16 Email Marketing Best Practices That Actually Drive Results
This is a guest post written by Jamie Turner, founder of the 60 Second Marketer. He is an in-demand marketing speaker and author of the book entitled Go Mobile with Jeanne Hopkins, former VP of marketing at HubSpot.
While email marketing may not get the attention some newer marketing channels get, it’s still a terrific way for you to generate leads and convert more prospects for your business. With that in mind, I want to share some email marketing best practices you can use to generate more leads for your business.
(In addition to the rules for outgoing messages below, check out our new Out-of-Office Email Generator to make your response to incoming messages just as delightful.)
Email Marketing Best Practices
- Don’t purchase contact lists.
- Avoid using ‘No-Reply’ in the sender’s email address.
- Stick to fewer than three typefaces.
- Optimize the email’s preview text.
- Clean your mailing list regularly.
- Keep the main message and call-to-action above the fold.
- Personalize the email greeting.
- Keep your email 500-650 pixels wide.
- A/B test different subject lines and calls to action.
- Put your logo in the upper lefthand side of the email.
- Use incentives to increase open rates.
- Allow recipients to subscribe to your newsletter.
- Write compelling (but concise) subject lines.
- Use auto-responders for opt-ins.
- Closely tie emails to landing pages.
- Conduct a five-second test.
1. Don’t purchase contact lists.
This first tip should come as no surprise, but given the rollout of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it bears repeating. Email campaigns depend on a healthy open rate, and if you’re contacting people whose information you bought — rather than earned from a previous interaction — you’ll quickly see your emails’ performance drop.
The GDPR also requires each European recipient’s consent before you reach out to them, and purchased email lists usually do not come with that consent.
2. Avoid using ‘No-Reply’ in the sender’s email address.
Have you heard of CAN-SPAM? This longstanding piece of legislation is a popular and important guideline for all email marketers in the U.S. — and still many companies are trying to comply with it. One major rule in CAN-SPAM is to never use the words “no reply,” or a similar phrase, as your email sender’s name (for example, “email@example.com”).
“No reply” in an email message prevents recipients from responding and even opting out of further emails, which CAN-SPAN protects their right to do at any time. Instead, have even your automated emails come from a first name (for example, firstname.lastname@example.org). Your customers are much more likely to open emails if they know they were written by a human being.
3. Stick to fewer than three typefaces.
The less clutter you have in your email, the more conversions you’ll experience. Don’t junk up your email with more than two, or a maximum of three, fonts or typefaces.
4. Optimize the email’s preview text.
You’ve seen this link in the marketing emails you receive, and don’t get me wrong, it’s a helpful warning. But keeping it in the preview text of your email could be a death sentence for the email’s open rate, which averages 22 percent across industries, according to a report from GetResponse. In this case, you’re basically telling recipients, “this email might not work.”
By default, preview text pulls in the first several words of the email body and displays it next to the subject line before the person opens it. The problem is custom email templates often stick conditional statements like “can’t see images?” or “not displaying correctly?” along the top banner, allowing it to slip right into the preview when it goes out.
5. Clean your mailing list regularly.
Some of your email contacts might not opt-out of your email campaign, but still never open your emails. It’s tempting to email as many people as possible to reach more prospects, but keeping your least-engaged recipients on your mailing list can kill your open rate. People who never open emails make your campaign look worse since you’re not analyzing the campaign’s quality against your most loyal recipients.
Analyze who hasn’t engaged with your emails over a certain period of time, and remove them on a regular basis. This gives you a more accurate email open rate and keeps your email campaign clean of the people who are no longer interested in hearing from you.
6. Keep the main message and call-to-action above the fold.
If your main call-to-action (CTA) falls below the fold, as many as 70% of recipients won’t see it. Also, any CTA should be repeated at least three times throughout the email in various places and formats.
7. Personalize the email greeting.
How often do you read emails that begin, “Dear Member”?
You might segment your email audiences by the type of customer they are (member, subscriber, user, etc.), but it shouldn’t be the first thing recipients see in your company messages. Personalizing the greeting of your emails with your contacts’ first names grabs the attention of each reader right away. For HubSpot users, this is called a personalization token, and creating one looks like this:
Then, the address line of your email would automatically produce the contact’s first name by fetching this personalization token in the email’s HTML, like this:
Don’t worry, personalizing an email’s greeting line with 50 recipients’ names doesn’t mean you’ll have to manually write and send 50 different emails from now on. Many email marketing tools today allow you to configure the greeting of your email campaign so that it automatically sends with the name of the people on your contact list — so everyone is getting a personal version of the same message.
