Email Best Practices
Your Quick Reference Guide to improving email marketing campaign performance.
Email marketing has become a critical
component for all integrated direct marketing
campaigns — both for customer acquisition
and customer relationship management. This
eBook outlines the major elements that can
influence the success of your email campaigns.
MARKETING PLANNING LEADERSHIP GENERATION
Email has become every marketer’s magic bullet.
Five Key Elements
It’s hard to imagine a more efficient way to reach new prospects and FOR EMAIL MARKETING SUCCESS:
Although email marketing has been proven to be a strong direct
response tactic, it does have its limitations. As consumers and 1. GOVERNANCE
Establishing a central strategic infrastructure
business people, we are overwhelmed by the number of emails
to adhere to organizational email standards.
we receive every day; so is it any wonder email open and
click-through rates are declining? What’s more, the companies
we’re trying to reach have raised the intensity of their spam filters 2. PERMISSION
to the point that often the desired, opt-in emails are mistakenly Strategies to help maximize your number of
blocked as well. quality opt-ins for your email communications.
Have no fear. By following proven best practices, you can take
advantage of all of the benefits email marketing has to offer — and 3. DELIVERY
maximize your potential for a strong ROI. Best practices to set-up your email to make it
through spam filters and reach your audience.
Recommended approach to improve open rates.
Development of design and content to
help promote higher click-through rates.
GOVERNANCE – Ensure a positive experience by
establishing rules of the road.
Gov er nance
To ensure a positive customer experience, it is important to establish email governance
guidelines for your organization. Basically, the rules of the road that you will utilize across
F R E Q U E N CY — H O W O F T E N S H O U L D O R C A N W E E M A I L ?
• To prevent opt-outs and ensure a positive experience for your customers or prospects,
Get the name Get to the inbox
you must respect their preferences, including their desired email frequency. This should
Ensure that the Elimiate Obstacles
be captured up front during your e-newsletter registration process.
sign up process is for delivery
• If desired email frequency is not captured up front, it is best to establish official compelling and simple
organizational guidelines for frequency (i.e. not emailing individuals more than once
per day, week, etc.) Get them to act Get their attention
Engage the recipient Entice recipients to
L IMI TAT ION S ON H OW C APT U R ED E MAI L ADD R ESS ES C AN B E US ED . and get them to click open your message
• If the user only wanted to receive information about a certain vertical market, you should
respect this request by only emailing them with their requested, relevant information.
• If your customer or prospect did not ask to be contacted by a sales person, respect
T HI RD PA RTY L IST P OL IC I ES.
• Purchased lists usually have specific rules regarding how the names can be used. For
example, if your list was purchased from an online magazine, typically the online
publisher will need to send the email on your company’s behalf.
• Some purchased lists may only be used for a set period of time. For example, some
email lists may allow for unlimited usage for one year, etc.
OP T-O UT MAN AGE ME NT AN D C AN-S PA M C OMP LI ANC E .
• Respect your users’ desire to be removed from your emails or e-newsletters. HELPFUL TIPS
For example, during the opt-out process, allow users to only opt-out for certain
content or newsletters. Appoint an email channel “owner” to oversee
• Without adhering to CAN-SPAM compliance, there is a risk you will be black listed
and blocked from certain email providers. This will obviously negatively impact Email channel owners should work with internal
deliverability in the future. stakeholders to establish official corporate
C OOR D INAT ION WIT H O TH E R C H ANN EL S.
• Set up timing of your email communications to be synced with other marketing • Frequency – how often should/can we email?
communication channels for maximum impact. • Limitations on how captured email addresses
• Ensure that the content of your email is in line with other online content can be used
(i.e. online destinations of clickable areas on emails look like your email). • Usage policies of outside lists
• Opt out management and CAN-SPAM compliance
• Coordination with other channels
• Brand standards
Governance is the foundation of email best practices. It is
the first step towards the goal of maximizing your company’s
PERMISSION – Get the name; Grow the email list.
To maximize the number of people who subscribe to your emails, it’s an important best High risk of looking like a spammer
So many marketers already look like spammers, putting you
practice to create an opt-in process that motivates people to sign up and stay on your
at a higher risk of looking like one too.
email list. Opt-in is the concept of granting permission to certain companies to send you
relevant and desirable emails. Opt-in email is quite different from receiving “SPAM,” which
is an unwanted communication without explicit permission.
Gaining email permission is a crucial element of all email marketing programs. Why billion messages globally are
bother blasting emails just to be ignored, deleted or perceived as SPAM? Even worse, marked as spam everyday.
emailing without permission can damage your brand’s reputation.
