115 DIY Email Marketing Tips

Monday Jul 11th 2016 by Vangie Beal
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This massive list of DIY email marketing tips—packed with professional and practical advice—makes a powerful tool for small businesses that want to improve their email marketing messages and campaigns. 

Email marketing is an effective online marketing technique for many small businesses. It helps you speak directly to your customers; it helps you communicate your business messages while supporting your own business goals.

"Successful email marketing, like any other kind of marketing, is all about building trust and relationships with your audience," wrote Kelly Chase, digital strategist for Content Factory. "The best way to do this is to provide value by helping them solve problems and get results."

Chase, along with many other marketing experts, small business owners, and vendors contributed their very best ideas and advice for our giant list of DIY email marketing tips. From building your list to writing subject lines and tracking open rates, this tips list offers something for everyone.

DIY Email Marketing Checklist

Scroll through the list of tips below or use this handy checklist to jump to a specific category of DIY email marketing tips:

Be sure to bookmark this page or connect with SmallBusinessComputing on Twitter to be notified when we update and grow this list of DIY email marketing tips!

List Building and Best Opt-In/Out Email Tips

When it comes to list building, quality trumps quantity. A complete, updated email list ensures that your emails maintain a steady open rate and minimize unsubscribes. If your contacts change companies or job titles, update your lists accordingly.

—Linda Passante, CEO, The Halo Group

Use software or hire a designer to create ebooks and other freebies to give away to people when they sign up to your email list. The fact that it's well-designed helps subscribers feel confident that you will provide great value.

—Louise Hendon, co-founder, Paleo Flourish Magazine

Reduce your list attrition rates by providing a preference center—a landing page on your website that allows subscribers to add, change, or delete their email preferences. It also lets subscribers select how frequently they would like to receive emails from you.

—Shelly Alvarez, director of client services, PostUp

Make sure that the recipient wants and expects your email. Otherwise, your email will end up tagged as spam. Every time that happens, you run the risk of more and more (and eventually all) of your email going to the junk folder, or even being blacklisted.

DIY email marketing tips

—Anne P. Mitchell, Attorney at Law, CEO, SuretyMail

Offer your visitors something of value. Make it compelling and hard to resist. Asking for their email address to sign up for your vague newsletter is nowhere near as compelling as offering a downloadable guide that will transform their business in seven days.

—Joe Robison, founder, Green Flag Digital

If you run a B2B company, having a blog with an option to subscribe is a great way to add subscribers to your list. If you own a B2C company, reward people who subscribe to your list with 10 percent off their first purchase. Adding a subscribe pop-up that includes an offer to win—or a percentage off a purchase—can also help grow your list.

—Anna Kayfitz, MBA, consultant, Strategic DB

Offer something for free, but promise to send it in a few days. If people know you'll email the free product right away, they'll use a throw-away email. Instead, tell them they'll receive the digital product in a few days. In my experience, more people will use their real email addresses if you use this strategy.

—Andrew Reeves, founder and CEO, Luxe Translation Services

The lifeblood of any successful email marketing campaign is your subscriber list. After all, even if you get everything else right, it's all for nothing if you don't have a list of subscribers to market to. The best way to grow your list is to offer something of value to your subscribers before they even get their first email. This something could be as simple as coupons and exclusive offers that are only made available to people who sign up for your newsletter.

—Kelly Chase, digital strategist, Content Factory

Write an epic blog post that gives your readers a lot of good, free content. Then, on the same page, offer readers a second piece of free content in exchange for their name and email address. For example, we have a great blog post about understanding Medicare. Throughout the post, two small ads (lead boxes) offer readers a checklist (PDF) to go along with that content. In addition to our contact information, the checklist includes tips and a worksheet to help clients plan insurance costs based on the free information we provided. More than 20 percent of our readers download it, and now they're on our email subscriber list. We can market them throughout the year when it's appropriate.

—Danielle Kunkle, vice president, Boomer Benefits

If you have a particular expertise that you can share, write a whitepaper or case study on it. Give your visitors a taste, and then ask them to subscribe to your newsletter to download the entire copy.

—Matthew White, CEO, Qebot

Use marketing automation to help you respond to leads faster. Your first automated follow-up email should be a thank you, and it should either state when you will follow up again or ask for more details. You can use marketing automation from MailChimp, Active Campaign, or HubSpot to move the customer through the funnel when you're not at your desk.

—Joe Robison, founder, Green Flag Digital

Don't worry about list size, worry about list quality. Clean your list regularly to ensure you're sending emails to valid addresses and to avoid ending up on spam blacklists.

—Mike McGovern, content marketing strategist, YDOP Internet Marketing

Host a contest or a giveaway. A logical connection between what you're giving away and your product creates curiosity about your product, and you can market to the folks who sign up in future emails.

