15 Email Marketing Best Practices to Remember

Email marketing may not get the attention some of the newer marketing methods like content marketing are getting, but it is still one of the best and most cost effective ways to generate leads and convert prospects for your business. The Direct Marketing Association UK estimates that businesses typically get a return of £40 for every £1 invested in email marketing, which is more than you can say for other marketing methods. Given this high rate of return on investment (ROI), it is highly advisable that you start taking email marketing more seriously. What constitutes "best practices" for email marketing may not always be clear-cut amongst a variety of companies in different industries, but there are some general best practices that have been proven to increase customer engagement and conversions:

1. Ask permission.

Permission is the foundation of email marketing. You will be hard pressed to achieve any decent inbox delivery rates and ROI without first getting permission from the email recipient. Ask permission before you send marketing email messages to prospective customers and don't s send them spam messages.

2. Be transparent about the opt-in process.

Don't trick people into getting in to your mailing list. Make it clear to them that they are being subscribed to your list and what they will get once subscribed. Where applicable, offer the subscriber opt-in options, such as frequency options, channel preferences and change of email address.

3. Authenticate your email messages.

Authenticate your emails with DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) and SenderID to ensure Internet service providers (ISPs) deliver your email messages. Don't forget to use clear and recognized "From" names to increase your email open rates.

4. Send welcome messages.

Send welcome email messages soon after each new opt-in. Welcome messages can be automated and help to increase engagement and conversion from the very beginning.

5. Design emails for multiple devices.

Mobile devices like tablets, iPads and iPhones are widely used today to access email. This means you can no longer ignore them. Design your emails for proper rendering on multiple devices using background HTML. This can greatly increase your click-through rates and conversions.

6. Write compelling e-mail subject lines.

The subject line can make or break your email marketing campaign. Use clear, simple and direct language to inform the reader what the email is about. Keep the subject line down to between 25 and 50 characters and place important words at the beginning where they are easily visible.

7. Place the main call-to-action above the fold.

Start with the most important information and place the main call-to-action above the fold. If your main call-to-action is below the fold, as many as 70% of your recipients are likely not to see it. Spread the call-to-action evenly at least three times within the email to boost the chances of conversion.

8. Use incentives to increase open rates.

The right incentive in the subject line can increase email open rates by as much as 50%. Be creative and include incentives in the subject line, such as "Free iPod with every £100 or more spent" or "Free shipping for every £100 worth of orders."

9. Target and personalise your emails.

Target your subscribers based on factors like interests, demographics and responsiveness to your messages whenever possible. This targeted approach to email marketing is not a "must," but it tends to generate a higher ROI than non-targeted emails.

10. Keep emails between 500 and 650 pixels wide.

Email messages that are wider than 650 pixels force readers to scroll horizontally to read the whole message, which is a big no-no.

11. Integrate social networks in your emails.

Integrate your social networks link icons within your email messages to grow your social network follower base. You can then use your network of followers to promote your email opt-ins later.

12. Make it easy for subscribers to unsubscribe.

In the UK, you are required by law to make it easy to opt out of emails. Place the unsubscribe link somewhere within the email and make sure it works. The most common link placement position is the footer area of the email, but you can also place it in the more prominent up top area.

13. Stop sending messages to "email abuse" complainers.

If you get abuse complaints and or hard bounces from recipients, remove those complaints immediately and do not send emails to those recipients again. If you do send messages to those recipients, you may aggravate the situation and your emails may not be delivered.

14. Add "administrative" links.

Add "administrative" links in the same location within every email in addition to the unsubscribe link, such as Contact Us, Forward to a Friend and Update Preferences.

15. Test everything.

Test everything from offers to content and email design until you find what works best for you.