Email Marketing Do’s and Don’ts

Melanie Balke
May 20, 2022

What if there was a way to reach more potential customers, engage with existing customers, gain new subscribers, and consistently reach your ideal target audience?

It sounds like some sort of fever dream, doesn’t it?

“Surely,” you’re probably saying, “there‘s no way for a single marketing channel to do all of that!”

A black-and-white photo of a downtown Los Angeles. Overlaid header text reads, “Email Marketing Do's and Don'ts.”

As reasonable as that assumption may be, it’s actually incorrect! There is a marketing channel that’s capable of doing all of this, and it’s something that you’re constantly interacting with. In fact, email marketing is one of the most effective ways to grab a reader’s attention and deliver relevant messages to your audience. A single email list can generate tons of revenue for a business, and every inbox that you reach is a potential customer.

It’s an exciting world of campaign planning, email clients, and subject lines, but it’s also a delicate game of strategy. If you want to run a truly successful email marketing campaign, you need expert advice.

If you’re ready to get actual advice from someone with years in the marketing business, then you’re in the right spot. Join me, and let’s dive into the fantastic world of email marketing!

The Don’ts of Email Marketing

There’s no better way to learn than to make a mistake.

A photo of a red traffic signal with overlaid header text: “The Don'ts of Email Marketing.”

Fortunately for all of you, I’ve made plenty, and I’ve learned from all of them. I’ve seen the do’s and the don’ts of this industry, and I don’t think I’ll forget that information any time soon! That’s why I’m starting this article with a list of what you shouldn’t do when you’re planning your email campaigns.

Don’t Become the Sales Team

What is the biggest and most common mistake I see in the email marketing world?

Well, if you’re asking me, the answer is sales.

It may sound counterintuitive, but not every email campaign needs to focus on pushing customers down the sales funnel. You need to mix up your campaigns a little. With a little bit of fresh content — usually á la drip marketing — you’re able to maintain a steady hold on your audience’s attention.

I promise that people will buy your product, but that isn’t how you win a subscriber. If you want to truly wow your readers, then you need to focus on sending consistent and valuable content.

Don’t Forget Your Call to Action

As important as it is to give your content value, you also need to remember that a successful email marketing campaign needs to have a goal. Somewhere in that email content, you need to have a call to action. Also known as CTAs, these links are little more than a few words that, when clicked, direct readers to the end of the funnel.

When a user clicks on a CTA, they’re added to the overall click-through rate of a campaign. Marketers can then use that information to boost the effectiveness of future email campaigns. With the right strategy, a truly amazing marketing expert can coax an unbelievable amount of value from a single call-to-action!

Don’t End Up in a Spam Folder

This may seem obvious, but it’s still worth pointing out that you really don’t want to trip your readers’ spam filters.

One of the best ways to end up filed away as spam is to send emails that contain too many common trigger words and phrases. Words like “free” and “one-time offer” are generic phrases. They will very rarely capture a reader’s attention, but they will land your message in the spam basket.

Don’t Go Overboard on the Punctuation

When you’re sending your emails, you want to convey a certain message.

Like people, businesses tend to have unique voices. Cultivating a proper voice for your promotional emails is an essential step to creating a cohesive brand identity. When done properly, a subscriber will be able to immediately identify a message’s sender with little more than some plain text!

That’s a great power, and you know what they say about great powers…

There’s a fine line between writing interesting email content and driving hoards of people to unsubscribe. I know that you write with passion about your product. You love your product, and you want others to love it. Unfortunately, this will sometimes result in marketing material that is absolutely drenched in exclamation points.

Don’t!!!!! Do!!!!! This!!!!!

The majority of email platforms aren’t keen on this excessive punctuation, and they’ll often file messages with this sort of writing into spam folders.

Don’t Overload Your Readers’ Inboxes

As marketers, it’s easy to fall in love with what we create. I’ve done it before! Sometimes, our brains come up with a stream of bountiful content marketing, and we simply don’t have anywhere to put it. At this point, you may be tempted to send all of these wonderful messages as emails.

Don’t do it!

Nobody likes spam, and sending too many emails is one of the best ways to make a loyal customer unsubscribe.

Don’t Trap Your Subscribers

As disheartening as it is to lose subscribers, it’s still important to give them the ability to easily unsubscribe from your email list. Your audience should be able to find the unsubscribe link quickly, and the process should be simple.

On the surface, this aspect of every email marketing campaign is good manners. Businesses that do not give subscribers the ability to opt out of their email list are seen as untrustworthy, and you certainly don’t want to give off that vibe!

However, if you’re emailing customers in the United States, you’re actually required to provide customers with a way to disengage from your email marketing campaigns!

Email Marketing Dos and Tips

Now that I’ve shown you what you should avoid, it’s time to dig into the fun part of the article! At this point, I get to tell you about all of the amazing ways that you can add value to your future campaigns.

A black-and-white photo of a tip jar. Overlaid text reads, “Email Marketing Dos and Tips.”

Do Be Honest and Transparent

Let me start off with something crucial that many marketers seem to forget. When you send emails, you’re sending a message to a real person. These messages aren’t disappearing into the mist. Likewise, every email address on your subscriber list is a personal story. These are personal contacts that have been entrusted to you, and you must strive to maintain that trust.

Before you add any value or content marketing to your emails, you must make sure that you announce your intentions. This means that you should clearly identify your brand and your purpose.

Maintaining your integrity is especially important when you create your welcome email. Not every email subscriber is going to be from your website. Ideally, you’re using multiple marketing channels to collect leads, and that means that there will be multiple opt-in routes. This means that you should have a unique welcome email for every new reader.

