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Email marketing tricks of the trade – 20 tips from the email marketing experts

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Email marketing is fast replacing previously conventional means of targeted marketing such as post mailing, but it is a common mistake to assume that most broadcast emails will get opened or even reach the recipient’s inbox. Within the huge volume of ‘noise’ created by unsolicited email traffic or indeed downright illegal spam these days, getting good open rates for a legitimate email campaign does not occur by accident. Originators have to work hard at general quality factors of a bulk email transmission and need to be aware of some best practice guidelines for a higher open rate. High open rate means high sales opportunity.
Here are my20 tips – my ‘tricks of the trade’, based upon the experience I have gained over the years in maximising email marketing performance for service users. I have grouped my tips into categories for ease.


Address list. This is the engine room of an email marketing campaign. A good address list is priceless and it is worth spending a lot of time developing, enhancing and nurturing your list.

1. Address list. The best address list is one you have generated yourself using proper opt-in procedures.

2. Address list. If the list is not entirely self- generated, use a list of known and trusted provenance. Ie. don’t use a list broker.
Purchased lists are not generally allowed by any legitimate email marketing service provider for two reasons; use of purchased lists is in breach of email marketing rules in most territories, purchased lists from unknown sources are a waste of time and money, they will be so full of harvested rubbish that their use will be at best useless or at worst damaging to the reputation of the originator (and the email service provider).

3. Address list. Ensure that the address list is correctly targeted.
If you’re marketing a business product – business software for example, then clearly using a consumer heavy list will generate no business and a lot of complaints.

4. Address list. Run a de-dup (removes duplicated addresses) and corrupt address eliminator prior to use of a new list.
Most market leading email marketing service providers (such as EmailblasterUK) will offer this service free of charge.

5. Address list. Run opt-out delete on the list between every send.

6. Address list. Never mind the thickness, feel the quality. A small list of well-targeted and receptive opt-in targets will work so much better than a massive list of doubtful provenance.

7. Address list. Don’t waste your time and money on a purchased list from an unknown source.


Subject line. This is the marker for the email and it is the only opportunity to get the ‘open me’ response – the difference between the click to open and the click to junk.


8. Subject line. Avoid openly sales language.

9. Subject line. A subject line that is framed as a question can be effective.

10. Subject line. Use a longer phrase. Try to achieve a good visual stand-out on a typical inbox listing.
11. Subject line. Try an ‘off the wall’ or quirky approach.
The subject line is there to prompt the recipient to click, it doesn’t need to précis or directly relate to the email main text.

12. Subject line. Look for a current news angle. A subject line that picks up on a current newsy subject will appear relevant and current – not a rehashed stale email.

13. Subject line. Experiment – try different subject lines.
If you’re transmitting a large campaign, try splitting it into several batches with different subject lines. Next time round, hit the one that works best and discard the poor performers.

14. Subject line. Only use your brand name if it is likely to add to the gravity or relevance of the email.


Email content – the subject is the skirmish line, the main body is the infantry. Having achieved an ‘open click’ the email main body conveys the message, the offer, the information that is the purpose of the transmission in the first place.


15. Email content. Keep it brief – the usual rule is no more than three subject lines or topics.

16. Email content. Be economic with graphic content.
Over use of graphics will; increase email size, indicate ‘spam like’ characteristics to anti-spam software, won’t be displayed anyway on plane text readers.

17. Email content. Avoid code generous format or font management.
Font changes will add a line of code. Similarly avoid multiple use of colour. Higher email code size means reduced delivery rate.

18. Email content. Ensure the plain text duplicate and the HTML are identical.
An unmatched HTML and plain text pairing is a spam ‘tell-tale’ which anti-spam software will pick up on.

19. Email content. Use web links only if it is likely that the email will be regarded as trusted by recipients. Emails that contain web links are routinely employed by spoofers.


General. Most of us receive many, many unsolicited emails stacked in our inbox every morning. Nurturing the address list, developing an ‘open me’ subject line and creating an effective email message will improve delivery performance. The most effective message is different from the herd, it creates interest in a sceptical mind.


20. General. Intrigue. Interest. Mystify.


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