Even with social media, smarter online advertising, and content marketing, email remains king when it comes to connecting with your audience and getting them to buy from you. At the same time, however, it has become a challenge for businesses to get their emails into the inbox and away from being labeled as spam and ending in the dreaded spam mailbox.

The fact is: it takes an effort to get the thumbs-up from subscribers. You’ve got to be diligent about ensuring that your emails are relevant and hit the mark communication-wise. To that end, here are a few best practices that can help you see higher open and conversion rates with your email marketing.

But First, A Word on Email Marketing Success

Lest you worry that email marketing is on its way out: 81% of marketers find that it drives customer retention. When you’re trying to engage past customers to buy from you again and again, making it to their inbox on a regular basis is one of the best ways to drive conversion.

The key to great success here relies on personalization: emails that are personalized to each subscriber have a higher open and clickthrough rate. And yet, 42% of marketers don’t even bother segmenting their lists. While that’s bad for those brands, it’s great for you, because you can shine by simply taking the time to divide your lists based on buying behavior and preferences of your subscribers.

Now let’s look at some tips to help you avoid the spam mailbox, get your emails opened, and sell through email marketing.

1.  Carefully Plan Out Your Subject Line

The wording, offer, length, and even capitalization you use in your email subject line will greatly impact results.

For example: did you realize that using all capital letters in your subject line will get you a reply 30% less often than one without? You may think that URGENT: RESPONSE NEEDED will get people to open your email, but the opposite is true. Spam filters are often kicking the all-caps emails into that spam folder, so avoid this practice completely.

Research shows that subject lines with three to four words see the highest open rate, so avoid making yours longer than that. Boil it down to the benefit: what will the recipient get if she opens this email? Here are a few examples:

Today Only! Click to Save 30%.

20% Off if You Book Today!

Don’t skimp on the effort needed to write a subject line that gets opens. You can even test out a few different versions with an A/B test so that you know what your audience responds to.

2. Don’t Use a Generic Email Address

There’s really no reason if you own a business that you should be using a Gmail or Yahoo! email address. Doing so may get you sent to spam, and the recipient won’t know who you are. Using a business email address is pretty much effortless, and can go a long way to instilling trust in your customers.

You may also see a higher open rate if the email comes from a human rather than Sales@yourbusiness.com. Personalizing the marketing experience — showing your customers that you’re more than just a business — can build that relationship with your customers long-term.

Also, never use the “noreply” email address (Noreply@yourbusiness.com). Your customers won’t add this email address to their contacts, and it makes them feel like they can’t connect with you if they have a question.

3. Know Your Timing

Did you realize that the time you send your emails can also impact how many recipients open them? Studies show that sending email between 8 and 10 am or 3 and 4 pm can boost click-through rates 6% or more.

But this might not be the optimal time for your brand. Test out different times and see which has the best impact. Also, some email marketing software will monitor your results and make suggestions for the best time and day to send.

4. Use the Data You Have to Send Relevant Emails

We touched on the importance of personalizing your emails at the start of this article, but let’s dig deeper. We used to be limited by technology in terms of what we knew about our email list, so sending a mass email to everyone on our list was all we could do.

But these days, we have unparalleled access to all kinds of consumer data. Your customer relationship management software can tell you:


  • What a customer purchased
  • Pages she visited on your site
  • Her birthday, location, and interests


It may seem like a lot of work to personalize emails to everyone on your list, but there’s a smart way to do it. Use tags to identify each customer. For example, one might have the tags women’s jeans, San Diego, October (birthday). You can send emails to everyone in San Diego if you’re opening a new store so that people in Philadelphia aren’t annoyed at the lack of relevance of this email. You can send anyone with the women’s jeans tag special offers on jeans, but then send a different email and offer to anyone tagged with women’s sweaters plus size.

Using your subscriber’s name is easy enough; just use a form that automatically pulls the name from your database. And you can send special customized offers for her birthday to show her that you care.

5. Keep Your Communication Short and Sweet

You may have a lot to say in your email, but realize: the longer it is, the fewer people will read it. On the other hand, one that’s too long will also be a turnoff. Keep your email content between 50 and 125 words to keep your audience’s attention.

Also: have just one call to action per email. Don’t, for example, have an offer that subscribers can click to save 25% off, but then tell them to sign up for an event…follow you on Facebook…share a photo on Instagram…too many messages confuse your audience, and then they’ll end up doing nothing.

Stick to one thing you want recipients to do per email. If the focus is your 25% off promotion, that should be it. If you also have an event coming up, that needs to come in a separate email (several days after the promotion, to space them apart).

6. Make Mobile Email a Priority

These days, more people open email on a mobile device than a desktop. And if the email is formatted poorly (often the case when email isn’t optimized for mobile), a recipient will delete it within three seconds.

Three. Seconds.

All your hard work in developing this email goes down the toilet. And this problem can so easily be avoided: make sure that the email marketing platform you use also optimizes for mobile. There should be a preview option where you can see what your email will look like on a phone or tablet. View it to ensure that images show sized to the screen, and that text breaks up rather than appearing as a wall of text.

While you’re at it, make sure your website is optimized for mobile, because if people view your email on their phones and then click to your website, it needs to be easy for them to make a purchase on a small screen.

7. Add an Emoji

You might be scratching your head, thinking wait, aren’t emojis for my teenage daughter, who uses them when texting her friends? Well, they’re not just for teens anymore. Research shows that using one or more emojis in an email subject line can see a 56% or higher open rate than subject lines without them!

Another reason you should consider emojis is that they can maximize the space you have to communicate in your subject line. Instead of saying “love,” you can use the ❤️ emoji to save space.

The key is to test them out. You may find that Millennials open more of your emoji-enhanced emails than Baby Boomers, so know your audience before fully incorporating this. Also, play with different emojis: there are more than 2,000 emojis, so get creative beyond the kissy face and find one that’s relevant to your email message.

8. Be Consistent in Delivery

People come to expect to hear from your brand once they subscribe to your emails, so don’t let them down. Once you find the day of the week, as well as the frequency of emails that gets you the maximum open rate and conversion to sales, establish a regular routine. Maybe you send a promotion or coupon twice a month, at the start and middle of the month, and a newsletter with fun articles at the end.

Keep an eye on your results. You may find that the last few newsletters haven’t had nearly the open rate as in past months. Look at the subject line to see if that might be keeping people from wanting to open it. Then look at the content. Is it too long? Does it feel overwhelming? Feel free to get a second opinion, either from someone else in your company or even a friend or family member who can be honest with you about their impressions of the emails you’re sending.

Email can be a highly effective tool for selling to your customers on a regular basis. But don’t take your subscribers for granted! They have a choice about what emails they open, so you need to work to ensure that you stay out of the spam folder and entice them enough to not only open your emails but also buy from them. Monitoring results can clue you into how your efforts are going, so don’t be shy about trying new things if results aren’t what you want.

Susan Guillory is the President of Egg Marketing, a content marketing firm based in San Diego. She’s written several business books, and frequently blogs about small business and marketing on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and Cision. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.

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