Email is a really effective marketing channel. According to Lyfe Marketing, the median email marketing return on investment (ROI) is 122%.
Yet it’s a very competitive channel with emails flying into your customers’ inboxes at breakneck speed.
Let’s be honest, achieving inbox zero is something most of us can only dream about.
That’s why you need to carefully hone your craft and think carefully about what you’re doing before you start firing messages off to customers.
We’ve put together a list of email marketing best practices to make sure your campaigns hit the right note with your customers and, ultimately, drive revenue for your business.
At a glance: Email marketing best practices for your next campaign
- Get to know your customers
- Create segments
- Optimize your send schedule
- Keep an eye on email deliverability
- Clean your email list regularly
- Track campaign performance
- Ask your customers what they want
What to consider before writing your email
Before you start putting your email together, keep these things in mind to create a successful campaign.
Your target audience
What works for one business won’t work for another. That’s why there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to email marketing.
We can provide you with email marketing and digital marketing tips that we’ve gained from our experience running campaigns, but you know your customers best and how to adapt these tips to your business.
The importance of other channels
Email marketing should never work in isolation; instead it should complement the other channels you are using, such as social media, SMS marketing, and event marketing.
Your communication and brand also need to be consistent across each channel so your customers know who you are and what to expect.
You can read about which other channels you should consider in our marketing 101 guide.
Email marketing software
We mention a variety of different email marketing software throughout this article, all of which have useful functionality to help you implement these email marketing best practices.
While the right software will depend entirely on the needs of your business, you can check out our top picks of the best email marketing software available today.
Our top 8 email marketing best practices
In the olden days, email marketers would create one email and send this exact same message to every contact on their email list.
Luckily, batch and blast — as this technique is known — is on its way out. This is important as customers want to feel like they are being treated as a unique human being.
Personalization shows them you value them as an individual, rather than just a number.
Tips for implementing personalization
Trying to manually personalize your marketing emails is impossible if you’re emailing large numbers, which is why you need to automate the process using email marketing software.
Here are some ways you can use an email tool to your advantage:
- Personalize the subject line. Most leading email marketing software lets you add attributes that can be automatically populated with customer data. For example, you can choose to add first name and city attributes and the software will automatically add this data from the information in your email list.
- Pick software with dynamic content functionality. Some email marketing software such as ActiveCampaign automatically shows different content blocks to different users depending on certain conditions, such as demographic data or past user behavior.
2. Get to know your customers
The more data you collect about your customers, the better.
The kind of information you should be collecting extends beyond just demographic data, to include channel communication preferences, browsing patterns, and purchase history.
This data that will allow you to effectively personalize campaigns according to customers’ preferences and browsing habits.
Tips for getting to know your customers
If you want to get to know your customers then collecting this information is not enough. It’s what you do with it that counts.
- Centralize your data. The first step in harnessing the power of this data is to bring it all together in one central location, instead of it being spread out across multiple, siloed systems. This is why using an email marketing solution with a wide range of integrations is important.
- Take a deep dive into customer behavior. Use email marketing software that provides both an overview of each individual customer as well as a deep dive into their past behavior and preferences. Zoho Campaigns gives you in-depth insight into customers’ interactions with your business, including lists they are included on, campaigns you’ve sent them, and social media activity. It also syncs seamlessly with the Zoho CRM solution, giving you access to additional customer details, such as their interactions with other members of your team.
3. Create segments
Sending the right content to the right group of people is key to improving the performance of your email campaigns.
This is why it’s so important to store all your contact information in one place, so you can spot trends that help you understand what kind of segments you should create.
Tips for creating segments
Segments can be as simple as all your contacts between 18-34 who live in New York City. Or they can be more specific, such as everyone who has purchased yellow sneakers.
Only you know which segments make most sense to your business.
- Exclude as well as include people from segments. GetResponse has a useful feature that allows you to exclude customers who meet certain conditions in your segment. For example, if a customer has an open support ticket, you might not want to send them information about your latest product line.
- Employ dynamic segmentation. Maintaining segments is time-consuming and error prone. That’s why you should look for an email marketing software with dynamic segmentation capability. Email software such as SendPulse moves customers in and out of segments automatically as they start or stop meeting the segment criteria. For example, if you have a segment of people who have never made a purchase and then they make a purchase, the system automatically updates the segment by removing this customer.
4. Optimize your send schedule
A lot of debate goes on about when you should send emails. Some say that you should avoid the weekend at all costs, others say you should send emails at the weekend because nobody else is.