—Nick Leffler, owner, Your Brand by Nick Leffler

Follow best practices or your email marketing will end up in recipients' junk folder, and you could even face Federal fines, lawsuits, or even jail. For example, "cold" email marketing is actually illegal in most countries, and it violates best practices here in the United States. Best practices require that you remove someone who unsubscribes from your mailing list immediately. Federal law gives you 10 days, and after that you're in violation.

—Anne P. Mitchell, attorney, CEO and president, SuretyMail

Direct mail, if used correctly, can be a powerful tool to build your email list. As you build an email list you can reduce your direct mail marketing while enhancing its response rate. Consumers like to get freebies or low-cost items. Send a direct mailing with an eye-catching offer that comes with a subscription to your email list. Direct the mail recipients to an online landing page that captures their email address and a few other details that will help you with marketing to them in the future.

—Victor Clarke, The Marketing Quarterback

We recommend that our clients use sign-up overlays to increase newsletter subscriptions. For example, an overlay prompting visitors to subscribe pops up while they're on your site reading original content. Overlays perform best when you time them to appear about 20 seconds after the visitor hits the page.

—Keith Shields, Designli

Make subscribing easy. Include signup forms on all high-traffic pages; the more people see them, the more people will sign up. Instead of placing a sign-up form on the homepage, switch things up and add it to your sidebar. Keep the form simple, with limited fields, and try and throw in a creative twist.

—Harry Phillips, marketing executive, Itas

If you own a brick-and-mortar store, ask all customers to subscribe to your newsletter to receive updates on special promotions, new products, and sales. If your business is online, make sure you heavily encourage any visitors to enter their email address, and require an email address to create an account. That will also help you link saved or purchased products to customer accounts.

—Craig Bloem, founder and CEO of LogoMix

Minimize unsubscribe rates by sending subscribers relevant, quality content that applies to them. Segmenting your email list is the best way to decrease unsubscribe rates and to increase conversions.

—Courtney Rauch, marketing account manager, CMK Marketing

<strong><a href="http://www.smallbusinesscomputing.com/emarketing/diy-email-marketing-2.html" target="_blank">Improve Call-to-Actions (CTA), Transactions and Conversions</a></strong>

Write Click-Worthy Subject Lines

Scroll through the list of tips below or use this handy checklist to jump to a specific category of DIY email marketing tips:

Be sure to bookmark this page or connect with SmallBusinessComputing on Twitter to be notified when we update and grow this list of DIY email marketing tips!

Click-worthy subject lines must be compelling, incentivizing, and urgent. They should include phrases such as "limited time" and "exclusive offer." This implies special, customized outreach that other subscribers may not receive.

—Monica Sims, senior marketing manager, iContact

Keep subject lines short and punchy, and make sure they clearly identify the email topic for your readers. No click bait!

—Justin Flitter, head of marketing, Results.com

We may not judge a book by its cover, but we most definitely judge an email by its subject line. A subject line must leave the reader wanting more. Try posing a question to your audience, and turn your email into an engaging conversation rather than a boring message. Experiment with creative subject lines and, through A/B testing, ultimately decide which subject line performs best.

—Linda Passante, CEO, The Halo Group

Avoid spammy subject lines. Email servers catch lines like Too GOOD to be True!, and send them to the spam folders. Plus, this type of language turns off modern consumers; they won’t even open the email. Keep the subject lines simple and to the point, but still leave enough mystery for the recipient to want to read more. For example: We're Excited About Our New Offer. This connects your company with subscribers and alerts them to an offer without being too over the top.

—Sacha Ferrandi, founder, Source Capital Funding

DIY email marketing plan

Create a short, enticing subject line between 45 and 50 characters. Check this subject line against a list of spam trigger words to make sure it doesn't go to the spam folder. Make sure your name or company name is in the "From" section—people often delete emails from an unknown sender. Finally, test variations of your email to see which performs best. For example, send the same email with a different subject line to two different groups of subscribers and see which one they open more. This will help your future email marketing strategies.

—Simon Slade, CEO and co-founder, SaleHoo

Subject lines can be tricky, especially when creating campaigns for cold leads. It’s all about spiking the readers’ interest enough to open your email. Try A/B testing a few different methods, like teasers, questions, and click-bait ("What you may not know about…"). Depending on your readers, different subject lines might illicit different responses, so try a variety to see what gets the best open rates. Keep your email copy and landing pages consistent with your subject lines to give your readers a cohesive user experience.

—Marci Hansen, CMO and co-founder, SheerID

Subject line trends—name personalization, for instance—first emerged a number of years ago. But once other brands caught on, the technique lost impact. My point is, stop coming up with so many variants and use the insight that's already out there. A tool like Touchstone looks at subject line data and trends in your industry and lets you test against them.

