For many marketers, email marketing seems to be a hit or miss marketing strategy. They never know what to expect from their campaigns.

But what if there was a way you could ensure that every campaign you send ends in success?
Yes, it is possible. However, a few other factors will come into play, such as:

  • Your product
  • The quality of your list
  • How you design your campaigns

Putting all these factors together well will help you run winning campaigns. And that’s exactly why I want to help you master the top email marketing best practices for 2020 (and beyond). All 30 of them.

So, without further ado, let’s get to it, shall we?

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The Case for Email in 2020 - Why You Need to Know and Implement Email Marketing Best Practices

The very first email was sent way back in the internet dark ages. 1971 to be exact. And half a century later, email is still one of the most effective marketing channels available to every marketer.

So what makes email as relevant today (if not more relevant) than it was a decade ago?

Direct Access to Your Customers

One of the biggest reasons email is so powerful is that it gives you direct access to your customers. People value their inboxes and as such, being afforded the privilege of accessing them is a big deal. It is a sign that they trust you and value your content.

Emails are More Likely to Be Seen

True. Email is not the only channel brands can use to communicate with their customers. Channels such as social media and push notifications are typical examples. However, the likelihood of your email being seen and consumed is much higher than that of a social media post or push notification being seen. And implementing the email marketing best practices outlined below will increase the impact of your emails on your bottom line.

Email Builds Better Customer Relationships

When it comes to running a successful business, you need to master the art of relationship building. Email is the perfect tool to help you do just that. Not only is email a great relationship builder, but it also helps you move your customers down your sales funnel more effectively.

I could go on and on showing you why email should be one of your main marketing tools, but that’s not our core business for the day. Our main business today is to take a look at the top email marketing best practices for 2020. So let’s dive right in.

Email Marketing Strategy - Best practices to Follow Before Starting a Campaign

A winning email campaign starts with a winning strategy. When planning your email marketing strategy, there are some best practices you need to follow to ensure your campaign pays off handsomely.

That’s why our journey into the best email marketing best practices of 2020 starts at the planning stage. Here’s what you need to get right at this stage:

1 Know Your Audience

As much as it would be awesome to have the entire world as your customer, it just isn’t possible. No matter what your product or service is and how great it is. For your email marketing campaigns to be successful, you need to know and understand your target audience.

Knowing your audience will help you:

  • Know exactly what your customers need
  • Craft tailored messages that lead to customers taking action
  • Design emails and campaigns that are relevant

Of all the steps you need to ensure you nail, audience research is it. Everything else you do hinges on your findings at this stage.

2 Set Goals and Meaningful KPIs

What do you intend on achieving with your email marketing? That’s one of the preliminary questions you need to ask before you even send your first email. Setting goals for your email campaigns is critical to your success. Are you hoping to:

  • Grow your list
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Generate leads
  • Drive sales

The answer to those questions will direct your campaigns. But how will you know if you achieve your goals?

You need to determine the key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll use to track the success (or failure) of your campaigns. Some common KPIs you can use include:

  • Email opens
  • Clickthrough rates
  • Unsubscribes
  • Email list growth rate
  • Conversions

Running an email marketing campaign without setting goals and the KPIs you’ll use to measure them with is like shooting in the dark. You won’t know if you’re hitting or missing.

3 Plan out Your Campaigns

A great email marketing campaign is a result of a great email marketing strategy. To plan an effective email marketing strategy you need to understand 2 critical elements of your marketing:

  • The customer journey : Understanding how your customers move along the customer journey will influence the kind of content you’ll create for each stage of the journey.
  • Your sales funnel : Knowing at which stage each customer is in your sales funnel determines the type of email you send. It also helps get your timing right.

Before you blast your email list with your promotion, carefully plan your campaign based on where each of your subscribers is on their customer journey. This will help you maximize your conversions.

