Email continues to be the go-to marketing tactic for businesses looking to create an authentic, one-on-one connection with their best potential customers. But as competition for attention continues to intensify in 2020, audiences will expect direct email marketing to be more personalized, relevant, and valuable to them than ever before.
To ensure that you can continue to anticipate and serve the needs of your readers over the coming year, let’s look at the four elements that make up email marketing best practices — targeting, creative, delivery, and testing — that will have the greatest impact on the success of your email marketing campaigns in 2020.
The following email marketing best practices will help you answer the critical questions necessary for creating effective email marketing campaigns and generating the highest possible return on your investment.
Targeting and Relevance
The days of getting by with a scattered, generic approach to direct email marketing are long gone.
Thus competition for attention is too fierce.
Therefore, if you want to cut through the noise, you need to start by knowing exactly who you’re trying to reach and what they care about most.
1. What’s the Quality of Our Subscriber List?
Creating effective email marketing campaigns starts with building a high-quality list. It’s far better to have a small active subscriber base than a largely passive one.
The goal is not quantity, it’s engagement and conversion.
- Don’t send marketing emails to people who didn’t actively subscribe. Not only will this result in low engagement, but also the possibility of being flagged as a spammer, getting blacklisted by the major internet service providers, and severely damaging your brand’s reputation.
- Clean your list by removing any rented or purchased email addresses. If an email on your list came from a third-party data provider or website, drop it.
- Use a double opt-in method that requires new subscribers to confirm by clicking on an emailed link. This helps ensure that everyone on your list is interested in receiving your content, and helps filter out fake profiles and spambots.
- Offering a clear method to unsubscribe is not just good practice — it’s a legal requirement. Readers should be able to unsubscribe instantaneously and with a single click. Don’t make people log in or complete a survey.
- One of the most underused email marketing best practices: clean up your list by removing subscribers with low engagement. This will help improve your delivery rate and focus on the people who actually want to hear from you.
2. Is Our List Segmented?
Unless you already serve a relatively small niche audience, sending one broad email blast to your entire list makes it less likely that each message actually matters to each of your readers.
It’s much more effective to have highly targeted marketing emails delivered to a handful of distinct audiences than one generic email going out to your entire list.
To ensure that every email you send is relevant, you can segment your list by:
- Buying patterns
- Job title
- Past activity
- Buyer’s journey stage (awareness, consideration, decision)
To accomplish this, you’ll need to take the time to get to know your audience.
- Offer clear options in your opt-in form
- Create custom preference centers
- Send surveys
The above email marketing best practices allow readers to customize their experience by choosing what they want to receive and how often they want to receive it.
3. Are Our Emails Really About Them?
The real power of direct email marketing is your ability to connect with audiences in a way that’s highly targeted and catered to each reader’s specific interests.
Email marketing is about them — their needs, wants, and problems — not just your products and services.
Focus on being generous first. Every message should offer specific value to your readers.
Copywriting and Design
What does it take to write and design a great email?
Empathy for the reader and the willingness to go the extra mile in order to create a connection with them.
4. Are Our Emails Authentic?
Email marketing is not a brochure — it’s a conversation. It’s people talking to, not at, other people.
If you want to connect with your audience on a human level, you’ll need to write in a consistent, conversational way.
5. Are Our Emails Easy to Read?
The easier it is for your audience to quickly skim, read, and understand your emails — especially with B2C email marketing — the more likely it is that they’ll take action.
Well-structured emails include:
- A compelling subject line
- Concise copy
- High-quality images
- A clear call-to-action
Each element serves to engage readers with an effortless flow of information, tell an engaging story, and inspire them to take the next step.
6. Are Our Subject Lines Clear and Effective?
Your subject line may be the most important part of your entire email.
- If readers aren’t interested enough in the subject to even open it or click on your email marketing links, then the rest of it doesn’t really matter.
- A clear, effective subject line is concise, relevant to your reader, and specific to the topic of your email. It gives subscribers a good reason to read more.
- AND PLEASE DON’T WRITE IN ALL CAPS! No one likes to be yelled at, and it looks spammy.
7. Are We Presenting a Clear Call-to-Action (CTA)?
Enticing your audience to read your email is only part of the job. Without a clear CTA, the momentum stops cold.
Your CTA needs to provide a seamless transition to the next step in the buyer’s journey. Do you want your reader to:
- Click a link to access more detailed information about your offer?
- Download an ebook?
- Print a coupon?
8. Can Subscribers Reply Directly to Our Emails?
Using generic reply addresses like noreply@, info@, sales@, and support@ send a clear message:
We only want you to take the next step that we choose, and we don’t care about your thoughts, feedback, or ideas.
Pretty spammy, and not very personal.
Rather make sure to:
- Use a reply address from an actual person
- Encourage readers to reply directly to your email marketing campaigns
- Respond quickly and reroute messages as needed
Your amazing emails won’t even get read if they aren’t delivered in the right way and at the right time.
9. Are Our Emails Adhering to Mobile Email Best Practices?
While many of us still use our computers to check email, 2020 will see the continued trend of online activity moving to mobile.
Although most major email marketing service providers offer responsive design templates that display your emails according to a device, it’s a good idea to test your email marketing links and images by viewing them on multiple devices.
According to Campaign Monitor:
10. Are We Sending Too Many Emails?
While some subscribers may want to receive your awesome daily industry update, others may only want to hear from you on a weekly or monthly basis.
To ensure that you find the right balance:
- Give readers the option to choose how often they receive your emails
- Make it easy for subscribers to change their delivery preferences
- Make sure that every message you send — whether it’s daily or quarterly — offers real value
11. Are We Sending Emails at the Right Time?
While there are plenty of opinions on the ideal time of day to send an email, you want to consider:
- The unique needs of your audience — a target audience of stay-at-home moms and dads may have a completely different optimal delivery window than that of Fortune 500 software executives
- How many emails they may be receiving at any particular point in the day
- Your open rates for previous campaigns
The key is to test how different delivery times affect your email marketing campaign open and conversion rates.
Don’t guess — test. We must leave our egos at the door, take calculated risks, and commit to an ongoing process of improvement.
12. Are We Constantly Testing and Improving Our Email Campaigns?
Successful marketing isn’t about knowing what will work upfront or simply following a list of email marketing best practices. It’s the result of constant experimentation in order to identify the most effective combination of creative elements, including:
- Body copy
Furthermore to help make sure that your results are statistically relevant, send each test to the largest targeted sample size possible, and split test every single element one at a time.
13. Are We Keeping it Simple?
It’s easy to try to design the perfect email campaign upfront by anticipating all the moving parts and potential scenarios. The problem with this approach is that the more complicated your starting point, the harder it will be to improve your campaigns based on real-world results.
So start small.
Focus on building your email marketing campaigns on a strong foundation of core principles and your most important audience.
Keeping it simple will make it far easier to:
- Deliver meaningful campaign tests to your subscribers
- Identify the elements that work best
- Find out which metrics matter and which don’t
14. Are We Building on What Already Works?
Unless you’re starting from scratch, you probably have a wealth of useful information about past campaigns to help guide the direction of your next test.
- Reviewing your analytics reporting from previous campaigns, focusing on core metrics like open rates, click-throughs, and unsubscribes
- Looking at the emails themselves, as well as the audiences they were delivered to
- Discovering why one version worked better than the other
If you notice details like a higher open rate for emails sent at 10 AM on a Tuesday than 3 PM on a Thursday, or subject line A over B, you can use these insights as a specific starting point for your next test.
Overall as email marketing continues to evolve through 2020, be sure to focus on the email best practices that can maximize your return on investment.
Start with a targeted, segmented subscriber list.
Then send personalized emails that share real value with your audience.
Further, make your messages easy to read and personable.
And, continue to build on what works by constantly testing and making the changes for your future campaigns.
Lastly, now it’s your turn.
What other email best practices have had the most positive impact on your business?
Share in the comments below!