15-20 | Minute Read (But worth it!)

Email Marketing Best Practices

Email marketing, in 2020, is still the king of all marketing channels.

Although email marketing has an incredibly high ROI, such success is largely dependent on strategy. Without using email marketing best practices, you may find your email marketing efforts produce lack luster results.

When email marketing is done right, it can complement your other marketing efforts and help you contribute positively to the bottom line for your sales team.

In this handbook, we cover the 11 most important email marketing best practices for 2020.

11 Email Marketing Best Practices for 2020

Email Marketing Cheat Sheet

Avoid those common email marketing mistakes,

download our Email Marketing Mistakes cheat sheet

Why email marketing is important

You may be asking yourself, “wait – it’s 2020. Is email marketing dead?

The short answer is: no.

Email marketing is not only alive, it’s thriving.

Email marketing currently has a whopping ROI of 4400%. That means for every dollar spent, you make $44 in return. As far as marketing channels go, email is still reigning supreme.

How about email marketing for B2B? Is it just as effective?

The answer is: yes, and even more so than B2C.

The click through rates of B2B email campaigns are 47% higher than those on B2C email marketing campaigns.

The takeaway here is: if you’re marketing B2C, email marketing works and is important. If you’re marketing B2B, then email marketing is just about essential.

The strength of email is its omnipresence.

No matter where your audience is – at the dinner table, or on the train headed to work – they have access to their email via their devices. You can reach your audience no matter the time or place when it comes to targeted email.

However, because of email’s strength, it means every other brand and business floods your audience’s inboxes, too – meaning that the majority of email marketing best practice is actually about standing out among the noise.

After all, your email marketing campaigns will only work if they’re opened and engaged with.

Reach your audience no matter the time or place when it comes to targeted email.

Start with a great Marketing Campaign Brief

You’re convinced. Email is a killer marketing channel, and you’re ready to blast out a campaign to your contacts.

Before you dive in head first, make sure you’ve got a proper plan in place. When it comes to executing an email marketing campaign, a Marketing Campaign brief is a must-have.

A Marketing Campaign Brief should make it clear what your brand’s overall values, goals, and tone are. It should also lay out – in detail – who your target audience is, what the market context is for your campaign, and what schedule and budget you’re going to be working with.

If you’re not sure how to put together a Marketing Campaign Brief – no worries – we’ve taken the guesswork out of it and have provided a Marketing Campaign Brief template. Download this here

Having a Marketing Campaign Brief before launching your email campaigns is sort of like having a map before setting out on a long haul journey. You need to know where you’re going, and how to get there.

Campaign Brief Template

We’ve taken the guesswork out of your campaign work and have provided a Marketing Campaign Brief template to get you started.

Download Brief Template

Employ Marketing Automation software to stand above your competitors

In 2019 we witnessed brands no longer asking the question of whether automating their email marketing strategies was important, and instead hunkering down on their use of automation tools, by using them in unique ways to outshine their competitors.

From 2020 and beyond, we expect to see the adoption of email marketing automation software to become part and parcel of deploying any email marketing strategy, especially in the case of B2B email marketing – where competition is fierce.

Why? Because as more brands hop on the automation bandwagon, traditional email marketing strategies will land brands in the shadows of competitors’ targeted, automated, hyper-relevant campaigns.

Implementing email marketing automation software is now considered email marketing best practice.

Email Marketing Automation software give you access to functionality and tools such as:

Be smart. Use the right tools!
  • Automated publication (have emails automatically trigger to send based on contact behaviour, demographic, and more)
  • Dynamic content for extreme relevance (have emails populate with the content most relevant to each individual contact, without having to create countless versions of the same email)
  • In-depth reporting for strategic analysis (easily pull up campaign reports, and contact engagement profiles in order to better analyse and inform future strategies)
  • AI-like tools that take the guesswork out of live improvements to your strategy (such as A/B split testing of subject lines: write up 3 different subject lines for the one email, and have AI determine which subject line is most successful – thus sending the majority of your target audience the subject line which garners most opens)

Marketing automation tools allow brands to leverage segmentation, personalisation, targeting and AI levels of reporting, analysis and prediction.

Email design best practice: be simple, and interactive

In the past, HTML rich, graphic-heavy emails were best practice. This was to ensure that brand’s emails were visually engaging and stood above the background noise of contacts’ inboxes. However, in recent years, we’ve seen successful brands – especially those in the B2B sector – move towards simpler designs, with a focus on plain text and interactivity.

Example of a plain text Email

As the discerning email consumer becomes more and more used to visually intricate, heavily designed campaigns – they are becoming harder to keep engaged.

Through testing, and analysing stats, brands are making the move towards text oriented emails that are simply designed (think banner image, text, and button or two). To keep engagement high, the new email best practice tip is to keep it simple and interactive. Include a poll, or chance to respond in order to encourage recipient participation.

