The Do's and Don’ts of Email Marketing

Have you given up on email marketing? If it feels like email is a strategy that just doesn’t work for your business, you’re not alone. I often get complaints from clients who can’t crack the email marketing code.

But as soon as I start to delve a little deeper into their efforts, I notice common mistakes that are affecting the success of their email campaigns.

Email marketing is an excellent investment if you know what you're doing. It's key to building your inbound strategy and hitting target numbers.

And you can course correct. Don't give up because you haven't had the success you were hoping for.

Email delivers a massive return on investment. In fact, it has the best return out of any marketing tactic. For every $1 you spend on email marketing, expect to get an average return of $42. That's why it needs to be part of your business's marketing plan.

So how can you start to write emails your prospects want to receive and respond to?

To improve your delivery and open rate, get more responses, and grow your sales, try these email marketing DOs and DON’Ts.

Email marketing essentials for success

The 9 Do's of Email Marketing

1. Start with an intriguing statement.

You want something that will draw your reader in and make them think, I’ve got to see where this is going. Every word counts. I’ll give you a few examples:

  • You’ll never believe what happened to me yesterday. It was simply too good not to share.
  • Imagine for a moment…you’ve just closed a major deal.
  • What if I told you that I'm quitting?
  • I just met the richest guy in the world.
  • 2020 is the most challenging year of my life. I thought I was right until. . .
Emails need an intriguing statement

2. Keep it short.

I don’t know about you, but for me, walls of text are a major turn off. It feels like I’m reading a school paper and that’s just not something I want to see in my inbox. Big chunks of text are intimidating, and most people won't read them.

Instead, you want to break your sentences up. Write shorter paragraphs. Make it easy for them to read and follow.

Another top tip is to leave out fluff and unnecessary content. If it doesn’t add to the story, it doesn’t need to be there.

So, once you've written your draft, start cutting and pruning your work.

3. Stick to plain text.

Unless you have an e-commerce or fashion site, forget about creating a fancy designed template. Text-based emails work because they feel more personal. It’s like an email from a friend.

Make sure it’s in a readable format. For example, if you want to emphasize an idea or a thought, bold or italicize it.

Allan's email where he uses plain text

If you're listing steps, use numbers. And bullet points are perfect for highlighting benefits or ideas. Best of all, they make it easy for your subscribers to digest your content.

Leave the bells and whistles for programmatic advertising. Overload your emails with ads and you’ll come across as pushy or worse, desperate.

4. Make it personal.

Even if you have a database of 20, 000 subscribers, write as if you're talking to one person. So always use 1st and 2nd singular subjects. This means no "y’all" or "you guys. " Instead, use words like:

  • You - This one is very powerful.
  • Hey, Hi, or Yo! [NAME]
  • Use their name in the body of the text when possible.

And if you want to boost your open rate, you can add the recipient's name in the subject line. For example, instead of writing "Can you help me decide?" ask "Which would you pick, [NAME]?" It’s a clever marketing hack that makes the reader feel important and valued. It also comes across like you wrote the email specifically for them.

5. Give actionable value.

Email marketing is more than getting your emails opened and read. That's just the tip of the iceberg. People need to know what to do next after reading your emails.

So, what actionable steps can you give to support your content?

  • Do you want them to hit reply?
  • Do you want them to click a link to your blog article, a product you’re selling, or a webinar you’re hosting?
  • Do you want them to call you now?

Whatever it is, always include a call-to-action (CTA). Give them clear and direct instructions. For more info on how to get your emails actioned read this blog.

6. Test before you send.

What does your email look like on your mobile phone? What does it look like on your desktop?

Always test your email before sending it out to your list. This way, you can fix any typos, broken links, strange wording, unnecessary fluff, and poor imagery. Here’s why.

Imagine your email is Brad Pitt—Achilles himself. He’s one of the best looking dudes in the world, but if he’s got a piece of lettuce stuck in his teeth, you’re not going to notice those gorgeous blonde locks or dazzling white teeth. You’re going to be fixated on that annoying bit of green.

So small mistakes leave bad impressions. They draw our attention away from all the good stuff in your email, and you don't want that to happen.

Here’s how you can avoid this from happening:

  • Run your email through something like Grammarly or Hemingway.
  • Send a test email to your phone.
  • Ask a colleague to give it a once-over before sending it to your list.

7. Find a way to tell a personal story.

Readers want to know that they're talking to an actual person, and they can smell a white lie a mile off. So, personalize it. Share a story about yourself or something that recently happened to you. It can be anything funny, embarrassing, or memorable, as long as it's connected to the topic.

Stories draw your readers in. They establish kinship, for lack of a better word. Use them to your advantage.

Stories draw your readers in

8. Add an emoji in your subject line.

Emojis are a great way to express what you’re feeling, and you probably use them all the time. So why not add one to your subject line?

