The dos and don’ts of email marketing

By Doug MacMillan

In the early days of email, a new message in your inbox was exhilarating. It was similar to getting a letter in the mail as a kid. The idea of receiving a communication in this new and exciting medium was a thrill. Fast forward 30 years and it seems inboxes are a minefield.

We’re inundated with email marketing campaigns and while some of it still feels spammy, there’s no denying the impact a well-crafted message can have on your customers, not to mention client relationship management (CRM) and lead development. By 2025, research suggests there will be 4.6 billion global email users.

Odds are your core demographic is receiving and checking their emails. But in a space where humans have adapted to skimming at best, how can you make sure your emails are effective? Here are a few ways to up your email marketing game and hopefully increase conversions.


Get to the point

The subject line should be clear and consistent with the content of the email. Avoid clickbait or vagueness about what the email actually contains. Studies show those clickbait style subject lines actually discourage consumers from opening emails. Offering a discount or promotion? Good call – that’s something consumers want. Don’t use vague headlines such as “This is not a drill …” or “Run, don’t walk …” Yes, it’s catchy and fun and it speaks to the exciting nature of a promotion, but you have to assume the average recipient of your emails has zero background knowledge regarding the subject matter.

Try something fun that’s also straightforward and relevant: “Free maintenance for life when you sign up before February!”; “Leave a review about your service and get the next one 50% off.” This way, consumers know exactly what the email contains, and it incites action. Don’t count on consumers reading between the lines; you could be costing yourself a contract.


Guaranteed delivery: 30 seconds or bust

Email deliverability means the rate at which emails actually make it to subscriber inboxes. Email deliverability failure usually occurs when an email went to the spam folder or was blocked by the Internet Service Provider (ISP). With the evolution of spam catchers, even if the recipient has subscribed to your content, 15 per cent of opt-in emails never make it to the inbox.

ISPs are excellent at managing the never-ending onslaught of spam. They make sure spam doesn’t even make it to the spam folder, let alone the inbox but to do their task they need to be a bit ruthless. They need to punish bad sending habits. If you want emails to be delivered, try to think like an ISP.

Remember, ISPs know the history of your mailing list. They know which emails have been clicked and which haven’t. They know the last time someone opened one of your emails. And if no one is clicking on your emails, you can bet they’ll wind up in the spam folder or not delivered at all.


Quick tips: AVOID
  • Emailing from Outlook. Use an email marketing platform such as Mailchimp or Constant Contact. Not only can you easily organize your contacts, but they also offer essential engagement data to help you optimize your efforts.
  • Buying email addresses. You absolutely need to know the quality of your mailing list. Plus, this can be a violation of guidelines such as Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL).
  • Sending emails to people who don’t want them. This can put you in violation of CASL and it’s likely to get you more spam complaints.
  • Sending to group email addresses (e.g. info@, sales@). ISPs want emails to be sent at an individual level and don’t look kindly upon this.
  • Sending emails to old or inactive email addresses. These accounts aren’t adding any revenue to your business and they’re hurting your metrics. It’s a good idea to cut off any email addresses with no engagement within the last 180 days.
  • Sending emails with spammy language. USING ALL CAPS, ending sentences with lots of punctuation (!!!), using too much “super-hot exclusive sale!” terminology … the ISPs don’t like any of it and neither do your customers.


Quick tips: DO IT
  • Sign up to Google Postmaster, Yahoo Feedback, or Microsoft SDNS to get insights into your reputation with these ISPs.
  • Have a memorable email sign-up process. If people remember signing up for your emails, they’re less likely to mark you as spam.
  • Use email engagement to manage email frequency. Only the most engaged audiences should receive the most emails.
  • Score content with spam checking tools. You can find free tools online to help you out.
  • Check that your emails render properly. Some email platforms show you how your email will render across devices. Emails that render correctly increase your trustworthiness in the eyes of the ISPs.
  • Make it easy to unsubscribe from your emails. It might seem counterintuitive, but the alternative is for users to report you as spam. Respect the desires of your audience.
  • Go beyond just using first names. Incorporate personalization such as behavioural data, previous purchase information and user preferences. Bottom line: your email marketing is only as strong as its weakest link (no pun intended).

While the steps to improve it may seem tedious and time consuming at first read, the benefits greatly outweigh the obstacles, and your bottom line will benefit.

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