8. Keep your email 500-650 pixels wide.
If your email template is wider than 650 pixels, you’re asking users to scroll horizontally to read your entire message. This is even more cumbersome for a recipient who’s reading your email on his or her mobile device. Your email pixel width is a critical component of its lead-capturing ability.
9. A/B test different subject lines and calls to action.
If you can’t seem to increase your email’s open and click-through rates, a couple of things might be wrong: You’re not emailing the right people (are you buying your contact list? See the first tip at the top of this blog post), or the content of your email needs to be improved. To start, focus on the latter, and conduct an A/B test.
A/B tests, or “split tests,” can be used to improve almost any of your digital marketing content. In an email, this test effectively “splits” your recipients into two groups: Group A receives the normal newsletter, while Group B receives the newsletter with a specific variation. This variation tests to see if your audience would be more or less likely to take an action if your newsletter was different.
HubSpot marketing users can conduct email A/B tests on anything from the subject line to the call-to-action (CTA) inside it. For example, you might change the color of your CTA from red to green to see if your email’s click-through rate increases. If it does, the test indicates that you should change your emails’ CTA color to green from now on.
10. Put your logo in the center or upper-lefthand side of the email.
Eye-tracking studies have found that people instinctively look for logos in the upper left-hand side of emails — often because it’s consistent with the placement of a logo on most websites. However, it’s also acceptable to put your logo in the center to align it with the email content beneath it.
Whether your logo is centered or on the lefthand side, branding the header of your email reminds your recipients that it came from you and it’s part of a series.
11. Use incentives to increase open rates.
When you include an incentive in your subject line, you can increase open rates by as much as 50%. “Free shipping when you spend $25 or more” and “Receive a free iPod with demo” are examples of good, incentive-focused subject lines.
However, be careful not to overwhelm your readers with savings- or product-related emails. Customer loyalty starts with casual industry insights — only then can you talk business. Here’s an example of an email with an enticing subject line and warm, welcoming body copy:
12. Allow recipients to subscribe to your newsletter.
You might be thinking, “wait, if they received the email to begin with, shouldn’t they have already subscribed?”
Usually, yes, and therefore adding a “Subscribe” button to your email doesn’t help those who’ve already agreed to receive your emails. But great content is shareable content, and if your current subscribers are forwarding your emails to their friends and colleagues, you’ll want to help them subscribe, too.
Add a small but visible CTA that allows an email viewer to subscribe to the newsletter if they received this email from someone else. But remember, because your newsletter should already be driving another action, such as downloading an ebook or becoming a community member, make sure this “Subscribe” button doesn’t distract or confuse users, weakening your main campaign goal in the process.
13. Write compelling (but concise) subject lines.
A good subject line should contain between 30 and 50 characters (including spaces). Email accounts and mobile devices often cut off any subject lines that go beyond this length. Your email subject line should also create a sense of urgency, while giving readers some indication of what to expect once they open the email.
14. Use auto-responders for opt-ins.
Be prepared for your readers to forget they opted in. Set up an auto-responder that reminds people they opted in to your email database. The auto-responder should be sent out one day, five days, and 10 days after the person registers.
Each auto-responder email should also include additional content or bonus material to reward the reader for opting into the newsletter — or your readers might not feel they have enough incentive to actually opt in.
15. Closely tie emails to landing pages.
Your landing page should match the email in terms of headline, copy, and content. The look and feel of your landing page should also match the email — consistency goes a long way toward a customer’s trust in the content they’re receiving.
Just make sure you’re using tracking tools to see which emails and landing pages performed the best so you can keep sending what’s working.
16. Conduct a five-second test.
Send a copy of the email to a friend or business associate. Can they quickly tell what your call-to-action is? If so, you’re golden. If not, keep working.
There are a lot of new tools at a marketer’s disposal that are getting attention these days. But email marketing has stood the test of time regarding its influence on your users. This old, reliable, and faithful tool can really ensure you get the most out of your marketing initiatives.