They’re attention-grabbing, friendly, and can even boost your open rate.

But here’s a word of caution. Don’t overuse them. Only use an emoji if it adds to your message. Slapping in an exploding fireball or a dancing fairy might not work if you’re sending an email about the Dow Jones.

9. Use a CRM.

Every business needs a CRM. It’s an essential email marketing tool, and it’s going to make nurturing relationships with your customers and leads so much easier.

You can use CRMs to do any of the following:

  • Send automated emails
  • Handle opt-in and opt-out mechanisms
  • Track your spam score
  • Find out if you're using a lot of links or phrases that are going to trip up spam filters

Most importantly, it helps you to track what emails are performing well and which failed. This way, you can figure out what works and what to avoid in the future.

So now that we know what you need to be doing in your emails, let’s talk about what you absolutely shouldn’t be doing.

The 6 Don’ts of Email Marketing

1. Don’t use email as a broadcast medium.

A lot of media is essentially used as a broadcast medium—ads on TV, YouTube, banner advertising, radio—you get the idea. You don’t want your emails to fall into this category.

But email marketing, when done right, is not a broadcast medium. It’s really a two-way street. It’s about talking to your audience and getting to know them. You want to deliver value, educate, and entertain.

Blasting a bunch of promotional messages like, Hey, buy my stuff, gets old quickly. My rule of thumb is two to three value-building emails to one hard sell.

2. Don’t spam.

I’m not talking about the tinned food. Spam is unsolicited, overly promotional email that's unexpected. I’d go so far as to say unwanted.

There are a few things that can make your emails look like spam.

  • Spammy keywords: “Make money” and “Get rich quick” are examples of keywords not to use.
  • Too many links: Calls to action are essential, but you want to limit the number.
  • Over capitalization: Limit the use of all caps in emails, especially in subject lines (using the words “DOs” and “DON’Ts” are an exception).
  • Too many images: Make sure you’re using a reasonable amount of tasteful images.
  • Your email reputation: If web providers get an indication that when you send emails, people hit the spam button, you’ll get flagged, and your emails will automatically start filtering to promotions tabs or spam folders.

So if you don’t want your emails to be classified as spam, you need to send emails that are actually wanted and needed. Don’t forget to check if your email security protocols are activated.

3. Don't buy mailing lists.

This is an absolute no-no. A lot of businesses think buying mailing lists is a sure-fire solution to getting customers quickly. Frankly, you might as well start flushing your dollars down the drain.

Your customers and prospects aren’t idiots. They know when they’ve opted into a mailing list. So if your business suddenly starts appearing in their inbox, that’s going to make them mad.

This can lead to bad-mouthing online, which can definitely affect your brand reputation.

And let’s not forget, there’s no guarantee that the list you buy will be full of qualified leads. You really MUST have people's permission to email them; it’s the law.

So instead of wasting your time, money and resources on buying mailing lists, put that effort into building a must-have lead magnet. You’ll build your list slower, but you’ll have a greater chance of converting these leads into customers.

4. Don't send too many emails in a week.

Do you want to receive five to six emails a week from the same brand? I know I don’t.

You want to be seen as a welcome guest in your prospects’ lives, not a pest. Emailing too often can quickly turn you into the friend that people avoid by silencing their phones when you call.

So don’t overwhelm your readers. Limit the number of emails you send.

5. Don’t go straight for the hard sell.

No one likes a pushy salesperson.

If you only ever send "buy my stuff" emails your unsubscribe rate will be pretty high. Remember, email is about building reciprocal relationships. Everyone needs to win.

But if you don’t educate, entertain, or deliver value, you’ll quickly become a parasite that needs to be exterminated. So stick to the 3:1 ratio. Three value-building emails to one promotional email.

6. Don't use spammy trigger words.

These are the words that spam filters send straight to spam folders. Your email could genuinely be a wealth of good advice, but if you’ve used a spammy word in your subject line or the body of your email, your subscriber will probably never see it.

Here are a few words to avoid.

  • Make money
  • Get rich
  • Earn extra money
  • Limited time
  • Order now
  • No fees
  • Free
  • Bonus
  • Urgent
  • Unlimited
  • Exclusive deals
  • Instant
  • For instant access
  • Once-in-a-lifetime
  • Join millions of
  • Americans
  • What are you waiting for?
  • Congratulations!
  • Double your income
  • Message contains
  • This isn’t spam

And that’s the six DON’Ts of email marketing. Make sure you’re not making these mistakes.

Top Email Spammy Trigger Words

Wrapping Up. . .

Email marketing is a powerful strategy when done the right way. Follow the steps listed above, and your list of subscribers will actually look forward to receiving your emails. Your open rate and click-through rate will improve, and you’ll close sales more often.

What’s your biggest struggle when it comes to email marketing? I’d love to know.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to check out our post on How to Set Up Your Sales Funnel. Check it out and let me know if you found it helpful.

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