Email Marketing Best Practices: Guide to Greater Profits and Customer Relationships

Marketing Cycle SketchWith the fast paced expansion of technology today, email marketing may not seem like it can go toe to toe with the latest social media.  Even though there are new and exciting options out there, don’t abandon this reliable standby just yet,  especially considering more business is generated by email marketing than other media platform.  The value of an engaging and personally tailored email still pulls its weight, and it is worth making sure that you get it right.

Navigating the waters of email marketing can be tricky.  There are pitfalls to avoid, and new innovations to take advantage of.  How to sort it all out, though?  What we’ve compiled here is a list of some email marketing best practices to help guide you and your company towards greater profits, and a more meaningful connection with your customers.

Consider Your Audience and Their Feelings

A good starting mindset for email marketing is to always put yourself in the place of the reader.  The last thing you want as a reader is to be annoyed or overwhelmed with emails, so take care to make sure you aren’t doing that.  Even though you are excited about the 35 new products you will be offering this season, it will not translate well if you try to inundate your readers with pictures, descriptions and links for each individual product.

It is best to keep your emails brief, interesting, and ultimately as a call to action for your landing page.  All of your detailed info will be much better received on your website, because a reader following your links is already interested.  Frequency can be an issue as well, and readers who feel bombarded are not likely to open your emails at all.  Consider one weekly digest with important overviews, rather than continual, daily reminders.

Keep Your Important Info Up Top

You sit down at your desk for the day, and see that you have 70 unread emails waiting for you.  Even if you devoted one minute to each one, you’d be stuck there for over an hour.  The harsh reality is that you may not have a full minute of your reader’s time.  You may not even have 20 seconds before you lose their attention.  Best to make your point quickly, clearly, and towards the top of the message (“above the fold” as we say.)

As far as technology has come, it is still a finicky thing.  Your perfectly spaced and formatted email will display on dozens of different screens in dozens of different programs.  Certain combinations of those things can and will mangle your hard work beyond recognition.  If your reader only needs to make out a link in the first two sentences to get more info, they are likely to see it.  If your call to action happens in the middle of an undecipherable mess of errors, you’ve lost them.  Err on the side of caution, assume technology will mess with you, and get to your point immediately.

Get Good at Writing Subject Lines

We can all admit this to ourselves: even if we are not interested in a certain product, we might open an email about it if the subject line is compelling enough.  Curiosity plays a big part in email open rates, and playing to that fact can be very beneficial to a business.

Let’s use an example.  A real estate company sends out an email with their latest listings for sale.  The obvious subject line might be as straightforward as “Our latest listings”, but that is easily ignored.  Something that involves the reader personally is more likely to be opened, so something like “We found these for you”, might be a better sell.  Furthermore, promises of interesting information inside are likely to get noticed.  A subject like such as “How much house can you afford?” is remaining personal, while also inviting the reader to open the email, because that question will be answered inside.

Adding incentives in your subject line can increase open rates as well.  “Free shipping today”, “Members save 40%” or “Claim your coupon” are all calls to action that have a direct payoff to your reader.  Offer incentives via email whenever you can.

Avoid Clutter

There are a few golden rules to formatting a good marketing email.

  • Keep your logo in the upper left hand corner of the email.  Since we read from left to right, this will naturally be the first focal point for your readers.  Brand recognition is key.
  • Use fewer than three typefaces in your emails.  As fun as color changes and size differences may seem on your screen, they can be confusing.  Also, there is always the potential for them to be displayed improperly on your reader’s screen, so keeping everything consistent can help avoid that.
  • Keep pictures to a minimum.  Even with increased download speeds, an image heavy email may stall while loading, leading your readers to click away in frustration.  Animated images take even longer yet, so avoid them.
  • Recognize the value of white space, and don’t feel the need to fill in the “blanks”.  White space allows your text, and therefore your message, to be the focal point.  Isn’t that the most desirable circumstance?

Make it Easy to Reach You

Have you ever scanned the same email over and over thinking “Yeah, this is all great, but how do I contact these people?”  Something many email marketers forget is that email is not everyone’s preferred method of communication.  If a person wants to get immediate answers, from a real person, they will likely be scanning your email for a phone number.  If you are advertising an on-location event, be sure that your physical address is front and center.

So often, businesses figure that the “contact us” link on their main webpage ought to be helpful enough.  In reality, if you want customers, they need to be able to find you easily.  If possible, integrate your phone number, address, webpage, etc. into the header at the top of your email.  The last thing you want is a potential customer to give up in frustration.

Be Consistent

Keep the logo, color scheme, and overall formatting of your emails as close as possible to those on your webpage.  Your email and landing page should be closely tied together, so that people following your link don’t feel lost when they arrive.  Also, this goes without saying, but be absolutely sure that the links in your email work, and take readers to the proper pages.  Everything should be as smooth a transition as possible.

Keeping the same look throughout your emails also boosts brand recognition too.  A reader opening an email that looks completely different from the brand they’re used to dealing with may become confused or put off.  If you do decide to go with a total brand overhaul, announcing it via email is a good way to ease your readers into it.  “Meet Example & Co’s New Look!”

Utilize a Test Audience

Your “test audience” can be as big or as small as you feel you need.  If you are in a position to hire a feedback committee, then do so.  Otherwise, your feedback could come from a few friends, or even a single coworker.  What you are hoping for is that your test readers will be able to discern the point of your email, on a cold reading, and in about five seconds.  Sound harsh?  It is, but it’s also a good indication of marketing reality.

If they’ve been scrolling through your message for a minute and a half, but haven’t come to a link yet, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.  If they point out that your subject line seems to indicate something other than what your email is saying, listen to them, and make appropriate changes.  If a joke falls flat, if a picture displays in a weird way on their screen, or even if they simply find it uninteresting, take what they say to heart.  It’s far better to get that kind of feedback before the finished product goes out.

Ask them to open it on their computer and their phone to see if there are any glaring differences.  These can hopefully be addressed as well.

Use Your Marketing Research

Chances are, you have gathered some kind of usable data regarding the types of people you market to.  Instead of just piling all of that information, use it.  Are there trends you can address in your email messages?  Are there specific likes or interests your customers tend to share?  Mention these things to help personalize your emails and draw readers in.

Above all, Be Flexible

Don’t be afraid of a total re-write.  Are they time consuming?  Yes, but if they help you structure your email in a way which better reaches your customers than it was worth it.  If you can allow for edits and changes, you stand to gain more out of that initial reading.

Looking for more marketing tips?  Check out these courses at

Email Marketing Crash Course

Effective Email Marketing