15 Tenets of Proper Email Marketing Etiquette

You’d think that after several decades of use, marketers should already know proper email marketing etiquette. Unfortunately, many marketers tend to jump in without even talking the time to learn how to market through email properly, which frankly tend to affect their success later on. If you want to avoid these pitfalls, keep these 15 tenets of proper email marketing etiquette firmly in mind:

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1. Don’t Forget that There’s a Person on the Other End – as a marketer, it is important to learn how to look at the big picture, at all the statistics and numbers and graphs but it is equally important to remember that those numbers represent actual people, who have needs, temperaments, and wants just like you. This actually has a purpose beyond just following email marketing etiquette; the less disconnected you are from the people in your list, the better your chances of making campaigns that are relevant to their interests. Basically, you stand a better chance of understanding them and knowing how to approach if you never forget how to treat them as individuals instead of random numbers.

2. Seek Permission From Your Recipients – email marketing, if you want to be successful, should be permission based. Sending out mails without the permission of the recipients is not only unethical, but also tantamount to spamming, which is already a federal offense as per the CAN-SPAM Act. This means you only send mails to people who specifically signed up for your list. Don’t just farm random emails from various websites or through shady means.

3. Automate in Moderation – these days, it’s important to learn how to automate various tasks so that you can focus your energies on more critical tasks, but don’t do it to the point where the recipients will get the feeling that they’ve been receiving mails from an AI or an automated script.

4. Provide an Option to Unsubscribe – just because a person wanted to receive your mails and gave you permission to send doesn’t mean he’s going to feel the same way indefinitely. For people who want out of your list (and really, it’s their prerogative regardless of reason), you should provide an option to opt out, and don’t hide it or resort to trickery. Besides, the CAN SPAM Act requires an opt out link be included in every mail sent out, so if you don’t give users an unsubscribe link, you’re actually breaking the law.

5. Honor Unsubscribes – If a user does unsubscribe, make sure you honor it. Don’t just give them the option to unsubscribe without actually removing them from your list when they do.

6. Don’t Spam Your List – various studies have already pointed out that contrary to popular belief, the volume of mails sent DO provide a positive increase in the number of clickthroughs. But there is a fine line that separates sending “enough” emails to garner a healthy CTR and just outright spamming your users. It is best to do some testing in order to find out the optimal volume of mails you need to send and how frequent you can send them.

7. Prune Your List On a Regular Basis – besides ensuring that inactive mails be removed from your list (therefore improving your bounce rates), regular pruning of the list also means that you won’t be sending to people who no longer want to be on your list, but didn’t bother unsubscribing (which also results in a lot of soft bounces.)

8. Check on Inactive Subscribers Instead of Spamming Them – it’s a given that over time, you’ll accumulate nonresponsive contacts who are probably no longer interested. That doesn’t mean you just need to blast them with offers upon offers or just remove them from your list willy-nilly. You need to send a personal or customized mail checking up on them, asking them if there’s anything you can do that will be of interest.

9. Segment Lists and Personalize Mails – as mentioned above, it is not nice to make your recipients feel as though you’re treating them as just a random number and leaving them in the care of automated scripts. This means you need to segment your list properly so that emails are not boring, general pitches.

10. Direct the Reply To: Address to a Real Person – using generic, impersonal addresses on the Reply To field is not only unethical, but will also affect the people receiving your mails negatively. Email is still a personal two-way communication, and nobody wants to communicate with a random “admin” or “CEO.” They want to communicate with a real person.

11. Don’t Go Overboard on the HTML – HTMLs are a powerful way to make your mails stand out from the rest, but don’t go overboard because using too much HTML just for the sake of looking cool may annoy recipients, especially ones that use text-only ESPs. Stick to bold text, headers, bulleted lists, anchor text, and maybe an image or two. Flash and Javascript are an absolute no-no.

12. Provide a Plain-Text Version of Your Mails – this will help people who want nothing to do with html, particularly ones using an office email, which are usually full of restrictions on file size and formats (and for good reason: security.)

13. Keep Your Mails Mobile-Friendly – mobile users nowadays outnumber desktop users, and majority of emails are read on portable/mobile devices, so make sure that your emails will display correctly on the devices, which tend to have limited screen real estate and use apps that might not render your average HTML mail correctly.

14. Don’t Use SPAM Trigger Words on Your Subject Line – by now, you’re already aware of these trigger words – FREE, SPECIAL OFFER, SIGN UP NOW, etc. People are wary of these trigger words and will most likely respond by deleting or blocking your mail, if their mail filter hasn’t automatically blocked you yet.

15. Lastly, Proofread – there’s nothing that kills your chances of making a sale than a newsletter full of amateur grammar and spelling mistakes. Make sure you at least proofread your message twice before sending them out, just to ensure that your content doesn’t look like it’s been written by a third-grader.

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