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Do you want to see an ROI of 3,000-4,000 percent?

Do you want to be able to communicate directly with your current and potential clientele, provide them with valuable resources, increase brand awareness and nurture customer loyalty?

Of course you do.

That’s why email marketing should be a central focus of your inbound marketing methods.

Email is the best way to answer questions, solve problems, nurture leads and market your products/services to your target audience.

That’s why we put together this guide of the 20 most important email marketing best practices:

Table of Contents:

(click to navigate)

1. Follow the law

2. Create an email calendar

3. Optimise for mobile

4. Make it easy to subscribe

5. Send a warm welcome email

6. Segment your audience

7. Focus on your subject line, preheader text and sender name

8. Personalise everything

9. Keep your copy short and sweet

10. Use relevant HQ Images/videos

11. Use clear and deliberate CTAs

12. Use the 1-2-3 method

13. Use alt text on images and buttons

14. Create coordinated campaigns

15. Automate as much as you can

16. Encourage sharing

17. Reward Loyalty

18. Send to yourself (and friends) first

19. Run tests

20. Collect data, analyse and revise

1. Follow the law

Before we get into our tips for creating great emails there are a few things every marketer needs to know.

The Spam Act of 2003 sets out a few simple legal obligations that all individuals and businesses sending electronic communications with a commercial element must follow. The 3 rules are:

  1. Permission – Messages can only be sent with permission from the person who owns the account (recipient).
  2. Identification – Sender information must be included in the email (name and contact details).
  3. Unsubscribe – The message must contain a no (or low) cost way to stop getting messages (opt-out/unsubscribe).

Most email marketing platforms do this for you automatically, so there’s no need to worry. But be sure to make sure you’re following these laws before sending.

2. Create an email calendar

Before you begin to create your emails, you should set up a schedule for your campaign(s).

This will obviously depend on the type of campaign you are running. Will you be sending a weekly or monthly newsletter?

According to a study compiled by CoSchedule, the best day to send emails is Tuesday.

Best Time To Send Email Infographic - CoSchedule-1

source: CoSchedule

But every audience is different.

Test different times and pay attention to your results.

The goal is to create a cadence that provides your audience with just the right amount of information at the right times.

3. Optimise for mobile

Most emails are opened on mobile devices, however, there is still a significant number opened on desktop. So every email that you send needs to be optimised and tested for mobile, desktop clients and webmail clients (internet browsers).

But with the number of emails opened on mobile devices rising each year, you should focus your efforts on making sure your emails look perfect on your mobile devices.

Here are a couple of simple tips for mobile optimisation:

  • Use images sparingly, and keep the size down so they don’t take forever to load
  • Use small snippets of relevant text rather than long paragraphs
  • Use buttons instead of links, they’re easier to click with your thumb

4. Make it easy to subscribe

It should be simple for anyone who wants to sign up for your email list to do so.

There should be opt-ins and CTAs strategically placed around your website and blog.

Your social media profiles should give people the option to join quickly and easily.

5. Send a warm welcome email

When someone joins your email list, they should be sent an email thanking them for joining, and giving them a little bit of information on what to expect now that they’ve consented to receive communication from you.

These should be automated and sent no less than 24 hours after they join.

Welcome Email Example: HeadspaceHeadspace has great email marketing

6. Segment your audience

Segmentation is key to providing the right type of information to the right audiences.

A great way to start segmenting your audience is by asking them what types of emails they are interested in receiving in your welcome email. You can also segment them by persona type, time zone, previous purchases, or user behaviour.

7. Focus on your subject line, preheader text and sender name

Your subject line, preheader text (the preview text displayed after the subject line) and sender name are the only things that a recipient is going to see before they decide whether to open your email or not.

Paying close attention to the successes and failures of these aspects and running A/B tests will get you a higher open rate.

Personalisation, value propositions that match the email content and consistency are three things that tend to do well in subject lines.

Your preheader text should be relevant as well and give your readers an honest preview of what is contained in the email.

Sender Name, Subject Line, Preview text example image

Sender Name, Subject Line, Preview text example image

Choose a real person for your sender. People trust messages that come from someone they can attach a name and face to more than info@yourcompany.com.

8. Personalise everything

Email clients like HubSpot are making it easier and easier to collect and analyse data.

This information can then be used to include personalised content that shows you’re paying attention to your audience and making an effort to give them the most useful content according to their behaviour and desires.

This can really make you stand out from the standard mass emails that treat everyone the same.

9. Keep your copy short and sweet

When it comes to writing your body text, every sentence you write should have a clear purpose.

Don’t waste your readers time.

Your copy should be engaging and valuable.

10. Use relevant HQ images/videos

Images and video can engage your audience, inspire emotions and elicit reactions that text might not be able to accomplish.

However, including HQ stock images for the sake of adding images won’t achieve anything.

Just like your copy, every graphic should have an unmistakable purpose that entices your readers to take the desired action.

