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Email marketing best practices

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As an ethical email marketeer, there are several best practices which you should adopt.

Email marketing is not simply a case of sending out your message to 1000’s of people and hoping for the best. Adopting this viewpoint will never lead to a successful marketing campaign – if this is your goal, we would argue that you are wasting your time and will damage your brand.

To establish a successful email marketing campaign, you should be ethical and follow certain best practices. This article outlines some of the email marketing best practices which you should follow.

Double-opt in

This is one of the popular buzz words within the industry at the moment. As a marketeer you may be often asked – ‘is your email database double or single opt-in’?

A single opt-in database; you may have a newsletter signup form on your website. Visitors to your website can enter their details online to join your mailing list. Generally this will lead to a good quality mailing list.

Single opt-in has its negatives. What is stopping a visitor to your website signing someone else up to your mailing list? This contact will then be added to your mailing list, however never giving you permission to contact them.

If you wish to be a true ethical email marketeer, we would suggest that you always use a double opt-in system. This method is very similar to single opt-in, but goes a little further.

You may have the newsletter signup form on your website, the visitor still enters their email address. After entering the email address, your web server will then automatically email this contact asking the visitor to confirm their subscription. When using this method, you can be confident that the email address is real and the user wants to join your list.

Where possible, we would suggest that you always use a double opt-in method. This will lead to a better quality mailing list and lower any complaints. 1000 double opt-in emails will always achieve better results that 2000 single opt-in contacts. While we would like you broadcast more emails with us, the point needs to be made that a smaller quality list will always out perform a larger inferrer list.

Generate your own lists

If you are a new start business, you may not have access to a broad database of clients and email contacts who have double-opted into your list. The temptation may be to buy a list.

Where possible always generate your own list. We find that on average clients who generate their own email lists achieve 70% better open rates and next to no complaints.

Remember, if you are emailing consumers, it is illegal to buy a mailing list. As a B2B email marketeer, you can legally buy a list. If you must go down the route of buying an email list, use a quality supplier.

Buying a quality email database can be expensive, you may be tempted to buy a cheap higher volume list.  Never, never buy low quality lists, if you pay peanuts – you will get monkeys!

Low quality mailing lists will simply damage your brand and you will more than likely get blacklisted – meaning that your emails will simply get rejected.

From our experience, even if you buy a good quality list – you will still get complaints. If you are emailing people who have never heard of you, a percentage will always complain and mark your email as junk. If a large percentage of people click on the ‘junk’ button, this will prompt spam filters to automatically place your email in the junk folder for other users. Spam filters all talk to each-other, one user marking your email as junk will affect how your future campaigns are placed.

We would suggest that you should use bought lists with caution, an ethical email marketeer will always use a self generated double opt-in approach.

Don’t be too sales focused

You have generated a great quality email database and are ready to start sending your message. If you are new to email marketing, you may be tempted to go down the sales route.

The purpose of marketing is to generate sales, email marketing is no different – after all it has marketing in the name!

Inside your email newsletter avoid being too short sighted. Avoid simply broadcasting your sales message saying ‘buy buy buy’. While it will be tempting to give an immediate boost to your sales, email marketing is a longer term marketing medium. If every month you are simply asking your customers to buy from you – chances are this will put people off.

From a subscribers point of view, what is the point of staying on your newsletter if they are simply being asked to buy from you each time. Adopting this viewpoint will open lead to lower open rates and higher unsubscribes.

We would suggest that your email newsletter should contain tips and advice. Prompt interest, give users a reason to stay on your mailing list.

If you sell web hosting, rather than emailing your clients asking them to upgrade or buy from you again  – your newsletter should include tips and advice. Using this method you will quickly establish a reputation as a trusted knowledgeable source. When it comes to an upgrade, the client will already hold your brand in good trust and will hopefully recommend and use you again.

We are not saying never include any sales messages inside your newsletter. It may be worth including coupon codes and special offers unique to your subscribers, however water it down with articles of interest.

Clear unsubscribe option

You may have spent a great deal of time establishing your double-opt in email database, as a result you will not want to loose subscribers. As most email marketeers will already be aware, providing an unsubscribe option is a legal requirement. Inside EBUK, the system will not let you broadcast a campaign without this option.

To avoid high unsubscribes you may be tempted to hide the removal link, or make it small. Don’t.

If you are to be an ethical email marketeer, you should always make the removal option clear, you will simply be wasting email credits contacting people who are not interested.

Some marketeers include the removal option at the very top of their newsletter, making it very clear. We would be inclined to agree with this approach. A clear removal option will help reduce the amount of people clicking on the ‘mark as junk’ button (users clicking on this option will damage your sender reputation).

If you try hide/mask your unsubscribe link – spam filters will catch you! Most modern spam filters will look for hidden text or small font and negatively score your campaign. Tricking modern spam filters is near impossible.

Not too many, not too few

How often should you email your subscribers? If you are emailing on an almost daily basis, you will almost certainly annoy your subscribers (leading to increased unsubscribes). As an example, have you ever seen an advert on TV which is on so much you get sick of it? If you are broadcasting your brand constantly, your material will loose its affect and could simply annoy.

When embarking on a email marketing campaign you should not adopt a once in a blue moon approach. When emailing, if you are broadcasting your message with long gaps in-between each communication – recipients may forget who you are.

So how often should you broadcast your newsletter? This is really down to your business model. As a general rule of thumb – do not email the same person more than 2 times a month. This is an area which is the focus of much debate, there are no set rules but we would suggest that this is a good middle ground.

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