November 29, 2016 | Torrie Boggs

4 Email Marketing Best Practices To Improve Customer Engagement

Email Marketing Best Practices from Vieo Design

We’ve all heard that email is dead, but let me ask you something—what’s the first thing you do when you sit down at your desk in the morning? Sure, maybe you take a few minutes to get coffee and catch up on news, but I bet you check your email before you get down to business.

Since email still plays such a large role in our lives, it simply doesn’t make sense to ignore email marketing best practices in your inbound marketing efforts. Just sending emails isn’t enough, though; inbox attention is at a premium and you have to send effective emails to get results. Your emails need to be opened, engaged with, and even replied to. But how do you make that happen?

Don't be as clueless about email best practices as Britney.

Segmenting needs to be step one.

  • You don’t want to send the same email to every contact in your database. Bulk email blasts will lead to more unsubscribes and lower conversion rates. Customers and prospects at different stages of the buyer’s journey need different information.
  • Segmenting also helps your spam rate. If you send the right email to the right person at the right time, you are less likely to have someone mark it as spam. You can segment lists by buyer persona, stage in the buyer’s journey, past purchases, pages viewed, and much more (depending on your marketing tools—we’re big fans of HubSpot).
  • Removing unengaged people from your lists will also help you avoid the dreaded spam report. If someone hasn’t opened your emails in 3 months, 6 months, or even a year, then they may not want your information anymore and they’re more likely to consider your emails spam. Try a “breakup email” before moving inactive contacts to a suppression list (more on that later).

They can’t engage if they don’t open it.

  • Use subject lines that are between 6 and 10 words long. Longer subject lines may be cut off, but something concise and direct (or that leaves a little mystery) usually performs better anyway.
  • Emojis work well in subject lines, at least for many businesses.
  • Remember, you can set the preview text for each email! Don’t forget to optimize it, too.
  • To avoid being sent to the promotions tab, avoid using “salesy” words.
  • Personalize when appropriate. Some experts will tell you personalization works really well, and others will say to avoid it all costs. Start small and try it with your list to see what happens.
  • Send from a real person’s email address; avoid info@ and no-reply@. You want people to feel comfortable replying. That’s the best form of engagement!


The email has been opened, what now?

  • As you write the email copy, don’t forget the 5 Ws:
    • Who is it for?
    • What is the goal of the email?
    • Where will it be viewed (mobile or desktop)?
    • When in the buyer’s journey will they be viewing it?
    • Why should they take action?
  • Use personalization where you can, but be careful. If you don’t have the first name of everyone you are emailing, you may not want to use that personalization token (or at the very least, create a default option). An email starting with “Hello unknown” isn’t going to help you.
  • Be careful with images. Although some image-heavy emails perform really well, others have loading problems and can decrease click-through rates. As with all email marketing best practices, test this with your specific list.
  • Always include a call to action (CTA) of some sort. If you use a button, it should be at least 44x44px so that it’s easy to tap on mobile devices. It’s fine—even desirable—to link to the same thing multiple times. Each email should have only one conversion goal, so don’t confuse recipients by leading them down multiple paths.
  • Focus your writing on the reader, not on the writer. If it isn’t clear to them what the benefit is, you haven’t done your job.


Follow up.

  • Review your analytics. Are people opening your email? If not, return to your subject line, preview text, and sender info and try something new. Are people clicking through to your site? If not, look at the body text and re-evaluate your calls to action. Also, don’t forget to check your unsubscribe rates!
  • If you noticed that the open rate was particularly low for a certain email, create a follow-up email with the same exact content but a different subject line and send it only to those who didn’t open the first email.
  • If you have people on your list who aren’t engaging, try sending a breakup email saying that you won’t be contacting them anymore unless they want you to. If they don’t engage with the email, move them to a suppression list to be considered for deletion. If they do engage, be ready with next steps.


Email is one of the most agile methods of marketing because it’s so easy to make changes that have a big impact. Even a simple tweak to the the subject line can lead to more opens, and as a result, more click-throughs. When you put these best practices to use, you’ll be converting more leads in no time!

Email is important, but it isn't everything. Learn more about how email should fit into your marketing strategy with our Inbound Marketing ebook. Page 7 has some great info on workflows!

New Call-to-Action

Torrie Boggs

Torrie Boggs

As an inbound marketing project manager, Torrie gets to use her considerable management and organizational skills to achieve clients' goals, while her happy, laid-back attitude and the twinkle in her eye make every meeting, email, and conversation a joy.

Related Post: