Learning Hub | E-Mail Marketing

Top 10 Email Marketing Do’s and Don’ts

July 20, 2016 | Jon Teodoro

Marketing is everywhere. It’s on our TV’s, billboards, bus stops, keychains, sidewalks and screens. The constant inundation of ads can make it hard for businesses to stand out from the marketing camouflage.

This is where innovation comes into play.

Successful businesses are constantly trying to find new ways to reach their target audience, advertise their products and ultimately drive sales.

One way to do this is through email marketing. While this type of marketing as a concept is not new, it needs to be done well in order for it to be a prosperous business practice, and this involves creativity on the part of the sender.

How are you going to get me to open your message instead of immediately sending it to the trash bin? How are you going to entice me to click on the link inside?

The only way to do this is to draw me in, and you only have so many words to do so. But, never fear! We have a few do’s and don’ts to help you get started.

First, let’s understand what email marketing is.

According to Dan Forootan, president of EZ Publishing,

“Email marketing occurs when a company sends a commercial message to a group of people by use of electronic email. Most commonly through advertisements, requests for business, or sales or donation solicitation, any email communication is considered email marketing if it helps to build customer loyalty, trust in a product or company or brand recognition. Email marketing is an efficient way to stay connected with your clients while also promoting your business.”

I’m sure we are all familiar with this type of communication. If you have ever been vulnerable at the check-out counter (so much so that you signed up for an email list, gave them your phone number and left with a new credit card all to save that measly 10 percent) then your inbox is bound to be filled with marketing messages.

We’ve all been on the receiving end so let’s look at a few things you should take into consideration as the sender to get your audience clicking and your profits rising.

The Do’s

Let’s start off on a positive note with the do’s and worry about those sticky don’ts in a bit.

  1. DO use a short, concise and non-misleading subject line.

I wanted to start off with this one because the subject line is the first (and if not done well, sometimes the only) chance that you get to pull your audience into your email. The subject needs to be grabbing enough to invite them in by using as few impactful words as possible. No easy feat, mind you.

Email subject lines can be thought of like newspaper headlines. What is going to entice your readers to click? What is going to make it impossible for them not to open the email?

Along with focusing on engaging copy, you need to keep in mind length. Long email titles get broken off with ellipses so it is important to implement concise wording. If your audience members can’t view the whole subject in their window, the only thing that will see your message is the trash bin.

Research differs depending on source but according to a mailer mailer metrics report, “Short subject lines, specifically with less than 15 characters, boasted the highest open rate.”

That being said, the report did go on to say that marketing should be based on audience, and different rules apply to different situations. Some other interesting findings they reported include:

  • “Smaller lists continue to yield higher open rates than larger lists.
  • Open rates peak the hour after delivery.
  • Click rate increases along with the number of links in an email.
  • Open rates are best at the beginning of the week.
  • Messages that are scheduled to be delivered between early evening and early morning lead to higher open and click rates.
  • Open rate begins to rapidly climb after about 4 a.m., reaches its peak at 10 a.m., and then gradually declines throughout the day.
  • Subject line personalization depresses open rate.
  • Personalization of only the message appears to have a slightly positive influence on open rate.
  • The click rate response to personalization mostly mirrors that of open rate.
  • Marketers craft their subject lines from words that impart relevance, persuasion, and timeliness.
  • Messages with moderately long subject lines earn the highest click rates.”

The bottom line here is that you don’t have to be terrified of moderately long subject lines, but you should focus on saying what you need to say in the most engaging way possible while cutting excess words that don’t add to your end goal of getting that email opened.

Also, be weary of personal subject lines as the research suggests that, contrary to what many believe, they actually hurt open rates. Personalized content in the message alone is okay – but be sincere. You don’t have to act like you went to summer camp with your reader to be friendly and inviting.

  1. DO build your email list’s addresses through legitimate methods by using forms that require them to opt-in.

It is illegal (as we’ll discuss in greater detail below) to buy email lists. This unprofessional and impersonal way of spamming people is bad for business. Don’t be that guy or gal.

Instead, build your list through respectable channels. You can add an optional sign-up form on your website where visitors can choose to add their email address to your list. By building your list correctly, you may gain business a little slower, but it will be legitimate business.

On top of this, people that have signed up to receive your emails have taken the guessing work out of deciding if they’re the right audience for you. They’ve told you they are, and they’re already more likely to buy, shop, read – whatever.

You can also have sign-up sheets at events or directives on business cards. You don’t always have to wait for the clicks to come to you – run a campaign that will allow you to go out and collect some.

This is another area of marketing where a focus on quality over quantity will lead to success in the long run.

  1. DO include your postal address.

Always include your physical mailing address in emails. Typically at the bottom, placement doesn’t really matter as long as it is visible to your viewers. This isn’t a suggestion, but is actually required by the CAN SPAM Act, which became effective in 2003.

Besides being required by law, a physical address or P.O. Box is a personal touch that makes your company feel tangible. This can be particularly effective if you own a small, local business and want to easily and unobtrusively point that out to your audience.

  1. DO provide an opt-out option from further emails.

Being stuck in a spam cycle is no fun. Aside from being an annoyance, it can actually have a negative effect on your audience and in turn, your business.

By allowing people to opt-out of future emails, you are also whittling your email list down to prospective buyers only. Sure, you may lose some business, but the chances are that you never actually had that business in the first place. What you are gaining is a list full of people that provide you with customer loyalty.

