Every year, almost as a tradition, naysayers around the world declare that email marketing is “dead”. The argument is that social media networks, mobile devices, online messengers and chatbots are bound to erase email marketing from the scene. Yet, each year it keeps delivering a return on investment as high as $36 for every dollar spent, which is phenomenally better than most other forms of digital marketing.

Why is that? Well, because: (a) 99% of users check their emails every day; and (b) email is direct, more personal. If you have a legit email list, i.e., people have subscribed to your email list by choice, your emails will generally at least get some serious attention from your opt-in readers. This is what makes email marketing campaigns so powerful in their reach and so effective at engaging, re-engaging, retaining, and upselling to customers.

In this guide, our digital experts at Next Level Marketing have gathered some of the most compelling and proven tips to increase the success rate of your email marketing strategy. 

Email Marketing in 2023: Real or Hype?

email marketing best practices compared to other marketing channels

According to McKinsey, the average worker spends more than 11 hours every week reading and responding to emails. That’s 28% of their entire work week.

Several marketers have found that email marketing delivers the highest ROI compared to any other medium. There is perhaps no better proof of this than former president Obama’s famous campaign that raised $690 million in online fundraising. A major chunk of this money came from email marketing. In terms of ROI, we know email is extremely effective but that’s not the only reason why we love it so much.

To this day, email remains the best way to build relationships with new prospects as well as old customers. If done right, it has the potential to influence behaviors and change minds. It can methodically grow conversions, increase feature discovery, and make your promos successful.

Also, let’s say something goes wrong and Facebook, Instagram, Google, LinkedIn, newspapers, and magazines are taken away from you. You never know when their rules will change! You are in zero control of these platforms because they are owned by someone else. When you’re building an audience on someone else’s platform, you are at their mercy.

Just look at what happened when Google rolled out the Penguin Update back in 2012. Website owners and marketers who heavily relied on SEO traffic for customers, had their main source of earning almost completely wiped out in a single day! It took many of them several months of effort to bring back the lost traffic, while some just gave up.

This can’t happen with email. Because you own it, you control it. When you have a solid list of customers and prospects, you can rebuild everything in a matter of minutes. Your clients and leads are the biggest assets – bigger than even your infrastructure, knowledge, and services. With email marketing, you not only own this list, but you can also maximize it to your advantage.

Another beauty of email marketing is that it’s easy to scale. You can send a message to 100 people or 100,000 people; it won’t cost you 1,000 times more because email service providers charge a fixed monthly fee for unlimited sends.

If you’re focused on long-term business growth, email marketing is the “secret growth engine” you’ve been looking for. Our advanced email marketing platforms and cutting-edge email marketing tools at Next Level Marketing can boost your click through rate and reach your target audience most effectively with measurement results.

Strategies for Creating an Email Campaign that Informs, Entertains, and Sells

targeted campaigns and promotional emails being read in subscriber's inbox

Ready to generate countless leads and convert subscribers into buyers with email? Here are our top email marketing best practices to help you grow your mailing list in 2023 and beyond.

Write Emails that Entertain and Inform

Email writing is very different from writing blog articles or even a sales copy. Sending a welcome email or even a weekly blog post via email is not email marketing. In fact, it’s the worst email marketing mistake that a lot of people make.

Another key mistake is using email marketing for blatant self-promotion. Marketers send emails when they have something to sell, and then they go silent. This is not relationship building. Sending only occasional offers and promos is how most businesses kill their list.

But this doesn’t mean you have to educate your readers more than they are ready to digest. Newbie marketers tend to give away too much information in an email that ends up boring the reader. This can be as harmful to your marketing campaign as sending too many offers.

We highly recommend you read this email written by Derek Silver, founder of CD Baby, in 2012. There’s a reason why it’s often touted as the most successful email ever written; it only took him about 20 minutes to write but went viral overnight, earning him thousands of new customers. Here’s how it goes:

“Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow. A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing. Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the best gold-lined box that money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Friday, June 6th.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year.” We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!”

This email has a powerful lesson: your emails must entertain. Keep in mind that an average person receives a LOT of emails every single day, and due to the sheer volume of these emails, their brain goes into energy-saving mode. So, instead of reading through entire emails, people just scan subject lines; only a handful of emails are opened and read. 

The type of emails that are opened and read are the ones that give people a good dose of dopamine. The key is to keep the readers entertained, but also deliver value. Mere entertainment won’t take you too far.

For example, here at Next Level Marketing, when we write emails for clients’ campaigns, our goal is to make that email the brightest spot in the target audience’s day. We design our emails to feel like a special gift, which could be anything – a beautiful story, a small piece of advice, a small laugh, or a closely guarded secret. 

Write Gripping Subject Lines

brand voice and relevant content expressed in email's preview text and subject line

That brings us to email subject lines. Before we get into what you should do, let’s discuss what you should not do. Here are three types of subject lines that people ignore:

  • Spammy subject lines (i.e., using phrases such as “how to make money”, “free gift”, “free cash”, etc.)

  • Making too-good-to-be-true claims in the subject line (like, “get clients in line to buy from you within 24 hours”)

  • Predictable subject lines (like “hurry, last chance to get x% discount”)

Subscribers today, at least a large percentage of them, are smart and sensible and they can smell B.S. a mile away. If you don’t want your emails to end up in Spam Land, steer clear of these questionable tricks.

Here are a few ways to write a winning email subject line:

  • Write problem-oriented subject lines by asking a question around the problem (like, “You are fired? Here’s what to do” or “How to outperform your biggest competitors?”)