MAKE Y OU R VA L UE PR OP OSI TIO N C L EAR AND C OM PE L L ING
• What will the user get from providing email permission — “What’s in it for me?” of all emails
• Examples of strong value: An update to a product that a customer recently purchased.
A special offer for a service which they’ve indicated they’re interested. Or even an
e-newsletter highlighting key industry events that affect their business.
of all emails are estimated to be
U SAB IL IT Y — M AKE TH E O PT-IN F OR M E ASY-T O-F I ND AND E ASY-T O-U SE acual spam by some companies.
• Show which fields are required.
• Keep required fields to a minimum to reduce abandonment rates.
generator of spam is the United States, with Korea
• Do not pre-check the opt-in, but make sure you provide a value statement for clocking in as the second largest contributer.
checking the opt-in box.
SE T C L EA R E XP EC TAT IO NS
• Tell your subscribers what they will get next, and when (i.e. if they will receive a
confirmation email, how soon the first newsletter will be delivered, etc.).
www.garfieldgroup.com 6 6
C O N F I R M A S UC C E S S F U L P E RM I S S I O N
• Create a “thank you” page that tells users that you appreciate the
SHOW A SAMPLE
OF WHAT THEY ARE GOING TO RECEIVE
permission they have granted.
Provide a thumbnail or a link to a sample newsletter that helps to
• Confirm permission in a follow-up email to ensure the user provided
demonstrate the value of the subscription and sets proper expectations.
you with a “real” email address, and not a fake address if they don’t
This will also help boost opt-in rates for people who might be on the fence.
really want to be emailed again. Otherwise, you might clog up your
database with bad information.
O V E R C O M E B A R RI E R S T O S I G N - U P – A D D R E S S P R I V A C Y C O N CE R N S ;
M I N I M I Z E T H E E F F O RT RE Q U I RE D T O S UB S CR I BE
• Include a privacy statement to ensure users that you will not sell their
emails to a third party. This also helps to increase your opt-in rate.
Prospects will be more likely to grant you with their permission to email
if they are confident that you will respect their privacy.
• If you do intend to provide their information to a third party, you must
indicate this as well.
DELIVERY – Best practices to set-up your email to make it
through spam filters and reach your audience. Words and phrases
D ON’ T LO OK L IKE A SPAM ME R
Avoid “spammy” language. If certain “catch phrases” are in your message, or if your formatting or coding SATISFACTION GUARANTEED
look suspicious, the spam filters will block you.
Watch your text to image ratio. Messages with a lot of images have a tendency to be blocked because
spammers often embed their catch phrases in images to try get around text filters. Try to stick to an
80:20 text-to-image ratio. FREE!
Be sure to properly code your message. Make sure you have a professional code your HTML. Sloppy
coding is an easy red flag for spam filters.
K E E P Y O U R L I S T CL E A N EARN $
Have registrants double-enter their email addresses. This prevents registrants from entering email
address information incorrectly.
Incorporate logic on the sign-up page to validate email address syntax. Only accept properly ELIMINATE DEBT
structured email addresses — do not simply make the email address field an open field.
• Review your list for common typos. Proofread your list carefully. DOUBLE YOUR INCOME
• Remove profanity. Email addresses that are obscene will surely be blocked by spam filters.
YOU’RE A WINNER!
• Remove hard bounces, repeated soft bounces and addresses with no activity in over six months.
There’s no sense in sending an email again and again if there is no chance of delivery or an “open.” MILLION DOLLAR OPPORTUNITY
ENTICEMENT – Proven approaches to improve
your open rates.
T H E “ F R O M LI N E ”
SUBJECT LINE DO’S
• People are most likely to open an email when they know and trust the sender.
Make sure you’re using a consistent and expected “from” line for all subscribed • Ask a question. “What’s the best way to grow your business?” is a
email communications. great subject line for business owners.
• Be a tease. A company that sells high-definition TVs could use the
• If a sender’s name is not recognizable, it will be perceived as spam and will
subject line, “you’re not going to believe your eyes” as a teaser to
either be deleted or ignored. As you can imagine, you’d be much more likely to introduce a new product line.
open an email that was sent from a close friend than one sent from a stranger,
• Tell it like it is. An example of this straightforward approach is,
(i.e. “[COMPANY NAME] e-newsletter” would be better than “[RANDOM NAME] “Sale on all sweaters this weekend.”
• Get personal. Make it personal by using the word “you.”
T H E “ S UB J E C T L I N E ”
Once a recipient recognizes the sender, they read the subject line to see if the
email might be worth reading.
Communicating the “what’s in it for me” is extremely important. If there is no
compelling reason to open an email, it will be deleted. Make sure to be bold SUBJECT LINE DON’TS
and perhaps even a little mysterious to help drive your open rate.
