Email Marketing Best Practices

Email marketing should be at the core of your cross-channel performance marketing efforts. A well-managed email campaign not only establishes relationships with your prospects, but maintains them by delivering the right content to the right people at the right stage of your sales funnel. Executed correctly, email can boost your engagement and conversion rates, making it a powerful channel that drives results. 

Here are some pro tips to help ensure your email campaigns make the grade.


The vast majority of your email recipients utilize multiple screens (cross-device behavior) and various marketing channels to accomplish a single task. Your email campaign is just one part of the prospective customer journey. Therefore analysis and measurement of the results should be based on the overall lift it is providing to all your marketing channels. If possible, use test and control groups to establish email campaign influence on conversion rates. 

Avoid last click attribution—it can be extremely misleading.


Don’t send the same message to everyone in your database. Segment your audience based on what you know about them, and develop your messages using these groupings.

Tailored messages make the audience feel understood.


Email Marketing Best Practices - Stay RelevantSTAY RELEVANT, AUTOMATE IT

Content should be pertinent and valuable to the recipient’s current stage in the purchase funnel. Automating the sends of customized, tailored messages – with click-based or stage-based tracks – is a great way to ensure you’re nurturing your prospects to the next stage. Remember, a successful campaign ensures the focus is 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 It PersonalMAKE IT PERSONAL

Recipients are more likely to open an email message that includes their name in the subject line, but personalization doesn’t have to end there. Determine what other data may be used and which is appropriate for personalization that your audience will appreciate. 

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

Email Marketing Best Practices - Keep It BriefKEEP 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. 

Get to the point with clear, concise email copy.


Email Marketing Best Practices - Be ResponsiveSHIFT THE WIDTH, BE RESPONSIVE!

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. 

Test the email across devices by sending it to yourself and opening it on a desktop, phone and tablet.

Email Marketing Best Practices - Stay SingleSTAY SINGLE

Simple, single-column layouts ensure an email renders well in a wide range of environments. Media queries enable unique formatting depending on where an email is rendered, but over-ambitious efforts can produce broken layouts in some environments. 

Keep media queries and layouts simple, and be sure to test thoroughly.


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.

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

Email Marketing Best Practices - Make It ReadableMAKE IT READABLE

Smaller screens require bigger fonts. You can achieve unique font and image sizes for different environments with media queries. 

For mobile devices, make body copy no smaller than 14px and headers and CTAs at least 18px.

Email Marketing Best Practices - Forget Above the FoldFORGET “ABOVE THE FOLD”

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

Engaging headlines and copy earn a recipient’s scroll.

Email Marketing Best Practices - Button Up CTAsBUTTON UP YOUR CALL TO ACTION (CTA)

Today’s CTA buttons need to accommodate clumsy fingers on a touchscreen. It also remains best practice to use HTML buttons, not text embedded in images, and to use descriptive, high-converting keywords. 

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 - Make the Phone RingMAKE 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 render dynamically during your predetermined hours (ex: when the 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 - Get SocialGET SOCIAL

Make it as easy as possible for your audience to share your content while adding an important social-proof factor and social influencer to support your brand. An HTML webpage version of your email and coded links are essential to streamline the sharing process. You can also encourage the sharing of your most popular or newsworthy content with “Tweet this” links. 

Balance your primary CTA with share requests to get the results you want.

Email Marketing Best Practices - AB TestingA OR B? THERE’S ONLY ONE WAY TO KNOW FOR SURE

A/B testing can help your emails perform better 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 - TrackingSET UP TRACKING BEFORE YOU SEND

Make sure you get all the data you need, including deliverability, open rate, open-to-click 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 up front and focus on those metrics when you optimize.

Email Marketing Best Practices - Performance DataPUT 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. 

Use rendering data to make the best design decisions.

Email Marketing Best Practices - ImperfectionMAKE 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.

Email Marketing Best Practices - The ClickTHINK 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 touch points? Results may fall flat if the user experience isn’t fluid and friendly from start to finish. 

Address the user experience beyond the click.


Non-compliance to 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 legal guidance in advance to ensure you stay compliant.


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.


Timely, relevant information sent via email is welcome. Be careful not to send too many emails to any individual. 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.




Last updated: May 2017

About the Author

Digital Media Solutions

Founded by a team of lifelong athletes, Digital Media Solutions (DMS) is an industry leader in providing end-to-end customer acquisition solutions that help clients win in their business ventures and realize their marketing goals. The company’s set of proprietary assets and capabilities in the world of performance marketing and marketing technology allow clients to meticulously target and acquire the right customers. DMS relentlessly pursues flawless execution for top brands within highly complex and competitive industries including mortgage, education, insurance, consumer brands, careers and automotive.

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