To make sure I’m being perfectly clear with this point, let me give an example. Let’s say that your business attends a convention. At your booth, you have an email list, and visitors are encouraged to sign it. When you send an email to these readers, you should tell them that you got their information from the convention. Not only will this decrease the likelihood of being marked as spam, it will also create a sense of trust.

Do Consider Your Target Audience

Every business has a target audience, and you want to write for that demographic. You want to have a consistent and interesting voice, and your marketing should appeal to the right customers.

Here is an absolutely fantastic example of well-targeted marketing, courtesy of the silly folks at Age Hams:

A screenshot of an email from Age Hams. A photo of a rubber pig is the main focus. The header below reads, ”okey it is the april fooling day deadline this weekend.”

The marketing team for Age Hams is doing everything right. This is a silly, funny, and insincere announcement for a company that sells little rubber pigs and greeting cards! They know exactly what their average reader is looking for, and they deliver. You want a silly email about a rubber pig with a stamped butt? Well, darn! You’ll get an email about a little rubber pig with a stamp on its butt!

This is what email marketing is all about. It’s about analyzing data, understanding your average reader, and figuring out how to appeal to your subscribers.

Do Create Solid, Actionable Goals

Remember what I said about including a call-to-action? Well, this is where it comes into play.

Every email campaign needs to have a goal. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about that! If you don’t have a goal in mind when you create a campaign, then you’re wasting your and your subscribers’ time.

Think of it this way…

Your email marketing campaigns are a solution, and your goal is the problem. To help clarify this point, let me bust out a few examples.

First up, we have an example of the most ubiquitous email marketing campaign:

A screenshot of an email from Squishable. The header reads, “Doctor Plague and Plague Nurse Bundle.” Beneath this is text reading, “Together for $39.99.”

This is a simple sales push. The Squishable team has created a new bundle, and they’re promoting it to their subscribers. The images are bright and cheerful, which appeals to Squishable’s plushy-loving audience, and the message’s link leads to the beginning of a sales funnel.

Alternatively, a business may want to direct subscribers to a newly added section of its website. Adobe Stock is frequently adding new images to its database, and its marketing team has created email campaigns to announce these additions.

A screenshot of an email from Adobe Stock. The header reads, “Just in: The curated autumn/winter collection.” The CTA reads, “Explore now.”

This splendidly simple example also featured various images beneath the main CTA, which further encouraged readers to click on the link. Here, the problem was finding a way to encourage subscribers to view the newest Adobe Stock additions.

In another example from Adobe, the marketing team is trying to gather feedback.

This email is a perfect example of simplicity. Its design grabs each reader’s attention, and the subject line was perfectly clear: “Help us Improve Adobe Photoshop.”

These are just some examples of the different ways that a business can use email marketing. Other goals include:

  • Gathering customer data
  • Increasing the open rate
  • Promoting a few new eBook
  • Reaching new potential customers
  • Testing a new campaign
  • Testing mobile device engagement

Do Balance Images and Text

Everything in marketing is about balance. All of my dos and don’ts are about balance. When you’re creating a new email marketing campaign, you want to think about how it looks.

If you want to guarantee that your messages make it to an inbox, you’ll need to get creative. Mix it up a little! You want your links to blend seamlessly with your text, and you want your text to mesh with your images.

Do Determine Which Customers Are the Most Active

When I’m giving marketing advice, this is one of the tips that really surprises people.

No brand wants to see its email list shrink. Fewer readers means less attention, but a massive glut of inactive readers is just as problematic. It’s not enough for your message to make it to an inbox. Truly effective email marketing campaigns are opened and read.

For marketers, this means that an unopened email is just as bad as landing in the spam folder. This is why many marketing agencies will test the water with re-engagement emails. Uninterested customers will be able to disengage, and you still get to keep tabs on your most loyal audience.

Do Get a Little Silly

Now, this tip isn’t going to work for everyone. However, if your business and its voice can swing it, I encourage you to write something silly every now and then. Look at your data and engagement. This will tell you which direction to take your messaging. When done properly, a bit of humor goes a long way!

Do Make Sure Your Subject Line Matches the Content

Finally, you want to consider your subject lines.

In an inbox, the subject line will be the first thing that your readers see. If you want that open rate to go up, then you need to be upfront. Make sure that your messages clearly convey the purpose of your email marketing.

Do Mix Up Your Subject Lines

However, at the same time, you don’t want to send the same email over and over again.

As you write more emails, double-check your content. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does this subject line provide value?
  • Is this subject line interesting?
  • Is this engaging?
  • Do users know why I’m sending this email?

I call this the VIEW approach, and it’s worked wonders for my open rate!

Email Marketing Dos and Don’ts: The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, there’s a lot that you need to think about when you’re designing an email marketing campaign. Everything is a delicate game of balancing your data with your goals. If your business wants to truly grow and expand, it needs to have a constant steam of information for its subscribers. You must be engaging and interesting enough to avoid spam. . filters. Yet, at the same time, you want to avoid repetitively sending the same email over and over again.

A black-and-white image of Los Angeles. Overlaid text in the center reads, “Email Marketing Dos and Don’ts: The Bottom Line.”

It’s a lot to handle, and it can be wildly overwhelming. If you need help with your email marketing, then don’t be afraid to reach out! I’m always ready to help a small business reach its true potential.

Don’t forget to check out my blog, too! I’m constantly updating my website with new tips, tricks, do’s, and don’ts.