Personalize, personalize, personalize
- Automate your email marketing campaigns
- Offer incentives and rewards to loyal subscribers
- Practice segmentation
- Use drip campaigns
- Make subscription easy
- Write engaging subject lines
- Align your emails and landing pages
- Practice consistent branding and design
- Produce effective copy
- Ensure a smooth mobile experience
- Make your CTAs visible and compelling
- Frequently asked questions about email marketing best practices.
1. Test your emails and adjust accordingly.
It’s difficult to predict how your email campaigns will perform without testing. First, test for spelling mistakes, broken links or missing data. Many email marketing tools have built-in features that automatically test hyperlinks and buttons.
Your email also needs appropriate, attention-grabbing messaging — to do this, you must understand your audience. If you aren’t sure what your customers will respond to, try conducting an A/B test, like below:
- Campaign A. Your standard marketing email
- Campaign B. Variation of campaign A with a better call to action
Measure the open and conversion rates of each and refine.
2. Identify and track KPIs.
Figuring out what key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure — and how to measure them — is critical to success and one of the most important email marketing best practices.
- Open rate. The most obvious indicator of campaign health. If customers aren’t opening your emails, there could be an issue with the email itself, or the copy may not be engaging. Open rate is easy to measure. But it can be inaccurate, since many email users have image blocking enabled and therefore aren’t counted.
- Click-through rate. A more reliable representation of how customers are responding to your campaigns. Simply add up the number of unique clicks and divide by the number of emails sent. This KPI represents the percentage of customers who clicked on one or more links in your email.
- Conversion rate. This metric tells you the percentage of email recipients who followed through on a call to action. It can show you which campaigns contain the most convincing messaging.
3. Establish the right cadence.
Setting up the right order and cadence of your campaigns is another email marketing best practice and can make a big difference to how people respond to your emails.
Map your customer’s journey and make sure your content matches where they’re at. Start by acquainting recipients with your business and what it offers, then gradually ramp up their knowledge and interest.
Send emails regularly so people become accustomed to your schedule and are more likely to engage with your content. But remember, there’s a fine line between persistence and pushiness, and the latter could drive away prospective customers.
4. Never spam your contacts.
Don’t saturate your audience with unwanted content. It will probably increase your bounce and unsubscribe rates.
Email marketing best practice is to ensure your subject lines match your brand and give consumers an honest idea of what they will get out of your emails. Many email providers have spam filters that automatically sift out emails with subject lines containing things like:
- Gimmicky phrases
- Odd capitalization
- Exclamation points
So, be sure to avoid these elements when writing your own email copy.
5. Clean your email list.
Keeping uninterested people on your email list is a detriment to your open rate and the opposite of email marketing best practice, because it will cause your campaigns to seem less successful than they actually are.
Set up reports that show contacts who haven’t opened your emails or clicked on any links in your emails over the past month, and then periodically remove these people from your list.
6. Build your list, don’t buy one.
An organically built and maintained list will consist of more people likely to act on your emails and is a strong email marketing best practice.
It also keeps you safer from legal threats — General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires European recipients to consent to receiving emails, and oftentimes those on purchasable lists haven’t given consent, which puts you at risk.
7. Personalize, personalize, personalize.
If your emails aren’t targeting individual customers, they won’t get opened.
Some 90% of consumers find personalized content very or somewhat appealing, according to Statista. Likewise, 91% of people are more likely to purchase from businesses that provide individualized recommendations and offers.
There’s no easier way to get your emails deleted than by starting it with something like ‘To Whom It May Concern.’
Personalize emails to your prospects down to the subject line. Test different content and messaging to confirm that your emails are resonating with your target audience.
8. Automate your email marketing campaigns.
With email automation, email marketers can easily send individualized emails when subscribers or potential subscribers exhibit certain behaviors. These may include:
- Abandoning shopping carts
- Referring new customers
- Signing up for your list
Although you might think automation is costly, it can save you time and effort in the long run. Some 69% of people said automation helped reduce wasted time and 72% said they would use the time they saved to focus on higher-value work, according to Smartsheet.
9. Offer incentives and rewards to loyal subscribers.
After you’ve established rapport with your subscribers, include special incentives in your subject lines. Offer things like:
- 50% off your next purchase if you spend $100 today
- Free shipping on orders of $40 or more
Such offers can increase your open and clickthrough rates.
Remember to customize discounts or freebies you send to loyal customers. For example, if you already know they bought a laptop, you might give them a discount for a case, a mouse, or other accessories that would complement their previous purchase. Sending promotions that don’t make sense just confuses customers and makes them feel less appreciated.
10. Practice segmentation.
Segmenting your audience can help you tailor your messages and content to encourage customers to follow through on your call to action.
