Email marketing is an extremely cost effective form of marketing and lead nurturing, especially for small businesses. Over the years, we’ve reviewed a lot of email marketing campaigns and therefore, have come to understand the recipe for success.

1. Create landing pages specific to each campaign.
We have seen countless campaigns where companies include all of their new content in a single email, and that creates a few problems:
– Long emails will likely not be read to the end.
– Long emails can be clipped by your email program or provider. That means the entire email won’t load and will require users to click to download – the remaining message.
– Long emails can get caught in spam. The bigger file size makes them seem suspicious.

2. Create and use calls-to-action to control and drive users to your landing page.
One of the biggest email errors we see is a lack of effective calls-to-action. Make your calls-to-action logical, noticeable, and enticing. By providing a clear call-to-action, you help guide users to a goal. For example, if you are sending out an email focused on physical products, a next step would be for users to buy the product. If you are sending out an email promoting an event, a natural next step would be for users to RSVP or buy tickets.

3. Segment your email list.
Segmenting your list allows you to tailor your email to a more defined portion of your audience. Utilize segmenting to provide users with content and calls-to-action that match their specific needs. As a starting point, consider grouping users based on age, gender, industry, company type, or location. More advanced segmenting might include grouping users based on purchase history, what pages they’ve looked at on your website, or what downloadable content they’ve accessed.

4. Use names in your subject line.
It’s been proven that open rate increases when using a first name in the subject line. Be careful, though; we’ve seen campaigns where data included misspelled first names. Misspelling a customer’s name in an email subject line could have long-lasting effects. If your list is relatively small, it may be worth glancing through it to make sure the data looks clean and correct.

5. Try out emoji in your subject line.
Many email marketing providers, including MailChimp and Campaign Monitor, allow the use of emoji in subject lines. Including emoji can make emails stand out and convey a lighthearted tone. Consider only using emoji occasionally to avoid overuse and, of course, avoid using them if you are in an industry where it may not be appropriate.

6. Use automation to deliver emails based on user actions.
Sending action-based emails makes email marketing more personal and tailored to your users, and it can drastically improve open rates and user engagement. Examples of basic automation include birthday emails with a coupon or educational series emails sent out once a week after subscribers sign up.

7. Don’t send out mass emails using Outlook or other programs.
We have seen many companies using programs such as Outlook or Apple Mail to send out mass marketing emails to their users, and it terrifies us every time. This practice puts your company at risk. If your emails get flagged as spam, it could potentially get all of your company’s email accounts blacklisted. Stick to using email marketing services.

8. Be cautious with including attachments in mass emails.
If your audience is not expecting an attachment, it’s best to avoid sending one. If you do include an attachment (for example, to deliver requested content to users), keep the file size small and stick to the following file types: .pdf, .jpg, .png, or .gif.

9. Avoid sending image-only emails.
Emails with only images and no text are more likely to get caught in a spam filter. As a rule of thumb, SendGrid recommends two lines of text for every image.

10. Ensure you have permission to send emails to users.
This probably goes without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway. You must have permission to send mass emails to users. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen people who pick up business cards or take an old list of customers and add those names and email addresses to their email marketing campaigns. Just because you’ve met someone in person, corresponded with them through email, or have them on your customer list, doesn’t mean they’ve signed up to receive marketing emails from you. If you’d like to add people to your mailing list, send them a personal email with a link to your subscribe form. This will keep your email list clean and prevent you from violating the CAN-SPAM Act.

11. Test and analyze.
Your work isn’t finished when an email is sent. Use the data collected by your email marketing service to improve future emails. For example, compare campaign performance based on topics, images, subject lines, list segmentation, etc. If your email marketing service allows for it, utilize A/B testing. MailChimp’s A/B testing lets you send two emails to a small part of your list, and based on the performance of those emails, it will send the winning email to the remaining portion of your list, giving you the best chance for a successful campaign.