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Taking Back the Inbox: 10 Email Marketing Rules to Live By

We live in a world of options. We have more choices than ever for where to eat, what to watch, how to get around, where to get our news from. At one point, merely existing as a company was enough to get customers. Just being in front of people was enough to make sales. But that’s not the case anymore.

To help us make a decision in this over-saturated world, we’re exposed to an estimated 5,000 advertising and marketing messages a day — including an inbox full of emails. More than 269 billion emails are sent in a day, and most office workers receive around 121 of these in their own inboxes.

As the number of messages we’re hit with daily continues to increase, the time we devote to these messages steadily declines. In 2015, the average attention span was only 8.5 seconds. That’s all the time brands have to make an impression — good or bad. But if you understand the history and power of the channel and follow a few simple rules, you can cut through the noise and be sure your email is the one that gets read.

A Long History and a Promising Future

Email has been around since the early 70s, and mass emailing came shortly after in 1978 — when Digital Equipment Corp sent an email campaign that resulted in $13 million in sales for the company. Even early on, email was a successful direct marketing channel. And it’s survived the ever-changing digital landscape to remain a powerful tool for brands and marketers alike.

Today, more than two-thirds of consumers across all generations (yes, even millennials) prefer for brands to communicate with them via email over any other channel. With so many people checking their inboxes daily, there’s a huge opportunity for companies to turn one-time customers into repeat purchasers and loyal brand advocates. And when you consider that email subscribers buy and spend more than users in other channels — leading email to be the top ROI generator of any other marketing channel — the stakes are even higher.

But, like Uncle Ben said, with great power comes great responsibility. Which is why it’s so important for email marketers to remember the person whose inbox they’re filling.

Taking a human-centered approach to email is about treating subscribers with respect. It’s about valuing their trust and providing them with content that’s useful and engaging — not jamming their inboxes with countless messages they don’t want or need.

Here at Nebo, we have our own set of email best practices that ensure we remember the person on the other side of the screen.

A Better Way to Email: 10 Rules to Live By

  1. Respect your subscribers. Treat them like an actual person because…you know…they are. Write in a conversational tone and use highly targeted/segmented lists that feature personalized content.
  2. Be intentional with your emails. Only send emails if the content is relevant, personalized and, most importantly, valuable to your audience.
  3. NEVER use the words “blast” or “eblast.” If you hear someone else say it, tell them to step away from the send button immediately.
  4. Test everything, and test often. Test subject lines, imagery, layout, CTAs, send day and time. Then make changes based on results and learnings.
  5. Optimize your website for email. Use non-intrusive email captures and preference centers to gather subscriber information that allow for highly segmented campaigns.
  6. Use marketing automation. Automated campaigns — welcome series, abandoned shopping cart, etc. — require minimal ongoing effort once they’re set up, but typically receive the highest open rates and ROI generation.
  7. Responsive design is a necessity. A vast majority of emails are opened on mobile or tablets now, so make sure they look good on all devices (and in all email programs).
  8. Don’t buy lists. Instead, try one of the many services that can help acquire new email addresses that are much more likely to engage with your brand and convert.
  9. Ask yourself 3 questions: Is this valuable to my audience? Would I open/read this if it were sent to me? Why will my audience care? If the answer is “no” or “I don’t know,” then do NOT send that email.
  10. Always K.I.S.S. In other words, keep it simple, stupid. An awesome subject line, good imagery and clear CTA is really all you need to drive traffic back to your website and stand out from the other 268,999,999,999 emails being sent today.

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