Email Marketing: Best Practices

Email Opt In

Email Opt In

Last week I received an unsubscribe notice and was immediately concerned.  This hadn’t happened before and I wanted to know why this person had decided to unsubscribe.

Had I done something wrong?  Wasn’t the information of value?

As my brain was going through a long list of reasons as to why this may have happened, my email service provider automatically asked them why.   This subscriber response was…

I get too many emails…don’t have time to read them all.  I just have to give some of them up.  Sorry.

I breathed a little easier.  First, what a sweetheart.  He actually took  the time to explain why he was unsubscribing. It was also very sweet of him to apologize for scratching me off of his list.  Rather than complaining about the newsletter content or some action on my part, he was responding to the simple fact he had too much information flowing into his email inbox.

This got me to thinking about all of the email marketing newsletters I’ve subscribed to over the years.  I had set up a Gmail account as my go-to place for email marketing newsletters, but as you might imagine that didn’t work all of the time.  As I reviewed my own email accounts, I began to understand why this person had elected to unsubscribe to some email newsletter subscriptions.  I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but in one Gmail account I had over 400 email newsletter subscriptions.  Hello?  Who needs this?  No one.

As I looked harder at the emails dumping into my various email accounts I began to see some abuse patterns – folks who are really abusing the permission initially given them when I first signed up. There are those who:

  • send me daily emails.
  • send me the identical email with different subject lines multiple times in a day.
  • sendinformation of which I have zero interest.
  • send me such cryptic emails, I’m at a loss to know why they bother.
  • fall into the category of  “how did you get my email address” emails.
  • continue to send me emails despite repeated attempts to remove my address from their email list.  Urrrgggg.

Suffice it to say I have a pretty big job ahead of me cleaning up the inbox in my various email accounts.  As luck would have it, I just came across a really great tool to clean out my Gmail accounts.  I’ll tell you about that at the end of this post.

This experience got me thinking about some of the best practices for one’s email marketing efforts and subscriber list. We all know we should abide by the CAN SPAM rules, but I was thinking about the steps that aren’t regulated.  The common courtesy for those who have opted in and given us permission to email them.  Here are some best practices I identified.

  1. Establish expectations – Tell them what they can expect and how frequently they can expect it BEFORE they opt-in, not after and stand by those expectations.
  2. Privacy Policy – Highlight your privacy policy and stick to it.  Don’t sell, share or trade emails with others.  Period.
  3. Continue to remind them – Use the Welcome email to repeat expectations, privacy policy and explain how to unsubscribe.  And keep the unsubscribe links active in your email marketing efforts.
  4. Stay relevant to the topic – Just because someone opted in for one topic, don’t assume they’ll be interested in hearing from you about anything else.
  5. Make it easy to opt out – Don’t make your subscribers hunt for the unsubscribe links.  If they want out, you should want to make it easy for them.
  6. Review your email BEFORE it goes out – Don’t send out emails with broken links to non-existing pages or videos that don’t load, misspellings or bad grammar.  Accidents happen and sometimes we feel we don’t have the time, but make the effort to keep this to a minimum.
  7. Above all demonstrate respect and appreciation for your email subscribers.  They didn’t HAVE to give you permission to email them.  They did so willing.  Don’t disappoint them.

Let me know what other email marketing best practices you would add to this list in the comments box below.  I’m sure I overlooked some.

Oh.  Almost forgot to tell you about this new tool called Unroll.me.  Be forewarned, it is in beta and as far as I know it is only working on Gmail.  Instead of unsubscribing to each individual newsletter, Unroll.me identifies all of the e-newsletters in my Gmail account and let’s me select which I want to keep and which I want to terminate.  This translates into a giant time savings.  Let me know if you decide to try Unroll.me.

Sheila Hibbard

Sheila simplifies marketing and social media for small business owners. She offers straight forward, no nonsense marketing guidance and techniques that produce results. She has four decades of experience in all phases of marketing including communications, research, strategy and social media. Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn |Twitter

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5 Comments

  1. I think #4 is really the crucial one: you can pretty much fail on all other counts (except #7), but as long as you stick to your original subject, the frequency you promised, etc. people will forgive you the rest.

  2. Good advices! I’m just getting started and didn’t even choose a theme (I like the meeta theme from woothemes bit it is not responsive, as it is not yours, you think it is a problem?)

    Thank you!

    • Jorge: Thanks for the comment.

      Some themes read just fine on mobile. Others don’t.

      I’m currently looking to change out my WP theme for one that is responsive. Over the last year, the percentage of people viewing my site on mobile continues to grow and it will continue. So it is smart to select a theme that is responsive.

      I can’t speak to WOO themes because I’ve never tried the themes. You can also find some free responsive themes in WordPress that may fit your needs.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

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