Email Marketing Best Practices you should be using

If you have signed up for newsletters, bought products or opened online accounts in the past the chances are you will have come across email marketing. Some of it will catch your eye, some of it will automatically hit the spam directory and some will just pass you by as if they weren’t there. There are ways and means of catching the attention of your subscribers, making them feel special and prompting them to open your emails. So, what email marketing best practices should you be using?

Know your customers

Whatever type of e-commerce you are involved in, be it selling telephones, office furniture, computers or anything else, you need to know your customers. You need to know makes them tick, which products they are likely to buy and take a segmented approach to your email marketing. What is a segmented approach?

If we take the example of a vehicle spare parts company, they will sell an array of different branded products for different vehicles. Now, if you take a one size fits all email marketing approach you will be emailing your customers about spare parts which are irrelevant to their vehicles. What would be the point of promoting a discount on Volkswagen spare parts when you know your customer has a Ford? In this instance, it would make sense to filter out all of customers who have bought Volkswagen spare parts from you in the past. Then, send them an email offering a discount on Volkswagen spare parts and nothing else.

If your customer has to look through an array of paragraphs to find the product which best suits their need then you’ve lost them. They will likely receive dozens of emails every day, marketing products and eye-catching offers, so what makes your communication so special?

Write irresistible subject lines

They say you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression in the world of e-commerce marketing. This is why the subject line of your email marketing campaign needs to be focused, prick the attention of the customer or immediately show them your special offer. Some of the more useful approaches to email subject lines include:

  • Asking questions, make the recipient think and want to open your email
  • Promised benefits that you know will appeal to them, as touched on above with segmented marketing
  • How-to subjects are always popular on the Internet as they appeal directly to a particular need
  • Cut the sales talk and speak directly to your newsletter recipients, make them feel the centre of attention

Some of the best email subject lines we have come across include:

  • Uh-oh, your prescription is expiring” – This heading injects a degree of urgency and prompts action
  • The timer’s going off on your cart!” – Many of us drop products into our carts to come back later, this email heading is a useful reminder
  • What Did You Think? Write a Review.” – Putting customers in control makes them feel important and more likely to open your email
  • *Don’t Open This Email*” – This one is easy; nobody tells us what to do!
  • Abra-cord-abra! Yeah, we said it.” – What did the company say? Intriguing
  • Hoping to help” – A softly softly approach, which again places the customer in control
  • Will cut to the chase” – This one does what it says on the tin, cuts to the chase and gets straight to the point
  • You ready?” – Ready for what? Intrigue and mystery are very strong ingredients when looking to prompt customers to open your marketing emails

Never use third party email lists

Over the years we have seen many people buying email lists off the Internet only to find they were a complete waste of money. Aside from the fact you may be breaking email communication laws (phishing, etc), how many times have these email lists been sold on the Internet? Why would somebody sell you an email list which may be worth $10,000 for just $500? Simple, they have sold the same list 100 times bringing in $50,000. Using bought in email lists cheapens your brand and can ruin your reputation.

The only email contacts you should use are those that subscribe directly via your website. You know they are “real people” who have actually been on your website and know what you sell. If they have decided to subscribe to your email list/marketing communications then they obviously have an interest in your products. Used correctly this is like preaching to the converted. However, it can take years to build up a lucrative email marketing list – but this is time well spent.

Make your subscribers feel special

As we mentioned with some of the email headlines above, you need to make your subscribers feel special to stand a chance of them opening your email and clicking on your sale links. Where possible it may be an idea to personalise not only the heading but also the email body. When using segmented marketing, you can comment that they have acquired a particular brand or a particular product in the past and they might be interested in this special offer. Expressing knowledge that a customer has bought a particular product from you indicates you have gone through the time and effort to look at their account. No automation (bland and boring emails) in this marketing campaign!

If you’re offering a discount on a product or service go big or don’t bother. Nobody is interested in a 10% discount nowadays, yet if you move towards 25% or 50%, that is a whole different ballgame. Another interesting way to maximise the appeal of your email marketing content is to offer free products but value them at RRP. The fact that they will actually cost you a fraction of RRP is irrelevant. As long as the customer feels they are getting a $100 product for nothing then it is worth $100 to them. Not the $50 you paid for it.

Include a clear call to action

Over the years we have seen some exceptional email marketing campaigns, perfect headlines, great graphics, focused email bodies but where is the call to action? You have teased me about a particular offer, a particular product/service, but how do I buy it? After catching the customers initial interest with your headline and keeping them entertained with your email body, include a clear call to action!

Calls to action are the most important part of any sales email/marketing strategy because if you tempt a customer and they can’t see where to buy the product they will simply go elsewhere. All the hard work you have done will be utilised by another company with a more prominent call to action. There is also a case for inserting a number of calls to action (and even social media buttons) in your marketing emails. As a customer becomes more interested in your product/service they have the opportunity to click on a call to action at various stages of the sales pitch.

Keep it short

This one is self-explanatory, keep it short and sweet. Did you see what we did there?

Stop quoting meaningless stats

Many people make the mistake of introducing statistics to sell their products/services. In reality, nobody is really interested in meaningless statistics even if they can be backed up by a trusted third party. Introducing statistics to the conversation is a killer. It will switch your customer off, maybe even prompt them to unsubscribe from your marketing list and look elsewhere. Remain focused at all times, appeal directly to the customer and avoid meaningless stats.

Don’t sell before the prospect is ready.

It may seem a little bizarre to suggest that you “don’t sell before the prospect is ready” but it makes perfect sense. If you have used bullet points to get across a particular message then why would you put a call to action at the start of the bullet point list? Tempt the customer in, leave them wanting more and then introduce the call to action.

You will also find that offers which are time critical, open for just a few days or even a few hours, are more likely to prompt activity. They are more likely to act immediately than put to one side and “take a look before the offer closes”. We all lead busy lives and once you put an email to one side it is in your “old emails” directory, honestly, what are the chances of you retrieving it in the future? Grab their attention, prompt a bit of urgency and even mix it up a little – only available while stocks last, etc.

The more time a customer has to think about a potential purchase the more likely they will put it off and never do it. Impulse buys are extremely powerful!

Email Marketing Don’ts

While there are many things you should do when sending email marketing communications, there are also many things you shouldn’t do. These include:

Don’t send mass emails

As we touched on above, segmented email marketing has a far better success rate than across the board boring offers. Whether you focus on a particular segment of your customer base each month or send individual group emails at the same time, a focused and personal approach works best.

Don’t follow the crowd

Make your emails stand out, don’t use the same old tired sales pitch and sales talk. There is nothing worse than reading a particular style of marketing email which you have seen time and time again in the past. You want something different, something to prick your interest, an offer you can’t turn down or a personal approach which makes you feel important and wanted.

Don’t send emails for the sake of it

There is a very important piece of advice in the world of email marketing, do not send emails just for the sake of it. If you have nothing to say, don’t send an email. Constantly bombarding your customers with email after email, which are transparent and obviously a means to “keep in touch”, can ruin your subscriber base and impact your reputation. Only contact customers when you have the deal of a lifetime, the offer of the century or a nugget of advice they cannot get elsewhere.


Email marketing is a very simple activity which is often complicated by third parties looking to hook customers in an underhand manner. Be blunt, upfront and as transparent as possible with any offers or deals you are marketing. Customers appreciate the direct approach, less waffle and more action. Personalisation, yes, but automation is a definite no.