15 Rules for Successful Email Marketing

FS Local Contributor
  • Published
  • October 18, 2016

Email Marketing is still the king. Social media is great, an absolute necessity for any modern organization, but for truly effective engagement, you have to master email. Every transaction, every interaction…they’re all an opportunity to grow your list. Every send is an opportunity to refine the list, a chance to learn how best to engage the very real humans behind the names. Get really good at email marketing and success will almost invariably follow.

There are plenty of services out there that help with the heavy lifting (we like Constant Contact, and in the interest of full disclosure, we get a little love if you sign up using our 30% off discount link) but it’s important to go in knowing a few tips. And that old line about rules, how they’re made to be broken? Frankly, I think you should start off trying to follow them – especially the last one, the one that mentions jail!

This isn’t a checklist. It’s simply an overview designed to give you an idea of what some of the best practices are. Go do your thing!

1. QUALITY OVER QUANTITY.

Just as it is for most of life’s precious things, your list is better when it’s healthy. A big list can be wildly successful, but not when it’s artificially inflated with junk. Don’t buy email addresses. Look for opportunities on your site, in your store or through social media to add them naturally.

2. MOBILE OPTIMIZATION IS A REQUIREMENT, NOT AN OPTION.

The quickest way to turn off an increasing majority of your audience is to send them something they can’t read comfortably on their device. Maybe your audience isn’t fully mobile yet, but they probably will be. Get used to this.

3. IT’S A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT.

It’ll take more than a couple of sends to start getting it right, so don’t be discouraged if your first couple of emails don’t catch fire. Learn from what didn’t work, tweak where you can make a difference and keep trying.

4. BALANCE TEXT AND IMAGES.

We’re visual creatures, now more than ever. Take care to illustrate your email with compelling images that accompany and support the crucial text you need to share. Studies show we think it’s nice to see another pair of eyes looking back at us.

5. BE PREPARED FOR A CONVERSATION.

Your list might be a couple of hundred names, or it might be a couple hundred thousand. But every person that replies to your message is an individual, and when they write you back, they probably expect a reply. Each thread is a conversation and an opportunity. Once you’ve hit send, be ready to hit reply.

6. TRACK METRICS. NOTICE CHANGES. SET TARGETS AND TRY TO HIT THEM.

Pressing send is only half the battle. Monitor your open rates, click-throughs, conversions, bounces, unsubscribes, spam reports. Look for patterns. If it doesn’t seem like fun at first, wait until you see something moving in the right direction. Small successes can be intoxicating.

7. MOMENTUM IS REAL. DON’T LOSE IT.

Once you get into a good, consistent and predictable groove, taking a month off might waste all the good rapport you’ve built. If you don’t have a hot sale going, keep the list engaged with a short update on what’s happening in the store. Just stay in touch.

8. INCLUDE A CTA ABOVE THE FOLD.

The average attention span is about 8 seconds, so don’t make your audience scroll and swipe to see the action area! For pete’s sake people want to know what to do NOW! You can always put more down below, but keep the good stuff at the top. Of course, on the other hand…

9. BREVITY. IT’S EFFECTIVE.

10. TEST SEND YOUR EMAIL TO YOURSELF AND AT LEAST ONE OTHER PERSON.

Spellcheck is good, but it can’t catch when you’ve called your product Spotify instead of Shopify. A second look from another human (especially a detail-oriented one!) can prevent a lot of embarrassment.

11. SEND FROM A PERSON, NOT THE COMPANY.

It’s important that your readers received email from another human. Consider the act of sending, opening and reading an email part of a one-on-one relationship, so always put a name behind the business.

12. THERE IS A PERFECT TIME TO SEND AN EMAIL.

No, there isn’t a universal golden hour that converts at 10% better than any other, but there is a sweet spot for your audience. You just need to go out and find it. Testing works.

13. DO NOT SHARE LISTS.

Consider your list like the contact list in your phone. You wouldn’t go posting that around willy-nilly and you DEFINITELY would never sell it, right? Lots of companies out there want to buy email lists, but it’s not worth it. Nurture yours like a precious plant.

14. SPAM FLAGS CAN BE THE DEATH OF YOU.

It can be difficult to get out from under the stigma of being flagged as a sender of spam. It’s possible, of course, but it’s a waste of time and energy. Don’t give your audience any reason to treat your messages like junk, and you’ll maintain a clean bill of email health.

15. PLAY BY THE ACTUAL RULES.

You could ignore everything on this list and still be in business. But if you ignore CAN-SPAM and CASL regulations, you not only run the risk of alienating your audience, you could end up in jail. Laws are the real rules that you can’t break for fun.

Constant Contact Logo

Constant Contact Coupons for Small Business Owners

Real Results Start with Email Marketing Save with our 30% Off for the First 3 Months coupon.



Become a member of the FS Local directory for exclusive access to PERKS small business discounts.

FS Local Contributor


Small Business Experts at FS Local


The staff at FS Local are passionate about small businesses and love to share stories of what goes into making each one a success and inspirational advice on how to get there.

© Copyright 2016 FS Local. All Rights Reserved.