Growing your business with email marketing is an excellent tactic, but creating a dynamic email marketing plan is crucial as new strategies and email marketing best practices emerge.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a big impact on email marketing, bolstering its effectiveness and proving that email is a valuable audience engagement channel. Businesses now allocate more of their marketing budgets to email, and there are no signs of this trend slowing down.
We’ll highlight current email marketing best practices and explore email marketing predictions as marketers take advantage of new trends, strategies and technology.
Email marketing best practices
These eight email marketing best practices are long-standing strategies. If you haven’t been following them, make 2023 the year to start.
1. Follow the CAN-SPAM Act.
If you violate the regulations in the CAN-SPAM Act, you risk your domain name being banned, meaning you’d no longer be able to send emails from your domain. The Federal Trade Commission compiled a CAN-SPAM Act compliance guide that includes the following rules for businesses:
- Don’t use false or misleading header information.
- Don’t use deceptive subject lines.
- Tell recipients where you’re located.
- Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future emails.
- Honor opt-out requests promptly.
- Monitor what others (such as companies you hire to do your marketing) are doing on your behalf.
Did you know? Although the CAN-SPAM Act was designed to regulate and curb email spam, marketers must also follow text message spam laws under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which governs messages sent to wireless phones.
2. Cater your emails to your audience.
For example, suppose your business provides dog training services and one of your target audiences is first-time owners of newly adopted puppies. In that case, your email marketing content may ask these questions:
- Does your puppy bark at other dogs?
- Does the puppy refuse to come when called?
- Do you feel overwhelmed and unknowledgeable about what you are doing?
- Is your puppy having bathroom accidents in the house?
Then, you might include the following:
A few tips on how to fix these problems (to help build trust and show your expertise).
- A testimonial from a client.
- A clear call to action that shows you understand their pain and your ability to help.
- Cute puppy pictures.
This email marketing best practice is called “segmentation,” which involves separating various email subscriber groups into smaller lists broken down by buyer personas. Segmenting your email lists into targeted groups is more time-consuming than sending one email to everyone on your contact list, but this extra work can yield a higher email open rate, a better click-through rate (CTR) and, ultimately, more sales.
3. Optimize your emails for mobile devices.
According to research from SparkPost, people open 42% to 60% of email campaigns on mobile devices, so optimizing emails for mobile devices is crucial. Your recipients view emails differently on smartphones than on desktop computers, often scrolling quickly and sometimes paying less attention than they would if they were looking at a computer screen.
Follow these best practices to optimize your emails for mobile devices:
- Put your best content at the beginning of your subject line so readers don’t miss it. (An email client may cut off part of the subject line.)
- Keep your subject lines under 30 characters.
- Add preheader text to help readers get a better idea of what the email is about and to entice them to open it.
- Use a font size of at least 12 point so readers don’t have to zoom in to read your content on their small screens.
- Use big images, but don’t rely on them, as they may not load properly on all mobile devices.
- Put your calls to action at the top (before readers have to scroll) so they don’t get missed.
- Test your emails on various screen types.
4. Test your emails on various screen types.
Emails often look different on desktop screens than on mobile devices. Some email clients offer the option to preview desktop, mobile and inbox versions of your email. With this feature, you won’t have to jump from device to device to preview your emails (but it won’t hurt if you do).
5. Keep your email list updated.
After you build an email list, you must keep updating it. Although this is one of the oldest email marketing best practices, many marketers allow their lists to languish. Here are some risks you take by not keeping your email marketing lists up to date:
- Getting high email bounce rates (and thus having content not reach your audience).
- Being flagged as a spammer by your email software, which means you may get banned from sending future emails from your domain.
- Sending subscribers content that no longer interests them.
Take these actions to keep your list updated:
- Keep a record of your latest lists of unsubscribers.
- Avoid using old email lists for new campaigns. Instead, send the new campaigns to people who have subscribed within the past several months. For example, if you received a list of conference attendees two years ago, don’t send them an email campaign now.
- Continually run campaigns to get new email subscribers.
- Remove subscribers who have not engaged with your emails in the past year.
6. Analyze the results, and adjust the campaigns accordingly.
Your work isn’t done after you send emails. As a good rule of thumb, wait about a week (to give subscribers a chance to open your emails), and then analyze the email campaign’s performance to learn what worked well and where you can improve.
Depending on your email marketing strategy, your reporting key performance indicators may include the following:
- Click-through rate
- Open rate
- Bounce rate
- Unsubscribe rate
- Spam reports
- Lead conversions
Tip: Conduct A/B testing to discover what subject lines resonate with your audience, how long the email should be, and when to send emails to subscribers to get the most engagement.
