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Email Marketing Practices: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
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Email Marketing Practices: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Email, as a marketing channel, has been consistently delivering the maximum ROI for marketers for a long time. And it will continue to be the favorite in the coming years as newer technologies bring in innovative elements to engage the customers better. 

Many experienced marketers and top brands get email marketing right and can run highly successful email marketing campaigns. However, many marketers still find it a challenge to create 100% effective email marketing campaigns. And this is primarily due to wrong email marketing practices that make customers ignore your emails or mark them as spam.

This guide provides a detailed rundown of the good, the bad, and the ugly of email marketing to help you achieve your marketing KPIs through winning email campaigns.

The Good

1. Setting the Right Expectations

A good email marketing campaign will set clear expectations from the first engagement with the customers. 

As the subscribers fill out the opt-in form for subscribing, they should get a clear indication of what to expect. Once they sign up, the welcome email should explain the kinds of emails they will be getting and the frequency.

Using the opt-in stage to set clear expectations with email subscribers helps establish a credible and transparent relationship.

Many subscribers want the freedom to choose what content type they get and how often they receive the marketing emails.

2. Personalizing the Message

A personalized email message will lead to higher open rates and can also be very effective at increasing conversion rates. Using a personalized subject line gives emails a 26% likelihood of getting opened (source: campaignmonitor)

Personalization in email marketing does not have to be complicated, as you only need to segment your customers correctly and create a customized message for each segment.

The segments can be based on demographics, occasions, behavior, interests, past purchases, product wish lists, etc. Using this information to create your segments leads to customers getting more relevant email information.

3. Focusing on Quality over Quantity

A successful email marketing campaign focuses on getting quality email addresses and not just having as many as possible.

Besides striving to add many contacts to your email campaigns, you should also regularly maintain email list hygiene to clean out any inactive/cold subscribers and keep a close watch on the engagement levels.

Having quality contacts makes your email funnel more efficient as you will be dealing with people that show interest in your business and are engaging it. Hence, there will be less leakage as you move the would-be customers through the funnel towards conversion. 

It is better to have an email funnel with 100 high-quality contacts than one with thousands of low-quality ones that are not engaging with your business or have no interest in what you are offering.

4. Using Appropriate Campaigns for Each Customer Lifecycle Stage

As a marketer, you have to know the value of email marketing and plan the campaign thoughtfully to ensure customers get what they expect for the different lifecycle stages.

A good example is when retargeting customers that abandon the cart or leave your eCommerce store without buying anything. 

It is best to send emails with special offers for this lifecycle to encourage the customers to return and finish the purchase. Also, informational emails that provide more info about the product and its benefits are more appropriate for this stage.

It is essential to keep a close eye on where the customers are on the lifecycle to ensure you use the most appropriate campaign and send them more targeted emails for high open rates.

5. Keeping Emails Devoid of Spam Trigger Words, Relevant and Brand-Focused

Emails that contain relevant and brand-focused content have higher open and click-through rates as subscribers are less likely to ignore them.

These emails will also not have spam trigger words on the subject line or email body and are less likely to be marked as spam. Examples of spam trigger words to avoid are “free,” “cheap,” “help,” and “money.”

Keeping email content clean and free of irrelevant content helps improve your sending reputation and increases open and customer engagement rates. Such emails will put the subscribers’ needs first and provide content with actual value.

The Bad

1. Purchasing Email Lists

Some email marketers still opt to buy email lists to grow their outreach quickly. Buying email lists is a bad practice that leaves you with many low-quality contacts with low email open rates and engagement.

Buying email lists also means that your emails are more likely to be marked as spam, and you get a lot of invalid IDs that will shoot up your bounce rates.

Grow your email list organically as it ensures you have high-quality subscribers interested in your business and ready to engage with your content.You can grow your email list organically through subscriptions and other good practices such as double opt-in. With double opt-in, the users have to verify their email and confirm their interest, meaning you populate your email list with contacts interested in what you are selling.

2. Not Having a Sunset Policy

Some email marketers do not have a sunset policy for removing email addresses that do not engage with their emails for a long time.

Without a sunset policy, you will keep sending emails to inactive users, which decreases the open rate and hurts the sender’s reputation.

Although removing some subscribers from your list may seem counterintuitive since one of the main goals is to keep growing your email list, it can improve overall campaign performance.

If you keep sending emails to uninterested contacts that don’t open or click the message, the inbox providers will see this. They are then more likely to start filtering and blocking the emails.