—Tink Taylor, founder and president, DotMailer

Avoid spammy headlines. Although it might be tempting to use attention-drawing headlines with hooks like CRITICAL TIP and You won't believe this!, these tactics usually result in much lower open rates than simple, to-the-point headlines that clearly and succinctly describe the contents of your email. People receive so much spam that they tend to automatically filter out click-bait headlines. Normal subjects designed to be helpful generally work best.

—Andrew Reeves, founder and CEO, Luxe Translation Services

People open emails with short subject lines that drive urgency (Last Chance, Ends Tonight, etc). We see up to 8 percent higher open rates than average. Success in driving revenue depends on the offer contained in the email.

—Sean Hay, director of retention, Readers.com

Take time to create a really solid subject line. Give your readers a reason to open the email by telling them what they can get from it, such as 3 Ways to ___, or Top Tips for Spring.

—Emily Sidley, senior director of publicity, Three Girls Media

Write multiple subject lines and then pick the best. Without a good subject line, recipients won't bother to read the rest.

—Hans E. Hageman, creative marketing consultant and strategist, HansHageman.com

A good subject line should be engaging, short, and ultimately make sense to your target audience. Let's break it down a little further. Read your own inbox and see which messages you click on; can you apply or mimic some of those for your own business? Instilling a sense of urgency (limited time offer, what recipients "need to know" right now, etc.) increases the odds that recipients will actually open it.

—Courtney Rauch, marketing account manager, CMK Marketing

Tailor the language, especially in the subject line, specifically to your target market. Don't use language that your audience wouldn't use on a regular basis. For example, an email for millennials that enjoy fashion may respond well to the words 'sexy or lavish' in a subject line. However, most people in the construction industry would probably not enjoy an email titled Sexy Offer for Power Tools.

—Samuel Wheeler, digital public relations specialist, Inseev Interactive

Your perfectly-worded header or your most compelling offer won’t matter if your message hits the spam folder instead of the inbox. Increasingly, the big mail clients (Gmail, Yahoo, MSN) want your emails to pass DKIM and SPF validation. Adding these additional validations will help boost your delivery-, open-, and click-thru rates.

—Mike Catania, CTO, PromotionCode

First impressions are everything. You compete for readers' attention every day, and email inbox competition can be stiff. When the subject line is the afterthought to an email campaign, your email will probably get buried. There's a big chance the reader won't even bother opening the email to look at the content you spent most of your time perfecting.

—Alli Williams, public relations coordinator, Amplify Relations

Make your subject line as casual as possible without being unprofessional. Don't capitalize every word, use emoticons, use simpler language. Ask questions or entice your reader by teasing about what's inside. Consider this: an email inbox is a personal space and people want to feel comfortable there, even if it's at work. Informality is a relief, so make your subject line as approachable as possible.

—Natalie Edwards, marketing director, Sfbi

While it’s important to test which subject lines do and don’t work, testing can be an easy out for marketers: “What shall we put as our subject line?” … “I don’t know, let’s run a test.” Marketers should look to proven subject lines—like Free delivery—for inspiration and test those.

—Tink Taylor, founder and president, Dotmailer.com

You can have the most beautifully designed email, but if your subject line doesn't entice the recipient to open, your work is wasted. Think of email subject lines like newspaper or magazine headlines. They're short, impactful statements that use emotionally charged words. Most consumers open email on mobile devices, and subject lines are often truncated due to screen size or other space restrictions so avoid being too lengthy.

—Randy Mitchelson, vice president sales and marketing, iPartnerMedia

The subject line is the first thing your subscribers see, and it needs to be compelling enough to persuade them to open your email. Keep your subject line short (ideally less than 50 characters) and present limited time offers to increase open rates.

—Seamas Egan, associate director of revenue operations, Campaigner

Subject lines work best when they spark curiosity or are tailored to the recipient. Subject lines like Landscaping tips June 2016 are the worst. Instead, try something like 3 ways to perk up your garden with June plantings.

—Travis Pearl, co-founder, ExpertMatches

Compelling Content, Landing Pages & Images

Scroll through the list of tips below or use this handy checklist to jump to a specific category of DIY email marketing tips:

Be sure to bookmark this page or connect with SmallBusinessComputing on Twitter to be notified when we update and grow this list of DIY email marketing tips!

Over the course of hundreds of marketing campaigns—email, direct mail, banner ads, and Facebook—including a compelling photo or a video call-to-action has consistently driven dramatically better performance. We use games to present offers, and campaigns that include a game image perform on average 40-50 percent better than text-only campaigns. Just be sure the image is unique and mirrors your call to action.

