Email marketing best practices for your small business

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Email marketing is a great way to connect with your customers and deliver targeted messaging while driving engagement, sales and revenue — but only if you do it right. In this email marketing guide, we’ll take a look at the email marketing best practices you need to make your campaign a winning one. Let’s get started:

  1. Clear out your list.
  2. Customise the ‘sender’ field.
  3. Put thought into your subject line and preheader text.
  4. Segment your list—and use segmentation to send personalised, targeted emails.
  5. Split test your emails to maximise performance.

1. Clear out your list.

Email list building is one of the most important parts of email marketing. But no matter how much time and effort you put into building your list, at some point, you’re going to have subscribers that are no longer engaged or interested in receiving your emails. And when your subscribers aren’t opening your emails or interacting with your business, they’re just taking up space — and bringing down your email marketing metrics.

That’s why clearing out your list regularly is a must for effective email marketing. Dive into your email metrics and identify any subscribers that haven’t opened your emails for a long stretch of time (maybe six months). Then, send all those customers one last email in an attempt to re-engage them (like a special discount or news about a new product or service)…and if that email still goes unopened or unanswered, remove them from your list. You should also make it easy for people to unsubscribe from your email list. Include an ‘Unsubscribe’ button at the bottom of each email you send, and stay on top of requests from people asking to be removed.

Seeing your subscriber number go down might feel a little painful. But, by getting rid of customers that are no longer engaged with your email marketing efforts, you’ll make room for customers who are excited to see you in their inbox — and pave the way for more effective email marketing campaigns in the future.

2. Customise the ‘sender’ field.

If you’re still sending your emails from a ‘do not reply’ address, you’re missing out on a major opportunity to create a more personalised connection with your customers. Instead of sending your marketing emails from a generic ‘do not reply’ address, create a personalised, branded address.

Seeing a more personalised name in the sender field (whether that’s a real name, like Cheryl Watson, or a department name, like Customer Service at Davidson Events) shows the reader that the email they’re receiving is from a trusted, valued sender, not a nameless bot looking to spam their inbox. This small difference can work wonders for your open rates.

You can use your personal business address — but know that you could be opening the door for customers to reply directly to you. Another option is to create a separate business address specifically for your marketing campaigns. This way, you can monitor responses and reply from that account…without getting a influx of emails to your own inbox.

3. Put thought into your subject line and preheader text.

Most people are bombarded with hundreds (or thousands!) of marketing emails each week. If you want your emails to get opened, you need a way to break through the clutter of an overcrowded inbox and grab your customers’ attention. One of the best ways to do that is with a stand-out email marketing subject line.

Think about how you can differentiate your brand and make your emails stand out in a sea of other marketing messages. What’s your email offering that customers can’t get elsewhere — and how can you communicate that in a subject line? Include snippets of information that intrigue readers and inspire them to open your message. For example, if your email is marketing an upcoming sale and you’re planning to offer email subscribers an additional 10% off, you should feature their exclusive discount right in the subject line.

The same goes for preheader text — the short summary that follows the subject line in a reader’s inbox. The preheader text provides more context to the email’s content, and gives you an additional opportunity to persuade the reader to open your email.

The key to writing good subject lines and preheader text? Be succinct. Remember, you have limited space to get your point across — so use it wisely.

In the email marketing examples below, the subject lines (in black text) act to grab the reader’s attention and pique their interest — while the grey preheader text delivers more information and drives the benefit home, further incentivising them to click ‘open’.

4. Segment your list — and use segmentation to send personalised, targeted emails.

You have different types of customers. And if you’re sending the same email to everyone, you’re missing out on an opportunity to maximise the effectiveness of your campaign. Instead, you should be sending segmented, personalised messages to all of your different types of customers.

When you segment your list, you separate different types of customers based on the data available. For example, you might segment your list based on location, interests, purchase history or how frequently they engage with your business. From there, you can send highly targeted, personalised marketing messaging to each segment of your list — which will increase the likelihood that your customers open your emails and, most importantly, act on them.

For example, let’s say you own a small chain of coffee shops with locations in three different towns. By segmenting your list by location, you can let your customers know about the upcoming events, deals and new menu items that apply to the location closest to them. This will increase the likelihood that they’ll stop in to check out that event, deal or menu item.

Bottom line? Generic marketing messaging rarely works — and that includes in email marketing. So, make sure your emails aren’t generic by segmenting your list and tailoring the messaging to each segment.

5. Split test your emails to maximise performance.

You might think the email campaign examples you’ve put together will perform with your audience. But you can’t really know until you test them. One way to test your emails to maximise performance is split testing, also known as A/B testing.

With split testing, you test how changing a single element of your email design or strategy impacts performance, and then use your insights to optimise your campaign. For example, you might create two identical emails, just with different subject lines — then send them out and see which performs better. Or you might have two emails that are identical in every way…but you send one in the morning and one in the evening to see which has a higher open rate.

Once you’ve performed a split test, you’ll want to dig into your data to see which performed better. Then, take that email and split test again with a different element — and then repeat the process until you have the highest performing email marketing campaign possible.

Split testing your emails will give you invaluable insights into what elements perform well with your audience and which don’t…and you can use this information to continually optimise your campaigns and maximise every email.