Your 10-point guide to email best practice

So you’ve decided on your email marketing campaign and you’re clear on its purpose. What’s next? There’s a few things to consider to set your emails up for success:

1. What do you know about your audience?

Use details about your recipients to help you personalise and target them better. For example you could use purchase history and demographics to dynamically segment your audience and tailor campaigns to different groups.

Past email engagement stats might help if there is a group of customers that haven’t opened or clicked in a while. It might be worth tagging this audience so you can report on them separately.

Average spend is important to segment against if you’re planning on sending out incentives. Is there a group you have classed as high value or that typically spends a small amount? If so, target them with different offers to maximise your ROI.

2. Customers’ motivation to take action

Look at previous high-performing campaigns and learn from these. From personal experience it’s always best to think about what’s in it for the customer. This ties in nicely to the below …

3. Email frequency

Is one email enough for your campaign or should this be a staggered journey? Have you considered what you want to do if a person doesn’t open the initial email, opens but doesn’t click, or clicks but doesn’t purchase? I recommend mapping this out so you’re clear on what the follow-ups will be and automate.

4. Email design

It’s well known that most email opens are on mobile. According to a recent report by Litmus, mobile clients account for 42% of email opens, followed by 40% on webmail and 18% on desktop. If you can, check this specifically for your audience – it’s important to optimise the email based on the device it’s opened on. Make sure you review the design on mobile and check that key information is above the fold. This way, readers will see the purpose of the email without having to scroll.

A simple structure to keep in mind is the inverted pyramid model:

5. Word count, tone and style

Hopefully you have a copywriter to take care of the words. But when you brief them and review their copy, consider that 95% of high-performing emails use 200 words or less. Another important point is tone of voice. And do the design and copy fit with your brand and ethos? Is the style consistent with previous campaigns? If possible, get a fresh pair of eyes on the copy. In my experience, what seems obvious to you as a marketing hook doesn’t always translate to the customer.

6. Calls to action (CTAs)

Calls to action need to stand out. Make sure they are big enough to be clickable on a mobile and bear in mind that including too many will dilute their impact. Always consider how many you really need and remove any that are unnecessary or repetitive. This makes it super simple for the reader to understand what you want them to do. It’s important to use active verbs to encourage action.

7. Practical considerations

A few key points to pay attention to:

  • Make your font size large enough for both mobile and desktop devices. I recommend size 14 minimum
  • Keep plenty of white space to prevent your email looking cluttered
  • Include personalisation where relevant. When people read content that applies to them, they are more likely to engage
  • Make sure images don’t distract from the purpose of the email and that you have alternative text/titles in case they don’t automatically download for a user.

8. Testing

Have you considered setting up a test? Try different subject lines to see what entices the audience to open, or send out two types of emails. If your audience size is large enough for you to see statistical results, you’ll have a clear idea of the variables and purpose of your test and you have enough time then do!

9. Before you hit send

Once you have your email ready, make sure you’ve double checked the following when you do your test send:

  • Subject line and sender name – make sure your ‘from’ name is set up correctly, is short and correctly reflects your brand. Make it easy for the recipient to know who it’s from. Also, avoid using a ‘do not reply’ email address as this can increase your chances of being marked as spam
  • Links. Do they load? Are they all where they’re supposed to be, and have you set them up so you can track them? Be sure to include your unsubscribe link in these checks
  • Spelling and grammar – again, get a second pair of eyes to check your email for these
  • Personalisation and dynamic content are pulling in correctly. Don’t forget to double check what the fall back copy will say. For example, if you are going to include the recipient’s first name in the email and/or subject line, make sure you have an alternative if you don’t have access to their name
  • The email format looks the way you intended it
  • Generate a plain text email and see what this looks like
  • Ensure there is alternative text for images in case these don’t automatically download on devices
  • Test it. If you don’t have access to tools such as Email on Acid or Litmus, trial your email on the most common devices and your most popular email clients to ensure everything looks correct

Once you’re happy with all the above, consider the time and day before you press the send button. If you have any insight on what works best for your audience, go with that. If not, just use your common sense.

10. Track the results

It’s important you give your campaign enough time to mature before analysing results and deciding on your next steps. I would suggest you allow at least five days, but you might have insight into this already.

The main metric you care about is the number of conversions of your desired goal and average order value.

Other metrics to consider when evaluating the success of your email are:

Unique open rate – how many people opened the email.

Unique click rate – how many people clicked on it.  For example, if 100 emails were successfully delivered and 50 people clicked on the email, that’s a 50% click rate

Click to open rate – how many of the people that opened the email also clicked on it. This is important as it’s not skewed by things like send time, subject line or ‘from name’. It directly measures the performance of the email content. To calculate it, just divide the number of unique clicks by the number of people that opened the email. So if 75 of the 100 we initially sent the email to actually opened the email, and 50 people clicked, the CTO would be 67%.

Bounce rates – these show how many emails couldn’t be delivered to your list. A ‘hard bounce’ occurs when the recipient’s email address is invalid, while a ‘soft bounce’ indicates a temporary server issue on the recipients’ side. A high soft bounce rate can also indicate a sender reputation/deliverability issue, so check whether the soft bounces are occurring for the same domain (eg Gmail domains) and look at delivery bounce-back messages for deeper insights into the problem.

Finally, you can sense check your email metrics against industry benchmarks too.

For more insights from email consultant Bianca Crown, go to:

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Bianca Crown

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