Email Marketing Best Practices

When you have a data-based strategy, email marketing can be one of your most effective tools.

Time to read: 8 minutes

Email marketing can be one of the most effective marketing strategies in your toolbox especially when you have a data-based strategy and the right tools in place. It can also be one of the best marketing investments you can make because you are in control. You manage your list of subscribers, and compared to other marketing channels, you don’t have to depend on search engines or social media algorithms to get the word out for you.

To maximize your budget and see improved ROI, use email marketing best practices to deliver high quality, relevant content to users who can’t wait to open your messages. Here are the email marketing best practices you need to do precisely that.

The Email Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know

On this page, we’ll go over the following topics:
For additional resources on email marketing best practices, check out Legends of Trailblazers for Email: Tips and Use Cases and the Marketing Cloudcast.

Email Marketing Software

When you want to start using or to improve your email marketing, best practices are your map of the ways to get there. Once you understand the overall landscape, you can chart a course that avoids pitfalls and speeds your progress toward your goal. In short, you can develop an overall email marketing strategy.

No matter how comprehensive your strategy, you need the right tools for the job. A regular email client such as Gmail or Yahoo Mail isn’t enough for business communication because you don’t get metrics such as opens, bounces, and your click-through rate, and it doesn’t scale to send tens, thousands, or millions of messages at once. These clients also aren’t compliant with email marketing laws such as CAN-SPAM in the U.S., GDPR in Europe, CASL in Canada, and CCPA in California for sending to mailing lists.

To legally land your emails in recipients’ inboxes — and get them noticed — you need an email service provider. Not only does this software help with legal compliance and measure your success, but some come with automation tools that allow you to scale your email marketing with less effort. Your marketing software should also include access to a dozen or more additional email marketing tools.

Once you have the right email marketing software, your amped-up campaign strategy, based on tested email marketing best practices, can begin.

Email Subscriber List Best Practices

Creating an email subscriber list in your email software is generally simple. Often, all it takes is a few clicks and a descriptive title. The challenge is growing, segmenting, and maintaining your lists.

Grow your email list organically. This means you need to seek out leads who are genuinely interested in your brand, perhaps using the demographics research tools available on Facebook. You can offer these potential subscribers incentives, such as contests, a loyalty program, or free webinars, to encourage them to sign up for your list.

To ensure your email subscribers receive only the content most relevant to their needs, segment your list by demographics, interests, geographic location, or other factors that make sense for your business. From there, you can create drip campaigns and other automated messaging for these segments using your email marketing software.

Although it might seem like an easy way to jumpstart your reach, never buy an email list. These leads have not opted in to receiving your emails, which puts you out of compliance with most anti-spam laws. Furthermore, you’ll likely end up with terrible open rates, high bounce rates, and recipients marking your message as spam. Without a proper opt-in system, you can’t be sure your messages will ever be seen. This may be the most important email marketing best practice for companies.

Finally, regularly scrub your subscriber list of fake, incorrect, bouncing, or inactive email addresses. Keeping subscribers who aren’t interested anymore or who have invalid addresses only skews your metrics and drains value from the insights that your email marketing software provides. After you try to reengage subscribers who may have gone quiet for a while, pause communications for those who remain unresponsive.

How to Design an Email

When a recipient opens your email, they should know they’re about to see high-quality, enjoyable content from your brand. A well-designed email is among the best ways to accomplish an instant impression of quality.

Start with an email design template that’s flexible, but allows you to create consistency across messages. One crucial email marketing best practice is to choose a template that’s responsive. That way, your content renders correctly on desktop, mobile, and everything in between. Responsive email design is essential because subscribers move seamlessly between desktop and mobile devices when they check their email. They expect the message to display properly no matter which device they use. Your email engagement rates depend on your messages being easy to read and navigate, and responsive designs play a large part.

When it comes to visual appeal and leading your readers’ eyes to key components of your message, color choices are critical. Align colors with your branding, but be flexible, too. Choose contrasting colors and use them to direct attention to buttons and clickable text. Your email templates will help make sure your designs are easy to read if you don’t have a graphic designer on hand to help create a visually interesting email campaign.

Finally, any images in your email need to be accessible for your entire audience, so add descriptive alt text that helps visually impaired subscribers understand your content. This alt text also helps in the event the graphic doesn’t display or load when the recipient opens the email.

Elements of the Email Message

When you’re competing for inbox attention, details matter. In addition to using your email marketing software, maintaining a healthy email subscriber list, and using effective design elements, use psychology to optimize your emails and reach even more readers.

