8 World-Class Email Marketing Best Practices To Send Better Emails

Bonus Material: Email Marketing Best Practices Checklist

By the end of this blog post I’ll have you sending emails like this:

Screenshot of good email format

With open and click rates like this:

Screenshot of open and click rates of an email

Note: 20% opens and 2% clicks are considered “average” across most industries.[*]

The eight email marketing best practices I’m about to show you in this post will get you above-average results (like the example above).

To get a step-by-step best practices checklist to follow for every email you send (based on this post), click the button below.

Email Marketing Best Practices Checklist 

Now, let’s get started. 

1. Use Great Subject Lines

Any successful email campaign starts with a great subject line.

If you want to stand out among a crowd of messages in everyone’s inbox, your subject lines need to grab the reader’s attention and be highly clickable. 

There are several formulas to come up with great subject lines.

For example, The Results email formula — How We [Result]:

Screenshot of email using the Results email formula — How We [Result]

Or The Art Of email formula — The Art Of [Topic]

Screenshot of the The Art Of email formula — The Art Of [Topic]

Finding what works for your business will take time and experimentation. But don’t overlook the subject line, no matter how experienced you are with email marketing. 

If people don’t feel some emotional reaction to your subject line — excitement, awe, amusement, nostalgia, joy, etc. — they won’t open your message. 

2. Use Relevant Preview Text

The subject line is usually the first thing people see in their inbox, but there’s another piece of copy that shows up in most inboxes: the preview text.

This short snippet can give the reader additional context about what’s included in your message — it’s the supporting act to your subject line, and helps to reinforce your email's message. 

Here are a few great examples of preview text working in tandem with subject lines.

Virgin Atlantic uses scarcity in its preview text to create urgency to open the email and take action on what’s inside: 

Screenshot of Virgin Atlantic using scarcity in the preview text of their email

Away uses the preview text to tease the product featured in the email and let the reader know it’s new: 

Screenshot of Away using the preview text to tease the product featured in the email

The Toronto Raptors, an NBA team, uses this space to continue the subject line and add more context: 

Screenshot of Toronto Raptors using the preview text to continue the subject line

Preview text can vary across email clients but it’s generally between 35-90 characters. To make sure your message fits, try to keep it as short as possible, 35-40 characters.

Here are a few tips for killer preview text: 

  1. Support your subject line: Use this space to provide additional details alongside your subject line. 

  2. Include action words: Encourage your reader to act, with words like click, read, learn, buy. 

  3. Create a sense of urgency: What will happen if the reader doesn’t open the email? What could they miss? Test using your preview text to create scarcity. 

Within Sumo, you can set the preview text when you create your email: 

Screenshot of setting preview text for email using Sumo

This helps you create a killer one-two punch — see how your subject line and preview text work together before you send. 

3. Tell A Story

Storytelling is powerful in marketing. 

Once your email has been opened, the last thing you want to do is lose the reader’s attention or drive them to the dreaded ‘Unsubscribe’ button with boring content. 

Stories are one of the best ways to ensure your reader stays engaged, and importantly, takes the action you’re looking for from your message (clicking a link to your site, leaving a review, sending a reply, etc). 

But what does storytelling look like in an email?

Here’s an email Sumo sent to promote a new piece of content: 

Screenshot of email sent by Sumo to promote a new piece of content

Instead of simply talking about the article, this email tells a story about a Shopify store owner called Jake. 

By featuring a real person and their story, this email gives readers something they can relate to. It’s no longer just an article about cart abandonment, it’s a story about Jake and how he overcame cart abandonment issues at his business. That slight difference is incredibly powerful. 

Stories connect with us emotionally, and by telling a story in your email copy you can drive action and increase your clickthrough rate. 

Next time you write an email, don’t just talk about the product, article, sale or whatever you’re promoting. Instead, humanize the message and share the “why” behind it in story form. 

For example: 

  • Instead of “Buy our new dog toy.” You could tell a story of an owner and their pet. 

  • Rather than “Here’s our latest blog post.” Write a story telling the reader why you wrote this post and how it will help them. 

4. Use Email Automation

Email automation helps marketers and business owners send timely emails triggered by certain actions. 

This will save you a ton of time as once your automation is set up; it’ll keep working and automatically send emails on your behalf. 

For example: 

You might be like Morning Brew, and send a welcome email to new subscribers encouraging them to share your product:

Screenshot of welcome email from Morning Brew

Or you could send an email triggered by a new product or release, like Spotify: 

Screenshot of Spotify email

Email automations are great because you can communicate with people on your list at exactly the right time.

If someone joins your mailing list, you can send them a message instantly when you know they’re engaged with your business — right after signing up. 

To do this with Sumo, click Email from your dashboard, select Automations and then click Create Automation

Screenshot of steps to create automation for email using Sumo

Next, give your automation a name, choose the Joining a group option for starting the automation, and select the group you’d like to send this automation to (if you don’t have any groups already, you can set up a new one): 

Screenshot of steps to create automation for email using Sumo

Now your automation is set up, and it’s time to customize the email. To do this, click the email icon under your automation:

Screenshot of steps to create automation for email using Sumo

Once you’ve clicked the email icon, you’ll be taken to the email window to add the content to your email: 

Screenshot of steps to create automation for email using Sumo

When crafting your email, don’t forget what we’ve already covered today — make sure you:

  • Write a clickable subject line.

  • Add compelling preview text.

