Follow these Golden Rules for Email Marketing and start getting the results you’ve been looking for

We’ve been working with email marketing for over fifteen years; running large campaigns for multinational organisations and brands, as well as for SME and new business start-ups.

Now we teach others how to use email marketing as part of their marketing strategy. And we’re happy to share our experience with you too. Here’s a list of the Golden Rules we follow to get the very best results.

Please note, this information is offered as guidance and for learning purposes only; you will need to TEST your own campaigns to ensure you’re going in the right direction. If you feel you need help, you’re stuck, or you don’t know where to even start, then please contact us, we’re always happy to answer questions – or you can tweet them to us @marketingaskme

Our Top 10 Golden Rules and Email Best Practice –

1. Always use a proper email solution, never your standard desktop email browser. You’d be amazed a how many people try to send email campaigns with nothing more than their Outlook or Gmail account. If that’s where you’ve been previously stop it now. You’re wasting your time and only getting a fraction of the value you could be.

With a full functional email campaign tool – like Campaign Monitor – you have amazing control at your fingertips, as well as in-depth analytics and reports to help you improve each time. In addition, you need a system to handle your unsubscribes and other data management, which your personal email browser simply can’t do.

2. Always use an email list that you’ve built ethically – everyone knows that “the money’s in the list”, which is very true as long as you have a list to speak of. Do NOT expect to scrape, borrow or steal your email data. You should even be very careful about buying or renting data from professional providers.

email marketing

This is the number one aspect of email marketing that so many people get wrong. Good data means good results. It’s the fundamental starting point for every email campaign. Don’t expect to use old, irrelevant data and get anywhere with your campaign. Junk in; junk out. And NEVER use data that has come from a dubious source.

3. One Size does NOT fit all – So you’ve got your list and now you can start firing out thousands of emails right? Wrong! Just as with every other form of marketing you need to make sure you tailor your email message (your offer or promotion) to the audience carefully. So you should be segmenting your data.

It doesn’t matter if you have 100,000 email contacts on your list or 100, the main thing is to make sure you send the right message to the right person. Get specific and identify what your customers really want and have an interest in. Sure, test a little and maybe go off-script once in a while. Break your list up in to smaller lists an think carefully about how you’re going to engage each reader with their interests, not just your own.

4. Make it mobile friendly – its a statistical fact that almost 70% (and probably more) of web browsing now takes place on mobile devices like smartphone and tables. So it stand to reason that your marketing emails MUST be designed to be mobile friendly first.

Check how your email appears on small screens and be aware of adding plenty of paragraph breaks to make it easier to read and follow. You also need to check that any links from your emails to your webpages/landing pages are also mobile friendly.

5. Get to the point – don’t be tempted to put lots of different things in one email. Only focus on one main theme, topic or call-to-action. Newsletter emails, with a mix of content, can work but the more you expect your reader to spread their attention the less likely you are to get the specific result you want.

If you want to share information about several topics or offers you are will do better if you create separate campaigns for each. Even if that means sending one email per week, rather than one per month with four topics. You’ll also have much more chance of the subscriber opening your emails if you send a selection.

6. Personalise – nobody like to feel like ‘just one of the crowd’. So always use personalisation in your email. Try to make your message personal and direct to the reader, talk to them person-to-person and add their name to catch attention.

You can get clever with this and make offers and deals seem very personal simply by adding the readers name “Steve, here’s an offer that’s got your name on it” would be an example. A good email system will enable you to merge your subscribers first name (and other elements) so each email is properly personalised

7. Get your Subject line right first – other than the senders name the actual subject line of your email is the most important element that will affect your open rate. It’s your headline and we know that headlines are worth as much as 80% in terms of the value of how influential your copy and content is.

Use a system that allows you to Split-test (or A/B test) your Subject lines. Then you can ensure you’re giving your campaign the best chance of success. These systems automate the testing process so you can always pick the best performing Subject line.

7. Check and test everything, then repeat – so you’ve got a great list, personalised your content, kept it brief and focused on your core objective. Now you’re ready to hit the send button and watch in awe the results you’re about to get. Stop! Before you send anything test and test again. Send test emails to yourself and others in your team, make sure everyone proof-reads it and look for errors.

You should also test all your links to make sure they work correctly. And remember to test the email by looking at it on your phone, ipad, etc. to check how it looks and responds on a mobile device (see point 4). There’s little worse that creating an awesome campaign only to realise (too late) that there’s a howler spelling mistake, or a crucial link isn’t working. etc.

8. Good timing is everything – everyone asks what’s the best time to send your email campaign? Well, again you need to think about testing to find out when your customers or subscribers want to read your emails. If it’s business-to-business then try mid morning or mid afternoon. Never first thing though, remember you want your email to get undivided attention and not simply be the next click to mark and delete.

If you’re emailing public consumers then consider evenings; 5-6pm can be good, as people often check emails on the way home from work. And again later in the evening, between 8-9pm can also work well. Friday evenings often produce great results, the same goes for Sunday afternoons. Just think about when your subscribers are likely to be in the best mental state, with a little time and opportunity to give your email the attention you want them too. Again… test and measure this!

9. Always add links to images – in my experience images are often more likely to get a click than a bit of text. This could be for two reasons; images are powerful in triggering a response, especially if the image contains text or a theme that makes it obvious to click. The other reason is that larger images are almost certainly easier to click than text, especially on a small phone screen.

10. Don’t fear unsubscribes – I’ve met people who get very upset when they see a lot of people unsubscribe after an email campaign. Don’t panic, unsubscribes are simply a way of cleaning your list. If they are no longer interested in you then let them go and be gracious about it. Of course if you get an unusually large number of unsubscribes to one particular email campaign then you need to find out why.

And most of all make sure that you manage your unsubscribes correctly, again a good email system will take care of this for you automatically. On no account should you be contacting people who have removed themselves from your list, it’s not ethical or good business practice.

These 10 golden Rules are a quick summary of the important things that make email marketing campaigns work well. There are lots of other ‘rules’ and guidelines that will help you.

You should also read our page What is Email Marketing to help you get started.

Nial Adams

– Author of Make Make Marketing Work

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