Early in my career, I had the opportunity to work with the leading email service provider in my home country.
They led the pack not only because they had the best product, but also because they innovated and quickly applied the best practices in email and online marketing.
I’ve rarely seen such a high level of professionalism and dedication to the craft since then.
That’s why I’ve decided to write this article on email marketing best practices – I want other businesses to reap their benefits too.
I’ve somewhat ordered the strategies from basic to advanced, but you can apply them in any order you want or need.
Clean Your List
Inactive users and invalid email addresses are the number one reasons for a low email open rate and a high bounce rate.
That’s why it’s important to regularly clean your email list and remove these inactive/invalid records to improve your overall email deliverability and engagement rates.
To improve email engagement, send a message to inactive users and remove those who don’t reply. Also, verify and update your email list to make sure emails are valid.
Be proactive in managing your list. It will improve the effectiveness of your email campaigns and ultimately drive better results for your business.
Research Your Market Extensively
I’ve already written about the importance of researching skill: you need to know your audience better than they know themselves.
Market research is essential to understand your customers’ preferences, needs, and pain points. If you know these key aspects, then you can tailor your email content to their interests, so it’s more likely to turn them into customers.
And how much research is enough?
You’re done when you can write a sales email without checking the features of your product/service.
Yes, you read it right.
Sales, email and any type of content marketing is all about your customer and their needs, not about your product or service.
How to start your research?
Start by defining who your target audience is.
Identify key demographic information such as age, gender, location, income, and education level. Then use surveys or polls to learn about their interests, challenges, and buying behavior.
Monitor your social media platforms and email interactions to identify trends or feedback from customers.
Another effective way of conducting research is to analyze your competitors. Study their website and social media presence to see what they are doing well and what they are lacking.
Analyze their content, promotions, advertisements, and email marketing tactics.
This information can help you find gaps in the market, provide more competitive pricing and execute effective email marketing strategies.
Prepare Your Campaign Calendar for a Year Ahead
Don’t leave money on the table! When you’re planning ahead:
- your campaigns are well-timed and align with promotional periods, seasonal events, and holidays
- your timely content resonates with your audience, which improves engagement rates
- you can project revenue, prepare for slow and fast-paced times and adjust your business accordingly.
The best approach is to start by reviewing past campaign performance and identifying key dates and events that impact your business.
Then create a comprehensive calendar that outlines the theme, message, and content of each email campaign. It’s also important to factor in testing and optimization time, as well as creating a schedule for A/B testing and analyzing results.
By having a solid plan in place, you’ll be able to save time, resources and stay on top of competition.
Use Social Proof
Using social proof is an excellent way to influence people, which makes it a successful email marketing strategy too.
Social proof helps build trust with your audience by showing them that other people have already engaged with your brand or product. This can be done in a few ways.
One way is to include testimonials from happy customers in your emails.
Another way is to add social media icons to your emails and encourage subscribers to follow your brand on social media. When people see that others are following and engaging with your brand, it can boost their confidence in your product or service.
Just be sure to only use authentic social proof, as fake testimonials or inflated follower counts can hurt your credibility in the long run.
Use Interactive Content
Interactive means including elements within the email that allow the receiver to engage with the content and participate in some way.
This includes quizzes, surveys, interactive graphics, videos, etc.
The goal is to keep the receiver engaged and interested in the email content.
It’s important to use interactive content because it’s been shown to increase open and click-through rates. If the receivers can interact with the content, they are more likely to keep reading and eventually take the action you want, like buying or signing up.
The interactive content must be
- relevant to the email’s content and audience,
- easy to use,
Otherwise, it won’t be effective.
Be creative in the types of interactive content used and always track the results to see what is resonating with your email list.
Send Emails at the Right Time
Timing plays a significant role in receiving your message positively – it can make or break your open rates, click-through rates, and ultimately, your ROI.
There are a few factors to consider when determining the best time to send your emails.
Firstly, it’s important to identify your target audience and when they are most likely to be checking their emails.
For example, if your audience is mainly working professionals, it may be most effective to send emails during the workday rather than on weekends.
Secondly, it’s important to monitor your email metrics to identify patterns in engagement. This will help you pinpoint the time of day that your audience is most engaged with your content.
