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6 Email Marketing Best Practice Tips

Author's avatar By Dave Chaffey 28 Oct, 2014
Essential Essential topic

What are your recommended Email Marketing techniques?

That’s the question we posed in our recent email marketing tips competition. Thanks if you contributed a tip or shared the suggestions!

We had lots of great suggestions, so it’s a pity we don’t have a prize for all, but we have now selected 3 winners and there are 3 “highly commended” tips.

I asked our judges Chad White who offered up 3 copies of his new book Email Marketing Rules and Tim Watson, Email consultant at Zettasphere and regular Expert commentator on Smart Insights to each choose 3 tips and explain why they liked them. I then decided on a winning three based on the depth of the contributor’s insight and those who gave a specific example of a test.

Three winning Email marketing tips

Here are the “lucky winners”:

1. Alan Moir on Personalisation.

In one word: Personalisation.

Companies gather some quite useful information when getting people to sign up for a free download, receive product updates or make a purchase – name, post code, date of birth, etc. but don’t put it to good use. It still annoys me when I open an email and it says ‘Dear subscriber’ or just ‘Hello’.

On the other side of the coin, I’ve found that email open rates and interaction (in terms of replies) have increased when emails are sent from ‘a person’ and not the company. Since sending emails from [email protected] instead of [email protected], open rates have gone up at least +5%. I now always receive replies from email campaigns, and subscribers really like that I personally respond to their questions/feedback instead of getting a message saying ‘this inbox is unmanned’ or an email from ‘[email protected]’”

Chad White commented:

"Brands definitely collect and have access to information that they don’t put to good use serving subscribers. And while B2B brands can definitely see a boost from using the sender name of a rep, his advice to monitor and respond to replies is what turns this from a gimmick into a strategic move. Sadly, very few brands monitor and respond to replies to their promotional emails".

2. Tarvinder. Minimalistic Text format HTML

"We tested sending the same content in two formats.
1) Standard templated HTML email
2) HTML email which appears as a text email with no formatting or graphics.

We wanted to test which format resonates better for response rates.

The same test was run three times and we found there was a marked increase in click-through when sent a ‘HTML email which appears as a text email with no formatting or graphics’".

Tim Watson says:

“This is a great tactic from Tarvinder that’s easy to implement. A classic case of just because HTML can carry bright graphics and images it doesn’t mean to say it should. Nothing screams louder ‘this is a marketing email (that can be deleted)’ than a highly graphical design. Graphics are right for consumers who signed up for product emails, say fashion, when product images are essential. But in many other verticals and particularly B2B, simple and clean copy, written like any other business email can engage far better”.

3. Stephen Parker on Testing

"We’ve tested a lot of variables in our email campaigns. For us, as a B2B company representing some major electronics companies, our most successful emails were:

  • 1. Personalized
  • 2. Targeted
  • 3. Written with Compelling yet Short Subject-line copy
  • 4. Incorporated a great visual image above the fold
  • 5. Provided relevant yet various microcopy toward the bottom

However, by far our highest CTRs came from including an image of a video link (we’ve seen as much at a 3x increase versus non-video images).

Chad White says:

"A focus on personalization and targeting is a must. “Compelling yet short” is definitely the sweet spot for subject lines, in general. And his advice on using images and, in particular, video content is smart. Marketing has become highly visual so don’t ignore images and video content".

Three Highly commended tips

4. Guillaume Berube. Have a welcome email series!

We’ve tested the numbers of emails in the series and found that 5 was the most effective to maximize sales on a 3 months period".

Chad White advises:

“Effective on-boarding is so important and a welcome email series can be super effective. I love that he emphasized the tested needed to determine optimal onboarding messaging, and it was also cool that he found that a 5-email series was best for his company. While a 2-email series may be good for some, others may find that a series of 4 or 5 or more is best. Don’t be afraid to think big”.

5. Alex Corzo on Personalization

While personalization is great, I would strongly suggest campaigns adhere to content that is pertinent to the user’s initial request [for example, in lead generation initiatives] or the user’s historical behavior [for example, in eCommerce/transaction initiatives].”

Tim Watson comments:

"Sending the right content based on past user behavior is an advanced strategy that with ever improving technology is becoming within the grasp of more and more marketers. There really isn’t a better way than behavioural based targeting. Customers expect to get relevant content but without them having to explain what is relevant to them. Preference centres were once the only why to achieve relevance and are increasingly looking like dinosaurs. Well called Alex!"

6. Craig Swerdloff on inactives

Don’t remove seemingly inactive email subscribers unless you have to, and then only remove the least valuable subscribers first.

Tim Watson advises:

“This often cited best practice of removing inactive email subscribers seems like common sense. The only issue is the definition of inactive. It's impossible to really divide a database into active and inactive. I’ve seen in real customer data a first purchase 835 days after sign-up. Was this person inactive? And it’s common to see an open from someone who hasn’t opened in 9 months. The ‘unless you have to’ bit Craig includes in his tip is spot on, there are specific cases when its’ the right thing to consider and manage carefully. Otherwise, just ignore the typically given best practice and spend your marketing effort on other areas”.

Thanks all for sharing! I’ve been in touch with the three winners and their books are now winging their way towards them.

Author's avatar

By Dave Chaffey

Digital strategist Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of online marketing training platform and publisher Smart Insights. Dave is editor of the 100+ templates, ebooks and courses in the digital marketing resource library created by our team of 25+ digital marketing experts. Our resources are used by our Premium members in more than 100 countries to Plan, Manage and Optimize their digital marketing. Free members can access our free sample templates here. Dave is a keynote speaker, trainer and consultant who is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Digital Marketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. My personal site,, lists my latest Digital marketing and E-commerce books and support materials including a digital marketing glossary. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing. Please connect on LinkedIn to receive updates or ask me a question.

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