Email marketing best practice

Giving away data is something we all take for granted, whether it’s filling out a form with a name and address or signing up for a newsletter list, but what many of us don’t realise is that our data has a value, and a customer or potential customer allowing us into their mailbox is a sacred place, here is our email marketing best practice tips for getting started.

Article Info

November 13, 2023 11 mins

What we will cover

What is email marketing?

Businesses are gathering information about potential customers through their sites all the time but many just let it passively collect without using it. The great hack told us how Cambridge Analytica used social media to gather multiple data points, advertise heavily and sway the election in favour of Trump.

However big your business is, quality data is important, even a small number of subscribers who are invested in your brand are an opportunity to promote your products or services.

But just shamelessly promoting your wares won’t get you very far, you are creating a community of like-minded folks, and you need an authentic message or some value to add.

Why is email marketing important?

Email marketing gives organisations the opportunity to get back in touch with their customers or potential customers via their mailbox. Studies show that people spend around 23% of their work time on email, let alone our personal time, making email marketing a valuable digital marketing exercise.

In 2012, the sale of the website for £87m demonstrated how valuable email subscribers can be.

Although there were four key ways in which it generated value, from its 39m unique visitors each month a big part of the way it generated income was through its email list. With around 7m subscribers in 2012, and about 10m today, this number of subscribers represents a significant portion of the website’s visitors who all received a weekly email containing articles and tips culled from its forums.

This list is valuable not just because of its size but because it is very targeted. Everyone receiving the weekly email has signed up for one thing, money-saving tips and deals, and although frugally minded will ultimately be reading the email with the intent to make a purchase.

How to use email marketing to grow your business?

Ready to make a Martin Lewis scale email empire? okay, let’s dive into some email marketing best practice. You will need to decide on the type of campaign you wish to do – it could be a welcome email, abandoned carts or a monthly mailout. But whatever you choose to do, there’s some thinking work to do up front…

Whatever you are going to do with your email list, you will need to think about who these people are and what you have to say to them.

Creating a community

While is an exceptional example of a successful website and email campaign, it’s the perfect example of data being used effectively. The site has a clear purpose, which is shared each week through email campaigns, and an audience who are ready to save money and share tips with each other.

You are creating a community of those around you, what do you know about them? What do they have in common? Why are they here? Is it time to do some user/market research?

Dont sell, share

Although has no product to sell it makes its money through affiliate links, where a commission is generated when someone clicks on a link and makes a purchase. This leads me to my next point, if your audience gets the same message every month they will unsubscribe.

You have been gifted an opportunity into their very personal space, that must’ve been for a reason, so what is the value you bring? What do you “show up” for? If your brand was a bunch of friends, how would the others describe it? The organised one? The anarchist? Perhaps you speak passionately about social issues, the environment or are just so geeky about a specific topic you can share great advice.

Every marketing activity you can do is an extension of your brand, so it is email marketing best practice to have a clear purpose, if you have a well defined brand, aligned with purpose not profit then this initial strategy work is done for you, if you don’t and need help then get in touch to discuss a brand workshop.

How much does email marketing cost?

We often get asked how much do email marketing campaigns cost, and it really depends on where you are starting from. Here’s a quick guide on the setting up process, the skills required and the time you may spend.

  1. Sign up to 3rd party mailing list (eg mailchimp, flodesk) – Anyone – 1 hour
  2. Import your email list (if you have one) – Anyone – 1 hour
  3. Create a content strategy – Marketer – 4 hours
  4. Design your wireframe for the email – Designer – 1 hour
  5. Create your template – Developer (if bespoke), anyone (if template) – 2 hours
  6. Populate and send your regular emails – Copywriter – 2 hours

So it’s going to take time, or money if you wish to contact a local agency, be aware of the skillset required above if you want a best practice approach to email marketing, by that I mean, partner with someone who has: Marketing, design & development capabilities in-house. This is before we get into the analysis of your mailouts or how to go about growing your mailing list.

What is the benefit of using templates for your email marketing campaigns?

Many of us can do a palatable job of importing a list, setting up and populating an email template to reach our audience, and we would encourage you do so.

However, if you don’t speak French, you don’t speak French.

So, if you are frustrated by limited templates and hoping to code a bespoke template to look exactly how you want it to look, you will waste hours. Firstly, in learning HTML to build the template and then in learning that email is built on a painfully old-fashioned version of HTML that means you have lay it out in nested tables.

Then in testing your layout to look perfect on every phone, tablet and desktop screen.

Our advice, get started with a template and compromise on perfection until you can budget for a developer to build your perfect template.

