Email marketing is still the most effective way to reach audience. It is about delivering valuable content to the right person to the right time. In the digital era, however, people are bombarded emails every day and it is challenging for marketers to stand out.
Below are the 5 best practices of email marketing:
Taking the fact into account that in 2018 50% of emails were opened on mobile device (Campaign Monitor, 2019), it is critical for marketers to understand the importance of responsive email design. According to Adobe Consumer Email Survey 2018, smartphone is the most commonly used device for checking emails. While in 2017 81% of the participants opened their emails on their smartphone, in 2018 this rate was 85%. (Adobe, 2018)
It is also critical for marketers to understand the different age groups of their subscribers. The younger the audience the more likely they use smartphone to check their emails.
Figure 1: A great example of optimised email. The content is clear, concise and easy to read on the go. CTA (Call-to-action) buttons are big enough on all device to easily be clicked on. Social media share buttons available at the bottom of the email. (Pinterest, 2019)
No matter what a business is selling, it is vital for the business to know their audience, their interests and needs. “Personalization will only work if you’re creating the right message for the right customer.” (Harbin, L., 2019) Segmenting customer base by age, gender, location, interest, purchase history etc. and sending personalised emails to them can make significant impact on the success of an email campaign.
Basic segmentation such as age, gender and location are not enough, however. To increase click through rate, businesses need to learn as much as they can about their audience, for example: what device they primary use, which part of the day they check their emails, previous purchases (if applicable) and so on.
How to get to know more about the audience?
- Ask about preferences in your welcome email
- Have subscribers complete a user profile
- Send a new email to existing subscribers asking them to update their preferences
- Segment based on previous purchases
(Thomsen, R.B., 2019)
Figure 2: Campaign Monitor gives us a perfect example (even if a bit lengthy) of how to ask more information from email subscribers about their preferences. (Thomsen, R.B., 2019)
Figure 3: As a subscriber, I have recently received this email from Change Checker, asking me to fill in a short survey about my preferences, so they can provide me better service and more relevant email content. The email is clear and concise. There is a clear CTA button followed by an additional CTA: a linked text.
Unique Subject Line
Subject lines are the first thing recipients see when checking their inboxes. If written well, subject line encourages recipients to open the email and engage; if not, recipients might simply ignore the message or even worse: mark it as spam or unsubscribe from the email list.
To make our email stand out, we should use an impactful and informative subject line that tell the recipient immediately what the email is about and what it is offering. According to Neil Patel, subject lines should:
- Generate curiosity (for example: 5 Things You Never Knew About Bali)
- Communicate Urgency (for example: Last Chance to Secure the SOLD OUT Military 50p Coin Set)
- Include Free Offers (for example: Order Above £20 and Enjoy FREE Delivery)
Note: some words such as “save”, “buy”, “make money” or “earn” in email subject lines can easily mark the email as SPAM and direct the email straight the recipient’s SPAM folder. Find the most common email SPAM words to avoid on HubSpot’s website. (Rubin, K., 2017)
- Personalised (for example: Happy Birthday Eva! Claim Your FREE Birthday Bubbles)
- Highlight Recent New Topic (for example: Celebrate the Chinese New Year of The Pig with These Coins)
- Communicate Social Proof of Concept (for example: Join the More Than 5000 Subscribers and Enjoy Unlimited Next Day Delivery)
- Tell a Story (for example: How I Survived 1 Year Without Mobile Phone)
- Campaign Retargeting (for example: You Left Something in Your Shopping Cart. Enter Code 123 and Enjoy Free Shipping)
- Announcements and Events (for example: The Most Anticipated Event in the Summer 2019! Order You Tickets Online and Save 10%)
- Authority and Expertise (for example: Secrets About Blog Writing)
(Neil Patel, n/a)
Email services such as Gmail show the first line of the email right next to the subject line allowing recipients to learn immediately what the email is about and decide if they want to open it or not. Therefore, it is wise to include what the email offers in the very first line.
Actual Person as a Sender
HubSpot researches show that emails sent by an actual person generate more open rate than emails sent by company name. (Georgieva, M., 2019) Avoid send emails from email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org email addresses or using only the company name as sender. Instead, use real person’s name and email address from the marketing team. For example: Eva Paroczai, email@example.com.
HubSpot have found that that best practice is to use both the company name and a real person’s name and email address in the email for higher open and click through rate. (Georgieva, M., 2019) For example: Eva Paroczai, Phoenixx Marketing, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Figure 4: HubSpot’s survey showed that “Control” generated a 0.73% CTR, while “Treatment” generated 0.96% CTR. It means: including both the sender’s name and the company name in the email generate more CTR than including the company name only and send the email from a general email address (for example: email@example.com). (Georgieva, M., 2019)
Figure 5: Transport of London’s weekly newsletter contains the Managing Director’s name and signature.
Use Images and Visuals
Use images and visuals and minimise text to make the email easily digestible for recipients. Many people check their email on the go, therefore it is important for the email to be concise and easily scannable. It is important for recipients to immediately understand what the email is about and what it is offering.
Another important thing a marketer should take into an account when designing an email campaign, is the download speed.
- Make sure the images are all compressed to minimal size because if an email downloads too slow, recipients might skip it.
- Use image alt texts: some email services do not download images as default to increase speed. It is important for the recipient to understand what the image is about even if it is not downloaded.