But there’s no right or wrong time to send your emails. It all depends on what works for your business.
Tips for optimizing your send schedule
So much of direct marketing these days revolves around collecting data, getting insight from that data, and then making changes based on that insight.
Choosing what time to send your emails is no different.
- Test different send times and track the results. If you’re just starting out, pick a few different send times and see which emails generate more opens and clicks. In a few months’ time, if you find that performance is starting to drop off, test some more times and see what works.
- Automate send times. Instead of manually tracking campaign performance according to send times, let your email software do it for you. Sendinblue automatically schedules emails according to the optimal time for each individual recipient.
5. Keep an eye on email deliverability
If your emails aren’t even reaching your recipient’s inbox, and they’re either ending up in their spam folders, or being rejected by the ISP, then you’re in trouble.
That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on your email deliverability rates.
Tips for keeping an eye on email deliverability
You can do many things to improve the likelihood that your email will end up in your recipient's inbox.
- Track metrics that indicate when you are at risk of poor email deliverability. This includes high levels of bounces, unsubscribes, and a lot of people reporting your email as spam.
- Test your email before sending. This includes checking that all links work and if there are any typos or images that aren’t displaying properly. Some email marketing software, such as SendGrid, shows you how your email will appear on different email clients and across devices.
6. Clean your email list regularly
Quality not quantity. It may be a cliche, but it is certainly the case when it comes to your email list.
Whether you’re starting your list from scratch, or you’ve got 5,000 contacts on your list, you need to be mindful of whether these contacts are engaged and when you need to cut the cord.
Tips for cleaning and rebuilding your list regularly
Since many email marketing solutions charge based on the number of contacts in your email list, it makes financial sense to clean and rebuild your list regularly.
If you have high levels of bounces and unsubscribes because you haven’t cleaned your list, then this hurts your email deliverability score.
- Remove unengaged subscribers. If someone hasn’t opened your emails or interacted with your brand in any way for six months, then they’re probably not interested in your company anymore. Before removing them from your list, you can send them a series of reengagement emails, but if they still don’t bite, then it’s time to say goodbye.
- Use email marketing software that automatically cleans your list. Benchmark Email comes with a list cleaning feature, which automatically remove email addresses based on bounces, unsubscribes, and people who have not opened an email newsletter in a set time period.
7. Track campaign performance
Email marketing is a complicated blend of art and science. While creating beautiful email messages and crafting killer copy is important, so is wading deep into your data lake.
It’s important to track the performance of each of your email blasts, especially when you make changes to the way you are running campaigns.
Tips for tracking campaign performance
Every email you send and campaign you run needs to have a goal.
This could be to drive traffic to a certain page on your website, or to generate more follows and likes on your social media accounts.
Only when you have set these goals can you decide on how to track your campaign success.
- Track performance over time. It’s important to compare different campaigns to see whether your performance is improving or not. It also helps you spot any trends or factors that work particularly well that you can replicate across other campaigns.
- Tie everything to revenue. Marketers often fall into the trap of only measuring vanity metrics, such as email open rates and click through rates. But the ultimate goal of the marketing department is to drive revenue, so it’s important you include these metrics. Mailchimp’s advanced analytics let you track orders per campaign, as well as total revenue and average order value.
8. Ask your customers what they want
You’re not a mind reader and, no matter how good you are at analyzing every little piece of data you collect from your customers, there is nothing that beats asking customers what they want from you.
This can help you craft a better overall email marketing strategy.
Tips for asking your customers what they want
This is where you can harness the power of all your direct marketing channels and make them work well together, rather than relying on email marketing.
- Use a survey template. Instead of having to create a survey email from scratch, use a built-in template that you can find in many email marketing platforms. VerticalResponse includes some great templates with loads of customization options to help you design your perfect survey.
- Send surveys across different channels. Ask people what they want from your email marketing newsletters on social media or by sending them an SMS survey. If you’ve connected all your channels, then they should all be working together to drive revenue across the entire business.
Getting up and running
Now it’s time for you to go off and put these tips into practice. One key thing to consider is that there is no magical formula for success.
What works for one business, won’t necessarily work for you. And what works for your business now might not work in six months.
That’s why data is key. Collect as much as you can, centralize it, analyze it, and use this insight to make your campaigns better.
But there is no perfect science. Your email marketing campaigns will always be a work in progress, so keep testing and keep optimizing.
The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends HubSpot and Twilio. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.