17 Product-Agnostic Email Marketing Best Practices

Last Updated on February 19, 2022 by Alex Birkett

To hit the ball out of the park, you not only need to know how to play baseball but also a few insider tips. After all, there’s a lot more to playing baseball than putting on a uniform, finding a bat, and swinging at the right time.

When you think of email marketing, you probably don’t automatically think about baseball at all.

But just like in baseball, there’s a lot more to email marketing than stringing together sentences, generating a subject line, and hitting the send button.

There are some tips and tricks that will help you move from amateur to superstar.

And this guide will help you do just that!

That’s a bold statement, I know. But don’t worry, I’ve got the goods to back it up.

This guide to email marketing best practices will include:

Let’s start.

Email marketing best practices

1. Use email marketing in tandem with other direct channels

There is an old expression that says, “Fish where the fish are.” This can be applied to email marketing.

Using email marketing in conjunction with other channels may seem like you are spreading yourself too thin, but it is not. You need to know that one strategy does not fit all.

Taking a multi-channel approach helps you increase your branding and reach more of your customers across different channels and gain insight into what works best for your niche market and target audience.

For instance, you might consider running targeted ad campaigns across social media channels to identify what type of value proposition your audience resonates with.

This will help you kill two birds with one stone. You are spreading awareness and at the same time gaining insights that will help you create better email subject lines, CTAs, and overall messaging.

Adding SMS messaging to your email marketing efforts can also improve engagement and help you drive conversions.

Here’s how.

Let’s say you’re engaging in a drip email marketing campaign.

Your business might send out email alerts once a month with an offer or reminder. But if your email subscribers don’t respond or take the intended action within two days, you’ll want to follow up with another text discussing an additional benefit or perk.

This way, you’re increasing your chances of turning new subscribers into loyal customers by giving them reminders and incentives on the go.

After sending an order confirmation email, you can also reliably reconfirm the order via SMS.

This stops people from making an error in delivery addresses and increases customer satisfaction. By following up with a simple text message, customers also have the assurance that their order could be tracked directly.

And I can vouch for it.

I recently ordered a spectacular freshwater pearls necklace.

Right after I placed the order, the brand sent an email confirming my order:

Just thinking about receiving the parcel makes me go yee-haw!

Yep! That’s me right now!

However, getting reassurance on the delivery date would be even better.

And there it was – a text from the brand reconfirming the order.

I also had a couple of questions, and text messaging worked as a fast, personal, and effective way to receive answers from the brand.

As evident, this direct communication results in customers who are more satisfied and loyal because brands are more accessible.

According to Jordie van Rijn, email marketing consultant and founder of emailvendorselection.com,

“Focus on the combination of email and other direct channels is an underrated email marketing practice that companies shouldn’t overlook.”

Jordie further explains,

“Contact through multiple channels can enforce the bond with a customer. Lately, there has been a lot of talk about email and Texting. SMS Statistics show that 75% of consumers are fine with brands texting them with special offers, promotions, and incentives.”

2. Plan your email frequency meticulously

Have you ever wanted to send an email campaign but had no idea when to send it? Or started sending emails, and you weren’t sure if you were sending too much or not enough? (Hint: it’s probably too much).

Speaking of too many emails, can someone get Amazon to stop sending irrelevant emails every damn day.

Don’t know about you, but these relentless, random emails – jammed with irrelevant product recommendations and offers – do nothing for me.

See, what I mean?

Here’s another one:

I am this close to unsubscribing from their email list.

The worst part? Amazon is a big shark in the world of small fishes – it most likely gets away with this exasperating email schedule.

But you probably won’t.

Try it – and the next thing you know, your subscribers are gone like a “will-o’-the-wisp.” Or worse, will mark your emails as the dreaded spam.

Don’t believe me?

Look at this survey result:

TechnologyAdvice asked 472 U.S. adults, “For what reasons have you marked a business’ emails as spam?”

A whopping 45.8% of the respondents replied with “They emailed too often.”

Sending out emails too often can annoy your target audience. Sending it too rarely might upset them.

