The Ten Commandments of Email Marketing

Katie Cook

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You’ve got mail.

Chances are, you read that in Elwood Edwards’ signature voice. But what was once cause for excitement (and a verbal announcement) is now something many people tend to dread.

Think about your own email inbox. When was the last time you managed to get your inbox down to zero and keep it that way for long enough to focus your attention on other things? If you’re like most people, it’s probably been a while.

In fact, according to The Radicati Group’s latest Email Statistics Report, the average number of business emails sent and received per day last year was 123. And this is only expected to increase over the next few years.

But, in addition to business emails, your inbox likely consists of a never-ending stream of spam, promotional content, and misleading subject lines.

It’s irritating, right? Your customers think so, too.

Knowing how much time we spend clearing out our inboxes each day, why overwhelm — and ultimately deter — customers with countless marketing emails?

To find out, let’s start at the beginning…

What is email marketing?

Email marketing is just that — emails sent to potential or current customers for marketing purposes.

Designed to build brand awareness and convert prospects into customers, email marketing typically consists of promotional or informational content related to a product or service. But unlike spam, email marketing targets those who have already expressed an interest in receiving communication from a brand.

Email marketing comes in various forms, but the most common campaign types include:


When you’re browsing a website or going through an online checkout, you’ll often see a checkbox asking you to sign up for the company’s newsletter. This is email marketing at its finest.

Newsletters are one of the most common forms of email marketing, with 77 percent of B2B marketers using email newsletters in their content marketing strategy, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends — North America report.

Essentially, a newsletter is a roundup of newsworthy content, upcoming events, the latest company happenings, new research, etc. that goes out on a regular basis (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly). The idea is to present customers with valuable, bite-sized pieces of information all in one place.  


When something great happens, it’s only natural to want to share it with others. This form of email marketing is used to announce something, whether it’s a new product launch, an exciting new feature, or an upcoming event.


Promotional emails are designed to share original content — from ebooks and infographics to blog posts and podcast episodes to upcoming webinars — and entice potential and current customers.


Often times, the original content shared in promotional emails, announcements, and e-newsletters is based on surveys distributed to your email list. These survey responses are then analyzed and can inform various other forms of content.

Drip Email Campaigns

A drip email campaign — also referred to as drip marketing, automated email campaign, autoresponders, and lifecycle emails — is based on a gradual communication strategy.

This form of email marketing relies on a series of pre-scheduled emails that are sent to potential and current customers. These emails are often triggered based on a person’s action, such as signing up for a service or making a purchase.   

Why do you need it?

If you’re questioning whether email marketing is worth it, consider this: email marketing has an ROI of 3,800 percent, according to the 2015 DMA National Client Email Report.

Yes, you read correctly.

If that number alone doesn’t have you convinced, here are a few other benefits of email marketing:

  • Provides a customer-centric experience
  • Lead generation/nurturing leads
  • Stay connected to your current customers/nurture the customer relationship
  • Share company news
  • Establish thought leadership
  • Gain valuable insights into your customers to pass on to the sales team/customer success team
  • Better qualified leads

Now that you’re ready to start your own email marketing campaign, here are a few things to keep in mind:

The 10 Commandments of Email Marketing

  1. Thou shalt not violate the CAN-SPAM laws…

…and include people on your mailing list who haven’t given you permission.

The CAN-SPAM Act is defined as “a law that sets the rules for commercial email, establishes requirements for commercial messages, gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and spells out tough penalties for violations.”  

Thou shalt: Be open and honest about the type of content you’ll be sending and why it’s valuable.

To do this, consider adding a short description of what subscribers can expect on your sign-up page. Example: Like what you read on our blog? Sign up for our weekly newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest blog posts and other great content.

Most importantly, carefully monitor your email list and be diligent about removing anyone who has unsubscribed.

  1. Thou shalt not purchase someone else’s or rent out your own email list.

Buying or renting email lists from a third-party might seem like an easy shortcut, but it’s a largely outdated strategy, hardly legal, and an all-around bad business practice.

Thou shalt: Build your lists the right way.

Do this by incorporating multiple, dedicated areas on your website where visitors and prospects can sign up to receive content.

Additionally, be sure any call-to-action buttons or tabs are easily found on your site and strategically placed below blog posts, included in your employees’ email signatures, and shared on individual employee and corporate social media platforms.

