Insights / Strategy

PUBLISHED: Jul 15, 2021 7 min read

10 Key Email Marketing Best Practices That Drive Client Results

Are you doing everything you can to make your email marketing effective?

Some say email marketing is an outdated and unsophisticated method of reaching customers given all the technological advancements in marketing over the past half-decade. Yet research shows that the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic have reaffirmed email’s importance in consumers’ lives, with 62 percent of consumers indicating email as the way they’d “prefer that brands or companies reach out to provide you with information and updates during the COVID-19 pandemic.” In fact, email opens and click-through-rate[amsive_tooltip term=”click-through-rate”] increased following America’s initial shutdown. But email loyalty is not a given, and open rates have since returned to pre-pandemic levels.

A massive 126.7 trillion emails are expected to be sent by 2022, and over 90 percent of online consumers check their email at least once a day. Yet every day, inboxes are inundated with emails that go unread. Getting the right audiences to open, consume, and engage with emails that are part of a marketing campaign is a daunting task, let alone staying on top of email marketing[amsive_tooltip term=”email-marketing”] trends and driving a brand’s message. 

Read on for some of the best practices and key takeaways to ensure email marketing relevance now and in the future. 

1. Create a Recognizable Sender Name

“From: name” and “From: email address” are the first real details recipients see in their inboxes. Make sure to use an existing, verifiable, and active account for all campaigns — not a bot.

Generalized variations of “” or something similar tells the intended audience that there can’t be a personalized response and that you don’t value their opinion.

2. Use Every Possible Bit of Space Within Your Subject Line

Thirty-three percent of recipients open emails based on the subject lines alone. This small area, located next to your sender name when an email reaches their inbox, needs to be informative and catchy within a brief space. It is your best chance to make the right first impression. Limit the subject line window to 40-60 characters, but pack keywords or phrases into the first six words as best you can. 

Also, be mindful of screens where emails are more regularly read — most inboxes display the first 60 characters, while mobile displays up to 30 characters.

Every day, inboxes are inundated with emails that go unread. Getting the right audiences to open, consume, and engage with emails that are part of a marketing campaign is a daunting task.

3. Use Preheaders as Your Secret Weapon

Your next chance to capture attention is the summary text that follows the subject line when the email is viewed in the inbox. This is the best opportunity to extend or elaborate on the subject line messaging without simply restating the same wordage or within the copy of the email itself.

Limit this space to 200 characters maximum, and be sure to use data and terms to highlight offers within the first four words. Email accounts and mobile devices vary on when they cut off text that goes beyond a specific length, so try to optimize within the following parameters: 

  • iPhone displays 35 characters 
  • Gmail displays up to 110 characters

4. Reinforce Personalized and Relevant Messaging

Be brief, but effective. Position the most important content “above the fold” of the email (i.e. before viewers have to scroll). Try to whittle down the copy to balance wordcounts versus getting your message across; think about what the least amount of words are to be able to effectively get a message across.

Other than staying fresh with verbiage and avoiding repetition, there are specific words that tend to trigger spam filters that successful campaigns should avoid. Overtly low-quality words and phrases include “buy,” “win,” “earn extra cash,” “free,” “save money,” and more. Eliminating all spam-seeming words could leave you with a restricted email vocabulary, so make sure to pressure test phrases against what you’re trying to achieve with your campaign.

5. Stay Within Wordcount Parameters

Who hasn’t been guilty of typing a novel-length email? It’s not fun to read that much in such a little space. So having a good balance of brevity, as well as words and images to get your message across is key. 

Keep it shorter — we’re not asking you to keep it Twitter short — but 500-750 words or less is usually the best bet, and don’t forget about formatting tools to break up potential walls of text; whether it’s font colors, intermittent uses of bold, emphasizing italics, and more.

When it’s easier for subscribers to share more information, brands are able to collect more data, which allows brands to better market to them. 

6. Don’t Just Include Images, Make Sure They’re Great Images

From an imagery standpoint, make sure images relate to the words and thrust of the messaging. Readers don’t want to see pictures of a house if they’re reading about car loans. 

Try to gauge your space within the email to a ratio of 30 percent of images to 70 percent of the remaining content. Always consider image sizing and high resolution, both for aesthetic purposes and how they may impact load times. And again, make sure you’re optimized for different screens because you don’t want something wonky on mobile but perfect on desktop. 

7. Limit Your Effective Offers

Don’t overstimulate or flood subscribers with offers. We see typically somewhere between three and five offers per email as the baseline sweet spot. This can depend on industry type and what content customers are giving subscribers within a campaign. 

However, if you’ve established that you’re going to flood everyone with a bunch of offers, and they’re used to that, and you get good engagement, you can probably go ahead and bump this number up a little bit.

8. Sharpen Calls to Action

Buttons tend to be more effective than text in a call to action (CTA), with non-committal CTAs tending to work better. For example, something like “view latest offers” versus “buy now” factors into collective interest instead of sales tactics. Linking to readily accessible content versus gated content is also usually better, though an email customer journey linking to gated content is best with establishing new subscriber lists[amsive_tooltip term=”email-list”]. 

9. Establish a Baseline Frequency, Then Tweak as Needed

If you don’t convert on the second message, someone is sure not going to convert on the fifth. Set a max number of emails that you’ll send to the active subscriber[amsive_tooltip term=”active-subscriber”]. Industry research suggests two per month is the sweet spot, but marketers should continue to test and refine. 

But later down the road, if you’ve got enough content, and if your campaign strategy supports it, consider adding preference options to allow subscribers to select message frequency, which establishes trust with a clear understanding of the opt-in[amsive_tooltip term=”opt-in”] relationship.

10. Always Think About Follow-Ups

Tweak the people, process, and technology of campaigns to execute as a marketing team for the next wave of emails. Email marketing is built around making it easier for subscribers to happily share the information that they want a brand to know about. Ultimately when it’s easier for subscribers to share more information, brands are able to collect more data, which allows brands to better market to them. 

Hopefully it also leads to happier customers, and that data can then quickly get turned around and used to personalize any other moment within the journey.