—Dan Grech, vice president of marketing and public relations, OfferCraft

If your email newsletter looks like a round robin letter from 2002, then you're doing it wrong. Nothing you send to your customers should be a grab-bag of tips, news, links, photos, and interviews. Instead, focus, refine, and make sure there's tangible valuable in it for the reader.

—Niamh Lynch, founder, Niamhly Digital Strategy Consultancy

Your subscribers are busy people who get a lot of email, so it's safe to assume you don't have their undivided attention. Instead of one long block, break up content into short paragraphs. Include subheadings and images to guide readers and make it easier to scan. Add a teaser to the top of your newsletter to tell subscribers what's in store. If you send a long article, consider inserting a "read more" link so people can get to the rest of the content at their convenience.

—Rob Boirun, CEO, Reviewster Network

Keep it simple. Too much information in a newsletter or email blast deters click-through. If you answer your subscribers question in the newsletter, then they have no reason to click to your site for further info. Provide just enough to organically persuade your reader to visit your site for more.

—Luis Leonzo, product and web marketing manager, TableLegsOnline

DIY email marketing tips

Get straight to the point in both your headlines and your email content. Busy people appreciate that, and it gets your point across. For example, if you're running a sale on your website, make that obvious in your headline and email. Customers appreciate concise emails, and it pays to keep your marketing straight forward and easy to understand.

—Alex Reichmann, CEO, iTestCashh

Personalize the body of the email as much as possible. Consumers are smart enough to recognize an auto-generated email, and that immediately disconnects the reader with the message as well as the company. With the growing power of spam filters and filing systems, I see old-fashioned, handwritten emails as the future of email marketing.

—Samuel Wheeler, digital public relations specialist, Inseev Interactive

Include information you have about the customer in your email. You can do this in the subject line and throughout the email. Most email marketing services let you enter custom fields, such as the customer’s name, company name, location, etc.

—Craig Bloem, founder and CEO of LogoMix

Make your content shareable and only send content that your subscribers want. Don't forget mobile friendliness: keep content concise, and include a "read more" button to keep interest.

—Steffen Ploeger, SEO specialist, 9thco

You have mere seconds to make a favorable impression on your customer. Email design affects this tiny, make-or-break window. If the email appears unappealing, your customer will be less likely to engage. Make sure email formatting translates across all browsers, computers, and mobile devices. People delete email that appears clunky or disorganized—or worse, they unsubscribe. Offer a balance of words and images to guide consumers into a comfortable world of desirable options and opportunities. Messaging should be simple and direct, and not too aggressive—customers don't want to feel pressured into making a decision.

—Pamela Webber, chief marketing officer, 99designs

Use common, everyday language. For example, instead of: Hello sir. Please have a look this email, say Hey Jason. It's been a while. I just wanted to touch base with you regarding…Colloquial language works better.

—Andrew Reeves, founder and CEO, Luxe Translation Services

Use video email marketing to connect better with your prospects and customers. You don't need to create expensive videos. You can even use your cell phone camera to record yourself. The videos need to be short, to the point, and contain a call to action.

—Michael Santoro, cofounder, Vaetas

Be relevant, otherwise, your subscribers will lose interest and unsubscribe, or even mark your emails as spam. If you're not sure what subjects interest them, just ask. Send an email that lets people to choose the types of content they'd like to see from your business. It's simple, and it makes subscribers feel that you care and that they are part of the conversation.

—Mike McGovern, content marketing strategist, YDOP Internet Marketing

Use email as a teaser. In other words, be brief, but leave readers wanting more so they click-through to your Web page to get the rest of the story or to claim the offer.

—Randy Mitchelson, vice president sales and marketing, iPartnerMedia

Make sure to include compelling in your newsletter. Keep in mind that not everyone has images enabled in their email programs, so you've got to make sure your images have what's known as "alt text." This is the alternative text that appears when images don't load in an email. Alt text lets recipients read what the image is, instead of getting a blank box.

—Courtney Rauch, marketing account manager, CMK Marketing

Keep your emails short and sweet. Each article should be two or three paragraphs maximum; if you want to include longer content, post it on your blog and link to it in the email.

—Emily Sidley, senior director of publicity, Three Girls Media

Proofread, proofread, proofread. After you draft your email, take a break and come back with a fresh set of eyes to catch typos and mistakes. Even better—because it’s hard to catch your own mistakes—have someone else proofread it for you before you hit send.

—Emily Sidley, senior director of publicity, Three Girls Media

Other peoples' opinions about your business carry more weight with consumers than your opinion about yourself. Share testimonials about certain products and reviews from other businesses or media publications in some of your email campaigns. Think, for example, What [media publication] has to say about [product]. You'll establish more credibility with your audience if they see the great things people say about your business.