4 Create a Pre-send Checklist

An email marketing campaign has many moving parts. And all parts depend on each other for the campaign to be a success. One simple slip up and the entire campaign will be a flop.

This is exactly why you need to create a pre-send checklist.

A pre-send checklist is simply a checklist that helps you keep tabs on all the processes involved in sending out a campaign. This will help you ensure you include every element needed in your emails and help ensure design errors and other types of flaws are avoided.

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List Building and Management Best Practices

Now that, you’ve laid the foundation for a successful campaign, let’s move on and take a look at the email marketing best practices involved in building and managing an engaged (and profitable) email list.

5 Follow Opt-in Best Practices

You’ve probably heard it a gazillion times - the money’s in the list. Sadly, that statement can be misleading as it implies you can make money from just any email list. The truth of the matter is that the money is in a quality list.

That’s why you need to ensure that every email address on your list is profitable - well, as many as possible. To do that, you have to follow opt-in best practices, some of which include:

  • Use double opt-in. Double opt-in simply means your subscriber has to confirm twice that they’re signing up for your email list. This is one of the easiest ways to ensure you’re GDPR compliant.
  • Get permission. Never assume that just because someone signed up for your list they’re interested in receiving marketing communication from you. Always get permission from your subscriber by letting them know that by signing up they agree to receive marketing communication from your brand.

When it comes to opt-in, make sure you do it right. If not, it will not only lead to a poor quality list but might also get you into legal trouble.

6 Target Your Ideal Persona (increases engagement)

Another email marketing best practice when growing an email list is to try as much as possible to only attract your ideal buyer persona. This is one of the stages your audience research will start proving valuable. To ensure you target the right audience:

  • Design the right lead magnet. Create a lead magnet that will be attractive to your ideal customer alone.
  • Promote in the right places. Where does your ideal customer hang out online? Those are the places you should concentrate your lead magnet promotion on.
  • Personalize your calls-to-action. Because your ideal customer is looking for something specific, they’re more likely to sign up for your email list if your CTA addresses a specific pain point. In fact, research from Hubspot shows that personalized CTAs perform 202% better than generic ones.

Targeting the right audience cannot be overemphasized. Doing so will result in higher engagement rates and successful campaigns.

7 Clean Your Email List Regularly

Redundant email addresses and inactive subscribers can negatively impact your campaigns. That’s why regular email list cleaning is advisable. How do you go about cleaning your email list?

  • Carry out a reactivation campaign. A reactivation campaign serves only one purpose - to get inactive subscribers to start engaging with your emails again. It’s important to give such subscribers another chance to reconnect with your brand before you delete them from your list.
  • Purge your email list. Once you’re certain email addresses are inactive (didn’t respond to your reactivation campaign), you can go ahead and delete them from your list.
  • Use email testing tools. Another option to consider is to use a tool to check if the emails on your list are in use. This will help save your sender reputation as you won’t even bother including them in your reactivation campaign.

Maintaining a clean and healthy email list is one of the best things you can do for your business. Remember, the money’s in the list - a healthy list.

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Email Delivery and Deliverability Best Practices

No matter how brilliant your email is, unless it lands in the intended inbox, it won’t do you any good. This is why email delivery and deliverability are important factors to consider as we look at the best email marketing best practices for 2020. Let’s briefly look at what these 2 terms mean before we move on:

  • Email delivery. This refers to whether a recipient’s email server accepted your email or not.
  • Email deliverability. Has to do with whether an email was placed in the recipient’s inbox or went to the spam folder.

Both delivery and deliverability play an important role in your campaigns, so what can you do to improve them?

8 Run Regular Email Deliverability Tests

Running regular email deliverability tests is something every email marketer should proactively do. Don’t worry, this isn’t something to crack your head over as there are plenty of tools to help you do it. Most tools will help check your emails for:

  • Spam triggers
  • Authentication problems
  • HTML code quality
  • Broken links

Using these tools will help you ensure your email lands in the right folder. They also help you catch some errors in your email that can result in it landing in the spam folder.

