Simple Dos and Don’ts of Email Marketing

Email is everywhere. It fills our inboxes at home and at work, and follows us on our mobile devices. Let’s face it: Email is still the easiest, cheapest way of reaching out to your customers, particularly en masse. We all have growing contact lists of customers and prospects, and we send them all kinds of promotional emails. At most, we hope for a direct response and maybe even an order. At the very least, we hope they’ll remember us the next time they make a purchase decision.

The reality is that the vast majority of emails never even get opened and ever stricter spam filters are blocking more and more of them from even reaching their destination. So it’s not unreasonable to ask the question, are email marketing campaigns still worth it? Absolutely!

Email is a key part of your ongoing dialog with customers and prospects. Regular and well-conceived email campaigns can be essential to keeping your business top of mind. I emphasize the words “regular” and “well-conceived.” Too many ill-targeted emails can actually do more harm than good.

So how do you better leverage email marketing to stay top of mind without crossing the boundaries of acceptability? Here are some simple dos and don’ts to optimize your results:

  • Do define the goal or purpose of your email. Whether it’s a one-off email or a blast to thousands of contacts, you always need to offer something of perceived value to your target audience. You need to have a clear idea of who this is going to, what it is you want to offer them and how you want them to respond. This can be special deals, new products, seasonal themes or customer appreciation events.
  • Do craft a simple message. Don’t overcommunicate; say what you have to say in the most direct and succinct way possible. Tell your subscribers in a few simple sentences what it is that you have to offer, how it will make their life better/easier and how they can respond. Don’t try to communicate convoluted, vague or complex messages. If they have to think about what you’re trying to say, you’ve already lost them. Keep the tone friendly and approachable, the subject lines catchy, and the call to action prominently positioned within the email.
  • Do create a visual feast. A picture is worth a thousand words. An eye-catching image or design will always be more likely to engage your audience than just words. A simple design with simple imagery is best. Don’t clutter your email with too many images. It all has to work together at a glance. Also, remember that many email clients block images, so your text needs to be able to stand on its own.
  • Do steer clear of spam elements. Terms like “free,” “buy now,” “bonus,” “guarantee,” “risk free” and “discount” will alert spam filters. These filters typically tally the amount of spam-like words used in an email and create a flag after a certain threshold is exceeded. So keep spam-type terminology to a minimum. Avoid attachments as these are also more likely to alert spam filters. Check CAN-SPAM guidelines and stick to them.
  • Do test. Testing before you send a mass email is critical. Test all your links, landing pages, etc. Make sure everything works properly. Test the look of your email for consistency on various email clients and mobile devices. Test two to three different subject lines on a small sampling of recipients to see which one is most successful. This small additional testing step can make a big difference in a broad-based campaign.
  • Do think about timing. Timing can be everything. Generally a good rule of thumb is to send your emails on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., or between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. Emails sent on weekends or after hours are more likely to be deleted.
  • Do reward social media sharing and forwards. If your subscribers are forwarding your emails to friends, they’re doing you a huge favor. Make your emails easy to “Forward to a Friend” and share on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. It’s good to recognize sharing and forwards with some sort of acknowledgement. You can take this concept a step further and actively promote rewards for sharing or forwards. This can be a great way to leverage your target audience.
  • Don’t write off unsubscribes. Always make it easy for your audience to unsubscribe. It’s the right thing to do. Think of unsubscribes as a form of engagement. Use them as a resource. Thank them for their time. Ask them how you might improve your content or approach to avoid future unsubscribes. Offer them a special deal for their insights. Think about creative ways to convert them.
  • Don’t forget to repeat. There’s a fine line between sending enough emails to stay top of mind and sending too many emails and crossing the annoyance barrier. Keep a decent interval between your email communications. Don’t send exactly the same content. Change it up, keep it fresh and keep it relevant.
  • Don’t ignore results. Review and monitor your metrics. See which campaigns were most successful — i.e., had the most opens, clickthroughs and forwards. Analyze the ones that weren’t successful — i.e., those with the most unsubscribes and lowest response rates. This is your target audience telling you what they may or may not want. These are great learnings! Use them carefully to constantly evolve your campaigns.

There are many ways to reach out to your target audience. Email is one such way. It can help build your brand awareness, drive visitors to your website and help fill your sales pipeline. Use it well, use it wisely!

Chuck Fandos is the CEO of GatewayCDI as well as the co-founder and CEO of Facilis Group. Chuck can be reached at

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