Email marketing – 10 top tips

10 minute read

It’s possibly the most common question… “If you had to condense successful email marketing into 10 top tips – what would they be?” Here goes…


1. Permission

PermissionIt’s the foundation and the starting point of any email strategy. Apart from being a legal requirement, gaining permission from your subscribers is the initial step in creating a long term, mutually beneficial relationship. There’s no short cut to building an opt-in database but it’s also not as difficult as you may think. Research shows that consumers will subscribe to messages from brands they trust, so just ask, and at every available opportunity. Make it easy to subscribe and tell them why it will be of value, and don’t’ forget to tell your subscribers that you’ll protect and respect their information.

2. Data

DataIt’s arguable that data itself has no value. The value is in the intelligence that we can gain and how we translate this into useful actions. You may already be collecting basic information like email address, name and possibly company name, but consider what else you can gather that will allow you to serve your audience better. Location, birthday, gender are just some of the commonly collected profiling ‘insights’. If you do this, you’ll need to demonstrate additional value as to why this information should be given. Also consider the best point at which to do this. Asking for too much, too early can create hesitation – you might want to wait until your welcome email or your first campaign.

3. Design

DesignWe could (have done may times) talk about email design at length. It’s going to depend on the nature of your message and your intended audience but here are a couple of common considerations. Email is generally a short, informal channel – so try to keep it brief, to the point but still interesting and engaging. Attractive HTML based campaigns are easy these days so use both text and images to convey and amplify your content and guide your readers through your message. Include links to more detailed information and consider at what point and how you want your readers to interact. A single, simple call to action with a clear instruction always works well.

4. Delivery

DeliveryIf it’s not received it’s not contributing to your objective. It’s often overlooked but there are several things you can do to increase your chances of a successful delivery. Firstly take time and effort to maintain the quality of your data. Data will decay naturally over time but sending regular campaigns and acting upon any bounces will help maintain data quality. Secondly, build a reputation as a genuine sender of quality information. Your reputation is one of the key criteria against which future campaign delivery is reviewed. And thirdly, content. Create great quality content (of course) with valid, working links, a healthy balance of text and images and good quality HTML. All these will help get your campaigns delivered successfully.

5. Performance

PerformanceIt’s easy to finish one campaign and then rush straight on to the next. However taking time to review your performance results is an important step. We talk about the permission marketing cycle and it’s exactly that. Each completed campaign provides useful intelligence as to what is working well and which aspects of future campaigns might be refined and improved. Start with delivery, open and click-through rates. Even these basic performance measures can provide a wealth of valuable information. Then, look in more detail at how, when and which subscribers are engaging with your campaign. One of the advantages of email marketing is that there is a wealth of analytics available to help you dissect and improve your future performance.

6. Social

SocialIf you have an online presence, chances are it includes social media channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and others. Social media marketing is a huge subject in its own right but there are two neat ways you can use social media to enhance your email marketing strategy. First, use links in your emails to encourage and make it easy for your readers to engage with your social channels and share your content with their social networks. Including social icons is enough – people will know what to do. Secondly, encourage your social followers to opt-in as a subscriber to your email database. This way you own the relationship and the conversation with no intermediaries or restrictions.

7. Integration

IntegrationWe’re beginning to get more advanced now. Even small businesses typically have a number of in-house applications and data sources. CRM, reservation and eCommerce applications are perhaps the most common. Connecting (or integrating) these applications with your email marketing allows data to synchronise freely between them. Mobilising your data in this way ensures that each application always has access to the most current data and that the value in the data can be extracted and used when and where it is needed. Email marketing systems generally have a number of pre-built integrations. Also look for an ‘API’ (Application Programming Interface) which will allow you to connect to others.

8. Automation

AutomationEmail marketers talk about delivering ‘the right message, to the right person at the right time’ and marketing automation is one of the key tools you can use to achieve this. Sending a specific, 1-1 response to a given requirement (the automation trigger) moves email marketing from a generic broadcast action to a much more targeted approach – both in terms of timing and content. Marketing automation is commonly used for campaigns like welcome emails, birthday campaigns, confirmations and event sequences. They are easy to set up and you’ll find that open and click-through responses are significantly higher than your standard scheduled campaigns.

9. Profiling

ProfilingWe’ve already touched on this in the ‘data’ section above but it’s worth further comment. Audience profiling is about collecting ‘insights’ about your subscribers that you can use to refine and target your campaigns. Profiling is often described as direct, that is information that you ask for directly, and indirect, that is information that you can gather by observing how your subscribers interact with your campaigns and online presence. This latter technique is referred to a ‘behavioural profiling’ (at we call it Audience Insights) and it’s a hugely powerful weapon in adding precision targeting to your campaigns. Location, interests, preferences and historical engagement are all valuable insights that can be gathered indirectly.

10. Personalisation

PersonalisationIt’s the reason and natural next step from audience profiling. Relevance is possibly the number 1 key element in getting your subscribers to read and engage with your campaigns. It’s easy to forget that although your campaign may be going to many subscribers is still essentially a 1-1 communication. This is why addressing your audience as individuals is so important. It can be as simple as adding a personalised greeting to you campaign. However including higher levels of personally relevant content will significantly increase your rates of engagement. It can be done by segmenting your audience data and creating different campaign variations for each. However smart marketers use techniques like Dynamic Content which automatically adapt an otherwise generic campaign to include or emphasise content according to each subscriber’s individual profile characteristics.

That’s it – if you’d like to explore these concepts in more detail take a look at our Email Marketing ‘Discovery’ Mornings. They’re an informal tour through these and other best-practice aspects of email marketing. Whatever your level of expertise and whatever email platform you use, we think you’ll find it a valuable use of a few hours. Discovery Mornings are held in central London. They are free to attend, but popular… so book early!