5 Email Marketing Practices To Stop Doing Today (and What to Do Instead)

December 30, 2015

Many people, including myself, use email subscriptions to stay in touch with our favorite companies and bloggers. We sign up for blog articles, newsletters and other email content. When we subscribe, it is our expectation that the emails we receive and the steps that follow are ethical. So when there’s a problem in this process, it can cause a seriously negative impact on your email marketing and image as a whole.

Email Marketing Best Practices Intro

In this article, I share five email marketing practices that you need to adjust or stop doing immediately and the best practices to follow in order to fix current or prevent future issues.

1) Subscription Process Flaws

Opt-in Process

I’ve subscribed to several blogs. I sign up on their blog or article page because I want to be notified of future articles. However, with larger websites, they don’t give me the option to choose what type of content I wish to receive. As a result, I’m bombarded by emails advertising future webinars and conference discounted pricing deals.

Email marketing best practices:

When you offer multiple types of content from your website, make sure you give subscribers the option to choose which content we want to receive. Otherwise, you are taking a huge risk with unsubscribe rates.

Sign-up Fields

When I see a subscription sign-up process that requires more than 3-5 fields and even takes more than one page to finish, I don’t complete the process. I’m not a company. Many subscribers are individuals. Why would you ask all these questions about our company and not questions about us?

Email marketing best practices:

Follow the “less is more” approach to your sign-up form. Instead of asking about company type, size and revenue, focus on the individual who is subscribing so that you can customize your emails to us as people.

Welcome/Thank You Email

With every subscription I’ve signed-up for, I’d say less than half sent out a welcome or thank you email. While I don’t really want to be bombarded by excess emails, an email welcoming me or thanking me for signing up would be a great way to confirm my subscription. Even offering something of value for free to show gratitude would work wonders. I sometimes receive a secondary email that asks for me to confirm my subscription, and I like that approach, too.

Email marketing best practices:

When you get a new subscriber, do you send them a welcome or confirmation email? You can greatly benefit from a confirmation email because it tells you if the subscriber is serious about the subscription. This means your emails are less likely to be marked as spam and more likely to be opened. Let your readers know you’re grateful for their interest with a welcome email, and consider offering some form of freebie along with it.

2) Follow-Through Flaws

Email frequency

As a dedicated blogger myself, I’ve chosen to post only once a week, meaning my subscribers only receive one email from me a week. Other bloggers and companies have chosen to send emails as often as once or twice a day. This bothers me and likely many others who are trying to control the flow of emails coming into our inbox.

Email marketing best practices:

While several other bloggers and companies might publish more than one article a week, I think it’s best to create a collection of posts from the whole week and share them with subscribers on only one designated day. That way, you aren’t overwhelming subscribers’ inbox with emails.

On the other hand, giving people the ability to choose a preferred email frequency would be ideal. Let us choose if we want daily or weekly emails.

Email formatting

I’m still getting emails that are not formatted to fit a mobile screen or even any screen for that matter. I have one blogger who has emails that cut off on the right side, and I’m even using a computer browser. This looks very sloppy to me, and it makes it hard to click on the links.

Email marketing best practices:

When you’re setting up your emails, send test versions to yourself and check them on mobile devices as well as different browsers. If the email doesn’t appear correctly, fix it before sending the final version out. You should also subscribe to your own blog to get the final versions yourself. You’ll see what your other subscribers see, which can help you fix any issues that may arise.

Checking satisfaction level

This hasn’t really happened for me with my subscriptions, but it is a great way to measure what you can do better and what you’re doing right.

Email marketing best practices:

Send out a survey that is quick and easily accessible from your email. Make sure that you stick to mostly multiple choice or equivalent, but also have at least one question that gives participants the ability to write their opinions freely. I suggest using Google Forms for this if you have the time to analyze results manually, but if you have the funds, use Survey Monkey for easier analysis.

3) Database Management Flaws

Clean up and maintain database

The more bounced emails, inactives and unsubscribers you have, the harder it will be for your emails to reach recipients’ inbox. Many email providers frown upon emails with these sorts of lists.