Another simple way to test your deliverability is by sending out an email to a few “seed” email addresses. Your seed list should feature addresses:

  • On different domains
  • Using different email clients

This will help you pinpoint if some of your issues stem from a particular domain or client.

9 Track Your Email Stats

Many ESPs provide a lot of insight into how your emails perform. Successful marketers keep tabs on their email analytics as they help reveal a delivery or deliverability problem. For example, if a segment that had high engagement rates suddenly experiences a dip in certain metrics, it could be an indicator of a delivery or deliverability problem - like a blacklisted IP for example.

10 Avoid Spam Traps

Spam trap emails are email addresses created by ISPs and blacklist providers to identify bulk emailers that don’t practice email marketing best practices - particularly list hygiene. The danger of spam traps is that they could lead to:

  • Blacklisting
  • Hurting your sender (and domain) reputation
  • Permanent blocking of emails coming from your domain.

The only way to avoid spam traps is to practice proper list management - so never put it off for anything.

11 Authenticate Your Emails

Email authentication is simply a set of techniques used to verify the authenticity of an email and its source. Email authentication is usually used to block fraudulent emails and scammers. In other words, your recipient’s server will conduct some tests to ensure your email is legitimate. Failure to pass these tests will result in your email being blocked.

So what do receiving servers look for?

In most cases, email servers look for a few important types of security files as a way of authenticating an email:

  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF). This is a mechanism used by receiving domains to check whether an email was sent by an IP that’s authorized to send emails by that domain. This protocol prevents spoofing.
  • DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM). DKIM involves adding an encrypted signature to your emails, making it one of the best authentication methods that aid in improving email deliverability.
  • Domain-Based Message Authentication, Reporting, & Conformance (DMARC). This method prevents a senders domain from being used in fraudulent emails. The DMARC policy allows senders to instruct email providers on how to handle unauthenticated emails from them.

Most ESPs handle the technical aspects of authentication as it plays an important part in email delivery. However, understanding this will also help you know what to look for when faced with delivery problems.

12 Ensure You Have a Good Sender Reputation

Sender reputation is a score used to determine your reputation or the quality of your campaigns. A poor sender reputation can result in poor deliverability, with a number of your emails ending up in the spam folder. So how can you ensure you build a good sender reputation?

  • Warm-up your IP. To do this, start by sending smaller batches of emails to recipients who are likely to open your emails. Doing so will help prove that your IP is genuine and is trusted by your recipients. Gradually increase the number of recipients you send emails to.
  • Improve your engagement rates. Encourage your subscribers to engage with your emails. The easiest way to do this is to provide valuable content. You can also give your subscribers the opportunity to set their preferences. This simply means how often they want to hear from you and what kind of content they want to receive.
  • Maintain a healthy list. Avoid hard and soft bounces by regularly cleaning your email list. Bounces negatively impact your sender reputation and should be avoided at all costs.

To check your sender reputation, use a tool like Sender Score. Not only will it show you your reputation, but it will also give you tips on how to improve it.

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Email Design Best Practices

It’s impossible to talk about email marketing best practices without touching on email design - particularly email design best practices. One thing you should always remember when designing your emails is that you should always design them with conversions in mind, not just aesthetics. Let’s quickly see how you can do just that.

13 Simplicity is Key

When it comes to email design, less really is more. Avoid noisy templates and design elements as they can distract your readers from doing the one thing they’re supposed to do - click your CTA. To keep your email design simple, yet elegant and attractive:

  • Use easy-to-read fonts. Use common fonts that have been proven to be easy on the eyes. If you have to splurge on a unique font, make sure it’s a web-safe font.
  • Use a limited number of colors. Unless your brand colors are made up of every color of the rainbow, limit the number of different colors that feature in your email design. On the same note, try to stick as close as possible to your brand’s color scheme.
  • Utilize white space. White space is not bad. In fact, used well, it can enhance the look of your email. But more than that it makes your emails easier to read as you can use it to break up long blocks of text.

