Considered a lumbering old dinosaur compared to the snazzy innovations that launch with fanfare to ‘disrupt’ the industry, email marketing is often left on the backburner. But, to continue the analogy, emails remain the mighty T-Rex, with one of the most effective ROI’s in the industry. Two-thirds of companies rated email marketing as either ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’ when it comes to ROI (coming second to SEO), and m-commerce has inspired a rejuvenation of this channel, with email marketing growing dramatically.  So get inspired, and make it work for your brand with these eight rules.

1. Don’t go in blind … know your KPI’s.

Sounds simple enough but it’s often forgotten by marketers. In order to know if your campaign has been effective or not you need to know exactly what success means, and be able to create and measure it. Are you running a brand campaign, creating awareness of a new product or are you using email as a conduit for a lead-gen database build? Always aim to define exactly what is expected from the campaign to manage client expectations and set up the campaign correctly and efficiently.

2. Don’t take the scatter-gun approach … focus on a target market.

To ensure the highest engagement rate it is important to target the right demographic. Nowadays suppliers can target emails to an extremely granular audience from age and location through to lifestyle and hobbies. However, try not to go too niche with the audience as you can help build up a data pool of cookied users for display retargeting.  Sending out communication to an active user, especially when paying on a CPM basis, is vital, so find out how frequently suppliers refresh their data (ideally they will suppress in-active email addresses after six months).

3. Don’t use any old supplier … carefully select the most effective list owner/s.

There are a number of checks you should make to ensure the supplier you are thinking of using has the highest quality data. Firstly, see if they have case studies on previously used creative or have performance analysis they are willing to share.  Find out how they’ve built up their database i.e. was it through a competition metric or through a call-centre; this can have an impact on engagement.  Ask your supplier what (if any) additional value they can provide i.e. will they perform a re-send or provide you with a post-campaign report.

4. Don’t just broadcast and sit back … optimise as the campaign runs.

To achieve high open and conversion rates don’t just broadcast all the recipients at once. Test on a sample size and optimise accordingly. Areas to try out include A/B testing subject lines (see below for more info) to identify which achieves the most efficient open rate.  Also look to vary elements of the creative from images and call-to-action positioning. In addition, careful attention should be paid to the timing of the broadcast. Time target where necessary using dynamic creative to ensure the right message is delivered to your audience at the right time. If you’re unable to do this as a rule of thumb (and of course there are always exceptions) aim for a broadcast on Tuesday between 10 – 12.00.

5. Don’t treat email in silo … integrate it with other channels to create the greatest impact. 

The power of email is particularly impactful when you combine it with other digital and ATL activity. If you’re running any brand outdoor or programmatic activity make sure the assets you use for email marry up and compliment the branding and messaging of other channels. There are now email DSP’s that enable video-embedded creative to be sent at the same time as a TV ad; especially effective for dual-screeners.

6. Don’t think email is just for desktops … make sure your emails are responsive for mobile.

Check out the stats; 90% of smartphone owners access the same email account on mobile and desktop with around 68% of UK smartphone owners using their device to check email over the past thirty days. Based on these figures it’s easy to see that a responsive design is key to a good user experience for both email and landing page. Fundamental requirements for a responsive design include device and table width declaration, image re-sizing and padding between sections.   

7. Don’t forget about the content … make sure what you send is impactful and engaging.

When the campaign structure is in place your success will be driven by content.  The feel and message should have authority as well as show personality. Personalisation can certainly be impactful but only if there are effective quality controls in place; even blue chip brands are caught up by gender identification issues. Don’t, however, think it is just about the wording; having large click-to-action images and making an effort with design should help with engagement and click-throughs. Finally, not everyone wants your fantastically designed HTML creative, so remember to offer a plain text version as well.

8. Finally, don’t ignore the subject line … treat it as the most important element.

You only have a handful of words to convince someone to open your email – so use them wisely. Unsurprisingly subject lines can influence open rates by as much as 70%, so give them the consideration they deserve! The subject line should create the urge for consumers to interact and engage, by tantalising them with the promise of content that is interesting, time-sensitive and relevant to them. By all means try and inject some drama to grab attention, but be wary of coming off as misleading or spammy. Streamline your success by testing different subject lines as the campaign progresses.