From planning your schedule to crafting your emails to fretting over subject lines, there’s a lot that goes into an email marketing campaign. What exactly do you need to know to take your efforts to the next level? We recommend following (and avoiding!) these best and worst practices.

5 Email Marketing Do’s

  1. Track Metrics and Conduct A/B Testing: How well are you doing currently and what can you do to improve? Paying attention to the data from your previous email campaigns and testing hypotheses about improvements you can make via A/B testing can help answer these questions and take your efforts to the next level. In terms of metrics, be sure to monitor open rate, bounce rate, click through rate, unsubscribe rate and inbox placement rate. When it comes to A/B testing, common fields to test include subject line, image placement and design. In general, the more data you can capture and analyze, the more strategic you can be going forward.
  2. Segment Your Lists: You don’t want to send every single email to everyone in your database. If you did that, you’d likely have to send very general emails and even then would still need to worry about making them relevant to all recipients. In order to ensure relevancy, you need to segment your lists. This practice can go a long way toward helping you reach the goal of delivering the right message to the right person at the right time.
  3. Monitor Bounce Rates: In addition to monitoring bounce rates as part of the overall metrics you analyze to make more informed decisions about your email marketing strategy, you’ll also want to pay close attention to them individually. That’s because if your bounce rates are too high, your domain will be marked as a bad sender and that can significantly damage all of your other email marketing efforts.
  4. Make it Easy to Opt Out & Offer Selective Opt Outs: Another logistical concern to which you need to pay attention is opt outs. Legally, you need to offer an opt out option for your emails, but even if that wasn’t the case, doing so is simply a best practice in keeping your prospects happy and maintaining a positive brand image. As a result, make sure that you make this process as easy as possible. Along the same lines, offering selective opt out options can actually help lower your overall opt out rate by allowing people to stay on some email lists while removing themselves from others.
  5. Keep Educating Yourself: Technology, best practices and everything else changes at a breakneck pace these days, so one of the best things you can do to keep your email marketing strategy relevant is to regularly educate yourself. Joining communities for email marketers or even just checking out blog posts and resources like this one on a regular basis can help ensure you stay up to date on everything new.

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5 Email Marketing Don’ts

  1. Forget About Mobile: Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes you can make in email marketing is forgetting about mobile. If you’re only optimizing your emails for laptops and desktops, you’re missing out on a huge audience. Recent data reveals that one-third of marketers say their emails are read on mobile devices at least 50% of the time, and if your emails aren’t designed with these smaller screens in mind, their effectiveness will diminish rapidly. The best way to go is with a responsive design, that way you cover all screen sizes from phone to phablet to tablet to large external monitors (the same data finds that responsive design can increase email clicks by 130%).
  2. Break the Spam Laws: We’re no longer in the wild west when it comes to email communications. Congress passed the CAN-SPAM Act in 2003, and this law outlines several restrictions that apply to email marketing. The Federal Trade Commission, who is responsible for enforcing these laws, has outlined a compliance guide for businesses that you can find here. Some highlights include not using misleading or false information, including a valid postal address and promptly honoring opt outs. If you email any prospects in Canada too, you should also note the anti-spam laws there, which were updated in January 2015. You can learn more about Canada’s anti-spam laws here.
  3. Buy Lists: While buying email lists might seem like a quick and easy way to expand your reach, you definitely do not get the bang for your buck for which you’re looking. Buying email lists can not only negatively impact the standing of your domain and the deliverability of your emails, but you’ll also find out that these are not quality lists. Email marketing is most effective when you deliver a relevant, helpful message to people who have at least some familiarity with your brand and have asked to receive that information. When you buy lists, the people you email likely don’t have any familiarity with your brand and have not asked for you to communicate with them. Additionally, because you likely know very little about them, it’s difficult to ensure you’re sending relevant communications.
  4. Make Content an Afterthought: When you’re executing an email campaign, it’s common (and a best practice) to dedicate a lot of your focus on planning your campaign, segmenting your list and building out the emails. Very often, particularly in nurture campaigns and newsletters, content is a critical component of your emails. As a result, you also need to pay attention to the content that you’ll share in these emails. Strategically mapping your content to your email marketing efforts (and even aligning content creation with campaign planning efforts) is critical to your overall success. If your content is simply an afterthought, it shows.
  5. Send Your Emails Without Testing: How do your emails look when your prospects or customers receive them? Does the design look the way it’s supposed to (on all screen sizes, assuming you’ve used a responsive design)? Is the sender correct? Do all the links work properly? Do you have any typos? These are all things you need to double check before sending your emails to prospects, and in order to do that you need to send test emails. Along the same lines, be sure to double, even triple, check your recipient list before hitting send. We all make mistakes, it’s inevitable, but if you have to send that apology email too often, it doesn’t look good.