Any bold elements you include in your email design should serve the purpose of either highlighting an important part of your email or pointing to it. Otherwise, keep your email design clean and simple.

14 Watch Your Layout

Email layout is another factor that you need to pay attention to. This is because the way you place each element of your email should take your reader on a journey down your email. Some best practices to follow in this aspect include:

  • Favor vertical layouts over horizontal
  • Email width should be 500-650 pixels wide
  • Have a healthy text/image ratio (60/40 is a good balance)
  • Feature your most important content on top
  • Make sure your CTA is prominent

Your layout plays an important role in encouraging the way your readers consume your email. Done well, it will encourage readers to focus on the most important elements of your email.

15 Visuals - Get them Right

Visuals are another important aspect of your email design that you just have to get right. And when it comes to visuals, one of the email marketing best practices you need to remember is to assume images won’t be displayed by default. This is because many email clients and users block images. This is why you always need to have fallback text for every image you use. Other email design best practices you need to observe include:

  • Avoid creating image-heavy emails as they take longer to load
  • Don’t use background images overlaid with text as a number of email clients don't support them
  • Use images that are relevant to your message
  • Images should serve as visual cues aiding the reader to transition to other parts of your email
  • Include alt text for every image
  • Save images at 72ppi/dpi and optimize them for fast loading

Visuals are a powerful component of a good email. However, any slight mistake in implementing them could end in an unreadable email. So make sure to follow these tips to ensure your visuals make for a good UX.

16 Don’t Neglect Your Header and Footer

It’s easy to give the main email body all the attention and neglect your header and footer.

While these elements don’t necessarily sell, it’s important that you design them well as they are important. Here are a few tips to do so:

  • Use your header for branding purposes by including your logo
  • Add teaser text before your header. This will show up right after the subject line, giving you another opportunity to influence opens.
  • Include important information such as your contacts, social media links, unsubscribe links, and any legal fine print in the footer.

Your header and footer are prime real estate for elements that don’t contribute to your campaign’s goals but are necessary for compliance and to bolster relationships.

17 Make Sure Your CTA is Prominent

If there’s one element that can make or break your campaign, it’s your call-to-action. While it’s a small part of your email (visually), it plays one of the biggest roles in your entire email campaign. And that’s exactly why you need to make sure your CTA is well designed.

Follow these CTA best practices and you’ll have your subscribers hungrily clicking into your offer:

  • Use one CTA (request subscribers to do only one thing) for your email
  • CTA buttons should be large enough not to be missed
  • Make your CTA stand out by using a contrasting color for the button
  • CTA text should be short and punchy

Besides these tips, always try to make sure your CTA is above the fold. You can repeat it a couple of times in the email if necessary.

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Email Copywriting Best Practices

Email copy plays a crucial role in ensuring your email succeeds in selling your product or service. Consider it a sales pitch, whether you’re actually selling something or simply encouraging an action as simple as downloading a white paper. So how can you increase the chances of your email achieving its goal?

18 Put More Effort Into Your Subject Line

Your subject line is your one shot to convince readers to open your email. As such, you have to make sure you take the time to craft an effective one. Here are a few tips to help you do that:

  • Keep it short (6-10 words) without compromising the message
  • Personalize your subject lines
  • Use relevant emojis to grab attention
  • Don’t over promise or use clickbait
  • Avoid spam triggers
  • Use language that inspires urgency, FOMO, or curiosity

If you can nail your subject line, chances of enjoying high open rates are high. And that, at the end of the day, will result in a successful email marketing campaign.

19 Use Short Punchy Sentences and Paragraphs

When crafting your body copy, always make sure to use short punchy sentences and paragraphs.

Why?