- Do not use videos in the email as it slows down the speed of the download. Instead, link the video from the company’s website or YouTube channel and navigate the recipients to that page.
Figure 6: HubSpot shows a brilliant example of image alt texts in emails in one of their articles. (Kolowich, L., 2019) BuzzFeed is masterfully playing with image alt texts in this email. The email grabs attention even if the images are not downloaded thanks to the funny compelling image alt texts.
Figure 7: Here is the same email from Buzzfeed with the images downloaded.
3 Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid
Never Buy Email Lists
It might be tempting, especially for new businesses, to buy email lists but, in fact it is the worst thing a business could do when starting its email campaign. Building the business’s own list takes time and effort but cold contacting with people who never showed interest in the products or services a business offers end up with slow or even dead ROI. (Das, S., 2018)
Having an own email list means the subscribers have already shown interest in the business’s products or services and have given their consent to receive emails from the business.
On the other hand, if a business have their own email list they know their audiences’ needs and interests and able to segment them to serve their specific needs and interests.
Do Not Send Out Emails Not Optimised for Mobile Devices
Nowadays many people check their emails on their smartphone on the go. Therefore, it is crucial for an email to be well optimised for mobile devices and be easily scannable. If the email is not optimised, recipients have to pinch and zoom to set the optimal size and be able to read the content and see the pictures.
Figure 8: This picture showcases the difference between mobile-optimised email and non-mobile-optimised email.
The left picture showcases how an email content looks when it is NOT optimised for mobile devices: the image is too big, and recipients cannot read the content without pinching and zooming it. CTA button is not visible at all.
The picture in the right showcases how an email looks when it is optimised for mobile devices: the picture is in optimal size, and the content is easily readable. CTA is clearly visible and easy for recipients to click on it. (Kolowich, L., 2019)
Do Not Send Out Your Email Without Testing Them
Testing is a vital part of email campaigns. Once an email campaign is ready, resist the urge to send it out immediately. Make sure to double check it for grammatical errors and misspelling as sometimes even the smallest mistakes can have significant impact on the effectiveness of the email campaign.
If the email is free from grammatical errors and misspelling, send test emails to co-workers and ask them to check it and give you some feedback in terms of the typos and the layout.
(Mail Chimp, n/a)
Make sure to test the email on different devices (laptop, smartphone, tablet etc.) and open it using different browsers as the same email can look differently when opened in different browsers. Most of the email service websites provide tools to see how your campaign looks in different devices.
Adobe (2018) ‘2018 Adobe Consumer Email Survey’ [Online] Available at: https://www.slideshare.net/adobe/2018-adobe-consumer-email-survey?qid=fb898b8e-6761-422a-bfa9-41e55cc84771&v=&b=&from_search=2 [Accessed 02 August 2019]
Campaign Monitor (2019) ‘Email Trends Report: Mobile vs. Desktop’ [Online] Available at:
https://www.campaignmonitor.com/resources/guides/email-marketing-trends/#one [Accessed 02 August 2019]
Das, S. (2018) Digital Doughnut ‘10 Essential Email Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know’ [Online] Available at: https://www.digitaldoughnut.com/articles/2018/january/10-essential-email-marketing-best-practices-yo-(1) [Accessed 04 August 2019]
Georgieva, M. 2019) HubSpot ‘A/B Testing in Action: 3 Real-Life Marketing Experiments’ [Online] Available at: https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/31634/A-B-Testing-in-Action-3-Real-Life-Marketing-Experiments.aspx [Accessed 04 August 2019]
Harbin, L. (2019) Campaign Monitor ‘How to Create Successful Email Marketing Campaigns in 2019’ [Online] Available at: https://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/email-marketing/2019/01/how-to-create-successful-email-marketing-campaigns-in-2019/ [Accessed 03 August 2019]
Kolowich, L. (2019) HubSpot ‘19 Examples of Brilliant Email Marketing Campaigns’ [Online] Available at: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/email-marketing-examples-list [Accessed 04 August 2019]
Kolowich, L. (2019) HubSpot ‘23 Simple Email Marketing Tips to Improve Your Open and Clickthrough Rates’ [Online] Available at: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/make-emails-more-clickable-list [Accessed 04 August 2019]
Mail Chimp (n/a) ‘Email Marketing Guide for Successful Campaigns’ [Online] Available at: https://mailchimp.com/resources/email-marketing-field-guide/ [Accessed 04 August 2019]
Neil Patel (n/a) ‘10 Types of Email Subject Lines That Always Produce Clicks’ [Online] Available at: https://neilpatel.com/blog/clickable-email-subject-line-types/ [Accessed 04 August 2019]
Pinterest (2019) Econsultancy.com A great example of optimised email [Online] Available at: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/564427765770363843/ [Accessed 04 August 2019]
Rubin, K. HubSpot (2017) ‘The Ultimate List of Email SPAM Trigger Words’ [Online] Available at: https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/30684/the-ultimate-list-of-email-spam-trigger-words.aspx [Accessed 04 August 2019]
Thomsen, R. B. 92019) Campaign Monitor ‘Improve Your Email Campaigns with These 8 Best Practices’ [Online] Available at: https://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/email-marketing/2019/01/improve-your-email-campaigns-with-8-best-practices/ [Accessed 04 August 2019]