Email Marketing: Best Practices and Mistakes to Avoid
Despite being a quite dated digital channel, and despite the success of social media, email marketing has so many advantages that it is still ranked as the most effective marketing channel (Patel, 2020). Email marketing is free to set up, it can be highly targeted and is completely measurable (British Academy of Digital Marketing, n.d.). However, these advantages do not automatically guarantee the success of your email marketing strategy. There are indeed best practices to follow when creating a campaign, and in this article, I will go through some of the most important.
1.DEFINE YOUR AUDIENCE
Having a clear idea of who you are sending your email to is one of the keys to a successful email marketing campaign (Kolowich Cox, 2021). Once you have a subscribers list, sending targeted emails for their specific needs and interests makes all the difference (Shore, 2017). This strategy is called audience segmentation and it consists in “identifying subgroups within the target audience to deliver more tailored messaging for stronger connections” (Mailchimp, n.d.).
Subscribers provide numerous useful information like age, gender, geographic area but also their interests or buying behaviour — for example, time since the last purchase or the amount spent (Neil Patel, n.d.). With this information, you can create groups and segments to send more relevant campaigns, deciding what content to send, when and how often (Mailchimp,n.d.). It has been estimated that segmented campaigns can get 14.37% more opens and 64.78% more clicks than non-segmented campaigns (Neil Patel, n.d.), so it is definitely worth spending some time on this strategy.
Personalisation is another key aspect to consider for your campaign. Studies have shown that emails with personalisation elements are 26% more likely to be opened than those without (Campaign Monitor, n.d.). Subscribers don’t want to be treated as a number, so try to write as you are speaking directly to them and adapt your voice, tone and sense of humor keeping in mind their personality and their interests (Mailchimp, n.d.)
For instance, send your emails from a real person and not from your company’s generic address — recipients tend to trust a more “human” sender (Kolowich Cox, 2021; Campaign Monitor, n.d.). You can start the email with a personal greeting instead of a generic one, like “Good morning, Aurora” rather than “Dear Customer”, as it will be more likely to be read (Patel, 2020).
The content you send needs to be personalized as well, and if you have properly collected your subscribers’ information and segmented your email lists, this will be easier. You can send content based on their gender, age or location.
3.CLICKABLE SUBJECT LINE AND CLEAR CALL TO ACTION (CTA)
Subscribers probably receive dozens of marketing emails every day. The best way to stand out is to have a click-worthy subject line. Indeed, 33% of people decide whether or not to open an email based on the subject line alone (Campaign Monitor, n.d.). When writing your subject line, keep in mind a few tips (Kolowich Cox, 2021; Patel, n.d.):
· it must be clear and understandable
· keep it short (around 40–59 characters);
· use keywords and a language that creates a sense of urgency (like “Join Now”, “Act Now”)
· include clearly what they are getting (like 30% off purchase)
Secondly, your emails must have clear CTAs that encourage them to take further action. Without a CTA button, you won’t be calling on your recipients to take any action that benefits them — and the growth of your business (Kolowich Cox, 2021). CTAs can be something like a “Book Now”, “Contact Us”, “Download” or even “View More”, but each CTA should have a clear goal (British Academy of Digital Marketing, n.d.) should be in a location where they are easy to spot.
4. TEST YOUR EMAILS AND MAKE SURE THEY WORK ON ALL DEVICES
Once your email campaign is ready, another best practice to put in practice is to test your email before sending it. You can either use email marketing tools to see a preview or simply send them to friends and co-workers who can check the emails and give feedback (Mailchimp, n.d.). When testing an email, pay attention to:
· it works properly on all devices, especially mobiles — more and more people now use their smartphones to read emails (Kolowich Cox, 2021);
· the links in the email are not broken or incorrect (Smith, 2016);
· typos and grammar mistakes (Mailchimp, n.d.);
· if the email contains images, check they are working correctly (Smith, 2016).
5. MEASURE THE PERFORMANCE
After you have created and sent your campaign, it’s time to measure its performance and see what is working effectively and what is not. If you use a good email service provider (ESP) -like HubSpot Email Marketing, Sender or Mailchimp (Zote, 2020)- it will collect data, track email analytics for you as well as save your time and money. Some of the main Key Performance Indicators (KPI) all marketers should look at are:
· opens and clicks rate: they show the level of engagement in a campaign and how well the subject lines and content resonate with the recipients (Mailchimp, n.d.)