  • Make your email easier to consume
  • Inspire action as they set a fast pace

The main purpose of your email body is to clearly convey your message. Long, drawn-out sentences defeat this purpose. As for long paragraphs, they discourage readers from consuming your content as it ends up looking like your content is difficult and boring to read.

20 Implement Power Words in Your Copy

In copywriting, power words are words that trigger an emotional response. These are usually persuasive or descriptive in nature. Their benefit in email copy include:

  • Boosting conversions
  • Making your content more engaging
  • Providing a better UX

Obviously, to pull this off, you’d need to learn how to become a copywriter or outsource to a professional who knows how to use words to inspire action.

21 Relevancy is Crucial

For your email copy to achieve its intended purpose, it has to be relevant to your reader’s needs. Again, this is where audience research comes to play. So what makes for relevant email copy?

  • Timely
  • Offers the right product/service
  • Provides valuable information

Following email segmentation best practices will help you pull this off as segmentation allows you to treat each subscriber as an individual.

22 Avoid Jargon

Every industry has its own special words. These can be buzzwords or acronyms that make it fun and easy to communicate. That’s exactly what jargon is. However, when it comes to writing email copy for your subscribers, avoid these as much as possible. The danger of jargon is that:

  • It can easily be misunderstood
  • Impresses but doesn’t inspire action

Email copy should always be crystal clear and should leave no room for confusion. So make sure to eliminate jargon as it defeats the purpose of your copy.

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Understand Email Types and their Purposes

To succeed with your email marketing, you’ll need to understand the different types of emails you should be sending to your subscribers. So, let’s briefly take a look at them as they will help you master the email marketing best practices for each type.

23 Transactional Email Best Practices

Transactional emails are automated emails that are sent to an individual to facilitate an agreed-upon transaction between you and your customer.

An example would be a purchase order confirmation email after a customer buys something from you.

So, what makes for an effective transactional email?

  • Send it immediately
  • Clearly outline the purpose of the email
  • Make it short and to the point

Executed well, transactional emails can also help build trust with your audience.

24 Promotional Email Best Practices

Promotional emails. These are the darling of every email marketer as they are responsible for generating revenue.

How do you ensure they help you meet your revenue goals?

  • Use segmentation to send out relevant promotions
  • Space your promotional campaigns so they don’t overlap
  • Highlight your offer and its benefits clearly (in the subject line and body)
  • Take advantage of holidays and anniversaries

Promotional emails are the lifeblood of every online business. Getting yours right will ensure you have an edge over the competition.

25 Relational Email Practices

As the name suggests, this type of email serves the purpose of helping you build stronger relationships with your customers. This leads to brand loyalty and increased customer lifetime value (CLV). A typical example of a relational email is a newsletter. The key to creating and sending winning relational emails includes:

  • Set expectations for subsequent emails
  • Offer exceptional value in each email
  • Use language that builds trust and authority

The key to a successful business is to build strong relationships with your customers. And that’s exactly what relational emails will help you achieve.

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Email Conversion Best Practices

If your emails don’t convert well, your campaign would have been a waste of time and money. That’s why our email marketing best practices list can’t be complete without talking about best practices that lead to improved conversions.

26 Design Campaigns Based on Your Customer Journey

The first step in designing campaigns optimized for conversions is to understand your customer journey. This will help you:

  • Know what your customer needs at each stage
  • Understand any objections they’ll have at each stage
  • Personalize each email

As a result of the above points, you’ll be able to create emails that address every concern your customer may have at each stage. As a result, you’ll be able to convert more subscribers and move them to the next stage of the buyer journey.

27 Segment as Soon as Possible

A major key to increasing your conversion rates is to segment your email list. One way of doing this is to allow your subscribers to self-segment by setting their own preferences. Another way to ensure that your email list gives you maximum ROI is to employ dynamic segmentation. This is where your segments constantly evolve depending on where your customer is in the customer journey or actions they take.