7. Market only to subscribers who opt in.
Some email marketing tools allow you to reach people who didn’t sign up to receive your emails. However, most experts advise against this approach. Emailing people who did not opt in to your marketing campaign could be detrimental to your overall marketing efforts. Sending emails to purchased lists rarely works and wastes time and money while annoying people who aren’t interested in your products or services.
Further, email marketing must uphold digital privacy laws, like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
Take time to build your email list and market to people who have shown interest in your products and services.
8. Consider email marketing timeliness.
Integrating timely email marketing into your strategy can help boost engagement and sales. For example, for a successful holiday marketing campaign, you might want to detail your discounts and promotions.
In 2021, many companies leveraged email marketing to describe changes in policies related to the COVID-19 pandemic, while others emphasized their commitment to social justice.
Remember that your contacts are moving through the world in real time and are affected by current events. Whenever possible, create that link between your brand and what your audience is experiencing in their personal lives.
Email marketing predictions for 2023
Marketers are always taking advantage of new trends, strategies and technology. Here are some email marketing trends to watch for in 2023.
Automated email sequences
As the name suggests, an automated email sequence is deployed via triggers set forth by email marketers. For example, when prospects opt in to your e-commerce clothing business’s email list, you can create emails that go out automatically.
Here are three potential sequences for that scenario:
- Send a welcome email with a promo code, or offer a coupon for free shipping on their first order within minutes after they sign up for your list.
- Email them a style guide on how they can mix and match some of your clothes one week after they sign up if they haven’t made a purchase.
- If they haven’t purchased within two weeks of subscribing, entice them with a 48-hour promo code that’s valid only for new customers.
Without email automation, sending emails at the right times to the right people can be a time-consuming task with little room for error.
Tip: Use tools such as HubSpot to streamline the email automation process. Read our in-depth HubSpot review to learn more.
Increased investment in email marketing
You need the right team to strategize email marketing correctly. Make 2023 the year you invest in qualified talent and the right tools to improve your email marketing campaigns and take them to the next level.
Overall, SparkPost found that marketing budgets have increased by 5% but that marketers are shifting their priorities from digital and social media marketing to branding, customer relationship management (CRM) and email marketing.
If you don’t think you have the budget for email marketing, consider cutting expenses in other areas, because email marketing is essential to keeping your audience engaged and building brand loyalty.
Make your emails pop with animation. You don’t need a big budget for this. Instead, use a free design tool, like Canva, to incorporate an interactive element into your email campaigns.
Although you can’t rely on imagery to get your entire message across (images may be blocked or may not load correctly on mobile devices), try mixing animations with standard text.
Some iOS and Android mobile users view their devices in “dark mode,” meaning a dark background with light text. Dark mode is easier on the eyes and preserves mobile battery life. To accommodate, email marketers should design their emails in light and dark so they display correctly regardless of the user’s settings.
Emails cannot convey information and communicate with recipients if they find it difficult or impossible to get the message. That’s why it’s important to design emails that are accessible to all people, including those with disabilities.
Designing for accessibility includes using certain font sizes and text alignment, as well as incorporating HTML coding to ensure everyone can read or hear your content. Designing for accessibility is the right thing to do, and ignoring this best practice can hurt your brand’s reputation and reduce your campaign’s effectiveness.
Did you know? It’s also crucial to design your website for accessibility. To create an accessible e-commerce website, consider the needs of people with hearing and visual challenges, and thoughtfully design elements such as usability, appearance and presentation.
Marketers are using emojis more in the email subject line, preheader text and body of the email. Incorporating emojis is an easy way to inject an element of fun without too much coding. But use emojis with caution; if a subscriber has images blocked, using too many emojis will turn your email into gibberish.
Personalization is a continuing trend in which companies use customer data to personalize emails. Personalization includes using the customer’s name and referring to their purchase history. The best CRM software lets you easily personalize email campaigns with valuable customer insights.
Did you know? Email personalization increases open rates, click-through rates and customer satisfaction.
Agile email content
Email marketers can use feeds from their websites and social media accounts without adding information manually. This way, content stays up to date in emails even when it changes frequently. In addition to keeping content fresh, this method makes it easier to create the emails in the first place.
Importance of a strong email marketing strategy in 2023
Studies have shown that email is one of the top forms of marketing. Consider the following statistics:
- In 2021, there were 4 billion email users worldwide, and that number is expected to grow to 4.6 billion by 2025, according to research from Statista.
