30 Tips for a Profitable Email Marketing Strategy

Brian Honigman ,

Email marketing is one of the most profitable online channels for businesses to spend time and resources on today. According to Convince and Convert, 44% of email recipients made at least one purchase last year based on a promotional email and roughly half of a business’s email list is active – either opening or clicking on emails.

These statistics merely touch the surface of how effective email marketing can be if your strategy is focused on actionable goals and is based on measurable metrics reviewed weekly.

Why not start making revenue from your email list today? Don’t have a strong email list yet? Is your list not opening your emails regularly, let alone clicking on your content?

Here is what you need to know to ensure your email marketing strategy is profitable for the long-term success of your business.

1. Focus on your subject lines and experiment.

Your email subject lines should stick out, be short, simple and reflect your company’s voice. Avoid the words “help”, “free”, “percent off” and “reminder” because they trigger spam filters. Try to occasionally include a question, an exclamation point and all caps to have your emails stand out from the crowd.

2. Ensure your emails are mobile friendly.

There is nothing more annoying then trying to check an email on your phone and it doesn’t work. 43% of email is opened on a mobile device, meaning it is crucial that your email provider offers mobile optimized email templates like MailChimp or Constant Contact.

3. Find the right frequency.

Test what times your email list is most responsive to your messaging, as compared to industry best practices. After analyzing both open rates and click thru rates, determine when emails should be sent by days of the week and the time of day.

4. Don’t email just to email, spread a message.

If you feel obligated to send out an email, then the content of that email probably isn’t quality. Only email when you have something valuable to say to your audience, otherwise it might be time to rethink your email frequency.

5. Design your emails inline with your brand.

Your emails should be a continued extension of your other brand assets across each marketing channel. Many email providers help with this design process, especially for small businesses by offering customizable templates and assets to work with. Providers like iContact or FuseMail are helpful with the design process, ensuring that the visual experience with your business is consistent from start to finish.

6. Send a customized welcome message.

Welcome new subscribers to your email list to be friendly and to confirm that they really wanted to join the list. A genuinely written note that automatically messages members of your list is the difference between making them feel welcome or making them feel like another addition to your list.

7. Balance content with product and service offerings.

It is not a good experience for your list to be constantly bombarded with sale after sale, but instead to build their trust over time with quality content and engaging information. Ensure a healthy balance of visual, and editorial content that informs subscribers on a topic, alongside product announcements and news about the company.

8. Don’t settle for terrible stock footage.

The visual aspects of your emails are important for giving a positive long lasting impression of your business, which is why your business should take the time to find visually compelling photos or design assets on your own internally or through a freelancer. Settling for generic or terrible looking stock footage is not the key to an effective email campaign. Source inspiration from Flickr, Pinterest or buy a subscription to iStockphoto or Shutterstock to help make the most of your email messaging.

9. Avoid spamming your list; know the rules.

The general rules of thumb for not triggering spam filters is to keep your content short, sweet and to the point. Create a unique subject line that avoids triggers words as discussed above, while keeping the format and graphics used simple as possible. One font, one size and one color throughout your email campaigns can help get your content through spam filters.

10. Make it easy for people to subscribe.

Add email subscribe forms throughout your website, on your blog, and on different content areas of your properties (especially landing pages). Host an email sign up form on your Facebook page and share links to your forms across social media.

11. Emails should be available in multiple formats.

Always offer your email in HTML and plain text to ensure that it is viewable for all types of users from any browser, email client or device. HTML offers more customization overall, but ensuring that your message gets across to users in at least plain text is better than your audience receiving a garbled email or no email at all from your business.

12. Segment when possible.

Segmenting is an important practice because it personalizes your messaging to individuals, addressing their specific needs. The more relevant your messaging is to a reader, the more likely it will resonate with them. Segmenting your list extensively is more difficult for some businesses, however starting small with your segmentations can still be beneficial. Start by experimenting with segmentations by geography, date of sign up, purchase history, users who abandoned their shopping cart or by your most active customers.

13. Change the “submit” button to a strong CTA.

The email sign up forms throughout your web properties are important for growing your list, but make sure to take full advantage of the subscribe button on that form by changing the generic “submit” copy to a stronger call to action like “sign up today”, “get it now”, “join us”, “join now”, “go”, “enter email” or another version of these CTAs. Replacing “submit” with a stronger CTA can help increase the conversion rate of your form.

14. Add GIF’s for a modern, engaging touch.

GIF’s are still not widely used in emails as much as they are shared across the rest of the web, which is an advantage to your business if you use them in your emails correctly. Use GIF’s to make your emails more interesting, engaging and memorable among a person’s daily barrage of emails from businesses.

15. Incorporate social media functionality.

Include social media icons at the bottom or top of your email to allow subscribers to follow your various accounts on social media. Also ensure that the content of your email is easily shareable across social media to help increase the potential reach of your messaging.

16. Always get permission, avoid becoming spam at all costs.

The best way to get email subscribers is for them to willingly opt-in. Do not buy a list or utilize practices that get users to unwillingly sign up for your list. Follow the CAN-SPAM compliance steps below to ensure your emails avoid the spam folder and that your company’s email list is healthy:

Don't Use False or Misleading Email Header Information: Always be transparent about your identity as the email sender and what company you work for. Never assume the identity of others in a company email to mislead subscribers.

Don't Use Deceptive Subject Lines: Subject lines must match the content of the email, never mislead subscribers to get them to open your emails.

Identify That the Email is An Ad: Include in small print at the bottom of your emails that alerts your audience that this email is indeed an advertisement.

Provide a Physical Location: The address of your business should also be included in small print at the bottom of your emails to help clarify that you are not a spammer and that there is another alternative way for subscribers to communicate with the business to request removal from their email list.

