Like snail mail, email marketing is a form of direct communication, but it is transmitted to receivers digitally to provide information about company products, services, or fundraisers. These communications are generally used to build brand awareness, interest, sales, and loyalty. We asked the pros for their top tips on effective email marketing.
Jeff Steen, Marketing Editor, Fit Small Business
There are plenty of tools that can help you easily automate your campaigns to deliver the consistent and personalized communication your subscribers expect. Constant Contact, for example, offers customizable email templates, list-building tools like website forms for collecting subscriber emails, list segmentation, website forms for collecting subscriber emails, and real-time tracking and reporting of your campaigns so that you know what works and what doesn’t. Click here to learn more about Constant Contact’s many offerings.
2. Encourage Emotional Responses to Your Subject Lines
Neil Gordon, Founder & Influencer Consultant, Neil Gordon Consulting
Many small business marketers mistakenly think that their email subject lines must describe the contents of the email [June Newsletter or This Week at (Company Name)]. But information like that doesn’t drive action―emotions do. People are most likely to open an email when they’re emotionally invested in doing so. The best way to increase open rates is to have a subject line that plants a mystery “Clear up your acne with this one household product,” creates scarcity “Only 3 hours left until …,” or something else that inspires an emotional response.
3. Ask Questions
Bethanie Nonami, Chief Innovation Officer, Marley Nonami
Consider using your next email campaign to create an open feedback loop with your email list. Ask them what they want from your brand. How would they prefer to communicate? How would they like to interact and engage with you and where? This is an opportunity to build brand affinity, make your customers feel heard, and gain valuable insight into ways that you can build a lasting connection with your email subscribers.
Build this into your process. If you send weekly emails, ask for feedback quarterly. If you are sending monthly emails, ask annually. Create a team culture that is always curious and validates assumptions about your customers and gives your customers a feeling that they matter and that you care what they think.
4. Refine Your Email List Constantly
Jake McKenzie, Content Manager, Auto Accessories Garage
To increase open rates, it’s important to curate your email list on your end. If you have email addresses that haven’t opened an email in months, take them off the list. You weren’t reaching them anyway, so it’s best to cut them loose. At Auto Accessories Garage, the majority of our emails are only sent to readers who open our emails as well as brand new subscribers. The result is a smaller group of recipients who are also more highly engaged in our content. As a result, not only do our open rates increase, but the data we collect from average users is far more valuable to us.
Evan Tarver, General Manager, Fit Small Business
While email marketing platforms are great for setting up drip campaigns and sending one-off emails, a good customer relationship management (CRM) will show you much more information, often in one central dashboard. This is key to tracking leads as they move along the sales funnel. Depending on where they are, you’ll need different emails to encourage them to buy or engage with your brand. Consider a CRM like Pipedrive to help you do this. Not only does it help tracks leads moving through the sales funnel but can manage emails and calls from one platform. Learn more about Pipedrive’s robust functionality.
6. Make Your Campaigns Interactive
Miranda Paquet, Marketing and Operations Manager, The Close
One of the biggest mistakes I see small businesses making with email marketing is overlooking email as an interactive platform. Rather than just sending messages out, make sure you’re encouraging your subscribers to communicate back with you. The easiest way to do this is by sending quick surveys and polls to your readers. Ask them how often they want to receive emails from you, what information they’re interested in, and which products and services they want most from you. Email marketing can help you get to know your audience better and, therefore, serve them better.
7. Create Targeted Content for Each Subscriber
Corina Burri, Marketing Lead, Ofri
Try to target as much as possible to make the drip email content relevant to the audience. When the message is too generic, click rates decreases. For instance, if a user signed up, but never used the product, mention this clearly. He or she then understands why they are getting the message.
8. Answer Three Key Questions in Your Copy
Dave Charest, Director of Content Marketing, Constant Contact
If you want to create email marketing campaigns that drive action, make sure your copy is answering these three questions: What are you offering? Why should the reader care? What should they do next? Answering these questions allows you to use your headline, body copy, and call to action to persuasively point your reader toward taking the next step.
9. Offer an Incentive to Subscribe
Andrea Kinnison, Marketing Manager, Volusion
You should build a landing page with the sole purpose to collect emails or at least incorporate a tastefully-placed opt-in bar on your site. Try offering an incentive to get people to sign up for your email list, such as 10% off their next order or sneak peeks at upcoming releases. More than 90% of people don’t mind getting emails from brands they trust, but they’re more likely to opt-in if you make it worth their while.
