101: Email Marketing Best Practices

Almost 80 percent of consumers receive messages from companies (according to a 2008 L-soft whitepaper). Is your company newsletter following email marketing best practices? If not, you risk the chance of having your email deleted from a potential customer’s inbox before they even open the message.

If you’re thinking about implementing email into your marketing plan, or if you’re simply looking for ways to improve upon your current newsletters, I’ve compiled the key factors of email marketing best practices for quick reference.

The Basics:

  • Build a permission based list of recipients.
  • Manage the list.
  • Define relevant content in the proper format.
  • Deliver the message.
  • Evaluate the results.

The Specifics:

  • The message content should be created according to the results you wish to achieve. What is your ultimate goal? Is it to gain sales? Branding? To increase web site traffic?
  • Once you’ve determined what your goals are, consider what format your message will be sent in. Do you plan to build it in html or MIME/Multipart? If you decide to build an html newsletter, format the code so that it’s clean and easy to navigate. This will save you a lot of time in the long run because it will help to prevent formatting errors.
  • Avoid spam filters by checking your newsletter for content that could be seen as spam. Most email service providers can automatically check your newsletter for any content that could cause it to be placed in the recipients spam folder.
  • Having an intriguing subject line is one of the most important elements of email marketing. Lack of an interesting subject line can cause your message to be left unopened completely and most likely deleted. Successful subject lines include an action phrase plus an incentive for the recipient. An example of a weaker subject line is – SFGate Newsletters: Great news and information. This offers no action phrase or incentive for the recipient. An example of a better-crafted subject line is – Save Big on New Arrivals at The Nest Baby Shop. It entices the recipient to open the message in order to discover what the new arrivals are and how much exactly they can expect to save on these products.
  • Include relevant links within your email to accomplish your goal. If you want to drive more site traffic, include links to your web site in the copy of the newsletter. Promoting a sale? Give recipients a link to the special offers and sales page of your company web site. Keeping links relevant helps ensure people take action when they click on it.
  • Always implement opt-in and opt-out. This means offering an unsubscribe button within your email so that people can decide to stop receiving messages from your company at any time. It also means offering a newsletter sign-up option on your site. To encourage web site visitors to sign up for your newsletter, offer them something they would not otherwise receive without being a subscriber such as discounts and coupons.
  • Spell Check! And that doesn’t just mean running spell check on a computer. Actually take the time to sit down and read the copy slowly to yourself. Then have a colleague do the same to double check. Having a misspelled word in your company newsletter comes off as extremely unprofessional.
  • Mind the length of your email. Most people don’t have the time to read a long newsletter, so be cautious of how much content you are including. Having a balance of images and copy makes your message more appealing to the eye and easier to read.
  • Be aware of the frequency of your emails. Depending on the industry you’re in, set up a schedule that won’t irritate your recipients but will still keep your company in top-of-mind. For example, don’t send 3 emails a week about real estate market updates when once a month will suffice. This is a quick way to lose a lot of subscribers.
  • Make sure your company name is clearly identified in the domain name that appears in the sender line.
  • Clearly display your contact info in your newsletter.

photo credit: tamaleaver

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