Email marketing can be a viable sales channel for many organizations, but it can also be scary, uncharted territory. Recipients can tell you they never want to hear from you again, emails can bounce if you don’t have updated email addresses, subscribers can mark your emails as spam (even when they aren’t!), and your email service provider can shut you down at a whim due to too many complaints (yes, this has happened to us even though we always comply with the regulations regarding spam. Sometimes free-will can be brutal! )

So where do you start? How do you ensure your emails get delivered, opened, and not marked as spam? You can find tons of information on the rights and wrongs of email marketing, and I certainly don’t have the perfect answer. But I do have some real-life experience and a few things I have learned along the way.

1.    Never send an email campaign from your personal email address. If you do, be prepared for an avalanche of email into your inbox, with everything from “out-of-office” auto responses, “this email address is no longer valid” emails, to questions from those who received your campaign. Set up and use a general email address (like that can be monitored by you and others in your company. There are email management solutions that make this easy.

2.    Check all the links in your email – multiple times – to make sure they direct to the correct page/website. If you are offering 20% off your products, you don’t want to accidentally direct your recipients to a page that doesn’t contain information on the sale. It only takes a couple minutes to double check all your links and it could save you hours of questions on the backend.

3.    Choose an email service provider wisely. There are so many options out there these days, and each has a different selling feature – free templates, price, report analytics, ability to send auto responders, customer support, email deliverability, to name a few.  Research wisely – your provider really does impact your success.

4.    Test, test and test some more. What is the best subject line? Will an image increase conversion rate? Should you use a button or a text link to increase the click-through rate? Test all these things! Ideally, your email service provider will have the ability to do A/B testing so you can easily measure the results. But even if it doesn’t, you can manually test these things on your own. WhichTestWon focuses on a test of the week (homepage/ landing page/email) and shows the results of the test. You can sign up for their newsletter and vote for which page/email you think won and see the results. It’s fun and you can garner some useful information for your own use as well.

5.    Look through your own inbox and pick out newsletters and emails that appeal to you.  Why do you open the emails you do? What compels you to do so? Is it the look and design? Or the content? Or the possibility of a special offer? Think about the emails you welcome into your inbox and apply some of those ideas to the emails you are sending out.

I think you can never truly perfect email marketing, so please share other tips and suggestions you have up your sleeve!

Kristen Langham
Email Marketing / Project Manager at Palo Alto Software