The Six Unwritten Rules of Email Marketing

Did you know there was an unwritten set of rules you need to follow when setting up your email marketing campaigns?

But before we get there - have you started building your list yet?

If you want a leg up on the competition and a way to retain hard-won customers, you need to build an email list - now!

I know, I know – some of you may not want to engage in email marketing because someone has told you that it's annoying. I've even heard some people claim that email marketing can scare off potential leads, or that email marketing is an old, dying, and ineffective art.

Fortunately, that's not the case. 

According to a recent article from MarketVolt, 92% of adults use email, 70% of millennials check email in bed, and 61% of consumers say they like to receive promotional emails weekly.

That's a lot of people!

And you can effectively reach those people with information about your business ...as long as you obey some simple marketing rules and best practices.

After all, I'm sure you've seen (or even participated in) other websites' list building endeavors. It seems that most legitimate and successful website have some form of an email list, newsletter, or way to provide savings opportunities for their audience.

Why Email?

But why do so many businesses choose to engage in email marketing? The short answer is: because it works – but only if you know what you're doing.

Newsletters and email marketing campaigns aren't extremely difficult to set up, but you have to make sure that you take explicit care to respect your audience. Otherwise, you're going to look like yet another shady Internet huckster.

To maintain your reputation and to respect your audience, keep the following rules of email marketing in mind.

#1: Declare Who Is Sending the Email

One key differentiator between legitimate email marketing and spam is a genuine declaration of who is sending the email. A lot of spam is generated by bots and programs that utilize fake email addresses.

To be more personal, you need to do two things. First and foremost, you want to personalize the email address from which you send all of your marketing emails. Make sure it isn't from an “info” address, such as info@mybusiness.com, because it looks suspicious and questionable.

Additionally, you want to actually sign the email with your name, and perhaps even link to more personal information about yourself, such as an “about” page on your business's website.

I recommend that you refrain from linking to too many social media accounts, keeping perhaps LinkedIn and your Facebook pages. Linking to a lot of social networks confuses most people, and just takes up space. Remember to use good judgment.

#2: Don't Outright Deceptive Subject Lines

A well-written subject line can really boost your open rate, but how annoying is it when you are purposely mislead by the subject line of an email?

It really makes me grind my teeth, even if the email came from a subscription that I care about and actively read. The last thing you want to do is trick your audience into clicking on your email – and don't let the metrics fool you.

Sure, by using deceptive subjective lines, you might get a higher CTR, and more people might open and read your email. But after opening it, the vast majority of readers are going to be pissed off, and many may even choose to unsubscribe.

Do yourself (and your audience) a favor and make sure your  subject lines match what you're actually talking about in your email.

#3: Make it Easy to Opt Out

You probably already knew that it was a good idea to provide an opt out button or link.  In most cases, email service providers (ESP's) actually require an unsubscribe link in every email.

The key here, however, is to make it easy to opt out - it can't be too difficult to unsubscribe. I absolutely loath companies and software that intentionally bury features in order to hide them from the average user.

I personally don't think an unsubscribe is a bad thing - if someone genuinely doesn't want your stuff, then why would you want to keep sending it to them? It will end up giving them a poor impression of your business, and they may tell others the same.  Make sure your emails all carry an unsubscribe link, and that it's easy to find.

Don't put your audience members and subscribers through a tough process to unsubscribe.  Make it easy, and your overall open rates will show that this is a good move.

#4: Be Honest and Forthcoming on Your Landing Pages

The number of ways to capture an email address is seemingly limitless. One of the more popular ways is to use a pop-up screen whenever a user visits your site, or to offer gated content (not necessarily paid content, but content that requires an opt in to see) in exchange for an email address.

But it isn't really forthcoming to just accept an email address. Wherever and however you build your list, make sure to include some text description about what they are signing up for and how you will send followup emails to them.

Something along the lines of, “By signing up, you agree to receive our weekly newsletter, and you can opt out at any time,” is more honest. There are better ways to word it, but I think you get the gist. Just make sure your audience knows what they're getting into.

I look at this as a sort of filter - if you've created some great content, it's only fair that you get something in value in return. If someone doesn't value your content enough to opt in, you may be better off with them not becoming a potential customer.

#5: Include a Business Address

It also helps to include the address of your business in any email marketing content.

First and foremost, it helps your audience trust you more, since they know that you're tied to a real physical location, as opposed to some digital marketing ghost who's just out to get clicks and affiliate sales.

However, more importantly, it's also a requirement by the CAN-SPAM Act in 2003. The Act requires that senders of marketing emails include their address, which you can add to a default email signature in your email client of choice. Again, most ESPs require this in each email you send.

#6: Place CTAs Near the Top

Believe it or not, most subscribers don't read through the entire email (I know, shocking, right?).

Since you only have a very limited time to grab the audience's attention, it works best to put links and calls to to action as near the top as possible. For instance, if you're emailing your list to alert them of a hot new blog post you've just published, put the link to that post within the first or second paragraph when possible.

I tent to put a link near the top and then repeat it a little further down for those that actually do read it.

Final Thoughts

Email marketing is a fantastic way to build a following and generate engagement with your blog. The only problem is that too many businesses forgo list building. If you have a website that's already getting significant amounts of traffic (hundreds or thousands per month), you should try to find opportunity by reaching out to customers repeatedly, yet appropriately, via email marketing.

About 

Amber Hanke is a Digital Marketing Specialist for Red Canoe Media. She attends school at the University of Missouri - St. Louis and her major is Business Management. Amber is a certified Social & Community Manager.

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