  • Write benefit-driven subject lines (like, “How to win friends and influence people” or “The secret of how to sell anything”)

  • Write fear-based subject lines (like, “Why do Facebook ads fail?” or “How will you protect your retirement savings?” or “My worst nightmare at the gym”)

  • Create a controversy or put up a strong point of view, but only these subject lines if your subscribers already know and trust you (like “I can’t believe he actually did this” or “I hate it when this happens” or “I should have sent this to you sooner”)

Every industry is different so you have to be careful when using certain kinds of subject lines in your market. For example, if you’re serving a female audience above 40, you don’t want to get too personal with your subject lines. With younger audiences, you have a lot more freedom.

Maintain Good Email Deliverability

ensure marketing email lands in email recipients inbox

Email deliverability is a major concern these days because spam is becoming a rising challenge. Gmail and other mailbox providers are making every effort to ensure our inboxes are a safe place, free of spam.

Good deliverability means that all of your emails are sent and delivered. Bad email deliverability means your emails are bouncing or that something is alerting a spam filter and sending that email directly to the spam folders. So the million-dollar question is, how to maximize your email deliverability?

About 50% of this deliverability relies on your Email Service Provider (ESP) – that’s the company you use to deliver your emails. The other 50% is back on you, i.e., the marketer that’s composing that email. 

A sender’s ability to escape the spam or junk email folder and land in the reader’s inbox is determined by the sender’s reputation. Mailbox providers use sender score – a numeric representation of sender reputation – to determine email quality.

If your email-sending domain’s sender score is above 90, your emails will land in the reader’s inbox. Anything lower than 90 means you’ve got a reason to worry. Let’s look at email-sending practices that will keep your emails out of the spam folder.  

List quality: The quality of your email list has a huge impact on your deliverability. For instance, if your subscribers are full of freebie seekers who just download your freebies and never open your email again, it affects your deliverability. To prevent this issue, we recommend using double opt-ins. In states like California, double opt-in is actually mandatory because of the strict anti-spam laws.

Maintain a consistent sending schedule: Mailbox providers tend to filter emails into spam if they observe a dramatic spike in email volume from a sender. So, if you’re sending email campaigns randomly in big quantities (say, for a seasonal campaign), your sender reputation will be damaged.  

Avoid buying an email list: Sending a mass email blast to a list you bought from someone is the surest recipe for disaster. Your emails will be grabbed by spam filters, and your sending domain might even get blacklisted.

Keep ‘Em Simple

simple subject line as part of best email marketing practices

Many business owners like to format and beautify their emails to high heaven, much like a web page. They stuff their emails with a lot of fancy graphics and colorful designs to make them catchy. What they don’t realize is that mailbox providers usually classify such graphics-heavy emails into the “promotional category”, so it might create issues with deliverability.

We understand that the choice of such HTML-formatted emails vs. plain-text emails boils down to your personal preference. But in our experience, plain text emails are more effective because they feel personal. Subscribers are able to naturally focus on reading the email instead of doing the mental work of deciphering the graphics.

Provide the Best Subscriber Experience with a Landing Page

Set up a landing page with the sole purpose of capturing the names and email addresses of your prospects. Until we have the technology to perform a wide range of transactions within an email itself, landing pages will be critical in concluding the conversation initiated by an email.

If you are responsible for creating the landing pages for the call-to-action (CTA) used in your emails, you know that your campaign can succeed or fail because of your landing page.  For each of your CTA, your landing page could be your homepage, an internal page of your site (like a product page), a dedicated page on your site created just for the campaign, your mobile app, or even a third-party website like Facebook.

Whichever way you go, make sure your landing page reduces the number of clicks or the amount of effort it takes for the audience to take an action. The additional effort almost always means higher website bounce rates and fewer conversions.  It’s in your best interest to take your audience directly to the content they are anticipating when they click through your email.

For example, if someone clicks on a link in your email that’s promoting your “on-sale” products, lead them directly to the page where on-sale products are listed, and nowhere else.

Also, use language and images from the email on the landing page in order to create an effortless switch from email-to-landing page. This will give users visual reassurance that they have arrived on the right page after clicking through an email via the use of some of the same pictures, language, and other design elements.  

Test It Before You Launch It 

This is such an important email marketing best practice and yet so many marketers skip it. Always send test emails to ensure each message sent is working as it should, before you distributing to your list.

Send the messages to your employee accounts (or friends and family members) first to double-check that all of the emails look and feel the way you want them to. We recommend watching the messages on different mobile devices as well as in different email providers (like Gmail, Outlook, ProtonMail, and Yahoo).

Make Unsubscribing Easy

Marketers usually think of unsubscribes in a very negative way, but we urge you to save this negativity for spam complaints, which are obviously an unequivocal form of failure. If someone wants to leave your list, you want them to click on the unsubscribe link rather than resort to complaining because unsubscribes don’t hurt your sender reputation – spam complaints do.

Also, if a user clicks on the unsubscribe link, you can take that opportunity to address the reason they are leaving.  

Grow Your Business with Proven Email Marketing Strategies

email marketing best practices made easy with Next Level SEM

If you are looking to grow your business through email marketing, reaching out to a full-service email marketing agency like Next Level Marketing can skyrocket your results. From email nurture campaigns and drip campaigns to list building and content creation, we do it all. Here’s what we can do for you:

  • Create list-building campaigns to develop your subscriber base from scratch and grow it exponentially

  • Engage with your subscribers based on their stage in the sales cycle, with unique and customized content that’s relevant to them

  • Establish your leadership and showcase industry authority by creating assets such as white papers, infographics, e-books, and videos.

  • Integrate your email campaigns with your eCommerce website, social media, or mobile app using APIs (Application Programming Interfaces)

  • Offer real-time, insightful feedback on your campaign using email analytics to help dive deeper into building and improving campaigns

And much more! To learn more about how we can help you put together a winning email marketing strategy or to set up an initial meeting with our team, send us a message online today.