—Marci Hansen, CMO and co-founder, SheerID

Use social media and your email newsletter to give your social media followers and current customers fun, exciting deals. We offer newsletter subscribers exclusive JUST4ME discounts. Every week, we put one of our pieces on a special JUST4ME discount and advertise it in our newsletter and to our social media followers. This resulted in new purchases from existing customers, and it helped us grow our social media and newsletter followings.

—Claudia Montez, founder, Isabelle Grace Jewelry

Send one message per email. It's tempting to include several updates or messages in one email, but people typically read the first message and ignore or miss additional points.

—Justin Flitter, head of marketing, Results.com

The biggest email marketing mistake we made was using company logic instead of customer logic. Put yourself in your customer's mind when crafting your emails. Run your email copy by friends and strangers. Get their feedback, because it's challenging to get out of your own skin.

—Bryan Clayton, CEO, GreenPal

Understand what resonates with your target audience. That information will provide a more refined and personalized email marketing campaign. Determine what topics your customers would love to talk about beyond the products, and keep your customers informed about the latest trends. Sharing valuable information your customers care about will help build a solid relationship. When the time comes to promote a product or a sale, they will respond positively.

—Lisa Chu, owner, Black N Bianco Kids Apparel

Create relevant, interesting, and engaging messages. Quality messaging and attractive imagery that speaks specifically to each audience will pay off in the long run. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all option for optimal email frequency; you may require different approaches for your different audiences. Test different approaches and track what works best for each audience. Generally, scheduling monthly or weekly will produce effective results without overwhelming your subscribers.

—Angela Stairs, content marketing specialist, SeoPlus

If your email content isn’t relevant, subscribers will lose interest. Develop a personalized content strategy by capturing target audience behavior and use that behavioral data to create relevant content that appeals to your audience. The result: a more engaged subscriber who is less likely to unsubscribe.

—Shelly Alvarez, director of client services, PostUp

Split your email up into micro conversions, like this:

  • Subject: Just get the open
  • Sub-head: Peak their curiosity
  • Header: convert that curiosity into interest
  • Body: quickly point out what you are going to do for them
  • CTA: Get them to the landing page

The goal is to get a click. Do not try to make or close the sale in the email.

—Bryan Clayton, CEO, GreenPal

Moving images in newsletters generally get a much higher response rate than still images. Creating them is very easy. For example, Giphy.com provides a free tool that converts any movie file (or YouTube link) into a gif file that you can use in a newsletter. Use EZgif.com to reduce the file size.

—Robert Brandl, founder, ToolTester Network

Fun, light-colored graphics helps to promote products or services. Avoid heavy or deep colors as they can distract from the content of the email. Several services will create full-image emails, which work well for newsletters. However, including graphics just at the top and/or bottom of an email is enough to get the messages across.

—Samuel Wheeler, digital PR specialist, Inseev Interactive

Keep the email brief. Anything more than 200 words is far too long. Keep your calls-to-action short and clear. Expect the audience to read only 5-10 percent of the email. If the call to action isn't in the first paragraph, it probably won’t leave an impression.

—Sacha Ferrandi, founder, Source Capital Funding

Not having a designer to help you create visually appealing and engaging emails is no excuse. Simply search online for resources that offer free email templates and use free stock photos to enhance your copy.

—Craig Bloem, founder and CEO of LogoMix

Be concise. A reader's online attention span is very short—often just a few seconds. Deliver your message in an informative yet brief manner.

—Alli Williams, public relations coordinator, Amplify Relations

Don’t be cliché; be funny, quirky, and out of the box. Emails in inboxws are all black and white and boring. Make your emails stand out with personality. If you can make your readers laugh, they'll be more likely to share it with their friends. This strategy increased our response rate by more than 25 percent. If you made them laugh, you made them respond.

—Sean Dudayev, co-founder/CMO, InsureChance

Plan, Test, Segment & Track

Scroll through the list of tips below or use this handy checklist to jump to a specific category of DIY email marketing tips:

Be sure to bookmark this page or connect with SmallBusinessComputing on Twitter to be notified when we update and grow this list of DIY email marketing tips!

Send relevant messages to catch your readers' attention and to increase email open and conversion rates. Use basic contact demographic information, as well as more advanced data like purchase behavior and geolocation, to customize your emails and effectively hook your readers.

—Seamas Egan, associate director of revenue operations, Campaigner

Many small business owners lack discipline when it comes to consistent email campaigns. Create an email calendar for the next 90 days so your team can plan, create, and test your emails on time.

—Joe Robison, founder, Green Flag Digital

A/B testing is one of the most useful tools in a small business owner’s email marketing wheelhouse. Did an email perform better when it was sent at 11 a.m. or 3 p.m.? Did more customers engage with the call to action when it was positioned at the top or the middle of the email? Insights provided by A/B testing le you continuously improve your email marketing.

