Getting the most from your campaigns: Email best practice


There are lots of articles out there about email best practice and I thought it would be an ideal time to collate some of the key points. As every marketer knows it is an every changing world of email and there are lots of exciting things happening but the key is to get the basics right.

Every email needs to start with a good brief and have a clear purpose set out from the start. BrightWave Marketing and Litmus have put together a useful template which identifying the ‘Five W’s’:

  • WHO are you sending to?
  • WHAT do you want them to do?
  • WHEN is it appropriate to send the message?
  • WHERE will the recipient read it?
  • WHY are you sending this message?
  • HOW are you going to measure success?

The next aspect of how wide an email should seem to create a lot of debate out there. Ideally, it should not be more than 600 pixels wide, which I personally think is the optimum size.

Litmus recently estimated that someone spends 3-4 seconds deciding whether to open your email so subject line, preheaders and from names are very important.

Preheaders are a useful extension to your subject line and you should always utilise this extra space. Here are a few examples on both desktop and mobile.

From names are also important, a well-known recognisable name should be used as the brand or even a person’s name tends to generate intrigue if it’s done correctly.

From my personal experience using symbols in the subject line contributes to a slight increase in open rates but I think overusing them can loose the impact. With everything, there is a time and place for them. This is a useful list of symbols but with everything in email make sure you test them across all email platforms first.

There are a lot of stats out there about the rise of mobile usage and I think this graph from Litmus summarises what has happened recently. Mobile use has hit 48% on Feb 14, with the decline in desktop usage continuing.

Mobile can no longer be ignored and is a forced to be reckoned with but the key thing is to know your devices your customers are using and to optimise for them. Litmus has also summarised the top 5 email clients used from analysing over 927 million opens last month to give you an idea of the most popular.

Content relevant to your audience will always keep them engaged but also help with your deliverability. Good open and click rates have a positive impact on your reputation with ESPs. Segmentation is key but goes beyond the obvious or easiest options by looking at the lifecycle stages customers are in as well. No one should be sending a one message fits all to everyone nowadays. This will not only impact your deliverability reputation but also will not give you the best ROI.

Make sure the message in the email is clear and what you want people to do from the email is obvious. Someone once told me to sit back from your desk and look at an email for 8 seconds to reflect how someone might skim read it.

From the testing I’ve done over the years, it is an often softer call to actions like “find out more” rather than “book now” that tend to be clicked on more, but obviously this is dependent on the product and customer.

Sprout Social’s Zachary Hanz summed email content up brilliantly by using his “VENT” method:

Every email marketer should be on a mission to continuously optimise their campaigns and to do so testing is the key. Testing plans are really useful documents to help put a plan in place and to look at how it will be executed as well as the reason for the test.

Even though this a few years old now, I think this graph from Marketing Sherpa is really useful to show the most effective elements to test.

Having movement in an email can bring it to life and grab customers attention as well as providing the opportunity to showcase a product more.

Smileycat have complied these 30 creative uses of animated gifs in email, which has some really good examples.

However, be careful on the overall size of the email with Gmail preview recently being capped at 102kb limit. Emails over 102kb will be “clipped,” cutting off the bottom of the message.

Don’t forget to look at the journey from the email to the landing page. Are calls to actions appropriate to where the customer will land? Can they find the information easily? Don’t forget about the devices your customers are using, if you’ve optimised the email for mobile they should land on a mobile version of the landing page.

By default images are normally blocked automatically making it difficult to make a brilliant first impression and to get the message across. The advice in the industry is to design for images being turned off and there are some great ways to do this.

Litmus has put together a brilliant article on ‘the ultimate guide to email image blocking‘, which shows examples of using styled alt text and creative image slicing.

It still amazes me I see broken emails today or data that is being pulled in isn’t appearing correctly. There are lots of programmes out there to help check to render across email clients. Alternatively, you could send lots of tests to your different email accounts. Don’t forget if you’re pulling in data to the email to check the live preview and if there isn’t any data in that field what will the default be?

According to Biz Report, 80% of people delete emails not optimized for mobile so don’t forget to check this as well.

Time to review and reflect once the email has been sent. Use the results to feed into your future campaigns and don’t forget to analyse the heat maps. There could be an opportunity to create follow up campaigns for openers, non-openers or those that clicked on a certain link as well.


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