Email Marketing Best Practices

Email marketing should be at the core of your multi-channel performance marketing efforts. A well-managed email campaign can establish relationships with your audience and nurture them by delivering the right content to the right people at the right stages of your sales funnel. Executed correctly, email can boost your engagement and sales while enhancing customer loyalty, making email a powerful channel that can drive results. Despite the prevalence of other marketing channels, email remains poised for growth, with 4 billion global users reported in 2020, a number expected to rise to 4.6 billion by 2025.

Here are some tips to help ensure your email marketing campaigns are built for success. 


Table of Contents:

Email Strategy Tips

  1. Think multi-screen
  2. Segment your audience
  3. Make it personal
  4. Stay relevant, automate it
  5. Make the phone ring
  6. A/B test
  7. Think beyond the click
  8. Integrate smartly with other platforms 
  9. Set up tracking before you send
  10. Too much is too much
  11. Be okay with subscribers who rarely open 

Technical Email Tips 

  1. Keep your database current
  2. Use preheaders
  3. Forget above the fold
  4. Stay responsive and consider single column layouts
  5. Ensure text is legible and buttons useable 
  6. Put performance data to use 
  7. Keep it brief
  8. Stay out of trouble 
  9. Verify before you send 
  10. Make peace with imperfection 

THINK MULTI-SCREEN

The vast majority of your email recipients likely interact with your brand across multiple platforms and devices during their buying journeys, journeys that are increasingly less linear than in the past. While email is an important aspect of an overall marketing strategy, it is likely used in conjunction with other marketing platforms. Therefore, analysis and measurement of email campaign results should be based on the overall lift the campaign is providing to all your marketing campaigns and not just last-click performance. If possible, use test and control groups to establish email campaign influence on conversion rates. 

Keep in mind that consumers engage with brands across platforms and devices, and avoid last-click attribution when possible, as last-click measurement can be misleading.


SEGMENT YOUR AUDIENCE

Don’t send the same message to everyone in your database. Segment your audience based on information such as their geographic location, purchase history, push marketing enrollment, prior email engagement or position in your sales funnel and develop your messages using these groupings. 

Tailored messages make the audience feel understood.


Make it personal 

Emails that include a recipient’s name in the subject line receive open rates that are about 5% higher than those without names. For more significant improvement, don’t end your personalization there. Determine what other data may be used, such as a recipient’s purchase history or website behavior, that will make your email content more personalized and relevant, something that your audience will appreciate. 

Make sure your personalization is accurate or it can negatively impact your performance.


Email Marketing Best Practices - Stay Relevant

STAY RELEVANT, AUTOMATE IT

Content should be pertinent and valuable to the recipient’s current stage in the purchase funnel. Automating the sending of customized, tailored messages – with click-based, stage-based or time-based triggers – is a great way to help ensure you’re nurturing your prospects and driving them to the next action. Triggered email campaigns result in average open rates around 38%, higher than all other email campaign types. Remember, a successful email marketing campaign keeps the focus on the needs of the audience, not of your brand.  

Move your prospects from point A to point B with content that guides them.


Email Marketing Best Practices - Make the Phone Ring

make the phone ring

Add dynamic click-to-call (C2C) buttons to provide alternate means for your prospects to reach you, while boosting your inbound call volume. C2C buttons can be set to render dynamically during your predetermined hours (ex: when your call center is open) and disappear at all other times. 

Make it easy for prospects to reach you when they are ready to chat.


Email Marketing Best Practices - AB Testing

a or b? there's only one way to know for sure 

A/B testing can help boost email performance over time. Evaluations can include subject lines, preheaders, copy, images, colors, CTA buttons, placement and more.

Test only one element at a time for measurable and actionable results.


Email Marketing Best Practices - The Click

think beyond the click

It takes more than an excellent email to get results. Are landing pages responsive to the user’s rendering environment? Are they clear in their desired outcome? Is your call center ready to take inbound inquiries? Do you have a clear and defined path to conversion? Is your brand message and value evident in all touchpoints? Results may fall flat if the user experience isn’t fluid and friendly from start to finish. 

Address the user experience beyond the click.


Shutterstock-1987193948 Blue envelope icon. On white background. Vector.

integrate smartly with other platforms 

Email is best leveraged in conjunction with other marketing platforms like push notifications, SMS or social media. A cohesive messaging strategy that creates a seamless experience across platforms is not just preferable, but expected by today’s consumer. Keep your brand voice consistent, but rely on the strengths of each platform to engage consumers in unique ways.  

Consider a cohesive multi-channel marketing strategy to engage consumers across platforms like email, push notifications, SMS, social media and others. 


Email Marketing Best Practices - Tracking

set up tracking before you send 

Make sure you get all the data you need, including deliverability, open rate, click-through rate, most-clicked links and other front-end metrics that are essential for understanding how your campaign performs. It is also important to track view-through conversions. 

Determine your campaign objective upfront and focus on those metrics when you optimize.


too much is too much

Timely, relevant information sent via email is welcome, but be careful not to send too many emails to an individual. On average, open rates and click-through rates tend to be highest for advertisers who do not send more than five emails per week to any one recipient. A predetermined, automated schedule can help keep your frequency in check. 

