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Email marketing: best practices in 2018

Email marketing: best practices in 2018

Are your emails as effective as they could be?

Or are you relying on email practices that are outdated, ineffective – or contrary to privacy laws (GDPR)?

While sending emails to customers might seem like a simple process, the reality is that there are hundreds of factors at play, and sending engaging messages that get opened, read and clicked is an art and a science.

Let’s look at some of the factors that influence whether your emails get attention in 2018.

Marketing or transactional?

Before we look at the details of your emails, it’s important to note that the two kinds of emails you send are hugely different and cannot be treated as equals.

Transactional emails are those messages that you must send to customers, such as account updates, bills, receipts, order confirmations and notifications.

Marketing emails are messages that you send to customers and non-customers alike, promoting your products, services and events.

Much of the advice that follows applies equally to both types of email. However, you should keep these two streams of activity separate and treat them very differently.


How well do you know your audience? If you’re sending generic messages to hundreds or thousands of people, then you have less chance of grabbing attention and causing someone to take action. Understanding your customers, and customising messages to their needs, will improve engagement rates.


Your emails must look as great as your brand. And don’t expect your web designer to knock up your emails – you may need an expert who understands the unique constraints of inboxes.


Self-promotional emails are not enough; you have to give people a reason to be interested. Whether this is a discount or a gift or a free sample, it needs to be compelling to rise above the hundreds of other emails hitting their inbox.


Does your email copy match your brand’s tone of voice? Is your copy focused on the reader’s self-interest? Does the language catch the reader’s eye and arouse their curiosity? Try to avoid writing the same old things in the same old ways. Instead of trying to fit in, try to stand out.

Subject lines

Getting this right is crucial. Read our recent post about how to write better email subject lines.


Make it easy for people to reply to your messages. And definitely don’t use a ‘no-reply’ address.


If appropriate, add personal details to your messages. In addition to their name, you might include details of the product or service they use, or mention an upcoming anniversary. Show customers that you care about them by including little touches of personalisation.

List building

Building your own list is a great idea, not least because it means you have clear evidence of consent to send messages. But beyond GDPR concerns, it makes sense to build your own list of contacts (rather than buying a list) because your self-made list is made of people who have already indicated an interest in your brand, and are clearly ready to learn more. You will get significantly better engagement rates from your own list – and fewer complaints.

List cleaning

How often do you clean your list of contacts? Every few months it is good practice to delete contacts who have not opened your messages – or at least send a re-confirmation request. This means you can send fewer unwanted messages, improve engagement rates and focus on the people who want your emails.


Since GDPR has come into force, the unsubscribe link is an even more crucial component in every marketing message you send. Never send a marketing email without a clear and easy unsubscribe option.


Segmenting your list is another way to drive up engagement rates. You might segment by demographic, preferences or past purchases.

Call to action (CTA)

Every email should be based around a clear call to action. If you don’t know what you want people to do, then why are you sending them an email? Whether you’re driving people to a blog post, or a sale item, make sure the entire email is focused on one action. It's okay to have other messages and links in a single email, but try to show a clear hierarchy between messages so your customers can easily make sense of what you're offering. 


Giving customers control over their email preferences is a useful way to avoid unsubscribes, particularly if people can augment the frequency of messages or select the type of message they like to receive. For example, one customer will want weekly emails, while another would rather just get your seasonal offers and discounts.


Remember that opting-in doesn’t necessarily give you blanket permission to send emails. If people are expecting to receive special offers from you, you can’t start sending them your newsletter or corporate announcements.


Do you know when your audience is most receptive to your messages? Finding the right time and day to send emails can make a significant difference to your open and read rates. This really depends on your industry, the nature of your messages and your audience groups. Experimentation is usually the best way to identify the most effective send schedule.


Does your team need support to send more powerful customer communications? We can help you digitise your communications and transform your processes.

Contact our team today.