Email marketing - best practices for getting it right

The chances are you're already doing email marketing in some form or another. Perhaps you're sending out a newsletter to your customers. Perhaps you conduct regular campaigns to plug new products or encourage subscription renewal. Perhaps you use it to provide prospects with further information on your product or service. If you're reading this, perhaps you're not getting the results you hoped for. Here at Usher & Spur, we've gathered a few articles to help you.

This article from MarketingProfs lists 6 mistakes companies often make with email that can turn your customers against you. Think about the emails you receive as a consumer; we've all unsubscribed from lists that send out irrelevant, annoying missives. But are you guilty of doing the same things?

  • Batch-and-blast - Do you send emails to your entire customer list, even if some of them won't be concerned by your message?
  • Inadequate segmentation - Do you know who the people are behind the email addresses, and what they would be concerned by?
  • Generic content - Does what you say speak to them personally, or do you have to make it general because you don't know who you're talking to?
  • Irrelevant timing - Are your emails arriving during the night? Or are you saying "thanks for purchasing" several days after the event?
  • Failure to fine-tune - Are you actually measuring the effectiveness of your emails? And changing things for the next time?
  • Simple slip-ups - Do you have a checklist to help you ensure you've covered everything?

Let's turn these situations around and look at what you need to do.

Target your email as accurately as possible

With any communication, you can only expect to see results if you know who you want to talk to, and what you want to achieve by talking to them. When it comes to email, you need to make sure that who you want to talk to is the same as the list of people you have. You therefore need to know as much as you can about the people on your list. This information will allow you to speak to them in a way that resonates with them, so they respond better to what you're trying to get them to do. It will also allow you to break them down into smaller groups so you can direct to them messages that interest them particularly. 

We're currently working on some email campaigns for one of our clients who sells publications of industry regulations. One of them targets a list of customers who bought one of their publications in the past couple of years. Over the course of a few months, they'll send this particular group a series of emails to encourage them to buy the next edition coming in the new year. The messaging is about the general benefits of having the latest edition of the publication.

But these customers could be broken down into four smaller groups, each of whom has different concerns, and uses the publication differently. The messaging could then be about how the publication can help them to respond to those concerns. Which has much greater impact. Our advice to our client is to try to gather that information for future reference, and to try to separate the lists based on the information they already have.

GIVE your audience something of value

Remember, it's not all about you. In fact, it's about your target audience. In the case of our client, we recommended providing their customers with content they'd find useful. This could be an infographic which could help them with their job (assuming you know what their job is), or a link to an article on developments in the industry the publication pertains to. This reinforces the message that our client is the expert source for this kind of information.

But this is also about making sure they understand what your email's about. Subject lines should never be an afterthought. They're the first thing your target sees, and the first goal of your email is to get your target to open it and read. (Here's a post about how to write good subject lines.) If they read nothing else, they should understand from the subject line, the tagline, and the prominent call-to-action, what they should do and, most importantly, why they need to do it.

Optimize your email for performance

Did you know that the amount of time spent reading an email went up between 2011 and 2016? But it's still only a matter of seconds - 11.1 seconds on average, to be precise. This means you need to get a lot across in that brief time. Email-testing and -optimization software providers Litmus produced the infographic shown here that highlights the crucial mix needed for optimization:

  • relevant copy - appropriate and compelling subject lines, headings, bullet points etc.
  • well-designed layout - compelling images, CTA buttons, important stuff first
  • technical considerations - loading, rendering, linking, mobile-optimized

Marketing automation platform Hubspot offers a detailed guide for optimization that you can click here to download. It answers these 3 useful questions, as well as providing a 14-point checklist.

  • Why your emails need to be optimized
  • How to determine the goal of your emails
  • How to write better marketing emails


If you'd like to see more posts like this, let us know in the comments below. To get personalized recommendations about how to optimize your email marketing, contact Usher & Spur.