3. Not Implementing Send Time Optimization

Failing to implement STO (send time optimization) leads to lower open rates and engagement. 

Using an STO strategy for your email marketing campaign will allow you to determine the best time to send emails to specific recipients. 

The strategy uses recipient behavior and interaction with previous emails to predict when they are most likely to engage with the email.

Send time optimized campaigns will increase opens and clicks, leading to higher conversion.

4. Failure to Have Authentication like DMARC, SPF, and DKIM

Failing to authenticate emails increases the likelihood of inbox providers blocking them, meaning only a few will reach the intended inboxes correctly.

Setting up SPF, SKIM, or DMARC authentication shows the inbox providers that the emails are genuinely coming from your domain, so they should not block them. 

The email authentication protocols also confirm that the email message has not been changed in transit, helping separate you from phishers and spammers.

The Ugly

1. Sending Irrelevant Emails

Getting irrelevant emails is one of the most annoying things for most people. Most email subscribers mark such emails as spam and even block the sender.

Buying email lists and blasting out broadcast campaigns are some of the main reasons your emails can become irrelevant.

One of the best ways to ensure your emails remain relevant is to understand your subscribers’ preferences and pain points. You can then use the information to segment your email lists and create a custom marketing message for each group.

2. Sending Emails That Are Too Long

Sending long emails is another ugly email marketing practice that will lead to low open and click-through rates. 

Long emails are less likely to be read in their entirety, given that most people have short attention spans; they will also find long emails tedious.

Emails containing large blocks of text are also not visually attractive; keep emails short and use headings and visuals to make them easier to read.

While the ideal email length largely depends on your specific situation, most studies suggest keeping it between 50 and 125 words, or at least under 200 words (source: emailanalytics).

3. Writing Boring Emails

Boring emails and those that sound too pushy no longer have a place in the ‘customer-needs-first’ email marketing. 

Emails that are too long with large blocks of texts and those that include typical email clichés like “how are you?”, “as per my last email” and “thanks in advance” are also super boring.  

You can include interactive and dynamic content through AMP in your emails. Display carousels, accordion dropdowns, hold a poll, survey, or rating, schedule appointments, and even play games – all within the email. Besides, AMP emails can present dynamically updated content that gets fetched in real-time when the recipients open their email. 

Make emails more interesting by using attention-grabbing subject lines, visually attractive content, and a clear, strong call to action.

Here are a few other tips for avoiding boring emails:

  • Have minimalistic designs and simple language
  • Adopt a friendly and consistent tone of voice
  • Use sensory and emotional words with care
  • Offer visual relief with images, illustrations, etc.

4. Making it hard for Subscribers to Opt-Out

Subscribers need the freedom to unsubscribe when they no longer wish to get your marketing email or have already made the purchase and no longer find them relevant.

Some emails will not have an unsubscribe link at the bottom. Others will have one, but it may not work. Some marketers also allow the subscribers to opt out but do not remove them from the email list, and subscribers keep getting the emails. It can be annoying to keep getting emails even after unsubscribing, and it is also a bad practice not to allow customers to leave the list.

A straightforward way of unsubscribing is also beneficial to your email campaign. It ensures you maintain a clean mailing list, gives you a good sender reputation, and leads to higher engagement rates.

You should always clarify that the subscribers can opt out anytime they want and provide an unsubscribe link that makes the process straightforward. Also, do regular checks to ensure the link is working and that the subscriber does not get mail after opting out.

Bottom Line

Email marketing can give up to 4200% ROI when properly implemented. Many marketers will also tell you that it is still one of the most effective ways to drive customer retention when using the right strategy.

It should now be easy to develop a good strategy by taking advantage of the good practices above, improving the bad ones, and avoiding the ugly ones. You can start with getting actionable insights to improve your email deliverability with tools like grademyemail, which uses an AI-based algorithm to capture 100+ email metrics available in the public domain. You would also be able to test your email configurations to check if they have been done right.  

Following the best practices in email marketing can help increase your open and click-through rates, give you a good sender reputation and ultimately lead to a higher conversion rate. The key to an ROI-driven, revenue-boosting email marketing campaign is still all about getting the timing, sending frequency, and email message right.Several top-notch brands across industries and geographies partner with Netcore Cloud’s AI-powered email platform to uplift their email revenues and boost ROI. Our email wizards consult to achieve your KPIs and email marketing goals. Connect with us to understand how you can benefit from our expertise and experience – we send over 17 billion emails a month for businesses across 18 countries.

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