• Avoid using the word “today.” There’s always a chance emails won’t
be seen until tomorrow, confusing the recipient. This applies to
“tomorrow,” “Tuesday,” “Next week.”
• Most email clients allow you 50 characters, including spaces. Load
your key information in that first 50. Also, make sure the cut-off
doesn't occur in the middle of a crucial word, such as a price or date.
• Don't stretch the truth in the subject line, promise more than the
email can deliver, or make grand claims that readers will find hard
to comply with in order to get a special offer or benefit.
T IM ING
• Traditional thinking has long suggested that Tuesday is the best day for
sending email. But if volume permits, perform day-of-week testing to
ensure you know which day delivers the best results to help you maximize “Which day of the week is best for email campaigns?”
open rates in the future.
• Also consider how relevant your email message or offer is given certain
seasonality factors or buying cycles. For example, knowing your audiences’ Reads
buying habits would be a huge advantage (like the tendency to buy more at Clicks
the end of their fiscal year, etc.).
• Consider testing time of day (morning vs. afternoon). A recent Direct Quarter 2 Quarter 3
Marketing Association blog article claimed that blasting in the morning is
better than afternoon, because, “many users, myself included, start their 26%
day by rifling through their email inboxes. Mornings allow email users to 23% 23%
spend uninterrupted time in their inbox.” 21%
5% 5% 4% 4% 5%
4% 3% 4% 3% 3% 3%
2% 2% 2%
Source: Marketing Charts
Email open rates and click-through rates vary on the day, time of year and even the time of day, so do your
research up front.
ENGAGEMENT – The right decision and content
can elevate your click-through rates.
Click-through rates are one of a handful of traditional metrics used to measure
the performance of email campaigns. With email newsletter campaigns, average
unique click-through rates are approximately 3% among opened emails, but when
you follow some tried-and-true best practices, you can elevate click-through rates
all the way up to 10% – and higher.
There are two major factors that influence email click-through rates – content
Example of a poorly designed and conceived email, because there is no clickable area
C ONT E NT /ME S S A G ING above the fold, and the design has no visual appeal.
• Use Dynamic content tailored to the recipient whenever possible. As you
might expect, the more personalized the content, the higher the likelihood
of a click-through.
• Make sure your offer(s) and call-to-action are easy to find with a quick scan,
and you have communicated a clear benefit to clicking. When browsing their
emails, your recipients are thinking: “What will I get by clicking? Hopefully, I
get more of the content I want.”
• Use short, snappy copy in bullet form to encourage click-through for more
details and information.
Example of a well designed email, because not only is it visually appealing, but there is also a
• Only show intro/teaser copy of articles, and cut-off the message mid-sentence call-out box on the top right above the fold with 10 individual links. This provides 10 unique
to entice users to look for the rest of the message at the “click to read the full opportunities for clicks.
D ES I GN / C O D I N G
• Use only “W3C” compliant code when programming your HTML. W3C HTML Here are some examples of well-executed well email templates,
is accepted as the universal standard for the web. This will help to ensure because all use the “F” design structure to be consistent with natural
the design is rendered correctly in the recipient's email client. “eye-flow.” Likewise, all use the preview pane well, ensuring the
• Place a “view this email in a browser” link at the top of your message. clickable call-to-action links are “above the fold.”
This way, if there are any rendering issues, the recipient will be able to link
to an online landing page with dynamic personalized content (the more
personalized the content, the more likely your recipient will click through).
• Perform email message rendering tests (using a software application such
as Litmus at http://litmusapp.com/) to ensure leading ISPs and email clients
will interpret your message/design correctly. Each ISP and email client work
a little differently, so this is an important step. Make sure to test all the major
clients – Outlook, Entourage, Thunderbird, Yahoo and Gmail.
• Use an “F” design structure. When you first open an email, your eyes
naturally scan the top of the page and then move down and across. This
approach should help you prioritize highest-value messages and graphics.
• Design your email for the preview pane. Statistics show that many people
scan emails in the preview pane first before actually opening or clicking
on them. Make sure you have a compelling, clickable call-to-action at the
top portion of the email.
Five take aways from this eBook:
1 Appoint a “channel owner” for all of your company’s email communications,
and adhere to your email standards
Always mail with permission. Don’t be tempted to spam — it almost never works,
and can endanger your brand reputation.
Avoid common “spammy” language in your email copy — a no-brainer way to prevent
getting caught in spam filters.
Take the time to craft an enticing subject line. The subject line is critical for
Use short, snappy copy in bullet form to encourage more click-throughs for more
details, and always have a call-to-action above the fold.
About Garfield Group.
Garfield Group is one of the leading marketing communications agencies for technology, life sciences,
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