10. Track Conversions Using Analytics
Chas Cooper, Founder & CEO, Rising Star Reviews
Measure results using the landing page’s conversions—the percentage of click-throughs from email that resulted in a sign-up or other successful conversion. Be sure to use conversion tracking in Google Analytics and a tracking mechanism like urchin tracking module (UTM) codes in your emails so that you know which conversions came from the A or the B email.
11. Segment Your Subscribers to Deliver Personalization
Joel Debus, Director of Email Marketing & Engagement, Fit Small Business
Customers respond best when the sender personalizes content for them. This means it’s important to understand subscribers by segmenting based on general interest, what they’ve clicked on in your emails or even what they’ve opened in the past. When a sender understands their subscriber with this data, open rates and click-through rates (CTRs) can skyrocket.
12. Test Your Drip Campaign Send Intervals
Sam Orchard, Creative Director, Edge of the Web
The big mistake often made with drip marketing is that the timings aren’t right. [Businesses] either bombard users with content day after day―usually resulting in a rapid unsubscribe―or they wait weeks between emails, by which point the user has moved on. Common sense goes a long way when trying to figure out how to time your emails―there’s no Golden Rule. If possible, try and test different send schedules and measure how successful they are at converting prospects into customers.
13. Tell a Story With Your Drip Campaigns
Richard Williamson, Vice President of Marketing, HealthLynked
Too often, small businesses make drip campaigns that are a repetition of the same message repeatedly. I found it to be almost twice as effective to create a storyline in which the series of emails acts almost like episodes. Each reveals different or more expensive information, reinforcing the previous emails or messages but also expanding on them.
14. Keep Your Drip Emails Casual
Ian Bouchett, Director of Marketing and Revenue Operations, Getreconciled.co
The most important thing to remember with drip campaigns is that by nature, they are robotic, so anything you can do to humanize them will improve your opens, and responses, and generate the most valuable conversations and qualified leads. The more you can keep it casual, the more it looks like you typed that email just for them. The only thing worse than a cold call is a cold call from a robot.
I like to use sentences like “Hey John, would love to jump on a quick call,” instead of “Hello, Mr. Doe, my name is…” The first one makes me sound like an old friend, and the latter makes me sound like a self-interested salesman. If you want to be taken seriously in the land of automation and bots, keep [your emails] short and casual.
15. Add One CTA With the Pain Points It Solves
Patrick Doolin, Content Marketing Manager, Socio
An effective sales and marketing email drives readers toward a single CTA [call-to-action]. Resist the urge to add things that will distract from it like links to a blog or your latest podcast. A tactic I see work effectively is strategically placing a link in the email copy as a soft CTA. Say you want readers to register for your webinar by clicking a sign-up button at the end. Take that sign-up link and lay it over the biggest pain point you mention in early in the email copy.
16. Track Subscribers’ Reasons for Engaging
Reuben Kats, Chief Operating Officer, GrabResults
Use CRM software to keep track of what the user did for them to subscribe. I run an email campaign for many of my parent companies’ clients. We’re careful not to send the wrong products to someone who hasn’t ordered that certain product. That could drive users to unsubscribe from [your list].
17. Center Your Campaigns Around One Goal
Dave Alvarez, Digital Strategist, The S3 Agency
Keeping the content of an email laser-focused on a specific goal is the key to maximizing desired conversions. Similarly, all outbound links in your email design should point directly towards the start of your conversion path. Sure, linking out to your latest social post seems fun, but it could be a distraction and get in the way of potential purchases.
18. Grow Your Contact List Organically
Jaykishan Panchal, Content Marketing Manager, E2M Solutions Inc.
Don’t buy email addresses from other sources. When creating your email list, remember that quality trumps quantity. Avoid the temptation of buying email lists rather than creating one yourself. The best email lists are the ones that grow organically.
19. Don’t Let Perfectionism Hinder Communication Flow
Kyle Mears, Email Marketing Automation Manager, Seek Capital
The single biggest mistake business owners make is letting perfect get in the way of great and, therefore, not keeping in constant communication with their leads or customers. It is far better to send simple emails with one or two images either for a birthday promotion for a B2C [business-to-consumer] customer or a biweekly company update email to B2B [business-to-business] customers than not to send anything at all. Your competitors are also not 100% satisfied with every email they send out, but they don’t let that stop them. Half the battle is showing up.