Sort and filter your list by:
- Past purchases
- Where they signed up
Change your messaging to fit the goals of each of those groups. For example, if your email is promoting meetups in various locations, use an image of the city closest to where the subscriber lives.
11. Use drip campaigns.
Incorporate drip campaigns to deliver messages in a sequence designed to get a reader closer and closer to making a purchase.
Begin by setting up a drip campaign for customers who signed up for a free piece of content or a demo. Then gradually send them more useful content to keep your products at the top of their mind.
This style of campaign can be highly effective and generate significant revenue over time.
12. Make subscription easy.
Insert a subscribe button and a CTA that encourages people to sign up at the end of your emails.
Although this may seem silly given the person receiving the email will already be on your list, the subscriber could decide to forward your email on to a friend or coworker.
That friend or coworker could see the subscribe button at the bottom, and voilà, another person is added to your list.
13. Write engaging subject lines.
Subject lines are one of the first things a recipient sees, so they need to be compelling and create a sense of urgency. Make subscribers want to open and read your emails with stories of:
- Time-limited deals
- Product launches
Remember to keep your subject lines short. They should be between 30 and 50 characters to account for screen sizes that truncate longer text.
14. Align your emails and landing pages.
The look and feel of your emails should match corresponding landing pages.
Most subscribers are excited to open your emails, particularly those announcing new products or sales, so make sure your landing pages carry that same energy.
Be consistent with your subject lines, design, content and copy to avoid confusing your readers. Moving from email to landing page to checkout should be seamless.
15. Practice consistent branding and design.
Branding and design are important beyond landing pages. People who have subscribed to your list are looking for something familiar, so departing from your regular design can be jarring.
Keeping a uniformity to your emails isn’t just aesthetic — many readers are skimming, so a consistent look helps them validate that the email is coming from a reputable brand they’re familiar with.
16. Produce effective copy.
Engaging copy can mean the difference between a winning email campaign and a failure.
- Start with an attention-getting, relevant subject line
- Write your copy in a way that’s easy to understand
- Use bullet points and short paragraphs to break up the copy
The tone of your copy depends on your audience. B2B companies might sound more professional, whereas B2C emails may have a more conversational or even humorous vibe.
17. Ensure a smooth mobile experience.
Almost 75% of web designers say the top reason people leave a website due to a negative mobile user experience is non-responsive design, according to research by GoodFirms.
Think mobile first.
- Fonts. Large, readable fonts (at least 14 point) make copy much more legible on a phone, tablet, and desktop.
- Columns. Keep your emails to a single column. Multiple columns may look great on a laptop but are difficult to consume on a smaller screen.
- CTAs. Prominently display your CTA buttons and make sure they respond to touch as well.
Finally, avoid making people scroll by condensing your content to the most pertinent pieces of information, links, and images.
18. Make your CTAs visible and compelling.
Make it crystal clear to your readers what you want them to do after they open your email.
Even the catchiest emails can’t spur conversions if users are scratching their heads trying to determine their next move. This is an email marketing best practice fundamental.
Confusion arises when marketers stuff too many themes into one email. Use words and images to drive readers to one action. Large buttons or links at the bottom of your email also make your CTA easy to find and click.
Unlock the efficiency of automated email marketing.
So, how do you integrate all of these tips into your marketing strategy? The trick is to use a tool to automate your email marketing campaigns.
Forget about compiling email lists and scheduling messages manually. Email automation software allows you to send your emails based on triggers or a particular schedule. And you can easily adjust things, guided by data from campaign testing.
Marketo Engage helps marketers track and interact with customers at every stage of their journey, organically creating more personalized experiences and optimizing your email marketing strategy over time.
Discover what Marketo Engage can do for your email marketing team by taking an interactive tour today.
Frequently asked questions about email marketing best practices.
What are good email practices?
There are many good practices to follow when creating and implementing email marketing campaigns. Perhaps the most important is to focus the email on one specific message or action — don’t confuse the reader. And favor short, sharp copy that catches the eye with clear benefits and persuasive CTAs.
How do you test email marketing?
One of the best-known ways to test your email marketing is A/B testing. An A/B test sends two versions of the same email to a small number of your subscribers. There will be differences between the two versions, in subject line copy, intro copy, design and more. The software identifies the most popular email and delivers that to the rest of your subscriber list.
How can I run an effective email campaign?
There are many things that contribute to an effective email campaign. First, you must have a clear objective and target audience. For example, do you want to drive traffic to pages or nurture leads? You need a timeline and publishing schedule — what emails are you sending and when? Then you need to create the emails using email marketing software and talented copywriters and designers. Once your email campaign is live, you must test to see what works and what doesn’t.