Email marketing best practices

To maximize the return on the investment you make in your email marketing strategy and email campaigns — such as improving open and click-through rates — you need to know what drives the most action from your subscribers.

Here are some email marketing best practices that cover the most crucial aspects of email marketing — including the subject line, content, personalization, and the call to action (CTA) of your messages.

1. Start with welcome emails to nurture long-lasting customer relationships and build a clean email list

One of the most important tips to follow is to send a welcome email. First, it reassures the customer that they have successfully signed up for your list. It also ensures that you can maintain a clean email list for accurate email deliverability. You can remove any returned or bounced emails from your list.

Second, it sets a precedent with new subscribers and creates a good foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship. Let your new subscribers know that you’re happy they are there and that you’re looking forward to sharing valuable information with them. A long-lasting customer relationship that starts on the right foot can develop into click-throughs and the potential for more sales.

Email marketing platforms like Mailchimp and Constant Contact offer templates for readable, engaging welcome emails.

2. Maintain the right frequency to maintain engagement

Another essential email marketing best practice is knowing how often to contact your subscribers. You don’t want them to forget about you, but you also don’t want to irritate them with too many emails. Either way, these subscribers might unsubscribe, leading to higher lead costs and a low sender reputation score.

It can be challenging to know how to balance email campaign frequency with optimized engagement. However, research indicates that email marketers who send one email newsletter per week score the highest open rates and click-through rates.

3. Focus on deliverability

Although you may think your email service provider is responsible for email deliverability, it’s up to you to put together an accurate email list and appropriate content marketing elements — including the subject line. Doing so helps route your emails to target email inboxes instead of spam folders.

Improve email deliverability by adopting an effective opt-in process, keeping a clean email list, and not writing a spammy subject line (for instance, avoid phrases such as “free” or “try now”). Create unique content that entices the recipient to open the email.

Also, don’t make the sender name and sender email generic; this is a common spam email technique. Make both the address and name recognizable and memorable, such as [Employee Name] from [Brand Name] or something like “[Brand Name’s] Chief Customer Care Officer.”

4. Conduct tests for your email subject lines and content to improve the open rate

Your email subject line is the first impression you make with your subscribers. Your recipients rely on that subject line when deciding whether to open the email or delete it. To craft an effective email campaign, pay special attention to your subject lines.

A/B testing helps you assess how different audience segments may view certain subject lines and the content of your email. Use variations to see which content achieves the most positive response with your audience. For example, some subject lines will better align with an e-commerce business than with a B2B service provider. When you get the test email results, you can see what interests your audience and adjust your email marketing campaign accordingly.

5. Design marketing emails for accessibility and readability

You have a diverse audience, so it’s important to both personalize and segment your email marketing campaigns. Doing this helps you address the unique needs of your email subscribers as well as your overall target audience.

Think about how your recipients may read your emails, including whether they have a visual impairment and their device “reads” it to them. Also consider how your email will look on a large computer screen versus a mobile device. Addressing accessibility helps you achieve higher email open rates and click rates.

For people who use screen readers, add alternative text to images. Email programs can display preview text so that you can see how your message looks on various screen sizes. Finally, look for an email marketing service that can produce multiple versions of your email campaign to match list segmentation.

6. Inspire action by developing compelling CTAs

A successful email marketing campaign convinces subscribers to take action. The action might be to visit one of your other marketing channels (like a website), register for a webinar, download an e-book or some other marketing tool, subscribe to your weekly newsletter, or book an appointment to speak to a salesperson.

An effective CTA uses straightforward text that focuses on the benefit of taking that action. Use a button that makes it easy for your reader to act, and put it somewhere that’s highly visible, especially on a smaller screen. As with your subject line and content, you should also A/B test CTAs.

A journalist and digital consultant, John Boitnott has worked for TV, newspapers, radio, and Internet companies for 25 years. He’s written for Inc.com, Fast Company, NBC, Entrepreneur, USA Today, and Business Insider, among others.

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