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Email Marketing Best Practices That Will Make Your Brand Stand Out

9 Email Marketing Best Practices

By Martha Mueller NeffMar 10 /2021

Understanding email marketing best practices will help your brand stand out. By keeping best practices in mind when writing your emails, you’ll give your recipients that feeling you get when an email hits your inbox and you just can’t NOT click on it. We all get so many emails (many of which end up in trash or spam), so when we get one that speaks to our hearts, it’s a momentous occasion.

Maybe it was the subject line, maybe it was the offer or maybe you just needed that exact product, service or knowledge at that exact time. The best marketers see every email as a small puzzle, each piece as important as the next, and take the time to incorporate email marketing best practices all the while crafting something their readers can’t resist.

For instance, how can you not click on a subject line that says “Don't Play with Dead Snakes — Kill Projects Before They Kill You”?

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Let’s take a lesson from dead snakes to dive into these nine email marketing best practices you can use right away.

Email Marketing Best Practices

1. Track your sender reputation.

When targeting your audience through email, your aim should be the inbox. But to achieve that, you must have emails people want to engage with.

The best way to judge this is by watching the metrics closely: What are your open rates? How about the click-through rates? Are people unsubscribing in droves? Are they complaining about spam?

As SendGrid points out, think of this as your credit score and continually try to improve it by monitoring the numbers — preferably across platforms and in several locations. Then do A/B tests, and test again until you achieve results that make you happy.

Additionally, never purchase contact lists. Once a common email practice, this is now considered “spammy” and hurts your sender reputation. Instead, attract qualified leads through inbound marketing and then segment your contact list to ensure your emails are going to the right people.

2. Keep it short.

Writing emails is an art form, and it’s an art form that not everyone executes well, even after years of practice. But this much is true: The most successful emails respect your readers’ time and therefore get to the point quickly while showing value to the reader.

So how do you write enough to get the point across without sounding blunt but not so much that it turns away a prospect?

First, create visual appeal. If your reader opens the email and sees long blocks of text, your message will probably end up in the trash. Instead, use white space to make your text easier on the eyes and less intimidating. Select compelling images to help tell your story and thereby reduce your word count.

Second, make sure you use the active voice. Readers respond to active language — especially when they’re pressed for time and they’re reading an email. Try using the Hemmingway app to help you identify passive sentences.

When you have crafted what you think is the perfect copy, run it past an editor and then A/B test it for length.

The resulting objective data will help guide your future strategy on everything related to emails, including length. After all, you’re writing for your specific audience and not a group of marketers touting the latest trends.

3. Make sure the subject is relevant.

This requires you to have a good handle on your audience. Just who is your audience? Data-driven engineers? Busy CEOs? Women between the ages of 14 and 40 seeking the perfect shade of floating eyeliner?

Cosmetics company Morphe uses a motion GIF of beautifully colored lips to show what their product can do. The language in the email (“A Morphe Babe doesn’t budge, so why should their lip color?”) matches the in-your-face subject line, “Kiss this, Morphe Babes.”

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Morphe knows its audience, and so should every good marketer. The subject line and email body must be tailored to exactly the persona you’re targeting. If it’s the busy CEO mentioned above, get to the point early with professional language you would use on LinkedIn. When targeting engineers, you can afford to be more technical with product or service specifications.

If you have more than one buyer persona you’re targeting, be sure to segment your email campaigns to reach the right audience.

4. Personalize the subject line for your recipient.

More than 94% of businesses are personalizing their email campaigns. Since the subject line is one of the first things your recipient sees, make sure you personalize it. For example, consider using their first name.

Other key points to remember when crafting your subject line:

  • Keep the subject line short and specific. The goal is to entice the recipient to open the email.
  • Emails mostly reported as spam included the words “free” and “order now” in the subject line.
  • People are more likely to open emails with subject lines that are funny, target a pain point, or are personal.

5. Include a valuable offer or opportunity.

There are many ways to offer value in an email — HubSpot details six of them, including sending a case study and referencing a mutual connection — but the best way is to know your prospect and where they are in the buyer’s journey.

Offering something of value in every email, and making that offer clear at the top of the email for your busy prospects or clients will help build loyalty among your email subscribers.

Don’t make them work to find the offer; this isn’t the time to tell a great story. Since we all are inundated with emails every day, it’s essential to get to your offer early and make it powerful to entice your subscriber to stay with you.

A simple, effective email from GoToMeeting had the subject line “4 steps to scheduling a meeting.” What made it powerful — besides that it was targeted precisely at new customers or someone doing a trial — was its use of just the four steps with a bold orange call-to-action button.

6. Make the offer and the email timely.

The subject line of the REI email, “The Early Bird Gets the Bacon,” is enough to get our attention.

But the offer of campfire gear is even more enticing given the time of year it was published — summertime, vacation time, fun time — when people across the United States were enjoying the great outdoors, needed to eat and were more inclined to cook for themselves.

7. Make it function across all devices.

Since an estimated 67% of emails are opened on mobile devices, why wouldn't you make your email design responsive, and make that your FIRST priority?

And because you want your email to work on tablets, smartphones and desktops, you want to make sure all imagery (including photos and CTAs) is fluid and your coding is perfect.

One more design element that could make the difference between a mere open and the coveted click-through? Video.

In fact, here’s an important stat for 2021: 83% of video marketers say that video gives them results. This is up from only 33% in 2015.

8. Optimize your links and CTAs.

No one wants to see link after link after link in an email. Instant turn-off. Nor do people want to be overwhelmed by 12 in-text or graphic CTAs.

Instead, include direct CTAs with clear benefits that will drive traffic to your site or encourage the desired conversion.

Pique your reader’s interest with just enough intriguing copy, then offer no more than three easy-to-read graphic or in-text CTAs using language and images your readers won’t be able to resist.

There are many types of CTAs, so decide which ones will best help you achieve your desired results.

9. Analyze, analyze, analyze.

There are so many ways to analyze email KPIs that there really is no excuse for emails that perform badly. HubSpot offers a heat chart for open and click-through rates, telling you how each email in your selected time period performed.

You can evaluate email performance KPIs for specific time periods and campaigns, and you can find out all about engagement, deliverability and contacts lost. With these metrics and a clear focus, you can’t fail to make an irresistible email, regardless of your campaign.

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More Food for Thought

While metrics and data play a big part in the performance of your emails, email marketing is both a science and an art that is always evolving.

For example, in recent years, social media has evolved into a great avenue for companies to showcase their products and their brand. There are a variety of opportunities available to create brand awareness, and your email design is one of them.

To learn more about how to stand out in crowded inboxes, check out this Strategies in Content & Design guide.

Email Marketing Strategies in Content & Design for 2017

The Author

Martha Mueller Neff

Martha puts into play her skills and experience as an award-winning newspaper and magazine editor, helping to craft bright, clean communications that get results.
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