Practical Email Marketing Tactics

Marketing effectiveness, whether offline or online is ‘simplistically’ based on the following:“right message, right person, right time”

There are many factors that can determine the success of an email campaign – and indeed there are many ways to define the success of a campaign. 

Jupiter Research undertook some research in 2005 which identified that 73% of immediate purchasers bought because an email message featured a ‘sale price’ (targeted offer) and 67% bought because it featured free or discounted shipping (giving them something for free).   

Further, 60% of buyers said that a key motivator to purchase was the fact that the message contained a product the recipient was already considering. 

This makes sense – and provides a strong case for ‘intelligent’ targeted marketing campaigns – by which I mean following up specific segments behaving in a particular way. 

For example:  A newsletter is deployed and promotes 3 items.  Three follow up emails are then sent to the users – dependent upon which item they explored. 

Whilst there are no ‘hard and fast’ rules as to creating a ‘successful’ email communication – the following considerations should apply when crafting them:

Personalise: Where possible personalise the email by using the intended recipient’s name in the body of the email and where appropriate in the subject line (however, don’t get too carried away with this if it is difficult to do – as this practice has not shown to make a significant difference).

Relevance: If there is a ‘history’ with the intended recipient include reference to previous purchase history, enquiries or preferences you are aware of.  Eg:  ‘We noticed you were interested in our New Organic Bodywash – we have a special 50% discount you can take advantage of, however, it’s only available for the next 48 hours... so act now’.

Multi-part: Research has identified that HTML emails pull a higher response rate than plain or rich text emails.  In the registration process be sure to ask your customers how they want to receive their emails.  However, most online marketers opt for sending both emails simultaneously.  The recipient’s computer will then recognise and display the optimal email format.

Layout: Research shows that a user browses their emails before being drawn to a particular area of interest.   It is advisable not to ‘play around’ too much with the layout of a regular communication – as overtime users become familiar with its layout (how frustrating when supermarkets change their sections just when you’re familiar with all the areas you need).   Newsletters often benefit from a Table of Contents at the top of an email outlining the copy contained within the communication.

Most read: As part of your layout – particularly where there is multiple messages (as in a newsletter style communication) it is widely known that the ‘top two’ messages are the most read.  Therefore, ensure you keep key messages at the top.  

Auto preview: It is worth considering the content of the first paragraph of the plain text version of the body copy which is visible via Auto Preview.  It is generally accepted that the ‘3 second rule’ applies to email marketing messages – and therefore the most compelling copy or image should appear in the first paragraph to encourage the individual to open the email and read on. Images: Images can play a large part in getting a key message across – whilst image blocking is increasingly prevalent – a way to get around this is to utilise ‘alt tags’ (so that if images are blocked, descriptive text will appear in its place).  

Email size: There are Best Practice guidelines which advise that messages should not exceed 60k in total file size.  Large images can cause emails to get caught by spam filters. Subject line: The subject line, like any headline, should convey a strong call to action – a compelling subject line will draw the recipient into the email.   If a regular communication – it’s good practice to maintain a ‘consistent’ subject line.  Good practice guidelines advise that the subject line should not exceed more than 70 characters. 

Spam triggers: Be aware of trigger words such as:  free, hot – and other seemingly innocuous words such as ‘tips’, ‘enter’, ‘sample’, ‘private’, ‘reserved’, ‘products’ and ‘introductory’ – these have also been identified as key ‘spam’ triggers.

From box: Similarly as familiarity of layout – people become accustomed to knowing who is sending emails to them – and will determine whether they open them based on who they are from.    

Transparency: The subject line should accurately reflect the subject, purpose and content of the messages. 

Testing:  There’s a practice called ‘split stream testing’ whereby you take a subset of the data and test two different subject lines.  You can then assess after 24 hours and roll out the campaign using the most popular subject line.

Pre testing: It is really important to test emails before they are deployed.  Some email deployment systems have these testing processes in built.  This way you can test how your email will look on different browsers.  Some deployment systems also check that your email template works effectively – and is optimised for deliverability.  

Unsubscribe: An unsubscribe method needs to be apparent on every email communication. 

Timing: It’s worth testing email ‘timing’.  There is some benchmark data (reliability not verified) to suggest that more customers are likely to visit websites and make purchases on weekdays rather than weekends.  And that conversion rates for visitors peak around midday on weekdays – making this an optimal time for reaching consumers. 

For more information about Best Practice Guidelines for Email Marketing visit

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