Keep engagement levels at a high by using interactive polls

Interactive, simple EDMs are now the way to go.

Why? Because your wised-up audience is looking to be an active participant in a marketing landscape that has often forced them to be passive consumers.

In the same vein, purely promotional one-sided communications will no longer be adequate at holding attention and engaging subscribers.

We’re beginning to see a trend of interactive content, where storytelling copy engages recipients and asks them to interact.

We’re seeing more embedded surveys and polls, more options for feedback and input, and more recipient-autonomy where it counts (for example, inviting subscribers to decide what kind of content they receive).

Content Relevance is Crucial to Engagement in Email Marketing

When it comes to improving engagement and conversion rates, relevance is everything. If an email isn’t sent to the right person, at the right time, with the right content – then you might as well land in your contacts’ junk folders.

Traditional email marketing was all about volume. The way most email marketers launched their campaign was with ‘batch & blast’ publication.

What is batch and blast?

It’s when you batch all the contacts you have together in one list, and blast all your marketing communications to them in bulk.

When it comes to email marketing best practices in 2020 and beyond – batching and blasting is out, and targeted, automated, hyper-relevant email campaigns are in.

It’s time to prioritise relevance over volume; send less subscriber-base-wide emails and more pre-scheduled emails which trigger to send to specific individuals.

This is where marketing automation tools come in.

For example, a great way of ensuring email marketing relevance is to pre-setup email campaigns which only send when a subscriber has undertaken specific behaviour. Your VIP early bird’s invite for your next brand event will most likely be well received by contacts who’ve only just attended your last event. You can set up a trigger on your e-invite to send to any contact who attended your last event 3 days ago.

Other tools you’ll see brands using this year to maximise relevance is data segmentation (defining dozens if not hundreds of drilled down mailing lists based on behaviour, or demographic), and dynamic content (email content which changes based on each subscriber’s unique data).

No one likes receiving something they don’t want.

Get Creative with Personalisation in Email Marketing

Personalisation is an easy email marketing automation tool to use, and does wonders for engagement.

Have you ever received an email from a brand where they addressed you by your first name? Perhaps you received an email from a service provider reminding you to renew your membership – and they included personal info such as your member number and renewal date.

Personalisation in emails can improve click-through rates by 14%

In both these situations, the email marketer has inserted Personalisation fields into their email campaign content. Personalisation automatically pulls through the unique data of a recipient, such as their name, date of birth, etc.

Every email marketer by now uses personalisation – but that’s precisely why – when it comes to email marketing best practices in 2020 – you need to reconsider how you use this tool.

To stand out amongst countless other personalised email campaigns, it’s best practice to get creative with how you use personalisations.

After all, your subscribers are now used to being addressed by their first name within your campaigns’ greetings. In order to appear less robot and more human, you’re going to have to use personalisation in unexpected ways.

To start the creative process of exploring how to uniquely use personalisation, ask: what data does your company collect on its contacts? Can any of this data be used in EDMs to add value to your recipients?

Mobile centric Calls to Action

Calls to action are arguably the most important part of any email marketing campaign. Your call to action is usually directly related to your campaign’s goal. Whether you’re wanting recipients to click through to make a purchase, register for an event, or to further engage with your brand, making sure your click through rate is as high as it possibly can be is imperative for reaching your campaign’s goal.

What does the prioritisation of enticing CTAs mean for an age in which most of your audience is viewing your email on-the-go on their mobile devices?

The dominance of mobile devices amongst email recipients has only become clearer over the past 5 years. 80% of internet users now own a smartphone, and over 40% of online transactions are now completed on a mobile device.

Mobile-centric CTA design became a lot more common in 2019 emails, as email marketers tried to close the sales gap for their large mobile device subscriber base.

If you’re looking to double down on this trend, then consider one of our earlier recommendations: go easy on the graphics, and try to simplify your emails. Text dominant emails that are short but sweet are much easier for the on-the-go mobile-user to digest.

Use graphics for your calls to action, to make them stand out. For example, use brightly coloured buttons which are big enough for clumsy thumbs to click on.

Bad example of mobile CTA Good example of mobile CTA
Which of these two mobile CTAs is begging to be clicked?

Subject line best practices: tell the truth and offer value

An excellent subject line begets excellent email campaign results.

It’s the subject line that recipients first see, and how your subject line is judged can either make or break your campaign’s engagement rate.

After all, your email won’t be a success unless it’s opened.

When it comes to subject line best practices, it’s best to remember two these two rules:

  1. Tell the truth
    Your subject line should be enticing – yes – but it shouldn’t compromise on the truth of your campaign’s content. For example, if your email is an invite to an event, but you think promising a free product in the subject line will garner a higher open rate, then watch your recipient engagement fall through the floor as contacts open your email and feel duped. For the best results, tell the truth about your email’s content in the subject line, but do so in a short, engaging way.
  2. Offer value
    Why should a recipient open your email? What’s in it for them? Hopefully, your email campaign strategy has a strong value proposition defined. Your subject line should allude to the value to be found within your email. For example, you might be letting your customers know of a discount that’s available – your subject line might read, “You could save 30% on your membership. Find out how”. Make sure you’re only giving a taste of your value proposition; contacts should have to open the email to find out the full story.