Monitor unsubscribe and spam metrics to help ensure your emails continue to be appreciated.


be okay with subscribers who rarely open

You are likely to have a portion of email recipients who stay subscribed to your emails but rarely open your messages. Be okay with this, as your email campaigns are still serving as digital billboards reminding consumers of your brand. When they are ready to buy, your emails will be there. 

Remember that some email recipients will not frequently open your emails, but are still seeing your brand and will interact when they are ready to buy.


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keep your database current 

Email databases should be kept current. While inactive subscribers may still benefit from email campaigns (billboarding), truly inactive addresses, such as those that bounce, should be removed. Email subscriber acquisition is a scalable way to keep subscriber lists growing while truly inactive subscribers are filtered out. A double opt-in process may also increase the likelihood that each email address represents an engaged consumer and eliminates potential bad or spam addresses.  

Keep email databases current and lists scaling with engaged consumers while removing inactive addresses that are no longer needed.


use preheaders

A preheader is a short line of text that appears at the very beginning of your message. It’s also visible in the inbox prior to opening the email for many of your recipients. The preheader should complement your subject line and encourage a user to open the email. Preheaders are shown to result in an average 15% increase in open rates.

Great preheaders offer another chance to engage and lift open rates.


Email Marketing Best Practices - Forget Above the Fold

forget "above the fold"

“Above the fold” no longer applies in our multi-screen world. While it’s appropriate to keep your call to action (CTA) prominent, it’s okay to require a bit of scrolling to reach the CTA on a small smartphone screen. 

Engaging headlines and copy can earn a recipient’s scroll.


stay responsive and consider single column layouts

Today’s wide range of mobile devices means it’s time to say goodbye to fixed-width email messages. Use responsive designs that automatically adjust each email to its rendering environment. Email should render correctly for all device types, but pay extra attention to mobile, as approximately 43% of users check their email on mobile devices

Simple, single-column layouts should help ensure emails render well in a wide range of environments. While unique formatting is possible with media queries, which allow you to modify elements of an email based on certain conditions, such as a recipient’s browser or device type, over-ambitious efforts can produce broken layouts in some environments. 

Test emails across various screen resolutions and devices including desktop computers, phones and tablets. Try to keep email layouts simple, and be sure to test thoroughly. 


Email Marketing Best Practices - Make It Readable

ensure text is legible and buttons usable 

Smaller screens require bigger fonts. You can achieve unique font and image sizes for different environments with media queries. CTA buttons also need to accommodate clumsy fingers on a touchscreen. It remains best practice to use HTML buttons, not text embedded in images, as images tend to load slower and may not appear if a recipient does not have images enabled in their email client or if the image server goes down. Your CTA should also use descriptive, high-converting keywords. 

For mobile devices, make body copy no smaller than 14px and headers and CTAs at least 18px. The CTA is the trigger that influences the user to take action and should be A/B tested for your target audience.


Email Marketing Best Practices - Performance Data

put your performance data to use

Compile and analyze data regarding the platforms and email clients your recipients are using to access your messages. Be sure to thoroughly test your templates for the environments most widely used by your audience. Apple iPhone is the global leader as the top used email client, but be sure to analyze your data to see which platforms your recipients are using most. 

Use rendering data to make the best design decisions.


Email Marketing Best Practices - Keep It Brief

keep it brief

On-the-go email access means our attention spans are more limited than ever. Recipients should be able to glean the purpose of your message with a quick scan. For most industries, email click-through rates (CTRs) peak at about 200 words or roughly 20 lines of text.

Get to the point with clear, concise email copy.


stay out of trouble

Non-compliance to CCPA, GDPR, CAN-SPAM, CASL and laws of any other jurisdiction to which you’re emailing can result in some significant penalties, including blacklisting and fines. Don’t risk it. Make sure you have clear opt-out instructions and all required elements – like a physical address – included in every send

Consult with legal and compliance teams to ensure you stay compliant.


verify before you send

Bounced emails can lower your sender reputation. Too many bounced emails can get you blocked. Verify your email list before you hit send to remove invalid emails and reduce your bounce rate. 

Bounced emails hurt your reputation and your performance tracking.


Email Marketing Best Practices - Imperfection

make peace with imperfection

The wide range of email rendering environments means your messages will never look exactly the same for all recipients. Be certain your messages render well for the majority of your audience, but remember that slight inconsistencies for small segments of your audience may be a necessary concession. 

Be prepared for occasional formatting inconsistencies.


Are You Looking To Grow Your Email Database?

Email subscriber acquisition from DMS uses a performance-based pricing model to connect advertisers with net-new subscribers. Engaged audiences are targeted by demographic, geographic and behavioral attributes with custom, dynamic qualification questions used to further qualify consumer interest. Contact Digital Media Solutions® (DMS) to learn more.

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Last updated: June 2021

About the author

Digital Media Solutions

Digital Media Solutions, Inc. (DMS) drives better business results by connecting high-intent consumers with advertisers across our core verticals; Insurance (auto, home, health), Education and Consumer/Ecommerce. Our innovative solutions help consumers shop and save, while helping our advertisers achieve above average return on ad spend. Learn more at https://digitalmediasolutions.com.