· conversion rate: it is important to check the number of people who clicked into your email and completed the desired actions as it indicates if you are reaching your campaign’s goal (Swain, 2018)
· website traffic: using specific tools, it is possible to track new trends in website traffic after having sent a campaign (Mailchimp, n.d.)
· unsubscribe rate: if the rate of subscribers begins to increase, you should review your email marketing strategy and campaign (Swain, 2018)
MISTAKES TO AVOID
When creating your email marketing campaign, avoiding some mistakes is just as important as following the best practices mentioned above. Here are some examples of the most common mistakes:
- buy email lists: do not purchase an email list. It is a violation of The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (Kolowich Cox, 2021) as the owners of these email addresses did not agree to receive your content. Moreover, you don’t know if they are really interested in your email;
- avoid spam filters: there are a few aspects to consider to make sure your emails do not end in the spam folder. Use clear headers, “From” names, reply-to addresses, or subject lines. Include your physical mailing address and always provide an unsubscribe link (Kolowich Cox, 2021; Mailchimp, n,d.; SendGrid, 2021)
- not cleaning your email list: do not be afraid to practice email list hygiene. Removing inactive subscribers from your list can ensure your reputation as a good sender (Neil Patel, 2020)
British Academy of Digital Marketing (n.d.) “Managing Email Campaigns”, British Academy of Digital Marketing. Available at: https://www.britishdigitalmarketing.co.uk/students/file/document/781/eca462d09d804e0a3a7d69034dea0f5c99d442de:1643557931.8831?tstamp=58ae33b04594c78d3b33a251e4af61a00a518afa [accessed 30 Jan 2022]
Campaign Monitor (n.d.) “The Power of Email Personalization to Reach Humans (Not Just Inboxes)”, Campaign Monitor. Available at: https://www.campaignmonitor.com/resources/guides/personalized-email/ [accessed 30 Jan 2022]
Kolowich Cox, L. (2021) “26 Examples of Brilliant Email Marketing Campaigns”, HubSpot. Available at: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/email-marketing-examples-list [accessed 29 Jan 2022]
Mailchimp, (n.d) “The Mailchimp Marketing Glossary”, Mailchimp. Available at: https://mailchimp.com/marketing-glossary/#audience-segmentation [accessed 29 Jan 2022]
Patel, N. (n.d.) “A Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing”, NeilPatel. Available at: https://neilpatel.com/blog/beginners-guide-email-marketing/ [accessed 29 Jan 2022]
Patel, N. (n.d.) “10 Quick and Easy Email Marketing Segmentation Strategies to Try Today”, NeilPatel. Available at: https://neilpatel.com/blog/email-marketing-segmentation-strategies/ [accessed 29 Jan 2022]
SendGrid (2021) “10 Tips to Stop Your Emails From Going to Spam”, SendGrid. Available at: https://sendgrid.com/blog/10-tips-to-keep-email-out-of-the-spam-folder/ [accessed 5 Feb 2022]
Shore, A. (2017) “Find Your Target Audience”, Benchmark. Available at: https://www.benchmarkemail.com/blog/finding-target-audience/#:~:text=A%20Target%20Audience%20is%20defined,targeted%20email%20campaign%20you%20send [accessed 29 Jan 2022]
Smith, Lauren (2016), ’11 Reasons to Test Every Email Before You Send’, Litmus Blog (Online), available at: https://litmus.com/blog/11-reasons-to-test-every-email-before-you-send [accessed 3 Feb 2022]
Swain, Gabriel (2018) ‘9 key metrics to improve your email marketing results’ Agile CRM (Online), available at: https://www.agilecrm.com/blog/email-marketing-key-metrics/ [accessed 5 Feb 2022]
Zote, J. (2020) “11 Free Email Marketing Tools to Save You Time and Money” Sproutsocial. Available at: https://sproutsocial.com/insights/free-email-marketing-tools/ [accessed 5 Feb 2022]
Front Page Images — Charlesdeluvio (2018) No Title, Unsplash [online] Available at: https://unsplash.com/photos/FdDkfYFHqe4