Email Marketing Best Practices from 5 Experts

This post is an excerpt from our Digital Marketing Conference in San Francisco. The conference was a rich environment for digital marketers to openly discuss tactics for building a better online presence and tracking results. All of the content from the Digital Marketing Conference is available as Digital Marketing Videos

Here are some key takeaways from the Email Marketing Best Practices panel:

  • Email marketing is all about connecting
    Think about your email marketing as a way to connect with your audience. Research your audience and start creating content that could benefit them, then listen and engage with them.
  • Focus on content
    Create email content that doesn’t focus on selling, but rather focuses on sharing insightful and helpful content. Segment your audience and send them targeted emails that offer them something that isn’t your product or service, something valuable that they can implement right away.
  • Optimize your emails for mobile
    Many subsequent behaviors that digital marketers want people to take after reading an email are happening on mobile. Ensure that your emails get opened on mobile by creating emails with tight copy and a concise subject line, that doesn’t get cut off in a mobile inbox.

What are some email marketing best practices?

My motto is "ABC...Always Be Connecting." It's not connecting from a standpoint of networking, but actually spending time finding out about who you are emailing and then researching, listening, and engaging with them. For email, digital marketers are all looking for more subscriptions, but what we forget is that there is an acquisition piece and then there is the attention piece. If you can't do both in a good way then you won't drive growth. –Sue Duris, M4 Communications

Continually test new email strategies to see what works and what doesn’t. –Caroline Jensen

I think you really need to look into what is happening after you send your email and what you want consumers to do after they get your email. It's not that expensive to send an email so if you get it right, your return on investment can be really high. You need to also be continually testing new email strategies to see what works and what doesn't. One thing that we tested that I was actually really surprised by is we tried scaling back our emails and focusing on more of a soft sell rather than asking consumers to buy, buy, buy. We had a lot of sales out of our soft sells even though they were more focused on content. –Caroline Jensen, Tria Beauty

How do you develop content for emails?

Use email to share subscriber-only content that cannot be found on the blog. –P.J. Leimgruber

Approaching content is very important; you have to know your audience, your product, and who you are selling to because it's not a one size fits all approach to content. To create email content, you need to know who the email is going out to and what the goal of the email is.

For example if you are a software SAAS company, all the content that you put out on your blog is going to be related to that field of study. So, you could actually use email to share subscriber-only content that cannot be found on the blog and is only available to email subscribers. That is one way to use email. For a commerce company, email marketing is really just about the product, the sale, and quick conversion. It comes down to knowing your audience. –P.J. Leimgruber, Rank Executives

What are some strategical tricks that you can use in email marketing?

Schema tags have been around quite a while and you also may have heard the term structured data. Basically it is an agreed upon set of markup that you put into websites that helps Google understand what the website is about; from organization, product, brand name – and if it is ecommerce: what the price is, if it is in stock, or if it has reviews. These are all things that you can markup with schema.

Some markups are applicable to email and you can put markup in email so that if you ever use a BaseCamp or if someone has ever emailed you a reservation, there is a tag in your email inbox. You can tag your emails using schema and they will appear differently in the inbox and sometimes that is just enough for people to pay attention to your email. It can also enhance the user experience by categorizing the email effectively. –P.J. Leimgruber, Rank Executives

How should email marketers approach mobile?

Having tight copy and great visuals are important for successful email marketing. –Sue Duris

Black Friday is a great example of this because most people open emails on their mobile. A lot of the subsequent behaviors that digital marketers want people to take are happening on mobile, from saving a coupon to clicking on a subscribe icon. Email has a small space on mobile. You want to make sure that your subject line is very tight because you don't have that real estate that you would have elsewhere. Having tight copy and great visuals are important for successful email marketing. –Sue Duris, M4 Communications

What are some of your favorite tools to use as an email marketer?

We use a company called BrowserStack, which does both desktop and mobile. They offer the ability to see how your email will show up in a real mobile phone’s inbox. –Awad Sayeed, Pixlee

Google Analytics is not a new tool, but it is absolutely necessary for email marketing. –PJ Howland

Google Analytics is definitely not a new tool, but it is absolutely necessary for email marketing. I think one of the quickest wins that email marketers can make is properly tagging their URLs for email campaigns, so that they can segment the data within Google Analytics. From there, you can get a really clean look at pages per session, revenue per session, etc. –PJ Howland, 97th Floor

Content Marketing Institute, in conjunction with MarketingProfs, does two annual reports for B2B and B2C. What I thought was really interesting in terms of email is that of the respondents to the survey, 93% said that they use email to distribute content and 91% related that email is the most important element to their overall marketing success. Knowing that content is so important, one tool that I absolutely love is the Hemingway App. I can put what I am going to put into an email into the app instead, so I can see what passive words I am using and change them to active words. I can also see how I should break things up. I like old standbys as well such as MailChimp. MailChimp also has some great new applications that help determine what type of subject line and what words should be used. –Sue Duris, M4 Communications