—Monica Sims, senior marketing manager, iContact

Get creative with segmentation and plan ahead. When you first publicize your email list, set up your segmentation questions and preference selection first so all new subscribers can opt in. It's much more difficult to get existing subscribers to update their preferences (though you can help by offering an incentive for updating, a coupon or giveaway).

—Meryl Robinson, email expert and coordinator, Mondo Mediaworks

DIY email marketing tips

Email clients and mobile devices all display emails in different ways. Send test emails to colleagues or using a testing program to make sure your emails look the best they possibly can. It also tells you exactly what the reader will see. Testing also reveals design and content mistakes before it’s too late.

—Lucy Ellis, email marketing manager, Roman Blinds Direct

If you want a committed newsletter list, make creating a publishing schedule your top priority. Miss several weeks or even months without sending a message or a tip to your list, and your subscribers will forget about you, delete the next email or—even worse—mark it as spam. Make time to plan, write, design, and send your newsletters regularly.

—Rob Boirun, CEO, Reviewster Network

Test everything: subject line, segment, offer, images, and time and day sent. Test one thing at a time and on about 10 percent of your whole list—but that depends on the size of your database. If you have only 500 subscribers, testing on 50 isn't enough to read the results; you may want to go to 25 percent, or so.

—Anna Kayfitz, MBA, consultant StrategicDB

Target your readers with content that's very specific to them. Segment your subscribers and send them emails based on what they interacted with, showed interest in, or bought. For example, if someone saves, but does not purchase an item, we send emails about that specific product and eventually offer a coupon to get them to purchase. Once they purchase, we send emails advertising products that complement their purchase.

—Craig Bloem, founder and CEO of LogoMix

Before crafting your campaign's messaging, identify a target market and make some assumptions about how best to reach your subscribers. Use A/B split testing to put your theories into practice, and collect feedback to determine which tactics worked and which ones were less successful.

—Seamas Egan, associate director of revenue operations, Campaigner.com

If you want your emails seen and read by as many consumers as possible, you must reach them when they're engaging with email. Blasting out an email campaign at 9 am EST may connect with East Coast consumers, but people in Los Angeles probably won't see it at the equivalent 6 am PST. Consider segmenting your list by time zone to optimize your open and conversion rates.

—Pamela Webber, chief marketing officer, 99designs

Segmentation makes sending relevant email to a group of people easier. Gather demographic information about your subscribers, and use it to send targeted messaging. This could include creating topics for specific genders, or even just calling out a person's state/city/town in the content of your email. Make sure your email marketing provider offers tools that let you add multiple values of information per contact so you can segment your lists accordingly.

—Matthew White, CEO, Qebot

Leverage free email tracking services. Services like Streak and Banana Tag can help your marketing team collect and easily digest data from ongoing campaigns. Make sure to analyze the information to make future changes, because a pile of data without analysis doesn't help anyone.

—Sacha Ferrandi, founder, Source Capital Funding

It's really hard to pull off a good newsletter—it needs creativity, skill, resources, and killer content on a frequent basis. If you're not sure you can produce one at that level, try an update mail, quarterly product/service update, or other, less-frequent mailing instead.

—Niamh Lynch, founder, Niamhly Digital Strategy Consultancy

There's no better way to reach customers than by offering them personalized deals. Look into third-party sources that can help you segment your offers by specific groups, such as students or military members. Segmenting these groups by interest or role lets you create campaigns that speak directly to their interests and provide offers that resonate. These types of offers have much higher conversion rates, and the ROI can be significant.

—Marci Hansen, CMO and co-founder, SheerID

Get Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor, Intercom.io, or some other business email marketing platform to build branded templates, manage your lists, and gather delivery statistics. These serve as prelude to marketing automation platforms like Hubspot, Infusionsoft, or Marketo that you can move to when your business matures.

—Justin Flitter, head of marketing, Results.com

Set up your customer relationship manager (CRM) system in a way that lets you segment. Normalize and standardize data where you can. The more targeted your message, the better the results. Ways to segment include: Purchase history, demographics (city/country, age, industry), and behavioral information (opened last email, just made a purchase, length of time as customer).

—Anna Kayfitz, MBA, consultant StrategicDB

Tracking is the first thing we see clients cut back on to reduce their email marketing costs. But tracking and analytics are two of the most important aspects of your email marketing campaigns—especially if your business is brick and mortar.

—Ryne Higgins, partner, Red Herd Media

Consider using automated drip-marketing services—like GetDrip.com. They automatically stage and time your email sends after new subscribers sign up for your service. Drip-marketing services not only help you save time in crafting and sending emails, they also make designing customized and segmented content easier.

—Sam McIntire, founder, Deskbright

Complacency and assumptions can kill an email program. As you build your email campaign, never assume that you have the best email possible, or that your customers will react in a certain way. Run A/B tests to see what type of content and promotional language will be most successful. Rely on data, not assumptions.