Analyse reports, and test out theories

One of the advantages of conducting marketing campaigns digitally is that it makes reporting on important metrics, and gleaning insights from data more accessible.

Most marketing automation software provide an email marketing dashboard of sorts, where key reporting metrics can be overviewed and easily made sense of.

Whilst coming up with a campaign, creating and deploying it may take the majority of any marketer’s attention; staying focussed post-publication, by reviewing and analysing reports is almost as important as sending the campaign in the first place.

Analyse publication reports to see what patterns arise from data. These patterns will reveal possible theories on how to increase engagement and conversions.

For example, you may notice that although your email went out at noon, it was opened by many of your contacts in the evening. The theory you may come up with here is: we may gain increased open rates if we send our email in the evening.

The next step of course is to test your theory out.

Testing theories based off of previous campaign data takes confidence. To test a theory you have to bite the bullet and apply your theory to your next campaign.

What might that look like with the above example, “we will gain a higher open rate by sending our email in the evening”?

Simply send your next campaign in the evening, and again – analyse the results.

Is your open rate higher? Then your theory is confirmed.

You now know the best time to send an email to your specific audience: in the evening.

Don’t worry, analysing reports is much easier in the digital age.

Email Marketing Opt-In Best Practices

Your email marketing strategy only works if you have people to send to. D’uh, right?

But how do you go about collecting a large volume of willing, engaged subscribers?

And how do you build your contact database without breaking laws, or trust?

Knowing your opt-in best practice is foundational to your email marketing success.

Consent matters when it comes to opt-ins, so regardless of how worried you are about numbers, it’s important to prioritise consent. That means, the quality of your subscribers matters more than the quantity.

If you opting-in isn’t clear, or you purchase lists, or send to contacts who opted-in to a different line of communications, you will likely see low engagement and high unsubscription over the course of your email marketing campaigns.

So what best practices should you put in place to make sure your opt-ins are fully consenting?

  1. Always go with opt-ins on your forms, not opt-outs
    Some brands think it’s clever to maximise subscriptions by making opt-in the default. This means a contact has to click a button, or checkbox to opt-out rather than the other way round. This does not count as willing consent.
  2. Be explicit about what someone is opting in for
    A potential subscriber is only a useful, engaged subscriber if they fully understand what they’re subscribing to. Wherever your opt-ins are, make sure to include a brief sentence or two about the content they can expect if they subscribe.
  3. Give your subscribers more autonomy by swapping the subscription form with a preference center
    A Preference Center is far more sophisticated than a standard Subscription Form. In 2020, email marketing opt-in best practice will entail empowering your contacts by giving them the ability to customise their subscription.
Use a preference centre for more sophisticated targeting

Double down on Privacy Compliance: Email marketing laws Australia

The average consumer is now far more aware of their right to privacy online than ever before. After major breaches and data leaks from 2018 onwards, countless Governments have introduced more stringent policy and regulation to ensure that peoples’ data is not misused or stored insecurely.

Regardless of which country your business resides, knowing your national privacy laws inside and out is email marketing best practice. As most people become more discerning recipients, it’s important that you honour trust in your brand-subscriber relationships, and show that you take your contacts’ privacy seriously.

When deciding to use marketing automation software, or when storing your email marketing data online, make sure you’re across the email marketing laws in Australia (or the country you reside in).

Read our article on what Australia’s Privacy Principles mean in practice for the average email marketer.

Know your boundaries.

Have a plan to avoid, and fix Common Email Marketing Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes, and email marketers are not exempt. Even with the implementation of automated software, there is always room for human error.

On our email marketing blog, we’ve looked into common marketing automation mistakes and how to avoid them, as well as how to perform damage control when you make one of the 3 biggest – and most common – email marketing mistakes that people make.

If you’re wanting a quick cheat sheet to refer to whenever you’re trying to avoid, or fix a common email marketing mistake, then click here to download ours.

As technology continues to improve and deliver more complex ability, it’s becoming harder to really pinpoint email marketing best practices as they shift and adapt.

Having said that, one thing we know for sure is that email marketing is now a core part of most brand’s marketing strategies and that the majority of brands will be using automation and AI to further out-compete other businesses for the much-coveted attention of global, online audiences.

If your company is wanting to stay on top of email marketing trends in 2020 – and beyond – then it’s best to follow any of our above advice, and of course – hop onto the marketing automation bandwagon.

It’s no longer just a matter of being left behind, but a matter of being left out completely.

You don’t have to be left out. Get on top of it!