  • Tell an engaging story.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to use personalizations in the email. With Sumo, the following personalizations are available: 

  • Display the email of the recipient {contact.email}

  • Display the first name of the recipient {contact.first_name}

  • Display the last name of the recipient {contact.last_name}

5. Segment Your Email List 

We all get a ton of emails every day, and we open the ones that feel most relevant and interesting to us. 

And if we — as marketers — are being honest with ourselves, not EVERY email we send is 100% relevant to every person on our email lists.

If you want great open rates, clicks, and conversions, you need to send email targeted to specific segments of your audience. 

Let me explain… 

Colin owns an online tea store. Kelly is one of his customers and she loves green tea, but she’s not a fan of black tea. In fact, she joined Colin’s email list after subscribing from a post about the health benefits of green tea.

If Colin emails everyone on his list the same content on all kinds of tea, some, like Kelly, will switch off and ignore it.

But if Colin created segments of people who like different varieties of tea based on the page they signed up from, he could email Kelly and every other green tea fanatic content that’s useful to them. 

Segments can be as large or small as you like — the goal is to make sure you’re sending people emails that are relevant and exciting to them. 

Segmenting your email list can help you: 

  • Increase open rates: If your list is broken down into segments, you can craft subject lines that speak directly to each group of subscribers. 

  • Boost clickthroughs: Segmenting your list means you can send subscribers content that interests them, leading to more people taking action on what you send them. 

  • Decrease unsubscribes: 21% of people unsubscribe from lists because emails aren’t relevant to them and 17% unsubscribe because the content is boring. Segmentation can help you counter both issues.[*]

  • Increase revenue: Klaviyo found there’s a 55% increase in the revenue per recipient for businesses that send email to a targeted segment.[*]

Pro Tip: Keep a calendar to manage frequency. When you have multiple segments, some subscribers will appear in multiple groups. To avoid emailing them too much, you need to carefully plan your email marketing to make sure there are no overlaps.

6. Retarget Email Subscribers On Social Media

According to an Adroll survey of 300 marketers in Europe, 60% of marketers are spending at least 25% of their budgets on retargeting.[*]

In short, retargeting is advertising to people who have already had some interaction with your business. Maybe a website visitor, or lapsed customer. 

But what we’re going to focus on here is email retargeting — using data from your email list to market to those people on different platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

All you need to do is export your list and upload the data to Facebook’s ad platform. 

To download a CSV file of your subscribers within Sumo, click Contacts, then select the group you’d like to download. Next, from the menu in the right-hand corner select Export CSV.

Screenshot of steps to export email list using Sumo

Once you have your CSV file, you can upload it to Facebook Ads Manager to create a custom audience. From here you can advertise to your email subscribers on Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram: 

Screenshot of steps to upload email list CSV file on Facebook Ads Manager

Pro Tip: When creating lists to use for retargeting, try to separate them by the stage of the funnel they’re at or how they use your product. 

For example, for email subscribers who have never made a purchase, you could create ads aimed at driving sales. For a current customer, you could advertise new features or parts of your product they haven’t used yet. 

Use specific UTM links for each of your retargeting ads so you can measure the results of each campaign and see which audience is driving revenue for your business. 

7. Don’t Send From ‘Noreply’ Email Addresses

The ‘noreply@’ email address should be a thing of the past. 

Sadly, though, a quick scan of my inbox reveals many businesses still use them:

Screenshot of noreply@ email addresses

A noreply email address is often used to send transactional, automated email messages to people like receipts and welcome messages. 

The ‘noreply’ tells the recipient the email address isn’t monitored for responses and anything you send to that address won’t get seen. 

That might not seem like an issue, but it’s not a good experience for the recipient.

For example: 

Dave buys some new shoes from an online store. He gets the receipt in his inbox and notices an error in the delivery address.

If the email comes from a ‘noreply’ address, he has to go off searching for a way to get in touch with the company and correct the mistake. 

If that email comes from a monitored email address, Dave can simply reply to that email and get the issue sorted. 

We can all agree which process feels smoother, right?

By making sure responses to your email marketing campaigns are monitored, you can build strong relationships with people on your list. This will help:

  • Improve the lifetime value of customers.

  • Boost the number of customers that return to do business with you. 

  • Increase the number of people who become advocates and tell other people about your business.

8. Regularly Clean Your List

If you’ve been collecting email addresses for some time, there will no doubt be contacts on your list who haven’t opened an email for 180 days. 

That’s just the way it is. 

People move jobs, change email addresses, shift interests, and many won’t unsubscribe themselves.

As an email marketer, it’s your job to keep your list tidy

Not only is this practice good for your email open rates, it’ll help you save money too (with standard email marketing providers that don’t let you collect unlimited subscribers like Sumo)! 

Let’s run the math quickly… 

Let’s say you have 1,000 inactive email addresses on your list and you send two messages per week to that list: 

Over the course of one month that’s 8,000 emails you’re sending to people who will never open them.

Over a year, that’s more than 100,000 emails wasted. And even at $0.01 per email, you’d be wasting $1,000/year. That’s not a good use of your money. 

So what should you do?

In short, you want to make sure you regularly send re-engagement campaigns to stale subscribers and clean your database of people who don’t respond. 

Now It’s Your Turn

Want to make sure you never miss a step when sending your next email? 

Download our email marketing best practices checklist below: 

Email Marketing Best Practices Checklist