11. Use clear and deliberate CTAs

The purpose of sending an email is to elicit a specific response from the recipient.

Therefore, your CTA is arguably the most important part of your email.

Your CTAs should clearly state your value proposition and what the reader can expect from taking action.

They should also be easy to click or tap with your thumb.

tap here croppedtap here cropped


12. Use the 1-2-3 method

The 1-2-3 method is an email marketing strategy meant to guide your readers through the next steps they should take.

It’s meant to create a simple and actionable CTA that erases any confusion or anxiety about the unknown.

It simply states the next three things the reader needs to do, what they should be expecting, or three options to get additional value from your service once they are finished with the email.

If you start looking, you’ll see this method everywhere. It’s most common in welcome/sign up emails.

Huge companies use it very frequently:


Pinterest 1-2-3 Email

Twitter 1-2-3 Email

Twitter 1-2-3 Email

13. Use alt text on images and buttons

Emails get opened on a huge amount of different types of platforms.

Everyone uses at least two different inboxes: desktop and mobile.

Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo, native iOS and Windows Mail clients are just a few of the different places people go to check their email.

That’s a lot of different codes your message is going to be passed through before it reaches your audience.

It’s not uncommon for an image or CTA to not show up how you wanted it to. In fact, it happened to me this morning!

Unfortunately, the sender didn’t add alt text to their image, so I had no clue what they wanted me to do at the end of their email. I deleted it. Missed opportunity.

Alt text is is what you see when you hover your pointer over an image, or what you see in a blank box if the image doesn’t show up.

Orange cat sleeping on a chair

Hover over image to see alt text in action

Adding these to all the images, especially your CTA buttons, guarantees that even if your reader is unable to view your image, they still know what the intention of each graphic is, and can even click on buttons they can’t see.

14. Create coordinated campaigns

Sometimes one email isn’t enough to communicate your entire message.

Some messages are only relevant to one segment of your audience.

Some responses should be triggered by certain actions.

You’ll see the best ROI on your email marketing efforts when you create coordinated campaigns that provide relevant content based on user profiles/actions, solve problems your customers might be experiencing, or lead people further down their customer journey.

15. Automate as much as you can

Scheduling drip campaigns and monthly newsletters is just the tip of the iceberg.

New signups, item purchases, abandoned carts; these are just some of the events that should trigger an automated email response.

I once watched a video on a keyword tracking tool on HubSpot’s website, then 5 minutes later received an email with additional resources to get the most out of their SEO software, it was super helpful!

If you take a deep dive into your email marketing platform’s data tracking and automated response options, you’ll be able to reach more customers, solve their problems, provide relevant value, and guide them down your funnels faster than ever.

16. Encourage sharing

Turning your customers into advocates is the holy grail of all inbound marketers.

You should include simple, non-intrusive share buttons at the bottom of your email in case your readers have friends who would be interested in your email.

social share buttons

Social share buttons

17. Reward loyalty

One of the best ways to keep people your audience and customers happy is to reward them for making purchases, subscribing to your email list, reading your blogs, engaging with your social accounts and recommending your business to their friends.

This can be done in a number of ways and is the most effective means of turning your clientele into your advocates.

Uber is a great example of a customer reward program that’s gone viral:

Uber rider loyalty program

Uber rider loyalty program

Uber driver loyalty program

They’ve even leveraged their employee loyalty

18. Send to yourself (and friends) first

Alright, there are a ton of ideas and a heavy dose of information in here.

Let’s take it back to the basics as we wrap up this post.

If you don’t remember anything else from this article, remember this:


Once you hit the send button, there’s no undo. Your email is going straight into your recipient’s inbox (or spam folder if you messed something up 😬).

Most email marketing platforms will provide a preview mode in which you can see how your email is going to look on desktop, tablet and mobile devices, however, it’s best to double-check before sending.

We test all of our emails by sending them to our staff (and even some of our super generous friends, for whom we’re profoundly grateful!) that check their emails in different platforms.

This way you can be certain that everything is going to look prim and proper, plus the additional benefit of getting a number of friendly eyes on your email for any last-minute suggestions.

19. Run tests

Pretty much all email marketing providers provide the ability to run A/B tests. T

his allows you to try out multiple versions of your email and see which one yields the best results.

Some of the most common aspects tested include:

  • Subject lines, preheader text, sender name
  • Send days/times 
  • Layout design
  • Featured images
  • Body text
  • CTA placements 
  • Button shapes, sizes, text

20. Collect data, analyse and revise

Of course, this is the last h3 in every marketing blog post, and we would be remiss if we didn’t include it; data drives success, especially for inbound marketing methods.

However, email marketing providers collect A LOT of data. Working your way through all of it can sometimes give you more headaches than insights.

So we’ll leave you with this final little tidbit:

Only track data that is relevant to your goals. Everything else is just static. 

We’re here to help! Book a free email marketing assessment with us and we’ll come up with a plan to maximise your email marketing efforts.