20. Use Website Popups & Banners to Grow Your List
Jacel Booth, Marketing Communications Manager, AddThis
As a small business owner, your email list is one of your most valuable assets. To grow your list quickly, use a popup or banner to strategically offer something your audience values in exchange for their contact information. Maybe it’s free shipping, a discount code, or access to an exclusive online community. Whatever it is, rope them in when they’re browsing a product page, a blog post—anywhere on your site. Even if they don’t buy on the first visit, having their email will give you an opportunity to follow up and win them over later.
21. Get Straight to the Point
Kendra N. Jones, Public Relations & Marketing Strategist, KendraJones.com
Most people think that creating long, drawn-out campaigns filled with fluffy content will keep readers from feeling like they’re just being sold to. The truth is, this lessens your chances of converting readers into customers. Most people only skim through emails. If they feel as though the information provided isn’t relevant, they’re more likely to close out of the message. Skip the small talk and get straight to the good stuff. Provide value, and the reader won’t mind a pitch at the end.
22. Use Gated Content to Build a Quality Subscriber List
Cristina Maria, Marketing Executive, Commusoft
Gated content is the key to a good email list. Build a library of useful resources like e-books, podcasts, or long-form articles, give the reader a snippet or a table of contents, then gate the rest with a form that requests the information you need—in this case, their email. This is a simple but superb strategy because it gives you the chance to qualify your leads at the same time based on the content topic. Quality is important when it comes to email lists.
23. Get More Social
Joel Razi Lutfiyya, Small Business Growth
Invite subscribers to follow you on social media platforms or join your Facebook group. Adding social media icons linked to your profiles inside an email isn’t a direct enough call to action. Be purposeful and ask the email recipients to like, follow, or join whatever profiles you frequently update at the end of each email so that they receive up-to-the-minute information from you.
24. Make Sure Your Email Is Mobile-friendly
Yoav B. Guttman, Demand Generation Manager, PhotoShelter
No matter who you are or what your business is, a majority of your readers will be looking at your email on a mobile device. So, stop designing with a desktop mentality. Instead, design with a mobile-first mentality to ensure that your email is readable and looks good on a mobile device. Important things to consider are text size, image size, readability of buttons, what it looks like if the images don’t load because someone’s connection is too slow, and so on.
25. Give Subscribers Exclusive Value Available Only Via Email
Genni Threet, Small Business Marketing Consultant, Lucky Penny Marketing
Email is the highest converting medium, so it’s important to retain and grow your subscriber list. An effective way to reward your subscribers and monitor conversions is to offer a discount code through email only. It is important to communicate that the offer is only promoted to email subscribers, not Facebook or Instagram followers, so your audience recognizes the value of not hitting the unsubscribe button. Plus, good friends will spread the news about your email exclusive offers, as long as they’re valuable enough, and encourage others to sign up and reap the same rewards.
26. Tailor Content to Your Audience’s Interests, Not Your Own
Bonnie Harris, Founder, Wax Marketing, Inc.
My favorite email tip is to remember when writing the email that the content should be tailored to your audience’s interests, not your company’s. Include information that would be of interest to them, not just information about your company, product, or service. Writing an email newsletter using your customer’s lens will greatly increase your reads and interactions.
27. Don’t Forget to Add Real Value
Whitney Blankenship, Content Marketing Manager, Omnisend
No matter why you’re sending your customers an email, your purpose should be clear: add real value.
With all the email marketing automation that exists today, it can be easy to get wrapped up in what you can do as opposed to what you should do. The reason you contact your customers doesn’t matter. The purpose should always be to improve your customer’s life in some way with added value. This might be by reminding a customer of a product they left in their cart, a lead magnet they signed up for, or a warm welcome with instructions on what to do next.
By making sure that your message is always relevant and adds real value to your customer, not only will you enjoy higher open and CTRs, you’ll enjoy a better relationship with your customer. That’s all that matters. So, before you hit send on that next campaign, ask yourself, “How does this message add value?”