—Craig Bloem, founder and CEO, LogoMix

Monitor your open rates. If you send newsletters or mass communications through a tool like MailChimp, monitoring open rates offer a great glimpse into your email effectiveness. An open rate of less than 10 percent could signal a disengaged list; open rates of 20-50 percent signal high-quality, engaged subscribers who are interested in what you have to say.

—Travis Pearl, co-founder, ExpertMatches

Let's look at why we segment: it lets us deliver more relevant and targeted content to our customers. Don't view segmentation as a means to reduce your overall volume of mailing. Use segmentation as an excuse to send more emails, because it gives you scalability.

—Tink Taylor, founder and president, DotMailer

If an email isn't working, don’t keep sending it. Analysis is important, because it lets you assess what's working and what isn't—which lists perform the best and which ones might need more work. If a campaign isn't doing well, look at the open rates, click rates, conversion rates, and unsubscribes. Then take corrective action and run it again.

—Lucy Ellis, email marketing manager, Roman Blinds Direct

People often complain that their newsletters don't reach their readers' inbox. Simply send an email to the address that Mail-Tester.com provides and then run a check. It will give you a score (from 0 to 10) that reflects the likelihood of your newsletter getting caught by a spam filter. Some the information is pretty straightforward, such as broken links, or whether your server is blacklisted. Other, more technical information may require expert analysis.

—Robert Brandl, founder, ToolTester Network

Always test an offer on your thank-you page: When someone signs up for your email list it should automatically take them to a thank-you page. Instead the usual spiel—"Thanks for signing up. Please check your email to confirm your subscription and get your free report"—include an offer or a discount for your product or service on the thank-you page. If someone says "yes" once (i.e. by signing up to your email list), they're more likely to say "yes" again, immediately after.

—Louise Keenan, owner, Location Edge Digital

Download and use email marketing tracking software. It helped me figure out the demographic that paid the most for my time, and the number of emails sent between each client. It wasn't the small start-ups, or the big, reputable companies; it fell somewhere in between. Your business, your specialty, and your portfolio all play a factor. You absolutely, one hundred and ten percent, need to track your campaign. We use HubSpot Sales currently and love it.

—Christine Leys, CEO, Chilliwack's Best Web Development Company

Keeping an email marketing schedule lets you plan as far ahead as you like, and lets you plan for specific trends or peak times. It also helps you plan your design and content easily without having to get it all done at the last minute. I plan my schedule for at least a month in advance; it leaves me room for things to change.

—Lucy Ellis, email marketing manager, Roman Blinds Direct

Segmenting your email subscribers lets you deliver the right message to the right people. We suggest these segmentation tips:

  • Segment based on level of expertise (example, beginner, amateur, pro)
  • Segment based on sub-niche interest (example, SEO, social media, email marketing, advertising)
  • How should you segment subscribers? Monitor the freebies they opt-in for, the emails they open, the links they click, the emails they reply to, the products they choose to buy.

—Leon Kwan, co-founder, Main Event Specials

Track your success. Your email marketing platform (MailChimp, for example) will tell you if Jane Doe opened the email and clicked, but what happens once she gets to your website? Google Analytics provides that information if you adjust some easy settings in your email platform.

—Kelly Kitchel, account manager & email marketing lead, Intuitive Digital

Improve Call-to-Actions, Transactional Emails & Conversions

Scroll through the list of tips below or use this handy checklist to jump to a specific category of DIY email marketing tips:

Be sure to bookmark this page or connect with SmallBusinessComputing on Twitter to be notified when we update and grow this list of DIY email marketing tips!

Send messages—transactional emails—to people who took specific actions on your website to help nudge them towards your end goal. If, for example, a shopper has a full cart and doesn't checkout within a few hours, send a reminder email to improve your conversion rate. You can sweeten the deal a day later with a 5-percent-off coupon if the customer still hasn't completed the purchase. These short urgent messages catch customers at hot times, and they can turn a browser into a brand ambassador.

—Oleg Korneitchouk, director of marketing, SmartSites

Don’t forget a call to action. If you want people to engage with your brand or to visit your website, include a call-to-action freebie in your email message. Many companies offer free detailed guides/reports, host webinars for Q & A , or they invite readers to a special event that requires an RSVP to drive engagement.

—Travis Pearl, co-founder, ExpertMatches

Limit yourself to one key message and CTA per email. This applies to both plain-text or highly visual email. Speaking of, don't be afraid of plain-text emails as long as you offer something of value. If your brand is visual, use your one best image and keep language to a minimum.

