5 Email Best Practices Not to Overlook

To build a strong foundation for your digital marketing strategy here's a refresher on five email marketing best practices that shouldn't be overlooked.

It's increasingly difficult to keep up with the rate of change in digital marketing. From emerging messaging technologies and predictive analytics to channel integration and device proliferation, marketers are struggling to keep up with innovation and deliver continuous value across every customer interaction.

Amidst the promise of transformational data-driven engagement, practitioners often lose sight of the fact that a marketing strategy is driven by best practices, not technology. This includes maximizing the value of foundational channels like email.

Email remains the highest ROI customer engagement channel by far, delivering by recent estimates $40 per every $1 spent. Moreover, a 2012 survey of consumer habits and preferences found 77 percent preferred to receive permission-based promotions via email and 44 percent of consumers agree that email influences purchase decisions. An email address is required in order to transact, participate in social, download apps, and more; it's basically the digital equivalent of a driver's license in an increasingly connected marketing landscape.

To build a strong foundation for your digital marketing strategy - and fully enable your customers' journey to conversion - here's a refresher on five email marketing best practices that shouldn't be overlooked.

1. Get personal

If an email is addressed to me I say, so what? Any brand can automate this capability. That's why it's important to take segment-based marketing and personalization up a notch. Be creative. We're not just talking about remembering birthdays and a person's last purchase. It's time to think beyond stated preferences and transactions and analyze customer behaviors across Web, social, mobile, and enterprise data - which together can furnish the insight required to inform the creation and delivery of individualized context-driven messages. A sound understanding of your customers as individuals -instead of a disparate collection of "personas" that change based on how they interact with your brand - will enable you to develop the offers and recommendations that drive engagement and conversion.

2. Content is king

What you say - and how you say it - matters. Examine everything from the length, tone, and style of your subject lines to the personality and tone of your messages. Every marketing interaction should demonstrate that you know your audience members and how you can help them. Most importantly, make sure your messages clearly express a call-to-action. Content must do more than reflect your brand identity - it must spark meaningful customer engagement. If your recipients recognize that emails from your brand contain useful and desirable information, they will keep opening your messages.

3. Test, test, test

Getting personal and delivering the right content requires testing. Subject line and multi-variant testing has consistently proven to deliver 20 to 40 percent improvements in conversion, yet less than 20 percent of marketers adhere to this practice. This is largely based on the difficulty of current systems to simplify testing. Take the time and consider solutions that allow you to split test everything from subject lines and offers to products and content hierarchy, which ultimately results in higher open rates and conversions.

4. Optimize your design

Forrester estimates that purchases made on mobile devices in the U.S. will climb to $31 billion by 2016. Make sure your email marketing campaigns are optimized across all devices so you don't miss out on prospective customers. Ensure your emails and landing pages/conversion sites are mobile optimized. Rethink your call-to-action buttons to get the highest number of clicks. Since mobile users don't have a cursor telling them what is clickable, buttons should stand out and appear after every proposition and product. Create buttons that are at least 38 pixels tall so clumsy digits don't stand in the way of a seamless user experience. The easier you make it for subscribers to read your emails no matter what device they are using, the more likely they will consume your marketing message.

5. Grow and maintain your list

The most important factor in successful email marketing is effective list management. Growing your opt-in subscriber base requires a comprehensive approach, from optimizing email sign-up opportunities throughout your website, social, and other channels, to managing your list to achieve optimal deliverability via re-activation, re-engagement, and re-permissioning campaigns. List maintenance doesn't have to be a daunting task. Start by removing all hard bounces, then move on to users who haven't opened a message in six months by targeting them with specialized messages. Doing so will go a long way toward establishing a strong sender reputation and, most importantly, meeting your subscribers' expectations.

Without doubt, keeping pace in today's technology-driven digital marketing arena requires a degree of innovation as you look to integrate new channels and optimize for new devices. At the same time, applying these best practices to your email campaigns will ensure a strong foundation as you look to discover new ways to engage customers and increase ROI.