28. Monitor Your Bounce Rate
Nick Brennan, Founder & CEO, Watch Social Media
The best tip I can provide regarding email campaigns is to monitor your bounces closely—both hard and soft. One of the biggest risks anyone sending mass emails faces is having their email service provider (ESP) shut them down due to a list that is perceived as low quality. Bounce rate, particularly your hard bounce rate, is one of the major factors ESPs use in determining this. Make sure any addresses that hard bounce are scrubbed from your lists between sends and you’re well on your way to ensuring a prosperous campaign.
29. Send a Welcome Email
Carrie McIlveen, United States Director of Marketing, Metia
Use a welcome email series to invite customers into the sales funnel. Demonstrate your brand’s excitement to have a new subscriber by offering a discount on a first or next purchase. You can use referral data to tailor the series to the products, services, or topics that enticed the subscriber to sign up in the first place.
30. Infuse a Personal Touch into Your Campaigns
Jessica Jobes, Founder, OnTheGrid Marketing Agency
Create regularly scheduled email to keep the communication going. Your email newsletter should be uniquely yours and something that doesn’t feel like work. Maybe you’re great at talking to your smartphone camera, so film a three-minute clip and provide a link to the video with a written summary. Maybe you prefer writing what’s top of mind. If so, do that. If you comb the news for all the latest stories, keep a clipboard with your favorites and send out a list. Figure out a method that works for you and go with it. And whatever you send, make sure it’s a repeatable process that you can stick to, and you’ll build relationships one email at a time.
31. Send Your Emails From Real People
Victor Clarke, The Marketing Quarterback, Clarke, Inc.
You should do everything possible to ensure your prospect’s experience with your company is a positive one. Do this by making your marketing personal. Personal means that emails come from real people in your company, not just the “info” email address. It can also mean they are connected on social media to people in your company, not just following the company page. Most importantly, it means your help-based marketing content addresses their needs, and it’s delivered in a timely manner. This shows your business puts the prospect’s interests ahead of its own.
32. Make it Easy to Unsubscribe
Natalie Hornyak, Junior Copywriter, Garfield Group
Keeping your mailing list clean is important for improving data accuracy and deliverability, so while you don’t want readers to unsubscribe, you want to make sure that those who do wish to unsubscribe can do so easily. About half of email users will report your email as spam if they can’t figure out how to unsubscribe, which will harm your reputation and deliverability further. Respect your subscribers and their free will, and if you don’t want them to unsubscribe, send them high-value content and solicit their input.
33. Test Your Automation Workflows Regularly
James Meincke, Marketing Manager, CloserIQ
To test the functionality and effectiveness of automations, you should periodically go through the customer workflow as if you were a first time user. In other words, taste the soup. From the user perspective, you’ll often realize new insights to improve the workflow.
34. Don’t Use the Word ‘Newsletter’ in Your Subject Line
Joe D’Eramo, Copywriter & Marketing/PR Consultant, HiRoad Communications
My advice to people starting a newsletter is never, never include the word “newsletter” in your subject line. You might as well ask them to delete the email.
With some exceptions, most people—even valued customers—aren’t necessarily looking to read another newsletter. They want to get through their inbox and move on. Your subject line must give them a reason to at least view your newsletter in the preview pane. I know this from being a Constant Contact reseller and having written e-newsletters for more than 50 clients during the past 10 years.
35. Don’t Send Unsolicited Emails
Mark Schmukler, Managing Partner, Sagefrog Marketing Group
Don’t send unsolicited emails. You want to be sure that the email recipient has given their permission before you start sending content their way. Monitor feedback loops—make sure that the people who are marking your emails as spam are removed from your list.
Also, track recipient action over time—this will allow you to remove inactive subscribers. This doesn’t mean you should delete every email address of recipients who do not open or click through. Instead, track emails over time to see which accounts are active and which are inactive.
36. P.S.: Don’t Forget to Use P.S.
Andrei Petrik, NetHunt CRM
It’s the small details that often stand out the most. Be sure to put a “post scriptum” (P.S.) in your emails because no one can resist checking it out. P.S. invokes curiosity and makes an impact, so don’t waste that space. It’s your chance to end on a high note!
Bottom Line: Email Best Practices
Many businesses send out emails but don’t manage their campaigns well. As a result, they seldom achieve their email marketing goals. To ensure your campaigns hit the mark, begin by building a refined email list, and follow the expert tips above, including personalizing emails, adding value, making emails interactive, and crafting approachable copy.