How to Write Email Subject Lines

Once your message lands in an inbox, the subject line has to entice the recipient to open it, and most marketers agree that subject lines should be roughly 50 characters for maximum impact. Create a sense of urgency by adding a time frame or pique curiosity by asking a question. You can personalize the subject line by using the subscriber’s name, and stand out from the crowd with a relevant emoji — if that’s what’s right for your audience. As always, A/B test your subject lines to learn what resonates most with your recipients. Your email marketing software should make A/B testing easy to execute and measure. Even better, some email marketing tools will layer in AI to help in crafting the best subject line for your audience.

How to Personalize Emails

Adding a recipient’s name in the subject or body of an email is a good first step toward personalization, but it’s often not enough. The industry standard is to create dynamic email content that matches their interests and progress through the sales funnel. To take it a step further, one of the most recent additions to the list of email marketing best practices is to use AI to analyze each recipient’s behavior.

How to Use Emojis in Email

Depending on your brand, emojis can add interest, personality, and meaning to your emails. It can be easy to overdo emojis once you get started, so use them sparingly and only where they’ll be most effective. Millennials tend to appreciate emojis more than older generations, for example, and typically only in content that isn’t too serious.

How to Write Effective Email Copy

The copy of your email is where you’ll hone in on your message. Whether you’re encouraging readers to take advantage of a sale, educating them, or encouraging them to write a review about your brand, use clear, compelling language. Keep it concise, relevant, and easily scannable. Follow these email content best practices and you’ll also support the overarching goals of your email campaign by creating high-quality, useful content. Your subscribers will know your messages are worth their time.

How to Use Images in Email

The human brain processes images faster than it reads text. Images can also evoke emotion and spark the imagination, so using them in your emails can help you get your message across more quickly. However, some recipients have their email client set to not display images, while others see text-only messages. When you use an image, make sure it enhances but doesn’t replace appropriate copy, and remember to use alt text to describe what the image conveys.

How to Write an Email Call to Action

An important email marketing best practice is to have a strategic purpose for every email campaign. In other words, once opened, your email has a job to do. Maybe that job is to inform or entertain, or maybe it’s to entice a purchase. Either way, the goal likely involves clicking through to a landing page on your website, so make sure you include a call to action, or CTA, that stands out visually and clearly explains what the action is. You can include additional links in the email, but make sure the CTA of your main goal attracts readers’ attention.

How to Make An Email Interactive

When you send an interactive email, your subscribers can engage with the content without leaving their inboxes. This feature brings web-like functionality to the inbox and can include hover effects and hide-reveal states, as well as galleries and product review forms, within the email itself. To make an email interactive, work with your email developer to add in code or leverage a partner tool. You can also ask your email software provider what tools they have that support interactivity.

Email Marketing Metrics and Testing

The perfect email is a moving target. Email marketing best practices make excellent guidelines, but what works for one business may not work for another, and these best practices change as technology and people change.

What works for your audience right now may evolve. Start with a strategy built from email best practices, and then measure and test your way to even better email marketing results.

The Most Important Email Marketing Metrics

To determine how successful your campaigns are, make sure your email marketing software measures and tracks, at the minimum, these key metrics:

A/B Test Your Emails

Once you have a baseline for key email metrics, start tweaking elements of your emails to see what improves your numbers. The best way to learn what works best is A/B testing. With this strategy, you create two versions of the same email campaign, each with only one aspect that’s different from the other. You’ll send email A to one half of your audience and version B to the other half, then track which performs better.

A/B testing works best when you make one small change at a time, so be patient and keep track of your learnings, and know that you’re getting closer to a better email each time you press send.

Email Marketing Errors

Every email marketer makes mistakes. Your first error is like a rite of passage, and sometimes these issues are out of your control. Don’t let the possibility of making a mistake keep you from hitting the send button. Instead, know how to deal with email marketing errors: Prevent as many as you can and correct the ones that happen.

First, become familiar with some of the most common email marketing mistakes. One of the biggest pitfalls is forgetting that email is part of a relationship with your subscribers. Keep this in mind to help ensure your messages are respectful, relevant, and useful for recipients.

For mistakes that occur in just one or two emails, have a response action plan. Know when to let small errors, like a typo or a formatting issue, go. For larger mistakes, triage them by how much impact they’ll have on your audience. When necessary, don’t forget the power of a sincere apology for rebuilding any relationships an error may have impacted.

More Best Email Marketing Practices

Email marketing pays off whether you’re looking to nurture leads, convert prospects, or reward repeat customers. To maximize your time, effort, and budget, stick to these tested email marketing best practices. These tips will get you started on optimizing your email marketing. For more, download the 50 Best Practices for Email Marketers e-book.
Salesforce Resources

Email Innovation Webinar

How-To Engage your Subscribers with Interactive Experiences

Marketing Cloud Demo

Create Emails that Drive Engagement

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