What is the best time to send an email?
Here’s a non-comprehensive list of some researches about the best email sending times:
- The top five best times to send email are 10 a.m., 9 a.m., 8 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. [source]
- The majority of email marketers reported the highest engagement for their marketing emails occurred between 9 AM to 12 PM and 12 PM to 3 PM. [source]
- Data shows that the best time to send your email is during the morning, and more specifically, between 9-11 am. [source]
- It’s better to send emails around office hours, between 7 am and 7 pm. [source]
- Thursday is considered the best day to send marketing emails. [source]
But the most important step: Test, Test, Test!
Experiment with different send times to see what resonates best with your audience. Your results can be widely different from others’.
Re-Engage Inactive Subscribers
Reactivating subscribers is a high-ROI strategy to increase your email marketing success.
Because inactive users hurt your email delivery rates, and you just throw money out of the window.
Start the re-engagement process by segmenting them into a separate list and sending a personalized activation email.
Offer incentives or exclusive content to make them excited to open your emails again.
Keep track of whom re-engages with your brand and remove those who don’t respond after a certain period.
Craft Brilliant Email Subject Lines
One crucial aspect of successful email campaigns is crafting brilliant subject lines that grab attention while avoiding potentially off-putting words or phrases.
Use data-driven insights to create engaging headlines.
Short and punchy ones work the best.
Utilizing Power Words for Increased Engagement
Putting power words into your subject lines can evoke strong emotions and encourage recipients to take action.
Examples of words that may create a feeling of urgency and draw attention include “special,” “quickly,” and “now.” These terms can spark interest, stimulating the reader to take action.
For more ideas on power words, check out this comprehensive list by OptinMonster.
Avoiding Spam Trigger Words and Phrases
Avoid using common spam trigger words like “free,” “guarantee,” or “% off” in your subject lines.
Because they risk that your emails land in the spam folder rather than the inbox.
Email service providers use sophisticated algorithms to detect potential spam messages based on specific keywords or patterns within an email’s content. Familiarize yourself with these triggers by referring to resources like this list from HubSpot.
Should you use emojis in subject lines?
No. Almost never.
They look unprofessional, and even in a casual context I also find them annoying.
It’s also easy to overuse them.
The ultimate email marketing tip for subject lines:
Keep testing different variations of your subject lines until you find one that delivers optimal results.
Remember: Personalization is key. Address your recipients by their first name or include other relevant details to make them feel valued and engaged.
Personalize Through Segmentation
You can segment your customers based on multiple factors such as demographics or behavior.
It improves open rates and generates more revenue.
In this part, we’ll examine the advantages of dividing up customers by demographic and behavioral characteristics for email campaigns.
Benefits of Demographic Segmentation in Email Marketing
- Better targeting: Segmenting your email list by age, gender, location, or company size allows you to send relevant content to specific groups within your audience. This leads to higher engagement rates and increased conversions.
- Improved personalization: Tailoring emails according to demographic information helps create a more personalized experience for recipients. For example, offering free shipping promotions exclusively to subscribers located near one of your retail stores.
- Easier analysis: Analyzing campaign performance becomes simpler when broken down by segments since it’s easier to identify trends among specific groups rather than across an entire email list.
Behavioral Segmentation for Targeted Messaging
Analyzing user behavior on your website can provide valuable insights into their preferences and interests.
Some common ways businesses use behavioral data include:
- Browsing history: Sending targeted product recommendations based on items users have viewed or searched for on your site.
- Purchase history: Crafting tailored offers or upsells related specifically to products previously purchased by customers.
- Email engagement: Segmenting subscribers who frequently open and click on your emails, allowing you to send them more targeted content or promotions.
Combining demographic and behavioral segmentation in your marketing efforts leads to highly personalized messages that resonate with recipients.
This not only improves the overall user experience but also helps achieve your business goals through increased customer acquisition and revenue generation.
Use Trigger-Based Email Automation
Trigger-based emails are automated sequences.
They can increase revenue by at least 24 times compared to traditional methods due to their timely nature.
Just imagine how many doors open when you analyze your users’ behavior patterns. For example, you can send targeted greetings or discount offers that resonate well with recipients’ interests.
This saves time and increases engagement and conversion rates.