As email marketing consultant Kathleen Celmins, amplifiednow.com shared:

Companies either send too many or too few emails. Many of the emails feel like the strategy is simply “OH SHIT WE HAVEN’T SENT AN EMAIL THIS WEEK! QUICK!” or in ecommerce, they send 29 emails before the thing you ordered was shipped, meaning there’s no built-in trust, no reason for the consumer to buy again since they’re testing fulfillment.

So how do you make sure to send emails at an optimal cadence?

Experts suggest that while there’s no right formula that works for everyone, “once a month at minimum, and once a week ideally” is the optimum position.

From over 2 billion emails, ActiveCampaign concluded, “Every two weeks is the sweet spot for getting the most people to see your emails without burning out your subscriber list.”

However, you should still see what works for you. It may also depend on your product, target audience, purchase cycle, and metrics like unsubscribes, spam reports, low conversion rates, among other factors.

3. Allow people to unsubscribe from your mailing list

One email marketing best practice that I think is important and often overlooked is inviting your subscribers to unsubscribe with little to no effort.

Don’t make your subscribers get up from their comfortable seats and go to the trouble of unsubscribing… just make it a one-click operation.

Usually, email service providers like Gmail and Yahoo automatically place the unsubscribe link right next to your email address.

You can also add the unsubscribe link manually at the bottom of your newsletter:

This shows goodwill to your audience – that you’re not trying to hold them hostage or be sneaky. It results in a more engaged email list and better deliverability as a result.

And subscribers who don’t engage with your emails are not valuable to you either way, so why not give them an easy exit route?

You can also significantly curtail your spam issue by including an “unsubscribe” link in every email that you send out. In fact, it is one of the most popular anti-spam laws, governed by the CAN-SPAM act (there are other spam laws as well).

4. Engage your subscribers with your email copy

We’ve all been there. You get an email from a company – clothing, tech, consumer goods, you name it – and you ignore it.

Sales emails, customer service emails, and more are all guilty of the same thing: they don’t catch your attention.

Instead of being interested in what the email has to say, you just see “blah blah blah promotional sales email wow here is my unsubscribe button” as you scan through your inbox.

People don’t read boring emails, so in order to keep your subscribers engaged and interested, you’re going to have to provide value.

I also spoke to David Hoos, Lead marketing expert at The Outloud Group, on this topic,

We’re seeing more brands adopt a more conversational tone with their emails. As the recipients of emails become younger and younger, more email is adopting the tone that you see on social platforms.

At the same time, people’s inboxes are still getting tons of emails, so you need to stand out. A few ways to do that are 1) to lead with value—what goal are you helping the recipient reach and 2) being consistent. If you consistently provide value over time, you’ll be the one email that recipients enjoy opening every week rather than one they ignore or open long enough to skim and trash.

Your subscribers should feel like they’re getting an email from a human. Instead of telling them what you think they want to hear and just trying to sell something… you should say what they’d like to know.

After you’re done building your list, here’s what you should do to create an engaging email copy:

  • Humanize your copy by using a conversational tone.
  • Make it about your audience, not your brand. Tell them what they’re getting out of your email.
  • Be consistent.
  • Establish your brand voice across all marketing channels.
  • Provide personalized recommendations and tips.
  • Provide incentives. Studies show that 67% of people are willing to exchange their email addresses for an incentive like free shipping, promo code, or a gift card.
  • Use attractive visuals and animated gifs in your newsletter.

5. Localize your email campaigns

The local-first approach is one way to woo new customers (especially in competitive markets like tourism, hospitality, and retail).

It gives you the opportunity to connect and engage with your customers in a more meaningful way. Not only will your audience feel like you are talking to them directly, but they also feel that the message is more genuine.

Getting your campaigns localized will also give you a competitive advantage and increase the reach of your emails, along with building brand recognition.

One way to do so is by translating your email newsletters.

Translating your email messages – especially subject lines – into your subscribers’ native language can do wonders for your email marketing ROI.

To understand the global buyers, Common Sense Advisory (CSA) surveyed 3,000+ consumers from 10 different countries — Brazil, France, Indonesia, Egypt, Germany, Japan, Turkey, Russia, China, and Spain.