Thinking beyond a monthly email

The above list is a simple process for getting started, you may wish to set up automated emails or integrate with CRMs but we would recommend going through the process of a monthly email first to get a feel for the challenges of crafting your message and audience and dedicating time every month to do it.

Once you have got started you will want to measure its performance. Luckily most of the 3rd party systems will capture open rates, click-through rates and even sales data if you have an e-commerce store you can connect it to.

When it comes to email marketing best practices, you should have a goal in mind for what you are trying to achieve, and where email marketing sits in the plan. It may be that you just want to keep in touch so that when your customers are ready to order that winter hat you are forefront in the mind.

This kind of campaign would be a brand awareness campaign, and would be best employed in a monthly newsletter where you share how the wool for your hats is sourced from environmentally friendly sources, made with ethical manufacturing process at its heart.

Or you could set up a campaign that is there to directly monetise your offering, abandoned carts can directly impact the bottom line with little need for defining tone and messaging. But we can’t really share email marketing best practices without talking about measuring our effectiveness, can we?

How to measure email marketing?

Taking the above examples, having a really high open rate and no additional sales from your abandoned carts will be disappointing, however, you might be delighted with that result from a monthly brand awareness newsletter so it does depend on the campaign.

Let’s take a look at the best practice email marketing commonly measured metrics.

Open Rate. What is a good open rate for email marketing?

Campaign Monitor says A good email open rate should be between 17-28%, depending on the industry you’re in. Mailchimps research says the overall average open rate from their research is 21.33%. So an open rate of around 25% is a good figure.

For small businesses the total list size will be small, so it does depend on the quality of your list, as it will constantly be gaining and losing subscribers.

Click through Rate. What is a good click through rate for email marketing?

According to MailChimp, the average email click-through rate across industries is 2.91%. Active Campaign say a good email click-through rate is anything above 3%, which seems about right.

Finger in the air

One rule of thumb we always use if we have no data to base our activities on is, what we call internally, the aptly named “10% rule”. If a client asks us the likely success we say, work to this as starting point: 10% will see it, 10% of them will click it, 10% will do the thing you want. So if you start with a 1000, then 100 will click it and 10 will buy.

It’s not an exact science but it is a simple way to understand the high level of drop off every time you ask a user to take an action. It is similar with impressions, click through and conversion with Adword accounts.

Setting goals for a return on your investment

Setting up goals to measure the success of your campaigns is going to be key, in the excitement to get something out there, you can miss setting up the tracking (that you will wish you had) to determine the success of the campaign long after you hit send.

The analysis within the third party tool will be based on measurements such as open rates, click-through rates, and subscribe rates. All these factors will be calculated by the software being used to send your email campaigns and will give you an indication of how well your campaigns are doing.

Analytics will be a useful tool, you can look through traffic from the source of your campaign and analyse the user flow.

UTM Tags are also your friend, adding a bit of code to your URL links from your emails enables you to track more, and  while you can certainly create tags for every link, it’s email marketing best practice to use a tool. Google’s URL builder tools will guide you though the metrics you can define and create a link for you.

With services such as Mailchimp it’s possible to integrate Google Analytics tracking into your campaigns for even more insightful information that can tell you how many of your subscribers are being turned into customers by your campaigns.

So before clicking the send button on your next campaign ask yourself what your goal is. Is it to grow your subscribers, is it to convert subscribers into customers, or maybe just to send traffic to your website.

How email marketing improves customer engagement?

As customers, we are expecting it. According to a Marketing sherpa study, 72% of consumers prefer to receive promotional messages through email. We know the drill, we expect the interaction and often welcome the distraction.

It’s not an ad, therefore it’s cheaper for you and expected for the customer. If you are engaging with a newsletter you have interacted with this organisation or possibly bought from them before. You’re already engaged, and this is an opportunity to deepen that relationship – use this voice like a friend, not a salesman.

The lessons to learn from our example, are to send out email campaigns on a regular basis and to offer valuable content to your subscribers. The content could be a reaction to relevant news, or even things which have already been posted on your blog (again, another example of something does really well) or it could take the form of a special offer or a discount on one of your products.

You don’t need to schedule campaigns every week, they could be fortnightly or monthly, but the important thing is you pencil in at least one date each month when you’re going to send one out, and stick to it, be consistent.

In the modern world, consumers are becoming more brand-aware, they expect businesses to stand for something they care about. There are more and more platforms and touchpoints prior to selling our services than ever before, and we need to utilise the tools we have to build relationships and add value if we expect to extract sales.

We hope this has helped with some useful tips on email marketing best practice, in 2023, email is still the most powerful tool that Vu use for fostering communities around your brand.

Do you know anyone who may be interested in this project?

Click to share: