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10 tips for successful email marketing

Email marketing offers a higher ROI than any other marketing channel, but if you do it wrong your messages may be overlooked, deleted, or even blocked from ever reaching their intended inbox. These tips will ensure your messages land in your contacts' inboxes and help to make sure they'll be read once they get there.

  1. Always get permission

    Emailing people who didn’t subscribe to you results in increased spam complaints and opt-outs, which can get you blacklisted by email providers. Mass email services require that you have permission to email your contacts, and disobeying those policies could cause your account to be terminated. It’s also illegal in Canada to send email marketing messages to people who haven't given their express permission. Contacts must have specifically asked to be on your mailing list, other permissions (such as signing up to attend an event) don't count.

  2. Make it easy to unsubscribe

    Even contacts who sign up may not always be interested in your product or service. Make it easy for them to unsubscribe to avoid bounces, blocks, and complaints that can signal spam to email providers.

  3. Work with a clean database

    After every email you send, review your bounces and remove addresses which were undeliverable, non-existent, or were rejected due to a full inbox. High bounce rates can get your domain blocked, so clean up your mailing list to keep your bounces low.

  4. Match your email with your brand

    Make sure that your email marketing is in keeping with the rest of your communications. Consistent colours, fonts, formatting, and logo present a familiar image to your contacts. This not only looks more professional but also makes your emails recognizable, so that contacts are more likely to read them.

  5. Use images sparingly

    Many readers will view your email in a preview pane and the images may be blocked. Make sure that all of your copy is visible without images, and never send an email that is just one big image or put anything important (such as calls-to-action, unsubscribe buttons, or contact information) in an image.

  6. Test on different email clients

    Don't assume that your email will look nice in every client, even when you're using a template. Send a test copy to each of Gmail, Hotmail/Live/MSN, Yahoo, and an Outlook account BEFORE you send it to your contacts to make sure your email appears correctly.

  7. Make it easy to subscribe

    Since you're only emailing contacts who give you permission, make it as easy as possible for people to subscribe. Include signup forms on your website and social media and add a subscribe button to your emails in case your current subscribers forward it to their friends. Keep the signup short or people won't bother with it.

  8. Make it shareable

    Include social sharing links in your emails so that your subscribers can post your content to their own social media accounts. You can also promote your emails by posting archived versions to your website and social media, so that non-subscribers can view them.

  9. Think about mobile

    Nearly one-third of all emails are now opened on a mobile device. Minimize columns and images and keep your emails relatively short so that your message can be easily viewed. Always include a text-only version so that mobile users can read your message if it doesn't format well on their screen.

  10. Use your stats


    Most email services provide analytics reporting that you can use to improve your campaigns. Key statistics include:

    • Bounce rate - the percentage of emails that didn't reach their intended inboxes for various reasons. If this number gets above 1%, your domain will start to look like a spammer and you could get in trouble with your email service.
    • Open rates - the average open rate is between 15% and 20%. If your emails are being opened less than that, you may want to try something new.
    • Click rates - this indicates how many of your subscribers are interacting with your content. These vary by industry but average around 5%.
    • Unsubscribes - if more than 0.25% of your contacts unsubscribe from one single message then it's safe to assume you've turned them off somehow.

Follow these tips to help your messages reach your contacts' inboxes, improve their readability, and make it easy for new contacts to subscribe. Spend a little time implementing these best practices and your email campaigns will be successful in no time!