- According to Constant Contact, the average email open rate across all industries is 30.35%, and the average click-through rate is 1.1%.
- For every dollar you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $42, according to research from Litmus. That’s a higher return than you can expect from any other form of marketing – digital or otherwise.
An effective email marketing strategy can help you accomplish the following goals:
- Optimize your email marketing return on investment.
- Properly incorporate email marketing into your overall marketing mix.
- Visualize your email marketing on a large scale and see where each campaign fits your overall business goals.
Benefits of an email marketing strategy
An email marketing strategy in 2023 can help you meet your business goals for the year. Here are three major benefits of developing an email marketing strategy:
1. You’ll build stronger relationships with your customers and prospects.
Building relationships to earn loyal customers can help keep your business afloat during tough economic times. One way to do this is to send emails to see how your customers are doing, how you can help them, or how everything went with their order.
This email from Stellar Villa, a wall art company, is an excellent example of how to build relationships with customers:
One reason this email is effective is that it shows that the company cares enough about its customers to ensure they received their order and that they’re satisfied, said Patrick Connelly, co-founder of Stellar Villa. Second, the email asks customers a question and prompts them to reply.
“This starts a conversation in which you not only further engage with your customer, but you create a memorable, positive experience for them,” Connelly said. “Also, in the rare event there is an issue with a customer’s order, they can let you know, which will give you the opportunity to fix it right away. This prevents negative experiences.”
Connelly added that because the email is not promotional and contains mostly text, it does not get caught in spam or promo folders.
The subject line reads, “Re: Your Order from Stellar Villa,” putting the brand front and center. In the email itself, the company also inserts the customer’s first name, when available, at the start of the email to personalize it.
2. You’ll reach your prospects and customers.
With many people working at least part time from home, your prospects may not be in the office to receive your business-to-business company’s direct-mail piece. They may not be on the roads to see your billboard ads or reading the newspaper to look at your print ads.
They are, however, looking at their mobile devices wherever they go. As a result, your audience can access your email marketing content from anywhere, anytime.
3. You’ll craft emails that get results.
Email marketing should fit within your comprehensive marketing strategy. Speak in your brand’s voice, and stay on track. But also find a way to take advantage of email’s personalization options.
When you reach someone’s inbox, you have direct contact with them. You can track metrics such as open rate, click-through rate and conversions to determine your audience’s engagement with your campaign. By identifying your target audience’s demographics, wants and needs, you can refine your email marketing content to relate better to your ideal customer.
How can you gauge the success of your efforts? Improved engagement rates suggest your content is hitting the mark.
To develop content that resonates with your ideal customers, consider building customer personas to represent the people purchasing your goods and services. How old are these customers? What is their employment status? What are their problems, concerns and goals?
Adjust your buyer personas as you get real-world feedback from your customers, and use your buyer personas to refine your marketing strategy.
Tip: Design emails to reduce shopping cart abandonment. For example, use retargeting emails to remind customers of items they left in shopping carts, and offer a discount or free shipping to entice them to buy.
The best email marketing services
Email marketing services give you a platform to segment, grow and maintain your email lists. You can also easily create attractive, responsive email designs and track your campaign results.
Here are a few of the best email marketing services to consider:
- Constant Contact is our pick for the best email marketing service for small businesses. Small businesses get a great deal of value from a Constant Contact account. In addition to its ease of use, wide variety of customizable email templates and large image library, the service provides higher-end functionalities, such as Canva integration, list-building tools, subject line recommendations and automated email campaign flows. There are two affordable plans; the entry-level plan starts at $20 per month. To learn more, read our in-depth review of Constant Contact.
- Sendinblue is our pick for the best email marketing service for growing businesses. Sendinblue has a free plan that comes with unlimited contacts that allows you to send up to 300 emails daily. You can also buy prepaid, non-expiring email credits to increase your send limit, so you pay only for what you use. In addition to drag-and-drop templates and email personalization, Sendinblue offers tools for SMS marketing, advanced contact segmentation, customizable sign-up forms and more. Read our review of Sendinblue to find out more.
- Freshworks Freshmarketer is our pick for the best email marketing service for marketing integrations. Because Freshworks is a complete marketing suite, it allows small businesses to integrate their email with the rest of their marketing efforts, using customer data from Freshworks CRM to craft highly effective email campaigns. The software gives you AI-powered insights and visibility into the customer’s journey, including actions such as visiting your website, putting items into their cart and purchasing. Freshworks integrates with Trello, Zapier, Shopify, Outlook and more. Check out our complete review of Freshworks Freshmarketer for more information.
Marisa Sanfilippo contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.