Email Marketing Etiquette Philosophy, And Best Practices

Email is the most intimate and one-to-one you can get with your leads and customers short of a telephone call. Don’t use the ability to scale it, or automate it, to abuse people. Just don’t do it.

Email tools have grown in recent years, and scaling capability, cookies and tracking codes now allow:

  • Segmentation or persona mapping;
  • Open tracking, click-through, download, unsubscribe tracking;
  • Browsing activity and domain engagement analytics;
  • Bulk mailing;
  • Automation flows;
  • Web personalization;

Except, it’s still basically a personal invitation for an intimate one-on-one interaction with a lead. How do we reconcile these seemingly contrary ideas? By being on our best behavior when we use email. 

What is email marketing, exactly?

The simplest way to think of email is as a continuation of the web experience, except with much more information about their interests. Their interests – not your interests. The fact that it can be automated or done at scale notwithstanding, it’s a kind ‘room key’ given to you, and represents a measure of trust, and therefore a covenant.

Here are some basics of how to do email marketing well.

  • Set up a CRM and gather your email list with  awesome content. 
  • Never pay for email address or ‘scrape’ leads. Just never do it. It ruins email marketing for everybody else, and will eventually drive people from email altogether, if your domain isn’t blacklisted for spam. 
  • Segment your email leads. Configure your assets with tags or persona mapping, so that you know who is interested in what. 
  • Remember that you yourself don’t like spam, so don’t email frequently or to talk about yourself;
  • Reach out with objective-value content – not just things you think are important, or which only have value if they use your company, product or service. A good litmus is: only offer content so cool you believe people will share it
  • Offer some content only to those in your email list; again, this incentivizes people to stay in touch.
  • Segment content in emails that gives you better targeting for sub-demographics. In other words, have a few options for them to engage with, and track that information. 
  • Avoid automated emails chains or trees. This applies to onboards as well as 3-day follow ups. This was clever in 2015 when Pardot and Marketo blew up, but it’s old now, and everybody knows when a machine is emailing them.
  • Never drip market. This is actually worse than an automation sequence of emails. People will unsubscribe if you keep interrupting them to ask to take from them. 
  • Nurture leads by “tickling” them with great content offers. This is not drip marketing.
  • Keep your CRM clean. Dump people who never engage (3x in a row), and ping once-engaged leads one time. If they don’t reply, scrub them. You can’t really believe you’re awesome and unique, or understand the psychology of how marketing works, if you’re continually beating on closed doors. That’s not marketing.

Email is a personalized invitation from a lead, and a personalized extension of the web experience, for them. If it’s automated or depersonalized, you have – from the door – abused this form of communication and marketing.

The average person shares their email address with thousands of companies in a lifetime. If they’re all hounding a person through email, guess what? People burn out and start to resent being pitched via email. They unsubscribe and/or tune out.

This is exactly what’s happened. At this point, with everybody scaring off the fish, people are no longer interested in being marketed to via email. They will engage and accept offers of services or information – things that have value whether they come buy from you or not. But they delete most emails from people who are – wait for it – just interrupting their day to ask to take from them later.

Tell us – do you click through and buy when Company X offers a sale? Do you care about their new hires or announcements? Do you like hearing about ‘sales,’ announced when you gave no indication of wanting to buy, are announced? No, you don’t. Why, then, would your customers?

Email is a covenant. A lead providing an email address to you is a gesture of trust. Unless you have a great reason to reach out and engage, don’t. Give to receive. It’s not about you.