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Email Marketing DOs and DON’Ts

Do you ever wonder why your email marketing campaigns just don’t stick?  No responses, low click through rates….you wonder if anyone has even read it?  Well, a few simple changes could go a long way.   

Take a step back 

What if YOU were the consumer?
Does the subject line catch your attention?
Would you care about what the email says? 
Is it visually appealing? 
What’s the first thing you notice?

If you wouldn’t stop & take the time out of your busy day to read it, why would your customers?  People are so busy these days with so many things competing for their attention.  If you want to reach them, you have to make it worth their while to read your email. 

Here are few basic things to keep in mind when crafting your email message


  • Start with a well crafted, branded email template.  There should be some sort of consistent and recognizable framework that makes it easy on the eyes to digest the content of the message.  Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be complicated or heavily designed.  Sometimes less is more.   The header should define who the email is coming from and what it’s all about.  The email should unmistakably reflect your brand.   Your logo should be at or near the top of the email, it should match your color palette, and include any other graphic elements that are used in your branding.
  • Include an interesting or appealing image somewhere in the body of your message.  If you don’t have your own photos to use, there are many resources out there for free images to use.  (click here for info on image resolution and for a list of free resources)  The image at the top of this blog comes from Getty images.  They allow you to embed images for free, along with the proper attribution.
  • Write a well thought out subject line.  Subject lines are easily the most important part of creating an email marketing campaign.  If the subject sounds boring and irrelevant to your consumer, they are not even going to open it. 
  • Make sure that those receiving your email are aware that they are in your email list and should expect to receive emails from you.  You don’t want them reporting it as abuse.  Are you using a legitimate method to collect emails from your customers?  Most email service providers (ESPs) are actually quite strict about this, and you could be penalized for sending unsolicited emails.
  • Test your email before sending it to your database.  Send it to yourself and a few others so you can see what it looks like in various email programs.  It can be vastly different from one platform to another.  Make sure it looks decent across all of them, including mobile.
  • Follow a strategy.  Make a plan or editorial calendar for the types of information you want to send to your customers, and create a schedule for sending them.   Whatever you set your schedule as, keep up with it regularly.
  • Include links back to your website (you could make your logo link), and to your social media profiles. 
  • Track your emails.  Most email service providers will show you reports on the number of opens, click throughs, bounces, and abuse reports. 
  • Include a link or button to share or forward the email, so your customers can share the good stuff you are offering and spread your reach!  (Unless, of course, the email contains an exclusive offer for your current customers)


  • Don’t buy lists.  Period.  You will get into trouble and hurt your credibility.   Again, most email service providers (ESPs) are actually quite strict about this, and you could be penalized for sending unsolicited emails.
  • Don’t send messages that are not related to your business or the reason that your customers have signed up to receive emails.
  • Don’t use clip art….just please…don’t!  It never looks professional and could hurt your image. 
  • Don’t “steal” from Google.  You can get in trouble for this – it’s just not worth it.  There are plenty of resources for free images – use them.  But be careful – some images require attribution.   Again, click HERE for free image resources, and HERE for some info about licenses and attribution.
  • Don’t sound like an infomercial. DON’T USE CAPS, DON’T USE MULTIPLE EXCLAMTION POINTS!!!!!
  • Don’t over-sell or say something that isn’t true in the subject line, or in the beginning of the email.  Let’s take a step back again and imagine you are the customer, and think about how you would feel if you read an email all the way through only to realize that it is a gimmick and not really want you thought it was going to be.
  • Don’t use a different color on every line of your email.  Color is important!  Read THIS blog for the impact that color has on your brand.  Crazy rainbow colors are not only difficult to read, but can hurt your image and credibility. The colors of the email text should match or complement your brand colors (or black) unless it directly correlates with the theme of the email, like using red or green for a Christmas message.
  • And whatever you do…..DON’T use Comic Sans!
  • Oh, and the same goes for starbursts.  J

There you have it, some basic DOs and DON’Ts for getting your email marketing campaign back on track. 

What DOs are you already implementing?  How is it working? How many DON’Ts have you done?  Are you ready to make some changes and see the results?  What step will you make next?


Related Resources:

Why your email open rates may be slacking:

Comparison of Email Service Providers:

More resources for Free images:  

(This is a great post!) Free resources AND a bit about licenses and attributions: 

By Kara Tonnesen




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