—Natalie Edwards, marketing director, Sfbi

Don't be afraid to re-send an email to a subscriber who did not open it the first time. Most email systems—or certain free plugin tools—make it easy to segment people who received an email but didn't open it. Although you might worry about bugging a potential customer, resending the email can actually result in more engagement.

—Nate Kristy, vice president of marketing, Automational

If your subject line earned an email open, focus next on the call-to-action. For example, retailers often focus on product-specific offers, whereas a technology company may offer a white paper or a guide on a specific tech topic. When you design an email marketing offer, think about the action you want recipients to take and design around that goal.

—Randy Mitchelson, vice president sales and marketing, iPartnerMedia

If you include a link in your email, consider embedding the actual link without any anchor text. People are afraid to click on links if the URL isn't obvious. A simple, clear link can help increase click-through rates. Try to keep the link short, and having your brand name in the domain, helps to build even more credibility.

—Zaki Usman, CEO, InterQ

Include one primary call-to-action linking back to your website (your blog, for example). Think about what you really want your visitors to do: Shop Now, Click Here, Subscribe, Learn More, etc.

—Courtney Rauch, marketing account manager, CMK Marketing

Offer visitors a coupon for a percentage off their first order if they sign up for your newsletter. Staying in touch with someone who bought from your store is worth what that discount cost you. It's a lot easier (and cheaper) to keep a customer than it is to find a new one, and an email list makes it easier to keep them.

—Nick Leffler, owner, Your Brand by Nick Leffler

Position you call to action at the beginning of your email. Whether it's to sign up for a Facebook page or to contribute to a cause, the call to action should be clearly visible upon opening the email. Too many email campaigns place the call to action in the last paragraph. Remember, you have readers' attention for just a few seconds. I use a call to action as a visual element—like a "donate" button alongside the written copy.

—Alli Williams, public relations coordinator, Amplify Relations

Include one call to action at the end of the email. Whether you ask for a response, click, or buy, make sure you get your readers used to taking action. But only include one!

—Hans E. Hageman, creative marketing consultant and strategist, HansHageman.com

Tell subscribers what they can expect—for example a monthly newsletter or company updates via email. This works especially for travel sites, comparison sites, and niche markets. Send new subscribers a welcome email, and design your email or newsletter to fit your brand and small business. Don't forget to include links for click-through and conversion.

—Steffen Ploeger, SEO specialist, 9thco

Here's a simple and yet stunningly effective tip: just resend campaigns. It's guaranteed that out of every email blast you send, a decent percentage of your list won't open it for whatever reason. Tow or three days after sending a campaign (assuming it's not time-sensitive), segment your list based on who didn't open the email, think up a new subject line, and hit resend to that segment. It'll get your message across to a lot more people, and it takes only a minute to implement.

—Han Chang, co-founder, InvestmentZen

If you write a blog, make sure you place a subscription form on each page. If people read your blog and like what you talk about, they will be inclined to sign up for your newsletter.

—Matthew White, CEO, Qebot

Business owners understand the importance of emailing prospects. You want them to become customers. But once prospects become customers, immediately transition them to your customer email list. Keep them updated on changes taking place at your company, inform them about new product features you've released, and upsell and cross-sell additional products or services. Remember, it's easier and less expensive to sell to existing customers than to convert prospects into customers. Make customer email campaigns a priority component of your marketing strategy.

—Lisa Masiello, president, TechMarc Labs

Mobile Friendly Email Marketing Tips

Small business owners must have a responsive or mobile-friendly email template. According to the latest statistics, 65 percent of people check their email on a smartphone, and they don't want to pinch and zoom on your email to read it.

—Tom Brodbeck, senior SEO consultant, Site Strategics

Think mobile first. Most people will read your email on a mobile device, so design the template, graphics, and text size to suite those readers.

—Justin Flitter, head of marketing, Results.com

We know that people read their email on mobile devices more than ever before. If subscribers can't easily read, navigate, or take action with your email, they may unsubscribe. If your audience is mobile savvy, develop email marketing programs they can engage with easily and remove a source of frustration that leads to unsubscribes.

—Shelly Alvarez, director of client services, PostUp

According to Litmus (an authority on email marketing and analytics), mobile open rates—as of April—"rose to 56 percent, its highest point yet" compared to 19 percent on desktop. Some quick and easy things you can do to improve mobile open rates: reduce image file sizes, and increase the size of links to make them easier to touch on small screens. You can also look into using responsive email templates. You can find free ones online.

—Luis Leonzo, product and web marketing manager, TableLegsOnline

Remember that people open a good 50 percent of email on mobile devices, and not everybody will scroll down to find your punchline. Keep your design mobile-friendly and find ways to keep your CTA toward the top of your message.

—Sean Hay, director of retention, Readers.com

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal is a freelance writer, covering business and Internet technology for more than a decade. She is also managing editor of Webopedia.com.

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