There are two primary types of commercial emails—transactional and marketing. Each of them has their unique place in the email ecosystem. Marketing email focuses on customer acquisition and retention, while transactional email centers on interactions with existing customers. Both types share some best practices that improve their performance.
Marketing email (aka commercial or promotional email and newsletters) as defined by the CAN-SPAM Act, is any message in which the primary purpose “advertises or promotes a commercial product or service.”
Transactional email (often SMTP) is any message in which the primary purpose “facilitates an already agreed-upon transaction or updates a customer about an ongoing transaction.” There is a growing trend of using transactional emails as marketing vehicle amongst smart marketers so take note.
Regardless of which type of email messages you are sending, they have to reach the recipient’s inbox and be opened to deliver results. Follow email marketing best practices to ensure your emails get delivered to the subscribers who want them and that they open, read and, click on them.
Here is a simple checklist of email marketing best practices that you can apply to both transactional and marketing emails.
|Brand All Messages|
Mindshare leads to market share
|Make sure your email address and name reflect the brand and use a similar branded template with your logo and colors for all messages. This makes it easily recognizable and builds trust and brand recognition.|
|Write Clear, Honest Subject Lines|
Respect your subscribers
|Nothing breaks the email marketing brand promise faster than bait–and-switch subject lines. Use segmenting and targeting to get the right message to the right person rather than trying to "tease" opens with misleading subject lines.||Keep the subject line clear and focused on the transactional reason for the message. And ensure the pre-header and opening sentences match the subject.|
|Customize the ‘From’ Name|
Recognition builds trust
|To choose the best from name, answer this question, “How will people quickly recognize my business or organization from the email?” Make sure not to use a “donotreply” address.|
|Easy, Simple Unsubscribes|
One click unsubscribe
|It’s the law. More importantly it is good for you and your subscribers. You do not want to send to those who do not want your messages. Don’t force them to mark you as spam.||Technically transactional emails are not required by law to have an unsubscribe option. Include it to be sure users do not mark messages as spam.|
|Use Reader’s Name|
Personalization is standard
|Using their name is a simple and highly effective method to build engagement and trust.||Using the recipient's name brings an impersonal receipt-only email closer to a relationship.|
|Use a Strong Call To Action|
Don’t leave them guessing
|Every email must justify the send. Answer the question: “Why am I sending this email to this person now?" Make the entire email flow to a clear, compelling CTA targeted to the right person.||If there is a required action make it prominent and clear. And remember that in a transactional message, a maximum of 1/3 of message can be promotional to comply with CAN-SPAM rules.|
|Make Emails Responsive|
Mobile is the new standard
|55% of all email is opened on a mobile device. It is not early adopters any longer, mobile is the new standard. Make sure your emails function and look great on all device types. Use a third party service to test.|
|Focus on Active Subscribers|
Segment your subscribers
|For marketing messages, use a tool to segment your active subscribers from your inactive ones and send to only active users on your normal frequency. Target inactive subscribers with ‘win-back’ campaigns or other offers less frequently.||By definition transactional email tends to be sent to the active users. However if you are doing other SMTP messages make sure to segment out inactive subscribers in some way.|
|Send Email at Best Times|
Send when your subscribers open
|Your email subscribers are constantly telling you exactly what time, on which day they want to engage with your email messages by opening, reading, and clicking on them. Listen to the data and take action by sending at the time they are most likely to open.||Most transactional emails should be sent immediately. (Password resets, purchase receipts, etc.) Some can benefit from sending at optimized times.|
These are solid best practices for making all of your emails deliver better results. As always, test and iterate to find the best set of practices and processes for your business and subscribers. Be an email rebel and test and try unique practices, but always focus on delivering value to your subscribers and they will in turn bring value to you.