Examples of Effective Trigger-Based Emails
- Welcome emails: Send a personalized email message when someone subscribes to your list or creates an account on your website.
- Birthday/anniversary messages: Celebrate special occasions by sending exclusive discounts or freebies to subscribers on their birthdays or anniversaries.
- CART abandonment reminders: Remind customers about items left in their shopping carts and offer incentives like free shipping or limited-time offers to encourage them to complete the purchase.
- Browse abandonment alerts: Email users who have browsed specific products without making a purchase, offering helpful information, recommendations, and promotions related to those items.
Tools for Implementing Trigger-Based Automation
There are multiple fantastic services for handling almost any use case that could come up with your email marketing needs.
ActiveCampaign and HubSpot are the most popular options for setting up automated campaigns.
These tools allow you to create campaigns tailored to your target audience’s preferences, behavior, and data insights, using email personalization techniques and other essential factors that drive successful marketing strategies.
But don’t just stop looking at these two!
Here’s a small list of other services that you could discover for their features:
Explore these platforms, compare pricing plans, and find one best suited for your business goals to deliver the desired results at scale.
Optimize Design Elements
Some design-related ideas that can significantly improve the performance of your emails:
- implementing responsive designs that cater to both light and dark modes
- keeping subject lines and pre-header text short yet engaging
- making call-to-action buttons large and obvious to users across various screen types and devices
Using Visual Hierarchy Effectively in Email Layouts
An effective visual hierarchy guides readers through your content effortlessly while emphasizing essential information.
Here’s how to build a strong visual hierarchy in your email layouts:
- Bold headlines: Use bold fonts for headings to grab attention quickly.
- Sufficient white space: Include adequate spacing between different sections or elements within the email body so as not to overwhelm recipients with cluttered content.
- Cohesive color scheme: Choose colors that complement each other well while maintaining consistency with your brand identity.
- Focused CTAs (Call To Action): Strategically place CTA buttons throughout the layout so that readers are more likely to notice them. Avoid overcrowding them into one area, as this may reduce the click-through rate (CTR).
Also, don’t forget to continuously test and refine your designs based on user feedback and performance metrics.
Optimize your Emails for Mobile
Today the majority of people access their emails on mobile devices.
It’s important to make designs that work well on these devices.
Use responsive email templates that adjust to the user’s screen size. This will help ensure that your marketing messages are seen and understood by as many people as possible.
It’s also a good idea to optimize your images for quick loading times without compromising quality.
Best Practices for Creating Responsive Templates and Designs
Try to implement these best practices to create an email with a seamless experience for your mobile email subscribers:
- Use a single-column layout: This makes it easier for users to scroll through content without having to zoom in or out.
- Increase font size: Larger fonts improve readability, especially on smaller screens.
- Create clear calls-to-action (CTAs): Make sure buttons are large enough so that they can be easily tapped by users with varying finger sizes.
- Add white space: Adequate spacing between elements enhances visual appeal while making navigation simpler.
- Select an appropriate email marketing software: Choose a tool that offers pre-built responsive templates or allows you to design custom ones effortlessly. The list I included above is a good starting point for your search.
How to Track Performance Metrics Specifically Related to Mobile Usage
Analyzing key performance indicators (KPIs) specific to mobile engagement helps fine-tune your strategy.
Some essential KPIs include open rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, bounce rates, unsubscribe rates, etc.
Lots of successful email marketing tools provide detailed analytics reports that break down data based on device type. Use this feature when evaluating campaign success.
For example, GetResponse offers mobile email analytics that allow you to monitor opens and clicks on different devices.
By understanding user behavior patterns, you can make informed decisions about your content strategy and optimize future campaigns for better results.
Without testing, you can never be 100% sure that a change you made is good or bad for your business.
Always. Be. Testing.
Best Practices for Conducting Split Tests
- Analyze performance metrics: Regularly monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) such as open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates to identify areas that need improvement.
- Create variations: Develop multiple versions of your emails by changing elements like subject lines, call-to-action buttons, or content layout. Ensure each variation aligns with your overall email strategy.
- Select a sample size: Choose a smaller sample size from your email list and test different versions of your campaign on them before sending it to everyone. This will help ensure that you choose the most effective version of the campaign for your entire audience.