Email marketing best practices:

Many email marketing services will help you with cleaning up your subscriber lists. It’s best to use these services to go through your subscribers and email history, clean it all up, and update your different lists.

If you only have one list that you send every email to, that’s a risky approach. Depending on what you’re sending and how often, you might want to consider creating different lists for different purposes. You also want to make sure your list subscribers are in the right place. Check on this regularly to ensure your database is up-to-date and ready to go.

Check-in with inactive subscribers

There’s no avoiding it. You’re going to have unresponsive, inactive subscribers who don’t click on your emails or don’t click the link(s) in your email. The question is: what can you do about it?

Email marketing best practices:

Customizing a check-in email for your inactive subscribers is a great way to get their attention. Make a list with just those people, and send them an email asking them for feedback as to why they’re not clicking. Get them to open the email by offering them something and mentioning it in the subject line. There’s no guarantee this will work every time, but it is still a great approach to try.

Don’t trust software to manage your database 100% of the time

Email marketing software has developed into quite a powerful force. However, there’s no denying that a human touch is still needed. Sure, the software makes email marketing much easier, but we still need to put a little of our own effort into ensuring its accuracy and success.

Email marketing best practices:

When it comes to database management, existing software doesn’t do enough in one way in particular: organizing your subscribers into custom lists. This is almost completely left to a human to do. To ensure that your emails go out to the right people at the right time, you need to finalize these custom lists, and software isn’t completely ready to do it for you.

4) Not Connecting the Dots

Social media

You have an email marketing strategy in place, but have you connected it to your social media activity?

Email marketing best practices:

Your social media audience could become subscribers if you take the time to connect the two. Add a sign-up tab to your Facebook page. Make your Instagram URL a landing page for email sign-up. Same with Twitter. There are many ways to sync social media and email marketing, and it’s a great way to improve both areas.

Events (online & in-person)

Along with social media, events both online and in-person are great places to increase your subscribers list. Many companies and bloggers don’t take advantage of this opportunity.

Email marketing best practices:

You can provide the option to sign up at your event table or in a post-webinar thank you email. If people were interested enough in you to go to your table or attend your webinar, they could very likely be interested in subscribing too, when approached effectively.

Sales/customer service

Marketing and sales don’t always work together well, but that doesn’t have to be the case here.

Email marketing practices:

Ask your sales and customer service staff to give customers the option to sign up for your emails. They already buy your product, so they are likely willing to receive your emails, too. Just make sure they opt-in before you add them to your database.

5) Ethics Issues

Buying lists

I’ve seen on Twitter that some users are buying followers. Most other users agree that this is a very bad, unethical approach. The same goes with buying email subscriber lists. It breaches ethical behavior and can get you in a lot of trouble.

Email marketing practices:

Don’t purchase subscriber lists. Instead, put in the effort yourself and have patience. All good things come with time.

Selling your database

Similar to buying lists, selling your contacts database is very very sketchy and unethical.

I used to donate to a specific nonprofit. They had my email and mailing address. They were the only organization that knew this information at the time. Soon after donating, I was bombarded by spam emails and other nonprofit junk mail. I received a ton of postal mail from other nonprofits that I never knew existed. It was clear the original nonprofit sold my information. Let’s just say I never donated to them again.

Email marketing best practices:

Don’t sell your subscriber database. If you’re low enough on funds to consider this as an option, there are so many other, ethical alternatives.

Sending content not requested (spamming)

I want blog articles. I don’t want webinar invites or conference discount emails. When you send content your subscribers don’t want, you’re essentially spamming them.

Email marketing best practices:

Just like I said before, give subscribers the option to choose what content they receive. Then, stick to that preference. Otherwise, your contacts are going to unsubscribe at a quick and alarming rate.

Well, there you have it. The 5 email marketing practices to avoid and the best practices to follow. If you’re currently participating in any of these controversial behaviors, I hope I’ve convinced you to at least consider stopping. Trust me, a dedicated multi-blog subscriber, that it is in your best interest to go the ethical route and ensure you’re following the right steps with your email marketing.

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