Let Recipients Know How to Opt Out of Future Emails: Ensure that it is extremely easy for a person to unsubscribe from your email messaging with an opt-out button at the bottom of an email.

Honor Opt-Out Requests Promptly and Honorably: After someone submits a request to opt-out of your email list, it is required that this process is quick and effective. Luckily, most email service providers make the opt-out process simple for businesses to implement and for regular people to use.

Monitor What Others Do On Your Behalf: Your business is responsible for the actions of others that are authorized to send emails on your company’s behalf. Therefore, be sure to monitor employees, partners or agencies that represent your business.

17. Confirm permission was purposeful with double opt-ins.

After a person signs up for your list, ensure with an autoresponder email that they truly intended to sign up and that the email they signed up with is valid. This is an effective way to ensure that they really wanted to be on your list and that this subscriber is not a spam bot.

18. Offer exclusive discounts, sales and giveaways.

To keep your subscribers engaged over time, as well as aware of the value of being a subscriber, offer contests, promotions, sales, promo codes and discounts that are exclusive to your list. Some offers can tie in with a greater marketing campaign, but some of these offers should be solely provided to your list as a thank you and incentive to stay subscribed for the long-term.

19. Align your messaging with relevant events, holidays and trends.

Tie in your messaging to current events by offering sales related to popular holidays, content geared towards trending topics in pop culture as it applies to your business, and your perspective on mainstream conversations. Often referred to as “newsjacking”, it is the act of taking relevant, newsworthy events and applying them to your business’s marketing in an impactful way. Newsjacking consists of everything from giving your in-depth perspective on a relevant news story like what HubSpot did with this post about Yahoo’s Tumblr acquisition to adding a relevant comment to a trending topic like what Oreo did on Twitter during the Super Bowl.

20. Be clear from the beginning on what subscribers should expect.

Be clear from the moment a person is about to sign up for your email list that their information won’t be shared, what type of messaging they will receive, that they can unsubscribe at anytime and any other information pertaining to their sign-up that they should know from the start. By providing this information and getting their permission to join your list, it will help ensure the list is made up of quality subscribers that are interested in receiving your future messaging.

21. Use email autoresponders to your advantage.

Autoresponders are simple emails that can be set up ahead of time to be sent to specific segments and subscribers to respond to particular events across your website. As mentioned above, use autoresponders to personalize an experience and ensure it is as valuable as possible like in the case of a welcome email after a user subscribes to your list. Some popular autoresponders to look into implementing are incomplete purchase reminders, birthday specials and follow-up after purchase or download.

22. Provide incentives for continued sign-ups.

Offer prizes, discounts and specials to members of your email list that refer others to the list via email or social media. Set up a customer referral program that lets subscribers know what they could receive for adding quality subscribers to your list from their network of friends and family.

23. Build trust overtime, then push a sale.

Tied together with balancing content and commerce, trust is built overtime by consistent and transparent messaging in your emails and messaging across the company. Do what you say you’re going to do and subscribers will begin to expect you to follow through on your word. If you can’t follow up on your word, then apologize and remain human. With strong loyalty and trust, your email subscribers will be more likely to purchase from your business in the future when the time is right to sell to them.

24. Focus the best content or most popular products above the fold.

According to Campaign Monitor, the average email is read for only 51 seconds, therefore the first impression really counts. Place your strongest call to action above the fold as well as the most engaging content and products that will definitely engage your customers to click, read the email further, or make a purchase. This is one of your only chances to make your email enticing for subscribers.

25. Sync emails with corresponding landing and product pages on your website.

When offering products or services on a landing page from a specific email, sync the design, calls to action, compelling copy and the products featured to make the email, landing and product pages more effective as a unit. Consistency is crucial for an enticing email campaign.

26. Constantly test your emails in different browsers and email clients.

Ensure that your email client is properly rendering your email content on the most popular web browsers like Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Opera as well as the various options for desktop email clients, web based email clients, tablet and mobile devices.

27. Make it as easy as possible to unsubscribe.

Starting today, setup a one-click unsubscribe button at the bottom of all your emails. This will make it very easy for people to unsubscribe, which you would think you wouldn’t want to do, but it is really important to do to prevent upsetting past, current or future customers with unwanted messaging or a lengthy unsubscribe process. Set an autoresponder to send an email after a person unsubscribes asking if the unsubscribe was a mistake or not, to prevent any accidental clicks that could lose an interested and active subscriber.

28. Monitor the unsubscribe rate daily, weekly and quarterly.

Check your unsubscribe rate often to ensure that it is either remaining consistent, decreasing or is not increasing significantly. The average unsubscribe rate across industries is 0.27%, says Swiftpage. If you have a higher unsubscribe rate, it may be time to do a detailed analysis of your email marketing campaigns to understand what content is working and what content is not.

29. Survey email lists, especially unsubscribers.

Occasionally survey your email lists to better understand the type of content they’re looking to receive from your business. You can then respond by sending those forms of content when reasonable. Also survey unsubscribers as to the reason why they unsubscribed to receive valuable feedback. This information can help your team better understand why people might be leaving your list and give insights on how to alter your strategy to reduce the rate of unsubscribes if any patterns emerge.

30. Emails should be readable without images.

Offering your emails in both HTML and plain text as discussed above is important, since HTML is formatted with visuals and plain text is not. Ensure that when viewing the plain text version of your emails, that the text is clear, concise and readable. Format the plain text version of your email to make it as beautiful and engaging without visuals as possible.

Images courtesy of Celegorm, Kushagra Agarwal, Neil Tasker, Julian Burford, Sam Borstadt, Niklas Mathiesen, Ismael Burciaga, Blogging eHow, Bronto and Jeremy Bloom.

Share this post

Brian Honigman
Content Marketing & Social Media Consultant