One of the best places to connect directly with your customers is in their inboxes. A study of the email behaviors of nearly 2,000 Americans in The Inbox Report 2017, by marketing platform Fluent, shows just how important email is to your customers’ daily lives—and how important email marketing can be for your business:

  • More than 80 percent of respondents check email daily, and two-thirds of respondents check email several times a day.
  • Forty percent of respondents start their day by checking email.
  • More than 20 percent of respondents have email notifications that alert them to messages in real time.

The Email Statistics Report, 2016-2020, by research firm The Radicati Group, forecasts worldwide email usage will grow from 2.6 billion email users in 2016 to more than 3 billion in 2020. By capitalizing on a service most of your customers are using, you can send targeted, relevant messages they’ll look forward to receiving. Here are some email marketing best practices to keep in mind.

Before Ask Permission to Send First

If you don’t have an existing business relationship with the person you plan to email, there is no reason why you should hit “send” on an unsolicited email. Open and click-through rates for emails where the user has granted the sender permission first are drastically higher. Consider:

  • Permission-based emails result in open rates of 30-40 percent and average click-through rates of 20 percent.
  • Non-permission-based emails results in average open rates of 2 percent and click-through rates of 0.2 percent.

Additionally, if you email marketing efforts send email to users who have no idea what your business is, they may mark your email as spam. Being marked as spam may limit the number of emails you’re able to send through a the email marketing service you’re using. It may also cause an internet service provider to relegate all future emails you send to recipients’ spam folders, which hurts your chances of your messages being seen at all.

Avoid purchasing email lists and spamming users. Build lists organically. You can feature email subscription boxes throughout your blog and website. Use events where you’re meeting people in person to ask their permission to add them to your email list. When the recipient establishes a relationship with your business where they allow and come to expect messages from you, they’ll be more likely to pay attention. Your business will avoid being punished by email clients and being labeled as annoying and untrustworthy by potential customers.

Make Your Email Marketing Personal

There’s ample psychological research that shows personalization makes people care more about the message that is being conveyed to them. A report on research that shows the benefits of personalization, by inbound marketing software HubSpot, shows that personalization in marketing matters because:

  • With information overload, it’s a way to grab user attention.
  • Personalized messages make users feel more in control, which elicits positive emotions.
  • Seeing your own name triggers unique brain activity that increases attention.

When asked how personalization affects email marketing effectiveness, nearly 30 percent of people say customization makes them much more likely to open and read an email, while 55 percent say it makes them at least a little more likely to. To make emails more personal, use these tips:

  • Address recipients by first name in the body of the email and perhaps in the subject line.
  • Send emails that relate to where recipients are in the buying journey. You could send a special offer for a product that is complementary to what they’ve recently purchased, for example, or send a link for a limited-time discount coupon if they haven’t shopped with you for awhile.
  • Deliver messages based on special events in a person’s life, such as if they’ve recently celebrated a birthday or have been a customer of your business for X amount of years.

Make the message more personal by including copywriting and images that are relevant to the user. You can also make the frequency of your emails more relevant, by asking users how often they’d like to hear from you before you even contact them.

By segmenting recipients into groups based on their preferences and actions taken with your brand, you can still make messages personal with the help of automation through an email marketing service.

Prioritize Mobile-First Email

People are using smartphones for more tasks more than ever before, including how they interact with email. The Inbox Report 2017 shows two-thirds of people say that their smartphones are the dominant devices they use to check email, with 73 percent of users checking email on smartphones multiple times a day.

Considering the growing dominance of mobile usage, it’s vital that your email service works quickly and loads optimally on any device. Emails should be able to be easily accessed and read from smartphones, tablets and everything in-between. If you’re using call to action buttons in your email, they should be able to be clicked on easily, without requiring users to pinch or zoom in. Images and text should be clearly visible, as well.

Create a Customer Journey Using Email

The email message shouldn’t be viewed as the end-game. Use email marketing as a component in your overall marketing strategy that supports other aspects, such as social media, lead generation and sales. Whenever you devise a new marketing campaign, think about how email can support the journey. Conversely, promote campaigns you’re currently working on in email. Here are some examples:

  • You’ve launched an Instagram takeover of your brand channel with the help of a local celebrity. You can send out an email blast to users promoting the takeover, including a branded hashtag they can use to participate in the campaign. Link to your Instagram channel in the email, ask users who aren’t already followers to follow you and link to the influencer’s website so your customers can learn more about them.
  • Your brand is celebrating Small Business Saturday by hosting an in-store party. Use email marketing to send out a special coupon code that users can only use at the event. Create an RSVP feature in the email, where everyone who RSVPs to come will be entered into an in-store raffle, with winners to be announced at a designated time.
  • You’ve just released a new product, which is supported by YouTube video tutorials, a new testimonials page on your website, and a direct mail campaign where you’ll be sending miniature samples to customers. Promote these on- and off-line initiatives through email. People can send you their physical addresses to get a sample, they can view videos directly in their inbox, and they can head to your website to read what people are saying.

Email marketing is a valuable way to connect with customers personally, through your messaging and through the interactions you have based on calls to action within the email. Aim to make every message you send to a user one that is so meaningful, that they’ll actually look forward to opening your next message.

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