Here’s what they found:

  • 55% of consumers exclusively buy in their native language.
  • 53% of consumers claimed they feel more at ease when purchasing in their native language.

However, translating your subject line into different languages has some challenges. One of them is the difference in characters. A subject line that takes 40 characters in English may take a lot more in other languages.

For example, “Happy birthday, we have a surprise for you” in English will be お誕生日おめでとう、サプライズがあります in Japanese.

You have to consider all these factors before planning your email campaign.

Beyond that, take into account local elements like events, themes, clothing, festivals, weather, and the like while creating your campaigns.

Take Coca-Cola’s marketing campaigns, for instance.

With partnerships across 90 developing markets, the famous soft-drink brand localizes its messaging and visual style to cater to local languages, themes, clothing, culture, all while pitching the same product.

How should you start?

The best way to go about it is by analyzing your demographics. Where are your customers visiting from? Who is abandoning your cart the most? What are their buying patterns?

Look at your data and your markets, and then proceed with localization accordingly.

6. Personalization is great; personalization through behavioral targeting is even better

Personalization is overrated the way it’s used. The value of delivering a more personal experience goes far beyond a simple “Hi John, here’s a coupon for your birthday.”

Although, birthday gifts and surprises are always welcome.

But a more effective way of personalizing your campaigns is by behavioral targeting.

Behavioral targeting is a way to employ personalized messages and offers in your emails based on how users interact with your brand.

In fact, when it comes down to it, behavioral targeting allows email marketers to provide a tailored, erm…tailor-made experience for their consumers, which can result in significant business results. You take the standard of one-size-fits-all marketing and replace it with one-to-one marketing by understanding your customers’ preferences and buying habits.

According to David Hoos,

“Personalization is great, but it must align with broader business strategies. For example, if your product has different use cases for one segment of the market than another, that’s a useful personalization. But if you’re trying to personalize based on superficial things like a birthday, that’s not going to be very impactful. In 2022, I think we’ll see more folks realize that segmenting and personalizing based on behavior is far more useful than basing it on demographic data.

Looking forward, companies can do better by gathering data for as many activities on their sites and tailoring their personalization to that.”

The point is this: We live in an increasingly personalized world, and consumers are accustomed to engaging with brands that demonstrate an awareness of their preferences.

The more you can personalize interactions between you and your potential customers, the more likely they are to react positively.

Behavioral profiling can allow you to demonstrate your awareness of your target audience (and capitalize on their needs) by sending emails correlated with the sites they’re already visiting and products they’re showing interest in.

It’s also a great way to demonstrate authenticity through your tailored messaging and can work as not only a shield from competitors but also a marketing instrument for lead generation or conversion.

Netflix does personalization based on behavioral targeting really well.

For instance, look at their email with the subject line: ✨ NEW suggestion because you watched Project Power.

In the end, it’s clear that Netflix is changing the game here, and I hope that other companies follow in their footsteps.

These kinds of behavioral targeting emails are not only more personal and valuable, but they’re also likely to motivate subscribers to take action on what Netflix has presented to them.

When people are too overwhelmed by clutter and constant ads to even think about opening an email, Netflix made a choice for them – and that’s commendable.

7. What is personalization without segmentation?

A huge key to success in email marketing is to have and be committed to segments…not simply for the sake of segments but for the sake of converting.

If your offer isn’t relevant to recipients, the fact that you’re “segmenting them on age” is meaningless. Instead, you should focus on segmenting users into groups that you can target with specific content.

Run an analysis on your customer base, look at the commonalities between users belonging to the same segment, and identify their pain points. Then attack those pain points with specific messages to more effectively engage with them based on their identified needs—and ultimately convert them into paying customers.

For example, does your marketing email only go out to people who watch specific webinars? If so, display a link to your most recent webinar during the email, personalized to the user.

In some cases, segmentation starts the moment website visitors enter your landing page and sign up for your email newsletter by entering their details and preferences in the opt-in form.

Brendan Hufford, ActiveCampaign’s Growth Marketer, reflects on segmentation vis-à-vis personalization,

I think emails need less personalization (using the recipient’s name in the intro, for example) and more segmentation. You likely have a very diverse group of people on your email list, so figuring out who they are and what (specifically) they want is critical. Then, send specific emails to each segment of your list that cares about that specific thing.