Here’s a good calculator to determine the required sample size.
Stay Compliant with Privacy Laws
How to Stay Compliant With International Standards
To comply with email marketing regulations you need to follow laws such as GDPR and CCPA when sending emails across regions.
Here are some tips on how you can stay compliant:
- Gather explicit consent: Prioritize obtaining explicit consent from subscribers before sending them marketing emails. Use double opt-in methods to ensure that users genuinely want to receive your content.
- Provide a clear unsubscribe option: Include an easy-to-find and straightforward way for recipients to unsubscribe from your email list, as mandated by the CAN-SPAM Act.
- Stay updated on regulations: Regularly review changes in international laws and adjust your email marketing practices accordingly.
Leverage User-Generated Content (UGC)
User-generated content (UGC) is an excellent way to build trust among prospects and enhance your email strategy.
It’s the perfect social proof from satisfied customers, and it encourages potential clients to engage with your business.
Benefits of including customer reviews and case studies
- Increased credibility: Featuring real-life experiences from actual users boosts the authenticity of your brand. According to a study by BrightLocal, 46% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
- Better engagement: Emails that include UGC have been found to have higher click-through rates than those without. This means that recipients are more likely to interact with the email’s content and take action on its call-to-action.
- Improved conversion rates: Good reviews can increase your sales. When people read about other customers’ positive experiences with your product or service, they are more likely to buy it too.
In fact, user-generated content has been shown to increase conversion rates by up to 161%.
Strategies for encouraging users to submit their own experiences
- Incentivize submissions: Offer rewards such as discounts or exclusive access in exchange for submitting a review or testimonial. This encourages participation while also providing value back in return.
- Promote submission channels: Encourage users to share their experience by featuring links in emails that lead them to platforms like Google Reviews or Trustpilot. This will make it simple and convenient for them to share feedback.
- Highlight user-generated content: Showcase the best UGC in your email campaigns and on social media, giving credit to the original creators. This not only demonstrates appreciation but also motivates others to contribute their own content.
Use Proven Psychological Triggers & Frameworks
No matter how logical we think we are, our emotions influence our decisions and actions.
They served our ancestors as a natural guide and led them towards what they wanted or warned them of potential dangers.
And even after that many-many thousand years we’re still driven by them and other psychological factors that helped us to survive.
What does this all mean?
That if you know and use these psychological principles then you can positively influence your audience’s behavior.
What are the main psychological principles that influence human behavior?
According to Robert Cialdini they are:
- Social Proof
Here you can find a good overview of these.
What mistakes do we make in our thinking process?
There are lots of so-called cognitive biases, which are patterns of thinking that can lead us to make faulty or irrational decisions.
Common cognitive biases include confirmation and availability bias, where we only seek information that confirms our beliefs and overestimate the likelihood of events due to memorability.
I could overload you with others here, but instead just remember that if you know these loopholes, you can use them too to have a better impact on your readers.
Let’s study cognitive biases here.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How can I measure the success of my email marketing campaigns?
To measure the success of your email marketing campaigns, track key performance indicators (KPIs) are:
- open rates,
- click-through rates (CTR),
- conversion rates,
- unsubscribe rates,
- and return on investment (ROI).
Use an email analytics tool to monitor these metrics over time and make necessary adjustments to improve campaign performance.
What tips should I follow to create effective email content?
Create great content by having a clear message with a strong call-to-action (CTA), using concise language that connects with your audience’s needs or problems.
Use relevant visuals like images or videos and also make your email design responsive.
Personalize messages based on subscriber data. Always test your emails to optimize results.
Learn more about creating compelling emails by using psychological principles that influence our decision-making.
How often should I send emails to my subscribers?
The ideal frequency depends on factors like industry norms and audience preferences; however, my recommendation is at least 2 emails per week.
Monitor engagement metrics and subscriber feedback to find the optimal frequency for your audience.
What types of automated emails should I use in my email marketing strategy?
It’s always based on your unique business needs, but in general you should always welcome/onboard new users with a welcome series.
Cart abandonment reminders and post-purchase follow-up emails are essential in the ecommerce world.
Re-engagement campaigns, and personalized product recommendations based on browsing history, are also a good idea for every kind of business.