Email Marketing: 6 Best Practices to Implement Today

email marketing best practicesOn a regular basis I see or hear people proclaim that email is dead. Those people—they couldn’t be more wrong. Not only is email marketing still an incredibly effective communications tool—it consistently ranks with search as a top sales driver, too. Of course, if you’re not focused on generating leads and closing sales, you can probably disregard email, but otherwise, building your list and using it should be at the top of your integrated marketing to do list.

As with any campaign, email marketing is most effective with some planning and forethought. Even though you’re likely using email to sell or promote something, remember that email is still a personal channel. You don’t want to send out a poorly thought out or hastily created message or your only results will be unsubscribe requests.

Instead, regardless of your industry or audience, keep the following best practices in mind. And also–you’ll want to frequently test a variety of email variables and keep a close eye on your analytics to see what proves most effective for your particular audience (more on that in a minute).

Your Subject Line Matters 

If you want your customers to actually open and read your email, one key is to personalize your subject lines. Sixty-four percent of people say they open an email because of the subject line. To boost your email’s efficacy even further, try personalizing your message with the recipient’s name and location.

Personal Signatures = More Opens

The aim of every email marketing campaign is to build relationships with your customers. And using a personal signature is a great way to make a more meaningful connection. Data shows that adding personalized signatures can lead to a 5x increase in open rates and nearly a 3.5x increase in click-through rates. Lesson learned? Sign every email in a personal way. Choose a signature that is indicative of the overall tone of your email. A signature that doesn’t match the essence of the email’s text can be perceived as being sarcastic or off-putting.

Quality, Not Quantity

When it comes to email marketing, one of the most commonly asked questions relates to how many emails it’s appropriate to send. This largely depends on your messaging and purpose. A retailer, for example, will likely send more emails than another type of business. That being said, stats show that more emails don’t necessarily mean more click-throughs. Try experimenting with sending one, two or three emails a week, then check your analytics to see how your audience responded to the various frequencies. As with anything, when it comes to email, you should let your data drive your strategy. Another great tactic is to survey your audience to see how many messages they want to receive. That way you can keep your readers informed without overwhelming them or causing them to become desensitized to your messages.

Email Beats Social for Traffic

I’m the first to say that social media channels are a great way to share your content with your followers and fans, but don’t underestimate the power of email. Email still outranks social when it comes to generating traffic. And by equipping your emails with sharing functionality, you make it much easier for your audience to share your content with their networks, including their social media networks, thereby expanding the reach of your message.

Weekends Win

This may sound surprising, but Mondays aren’t the best time to send emails to your customers. In fact, according to an analysis of 1.5 billion emails, emails sent on Saturday and Sunday generated the highest click-through rates. Thursday is also an optimal day to send an email. Again, use this data as a guide, but try experimenting with other days, too. Your stats will soon tell you which days are most effective for your email campaign, and you can leverage that information to help your messages have the most impact.

The Case for Automation

Automation isn’t always a good thing, but when it comes to email, running an automated campaign can help you see big results—and sometimes as much as a 200% conversion rate. Now that wouldn’t suck, would it? If you do opt for an automated campaign, make sure the language you use reflects the connection you want to build with your customer base. And although automated campaigns remain more effective over a longer period of time, alternate your content so that your campaign stays fresh and up-to-date.

These email marketing best practices provide an ideal starting point—but don’t feel like you need to implement every tip in every message. Start by taking a look at your existing campaign and consider where you can make some small changes to make your email content even more effective. And then test it.

I say it so much I know I sound like a broken record, but your data will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about how successful your email marketing campaigns are. You just have to care enough to pay attention. Be sure you do A/B testing on your campaigns and test things like frequency, days of the week, subject lines, design and content. Then tweak your messaging based on what your results show you. Your audience will tell what resonates with them by their action (or lack thereof) and fine-tuning your campaigns can lead to higher click through rates, better responses to your calls to action and, well, you might just sell more stuff.

Email marketers, I’d love for you to weigh in. What have I missed–any other best practices to add to the list?

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  • http://cashwithatrueconscience.com/rbblog Ryan Biddulph

    Email still rocks Shelly for both the reasons you share and the pure convenience of the medium. No Readers to check no websites to visit. Everybody using email checks their at least once to a few times daily and when your value-packed message pops up you are likely getting an open.

    As you noted the weekends rock. I noticed the same thing with any message I send out on Saturdays or Sundays.

    Thanks for sharing Shelly!

  • ShellyKramer

    Thanks Ralph. I often tell people that if they want my attention, not to call, not to text but to send me an email. You’re right on on that point. Wait, did I just say “right on?” Whatta dork! Thanks for stopping by!

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  • http://twitter.com/gpkc Greg Peters

    As always, Shelly, your blog brings it every day. Email is so important in everything we do.

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  • MrTonyDowling

    Another great article Shelly – ive learned so much from you, thanks again

  • ShellyKramer

    Thanks Tony! Happy Weekending!!

  • Guest

    I’m always amazed at how bad email campaigns still are. Like it hasn’t been decades. Thanks for a concise guide to getting on the right track.

  • http://twitter.com/haveageek1 haveageek

    Thanks for sharing, this has been a question that we have been asking. Social vs Email. Where should we be spending our resources ? Glad to hear that email is not dead. It will be interesting to see the click through on Thursdays vs other days. The one other question, how do you prevent from getting stuck in the spam folder ?

  • ShellyKramer

    That’s an easy answer.

    Who owns and controls Facebook and the data there? Facebook.
    Who owns and controls Twitter and the data there? Twitter.
    Who owns and controls your email contact list? YOU!

    Build your list by offering information and resources that makes people want to opt in, then you won’t get lost in the spam filters :) )

  • http://twitter.com/Red8interactive Red8 Interactive

    Great high level overview.

    One thing to note, mobile has now surpassed all other platforms for initial open so it’s important that the HTML is built to render properly on mobile devices. If you don’t get them when they first open the email it’s unlikely you will get another chance.

    James

  • http://www.flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

    Great tips, Shelly!

    A couple of points to add – I think that testing different content types and email length is also important. Sometimes, changing the format or the type of content we share can make a big difference in open rates and click throughs.

    Also, we should remember that while email is meant to help sell or promote your business, it should still add value to the recipient. If it’s one non-stop sales message, you’ll see people unsubscribe in a hurry.

  • ShellyKramer

    Thanks Laura. Great points, for sure!

  • http://www.arielmarketinggroup.com/ Amy McCloskey Tobin

    I’ve been testing this anecdotally with my own emails, and I have not had success on weekends to the same degree I get it on Thursday and Friday afternoons – just before work is out. I won’t give up on it though… it may be ME, or my emails :)

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  • http://www.callboxinc.com/ Amber King

    Thank you for sharing these tips Shelly. Email marketing is getting more challenging these past few years. In order to get noticed, you need to capture their interest and provide helpful information.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/AnnaCheung0912 Anna Cheung

    Great practices for email marketing.

    Some email content tips to add – there are lots spam-trigger words that can get us into spam trouble with email content, like “Free” “Winners” and “Guaranteed”. I think email marketers should minimize the use of them.

    Good emails will be under 750 words in total, and that in my view is already a great deal of text. Use shorter text blocks of words that have a strong call-to-action to click-through to your landing page for more information, because if there’s too much text in a large block, users will be overwhelmed by it and it’s unlikely that they will read it.

    Hope it helps.

    Comm100 Email Marketing

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