Until recent years, the main objective of many email campaigns was to achieve some level of personalization. Today, however, as highlighted, segmentation takes center stage as opposed to personalization.

The trick is to balance the various elements of your email campaign. Focus on segmentation more than basic personalization in your email campaigns to reach a broader range of audiences, but don’t ignore personalization altogether. Nothing turns off readers more than spammy promotional emails that lack relevance.

8. Use automation tools to create and send email marketing campaigns

If you want to send out email blasts and newsletters every now and again, it may be easier to use an email marketing automation tool to do it.

For one, you can create email templates so that you don’t have to worry about typing up the same message over and over. Then you can schedule when these automated emails will go out, so you don’t have to manually check and send them at a certain time.

The good news is that there are some pretty good email marketing automation tools out there on the market. Of course, you’ll want to make sure that they offer a high level of customization because it won’t do you much good to create automated campaigns without being able to customize them as needed.

AI content generation is another thing to keep a close eye on. There are copywriting tools that allow you to generate summaries from articles, pieces of perfectly persuasive text, and subject lines in the right tone of voice.

9. Send engaging or friendly subject lines

A personal subject line will help you stand out amid countless corporate emails that your customers probably receive.

It will also make it appear as if the subject line is from a close friend who has the customer’s interests at heart, rather than a faceless sales rep bent on selling a product.

To craft a friendly subject line, make sure to speak in a familiar tone and talk about something you know your audience is searching for.

Here are some friendly subject line examples:

  • Hi John, I think you’ll like it
  • Uh-oh, your prescription is expiring
  • Mary, check out these hand-picked coats
  • Hi Emma, I’ve got some great information about [Relevant Topic/Product]

10. Add an email signature

Sometimes the best way to remind people about your work and projects is not to tell them directly but to let your work speak for yourself. An email signature is a great way to accomplish this goal.

It shows that the message comes from a real person and not a robotic computer-generated message. It also shows that you care about your customers enough to spend some of your valuable time making sure they feel special when receiving an email from you.

Having a consistent and professional email signature also means that your brand will be more memorable, as it’ll be seen more often.

Your email signature should include:

  • First name and last name
  • Title and department
  • Consistent branding colors
  • Social media icons
  • A link to your website
  • Your photo or company logo and name

11. Write informative email subject line – without worrying too much about length

Are you struggling to find the right length for your subject line? Don’t bother! Instead, use words that will intrigue your readers.

In the end, a subject line that is interesting, relevant, and well-written will get your recipient to open the email. Be clear and concise, but also be descriptive and provide a bit of context for interesting releases.

SelectSoftware Reviews founder Phil Strazzulla gave a first-hand account of his experience,

I’ve easily sent millions of emails over the last ten years as a marketer trying to generate leads for my businesses. One simple change that helped us generate a lot more open rates was to increase the number of topics in a subject line.

For example, a weekly newsletter may have historically had the subject “Check out our new eBook on AI Recruiting” – now it may read something like “Latest in AI Recruiting, Google’s New Parental Leave Policy, How to Calculate ROI From Your HR Software.”

A long subject line is typically the worst practice for email marketing. However, if all topics align with a persona, you will capture more interest simply by giving yourself more shots on goal for what is in their head – and also for being different.

12. Focus on the quality of writing, first and foremost

The basics never go out of style. More people doing email marketing need to focus on copy and the subject line ruthlessly. Far too often, it’s evident that there isn’t a strategy behind the emails that get sent out, and they’re simply trying to follow as many email marketing tips as possible.

ActiveCampaign’s Brendan Hufford is of the opinion,

Trends will be different across industries, but the most underrated email marketing strategy right now is the quality of the writing. Making it something people actually look forward to and want to read is essential. You can follow all the best practices in the world, but if you don’t understand who you’re sending to and why they’d want to read it, it’s a futile effort.

In the end, there are only a few simple steps to creating a great email: clearly identify what it is that you’re offering and make sure you spell it out clearly, directly to the point.

