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Email Marketing Best Practices

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Now that we've explored the importance of sending permission-based email, let's take a closer look at some of the techniques and practices that the most experienced email marketers use. These best practices can make the difference between rapidly growing your list through word of mouth, increasing your sales, and building strong relationships and losing subscribers to list attrition, aggravating customers, and getting your messages blocked before they even reach your recipients.

From Names & Subject Lines

For most people, a majority of emails received are junk email. As a result, each of us has developed a little ritual we follow when checking our email. Initially, most people looked first at the subject lines to determine whether to read a message. Today, however, studies have shown that recipients glance at the "From" field to see if they recognize the sender's name or email address. Then, only if they recognize the From Name do they look at the "Subject" field to see if it's of interest to them. This is why we recommend using a From Name that is either your organization's name or a well-known person within your organization-and to keep that name consistent with every mailing.

Regarding subject lines, we have found a good strategy to be having one part of the subject line be consistent, and the other be variable. This way recipients can recognize your newsletter when it comes in as well as get a small taste as to what type of information might be featured for that issue.

Some examples of bad subject lines are:

The Permission-Based Email Marketing Monthly for September, 1 2005 from IntelliContact Pro

This subject line is simply too long. We recommend keeping subject lines between 20 and 50 characters whenever possible. This 80 character subject line is likely to get cut off in most email clients and could cause the message to have a higher chance of being blocked by a content-based spam filter.


This subject line is in all caps, which will increase the change the message will get blocked by content-based spam filters.

Garden Tips

This subject line doesn't provide any information as to what the message is about. We would recommend adding at least what month the message is for.

Oxy-Powder Special ? Save $10 Today Only Buy Now!!!!

This subject line includes both a dollar sign and multiple exclamation points. Both of these things would cause the message to have a higher chance of being blocked by a content-based spam filter.

Here's is a revised version of each of these subject lines:

1. Permission-Based Email Marketing Monthly for September

2. [fname]'s Entrepreneuers' Chronicle for March

3. Garden Tips Monthly ? Are Year Round Orchids Possible?

4. Oxy-Powder Special: 15% Off

By following these tips on From Names and Subject Lines you can maximize the chance of your message being opened by your end recipients.

HTML or Plain Text, or Both?

In the early days of the Internet, say 1998 and before, when most surfers were using Internet Service Providers such as Prodigy, AOL, and CompuServe, all email messages that were sent were plain text emails.

Then, with AOL 5.0 came the ability to send Rich Text messages that allowed you to bold or italicize text, insert pictures, and add links. Still, however, most email clients (the software tools that allow you to view your email, such as Outlook, Eudora, Thunderbird, Hotmail, etc.) did not have the ability to display full HTML messages.

Today, almost all email clients have the ability to display HTML messages. While some organizations still send their emails as plain text, there are a number of advantages of sending your message as an HTML message, especially with the easy to use WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) HTML editors that are available. The difficulty is, even today around 5% of email recipients either are unable to view HTML messages or have turned this feature off within their clients. To solve this problem, almost all marketers today send in a format called Multi-Part MIME. Multi-part MIME is a method by which one can send both an HTML message and a text message within the same document. When using Multi-Part MIME, you simply create your regular newsletter, announcement, or promotion as an HTML message and then create a separate text version. Then, when your message is sent, all the persons who can see HTML, will see your regular HTML message, and the 5% or so that cannot will receive the text version of the newsletter. Today's email clients can automatically detect a Multi-Part MIME message and display the proper message.

It is for this reason that one should always create a text version of every newsletter that is sent out. Without a text version, the message will either show up blank or show up as garbled HTML code for the percentage of recipients who cannot view HTML messages. On a final note, you can go about creating your text message one of two ways. The first option is to recreate the message in the text-only section by copying and pasting the text from the HTML message. If you choose this method, be sure to type out the URLs of each link). The second option is to upload your HTML message to your web site and then send a message like the one below:

Dear [fname];
Your September edition of the Gardening Tips Monthly Newsletter is now available. You can read it online at

Betty Sampson, Editor
Gardening Tips Monthly

When to Email

In marketing timing is everything, but with email marketing it can make the difference between emails being read and being trashed. Naturally every person has his or her own preferential time to deal with email, but there are a few general rules of thumb for when it is best to send email messages.

If you're mailing to business recipients it's best to sent email Tuesday thru Thursday, between 9:30 am and 3 pm. Studies found that Monday's are generally reserved for meetings, organizing, and catching up on all the tasks left over from the week prior and emails sent Friday afternoons are often ignored or show up at the bottom of the list when downloaded on Monday morning.

If you are emailing consumers directly, emailing between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. is generally more successful than other times of the day. Friday thru Sunday emails are the most effective, generally because consumers are more likely to be online over the weekend and have more leisure time to ponder your offer.

These mentioned times may change based on which time zone you are in and which time zone most of your customers are in. For example, if you are based in San Francisco but most of your clients are on the East Coast of the United States, you may wish to adjust the sending windows by three hours. In some cases, we have seen some international clients segment their list by geographic location to be able to more easily send messages during the most optimal time window.

Email Sending Frequency

As with all marketing, balancing the frequency of your messages is extremely important. If you don't send enough messages, it is difficult remain in the forefront of your customer's mind and be considered when they are ready to buy. If you send too many, you may annoy your recipient and cause them to unsubscribe.

We have generally found that either a bi-weekly or monthly sending schedule produces the best results. This may vary, however, based on your type of newsletter and subscriber that you have. One strategy could be to create a signup form that allows your subscribers to specify what mailing frequency they prefer. Then you could tailor how much material you send to each specific subscriber preference. Make sure, however, that each message you send has something of value to the end recipient. We've found that it is better to send a high quality monthly newsletter than a medium-quality weekly newsletter.


Email marketing tools like IntelliContact Pro generally have a powerful method of improving open rates and response rates. This method is personalization. Message personalization can be done by inserting what is known as mail-merge fields into your message. For example, if you wanted to insert the first name of a subscriber into a message subject or body in IntelliContact Pro you would just type in [fname]. Take a look at the two below messages and see the difference inserting mail-merge personalization fields can have.

Message 1 ? No Mail-Merge Personalization Fields

Dear Subscriber,

Thank you for purchasing one of our products in the past. Today we have launched a new online catalog that may help you in your future purchases. You can find this catalog at

We appreciate your business. Please know I am always here if you have any questions about your past purchases.

My warmest regards,
Frank Desean, President
Autobody Products Corp.

Message 2 ? Using Mail-Merge Personalization Fields

Dear [fname],

Thank you for purchasing [productname] on [purchasedate]. Today we have launched a new online catalog that may help you in your future purchases of [productcategory] products. You can find this catalog at

We appreciate having the business of [businessname]. Please know I am always here if you have any questions about your purchase of [productname] or any [productcategory] purchases that you may make in the future.

My warmest regards,
Frank Desean, President
Autobody Products Corp.

As you can imagine, message #2, using mail-merge personalization fields, is a much more personal communications and would likely lead to a greater message response rate.

List Segmentation

There is no doubt that specifically targeted emails with valuable and relevant content work the best. By dividing your database either by interest or demographic, you will be able to appeal to the needs and wants of your consumer and improve your sales results. An effective segmentation strategy, however, begins with the sign up form. Make sure you are collecting the information during the initial signup that you will want to segment by later. IntelliContact Pro includes a list segmentation feature that makes it easy to segment your lists by any field in your subscriber database.

Ryan Allis is a nationally recognized expert on email marketing. Ryan is the CEO of Broadwick Corp, providers of the email marketing software IntelliContact Pro. For additional information on email marketing software, visit

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