In the end, a deletion from your email list is equally as disadvantageous as a deleted email so don’t lose too much sleep over it. A legitimate email list of people that want to be there is going to get you the business you want and need.

  1. DO brush up on spam laws.

The CAN SPAM Act was enacted in 2003 and sets out some legal guidelines that email marketers need to follow if they wish to be ethical business practitioners.

Keep in mind, the act does not apply only to bulk email. According to FTC.gov, “It covers all commercial messages, which the law defines as ‘any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,’ including email that promotes content on commercial websites. The law makes no exception for business-to-business email. That means all email – for example, a message to former customers announcing a new product line – must comply with the law.”

By clicking on the link above, you can read up on the guidelines for yourself. It is important from an ethical and practical standpoint to be aware of what this law covers because punishments can include upwards of $15,000 in fines – per email. A better business tactic would be to mail a check to every person on your email list in exchange for business…..ONLY KIDDING!

The Don’ts

Now that we’ve discussed what you should do, let’s look at what you shouldn’t. Keep in mind that though we’re phrasing these as suggestions, there is legality at play here, and ignorance to the regulations can lead to heavy fines and punishments.

  1. DO NOT buy email lists (It’s illegal!).

The CAN SPAM Act states that the buying or selling of any email list is illegal, but doesn’t make the same designation for renting a list. However, HubSpot marketer Serena Acker lays down a good defense against doing so in one of her blogs.

“Let’s be honest: there’s no such thing as a good email list that’s for sale. No reputable company is going to sell one in the first place. And if they do, the email addresses will have low response rates because of the number of times it has already been targeted with unwanted propaganda (Viagra, anyone?). It’s not a good way to introduce your company to someone,” Acker writes.

Instead, ethical marketers should focus on inbound marketing, which uses marketing techniques mindfully in a way that will bring customers to you instead of fight mercilessly for their business. It focuses on creating and sharing content for “your perfect customer” so that the audience you build in reality will be the right fit and keep coming back again and again.

Building this loyal, quality audience will be endlessly beneficial to your business and will keep your unsubscribe numbers and spam complaints down.

  1. DO NOT send the same message to all of your subscribers.

Subscribers may be wanting your emails for different reasons, and in order to build a quality relationship with them, you need to keep this in mind.

You should segment your list into different types of buyers so you can tailor your email messages to whatever part of the buying process in which they belong. This is a nice way to keep relationships personal without actually doing anything too personal (like the subject lines we discussed earlier).

Paying attention to why certain subscribers are involved with you will also help lower your opt-out numbers because they will always feel like they’re getting optimal content, and they’ll want to keep getting it.

  1. DO NOT falsify header information.

Header information – what we think of as the “to” and “from” fields are required for legal email marketing. Therefore, you would think it would go without saying that there is no need to falsify this information, but that hasn’t stopped companies from doing it.

Appeals courts have ruled numerous times that commercial emails sent either under a domain name that fails to represent the actual sender or that cannot be traced by the receiver in a public database are unlawful in the eyes of spam laws. Needless to say, it is also simply sneaky business procedure to do this. Transparency is what your customers want and deserve, and it is what will keep them on your email list. Make sure you domain name and email address are correct and in use.

  1. DO NOT forget about varying international laws.

Just like any other group of laws, the ones targeting spam are different from country to country. This information may not be useful for you so we won’t go into much detail but if you do send commercial email across borders, you need to keep the different legalities in mind. Some countries have even stronger laws than the U.S.

MailChimp does a pretty good job of staying up-to-date with industry standards, posting fresh news and compiling lists of spam laws by country.

  1. DO NOT let profit-driven decisions overshadow focus on customer experience.

Lastly and maybe most importantly, at least as the overarching umbrella under which all of your business decisions should be made, focus on your customers’ experiences to drive profit.

Let’s face it, we all know that businesses have the end goal of creating revenue, but that doesn’t mean that they need to take the romance out of it. Decisions made with the sole purpose of driving profit are bad for long-term success if they don’t take into account user experience.

The trifecta of marketing is a place where your business and brand are represented accurately, your customers are receiving fresh, accurate and quality content, and you are generating profit. If you can face each marketing decision with both your customers’ experiences and your profit margin in mind, then you are in business.

Building successful, loyal relationships with your customer base will definitely take more time than cutting corners. Positive results may be a little further down the road. But in the end, happy customers will create a stable business atmosphere where both entrepreneur and consumer are getting what they want and need.

Though the end goal for you as a business operator may be revenue, the end goal of your marketing should be customer experience. Keep them in mind to create an experience worth their time, and your goal will be met as a result.

In Conclusion

Though we have discussed numerous legal reasons to practice ethical email marketing, there are even more moral obligations for you to do so. In a world evolving around constant contact on the Internet, it can be hard to spot faulty, fake or fraudulent online relationships.

This type of atmosphere is a breeding ground for cutting corners in at attempt to achieve success cheaply and quickly. Many businesses have done just that, tricking their customers just long enough to rake in the dough and get out.

Unfortunately, there are still many aspects of online communication that are the Internet’s Wild West, untethered to structure or law.  The CAN SPAM Act is a step, but sometimes even laws have trouble keeping up with the constant innovation and communication.

This is where the choice to implement good, moral business practices comes into play. As marketers, it is our responsibility to be ethical. Sometimes, even if the laws fall short, we must hold ourselves accountable to the standards of our customers.

Somewhat in the infancy (or, more accurately, toddlership) of email marketing, what a terrific and rare business situation to find ourselves in – being accountable for ethical reasons over legal ones.