Then, allow your personality and sense of humor to shine through, just as long as you avoid any distracting formatting or inappropriate images.

Look at this creative “Welcome Email” that gets Omniscient Digital’s co-founder Alex Birkett – in his own words – a TON of responses!

The body tells the recipients what the sender is offering and what they can expect from upcoming newsletters. The call-to-actions are clear and upfront.

And all of it is done without promotional, monotonous, and static undertones.

Right from the beginning of the email until the end, the subscribers are aware they’re talking to a human with a distinct personality, not an AI machine.

Inclusions like “feel free to….your opinions on the best type of tacos or your favorite 90s pop-punk band” create a congenial atmosphere and coax the subscribers to respond in a similar fashion.

13. Run drip email campaigns

Drip campaigns are an excellent option, even for those on a budget, as they can be set to different intervals so you can have them release messages over the course of days, weeks, or months. Doing this will ensure that your audience remains engaged and gets the most out of your campaign.

For example, if you have an audience that reads your blog on a monthly basis, you might create a calendar with around one post per month and gradually release them over time.

This way, you’ll have fresh content at a steady pace while also creating anticipation in your audience (if they believe they can look forward to your drip campaigns).

You can run drip campaigns to achieve various goals, including:

  • Customer re-engagement
  • Customer onboarding
  • Welcome emails
  • Abandoned cart campaigns

Let’s see the onboarding drip campaign by Grammarly in action.

This is an email I received from Grammarly right after I paid for the Grammarly Premium plan – with the subject line: You’ve Just Unlocked New Checks & Features.

The original onboarding email campaign provides information about different features I’ll get with their Premium version and where it works.

I also like the security assurance at the end.

Grammarly also keeps their customers engaged with “Weekly Writing Updates.”

It shows how productive you were the entire week. Moreover, these writing update emails are short, succinct, and highly informative – making them an excellent example of a simple product update email that offers plenty of value to the subscriber.

Email Marketing Best Practices For Beginners

14. Avoid using ‘no-reply’ email address

It’s imperative to solidify your professional image and build a trustworthy brand using email. The sender’s address is perhaps the first place to start.

If you want your messages to be taken seriously, avoiding a ‘no-reply’ sender address is one of the best things you can do.

Since the sender’s email address is monolithically similar to the business’ brand, it should be consistent and exude affability.

Otherwise, you end up undermining all your personalization efforts if your email address anyway appears like a bot.

15. Don’t buy an email list

Buying a list is a risky business. More often than not, you just get junk—and junk leads to spam and your sender reputation in tatters.

Other significant reasons you don’t want to buy an email list: 1) the people on it aren’t your target market, and 2) it’s illegal.

If you do it anyway and get caught, you could find yourself owing a lot of money and violating spam laws (CAN-SPAM Act of 2003).

16. Use double opt-in

Double opt-in is the best way to ensure that people get something they want in their inbox. It’s also a great way to bolster your email list and ensure a high email deliverability rate.

You sign up for an email list by entering your email address.

You’ll receive a confirmation email. Just click the link in the confirmation email to confirm your email address. You’ll then be added to the mailing list.

That’s double opt-in in action.

It ensures only authentic and active prospective customers will sign up for your list. Prospects can’t join a list without permission, and sending out information to people without consent is spamming.

It also helps prevent spam complaints from being filed against you if the prospect never told people they were signing up for your email newsletter in the first place.

17. Make sure your newsletters are mobile-friendly

For your readers, the main benefit of an email newsletter is convenience. It’s a welcome alternative to sifting through ads to find relevant content – delivered directly to their inbox.

But if email recipients can’t view your newsletters on their mobile devices, they might simply move on and leave your entire list behind. With that in mind, it’s essential to create a mobile-friendly design for your future newsletters.

Finally, be a little fresh, a little different, and above all else, human!

To use email marketing effectively, you must build a strong foundation and organize your marketing efforts over time.

The combination of great copywriting, well-designed emails, and a highly motivated list will help you dramatically boost open, engagement, and conversion rates. But it’s not something that can be done quickly or easily – it takes time, effort, and skill to create truly impactful email marketing campaigns.