28 Personalization is Critical

Research shows that personalized campaigns generate 6x more transaction rates than generic campaigns.

Creating personalized campaigns is simple as all you need is:

  • Data. This can be collected at sign up or from tracking your customer through cookies and other data collection tools.
  • Proper segmentation strategies. Strategically segmenting your email list will allow you to treat each subscriber as an individual.

While email blasts can work when sharing general information, when it comes to conversions and driving sales, you can’t do without personalization.

29 Optimize for Mobile

With research showing that email opens on mobile devices are quickly overtaking desktop opens, you can’t ignore your subscribers who prefer mobile devices. Failure to do so will result in your conversion rates plummeting. So how can you optimize your emails for mobile?

  • Play it safe with images
  • Use mobile-responsive templates
  • Break up text into easy-to-read chunks
  • Favor button CTAs over text-based CTAs

Optimizing for mobile is no longer an option if you’re planning an email marketing campaign. You just have to do it.

30 A/B Test

A/B testing is the process of testing different elements of your emails to find out which works best. Doing this helps you craft high converting emails. Important elements to A/B test can include:

  • Subject lines
  • Images
  • CTAs
  • Color schemes
  • Templates

Sending different versions of your email to 2 different seed lists will help you know which email will convert better when sent to your main list.

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Email Marketing Best Practices - Avoid these 5 Deadly Sins of Email Marketing

Now that you’ve seen 30 top email marketing best practices, let’s briefly take a look at some email marketing mistakes you need to avoid - at all costs.

1 Buying or Renting an Email List

Buying an email list is one of the biggest email marketing mistakes that will cost your business. Besides money, here’s the price you’ll pay

  • Low engagement rates
  • Poor ROI
  • Tarnished brand reputation
  • Spam reports and blacklisting

If you don’t build a list, monetizing it is practically impossible.

2 Making it Difficult to Unsubscribe

As much as no one likes unsubscribes, they are a natural part of email marketing. And email marketing best practices dictate that you make it easy for your customers to unsubscribe. This will help you:

  • Maintain a healthy engaged list
  • Reduce spam complaints
  • Be CAN-SPAM compliant

So, make sure there’s an easy to see unsubscribe link on your emails.

3 Using Clickbait Subject Lines

As much as you may want to increase your open rates, avoid clickbaity subject lines at all costs. Employing them may give you a temporary increase in open rates but, in the long run, it will:

  • Erode the trust subscribers have in you
  • Increase spam reports
  • Reduce engagement

If your subject line has to include a promise, make sure to avoid hype. Instead, fulfill that promise in the content of your email.

4 Creating Image-heavy Emails

As much as images work well on many other platforms, you’ll have to be careful with how you use them in your email. The problem with images in email is:

  • If your subscriber has them turned off, they won’t show
  • They take time to download
  • Image-heavy emails reduce accessibility

So, use images wisely - don’t overdo them.

5 Trying to DIY Your Email Marketing

We are in an age where you can almost DIY anything. While it may sound like a good idea to DIY your email marketing, outsource to professionals if you can. This is because email marketing is:

  • Complex - it has too many moving parts that need constant monitoring
  • Time consuming - Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just a matter of clicking send. Planning campaign takes time and careful planning
  • Sensitive - you have to be careful how you communicate with subscribers. Also, watch out for legalities that could get you in trouble

So, no. DIY email marketing, particularly on a large scale is not such a good idea.

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Turbo Charging Your 2020 Campaigns with
Proven Email Marketing Best Practices

Need to turbocharge your campaigns in 2020 and beyond?

The key lies in following proven email marketing best practices. With this list at your disposal, your next email marketing campaign will definitely result in you smiling all the way to the bank.Need to turbocharge your campaigns in 2020 and beyond?The key lies in following proven email marketing best practices. With this list at your disposal, your next email marketing campaign will definitely result in you smiling all the way to the bank.

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