  1. Thou shalt not attempt a campaign without the right tools.

A marketer without the appropriate email marketing tools is like a knight without his trusty steed. In other words, you’ll go nowhere fast.

Thou shalt: Use an email service provider (ESP).

There are a host of ESPs available, such as MailChimp (our personal fave), ConstantContact, and Emma. ESPs provide everything from email templates to marketing automation to reporting features, which set your email marketing campaign up for success.

  1. Thou shalt not mass email everyone the same message.

We’ve all been there — you receive an email that is so irrelevant to you and your needs, it’s obvious the sender just included you in an email blast. But this is a surefire way to get potential and current customers to unsubscribe.

Thou shalt: Segment your lists based on your buyer personas.

While you can’t personalize each and every email you send out to customers, you can make sure emails are relevant to them based on their stage in the buyer’s journey. Once you’ve organized your email list by buyer persona, customize your content to address the pain points for each persona.

  1. Thou shalt not resort to clickbait subject lines.

Does clickbait encourage customers to open your email? Yes. Does clickbait encourage customers to actually read your email and take action? Quite the opposite.

Using a subject line that attracts but doesn’t deliver breaks your customer’s trust, ultimately resulting in a lower open rate (and higher rate of unsubscriptions).

Thou shalt: Keep subject lines enticing but honest.

Encourage customers to open your email by addressing their pain point(s) in the email subject line, but be sure the subject line accurately reflects the content inside. A few things to keep in mind:

  • Keep it short and sweet
  • Personalize it with the recipient’s first name
  • Create a sense of urgency or excitement
  • Let them know what’s inside
  1. Thou shalt not forget a call-to-action.

The overall goal of your email marketing campaign is to motivate customers to take action. But sometimes those customers need a little extra push in the right direction, and a call-to-action (CTA) does just that.

Thou shalt: Add a CTA button.

A strong CTA excites customers and makes it easy for them to move on to the next step. This could be a link to more blog content, a download link for ebooks, case studies, or original research, or a link to schedule a demo.

  1. Thou shalt not leave long gaps between contact.

It’s common knowledge not to overwhelm your email list with multiple emails a day. At the same time, you don’t want your customer base to forget about you. So, find a balance between sending too many emails and not sending enough.

Thou shalt: Have a consistent schedule.

Developing a schedule for your email marketing campaign is a great way to ensure you’re not overloading your email list with too many messages or leaving too long of a gap between contact. Instead, it gives customers something to look forward to.  

  1. Thou shalt not over-design your email.

With all of the email service providers and tools available, it can be tempting to go a little crazy with your email design. But over-designing your email can actually backfire and make your message a lot harder to read on mobile devices.

Thou shalt: Keep it simple and mobile-friendly.

Fortunately, most ESPs offer mobile-friendly templates that can be previewed, so you can see exactly how your message will look on various mobile device. This is crucial, considering more than half (56 percent) of all emails are opened on a mobile device.

  1. Thou shalt not hit ‘send’ without testing your email.

This is arguably one of the most important email marketing commandments. After all, you wouldn’t buy a new Mustang without first taking it out for a test drive, would you?

Thou shalt: Perform multiple tests.

Sending out a single test email isn’t enough, as the email design may appear slightly different depending on the recipient.

In fact, MailChimp suggests testing your email in as many different scenarios (email applications, internet service providers, etc.) as possible by sending the email to yourself, colleagues, and friends.

  1. Thou shalt not base your campaign strategies on faith.

Your email marketing campaign doesn’t end when you hit ‘send.’ In fact, it’s just begun. Rather than sending your email and hoping for the best, track, monitor, and analyze your efforts.

Thou shalt: Analyze your email marketing metrics.

This way, you can better understand what was successful and what wasn’t (and why). The top metrics to stay on top of include:

  • Open rates
  • Click-throughs
  • Bounce backs
  • Unsubscribes
  • Website traffic

Now that you understand the fundamentals of email marketing, you’re ready for the next step in email marketing mastery. Stay tuned for part two of this series to learn how to drive open rates and boost overall campaign success.

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Katie Cook

Katie Cook

Katie is the Media & Client Relations Manager at Come Recommended. In her spare time she enjoys cooking meals for the people she loves and snuggling with her dogs.
Katie Cook