Email marketing is an excellent way to build relationships, engage with potential customers and increase sales for your business.
In fact, according to Litmus’ State of Email report, 90% of survey respondents say email marketing is critical to business success. Email marketing also has an incredibly high ROI: studies show that for every $1 spent email marketing typically returns $42.
By sending a mix of different types of emails, you can keep your subscribers engaged and your open rates high.
In this article, we’ll explore email marketing best practices, explain why variety in email marketing matters and outline nine email types that you can use in your marketing efforts to help grow your business and engage your subscriber list.
Table of contents
Discount or special promotion email
Exclusive content emails
Reorder and upsell email
Email marketing best practices
Effective email marketing campaigns are more than simply sending emails and hoping that your customers (potential or existing) open and read them. If you leverage common best practices, email marketing efforts will start to pay off. Follow an email campaigns’ best practices and you’ll likely increase your email open rates and click through rates and improve engagement and conversion rates.
Here are some email marketing best practices to keep in mind when preparing your next marketing campaign or sales outreach.
Sending different types of emails keeps your list active and engaged.
Unlike social media channels, which do not guarantee that your message will always reach your followers, email marketing is not subject to ever-changing algorithms. Once a subscriber chooses to opt in to your email list, they’ll consistently receive the content you send as long as you don’t end up on an email blacklist.
Given that your customers and sales prospects are likely to see your content, it’s important to ensure that your emails are engaging and resonate with your customers’ needs. To regularly stay in touch with their email list, many marketers rely on repeatable types of email marketing templates and automation.
While repeated email messages work well for informing and captivating new customers, sending the same type of email over and over again throughout a customer’s journey will cause them to lose interest. If they feel they’re always getting the same type of information with minimal added value, your open rates will decrease and people will begin to unsubscribe.
By sending a mix of announcements, company news, recommendations for products or services and transactional emails, you’ll be more likely to attract new subscribers, conduct lead nurturing and generate sales from your list.
A well designed email helps you effectively communicate with your audience. It reduces clutter, draws the eye to important details and taps into emotions.
Here are a few email design tips:
Keep it short and sweet. In a world where everybody is vying for your audience’s attention, you need to get straight to the point. If you have more to say, add links to additional content or landing pages.
Make it easy on the eye. Think of the fonts, colors, emojis, images and other design elements that can make your email more visually appealing.
Optimize for mobile. Ensure your emails can be opened and read on mobile devices. Consider using Google Fonts instead of images to speed up load time without sacrificing design.
Add a CTA button. Encourage readers to perform an action. Want them to attend your upcoming webinar? Send them directly to the signup form.
While this may seem obvious, email marketing rests on automation. Imaging responding to every new subscriber by manually sending out your welcome email. How about manually sending a confirmation message for every purchase in your ecommerce store.
Email automation saves you invaluable time and resources.
Marketing automation is only as powerful as the email marketing tool it’s powered by. Find a tool that easily integrates with your CRM for a seamless workflow.
Another email campaigns best practices tip: Keep an eye on your email KPIs to know how well your campaigns are performing.
Some of the most important email metrics include:
Open rates. How often your emails get opened
Click-through rate. Percentage of readers that clicked one of more links in your email
Bounce rate. The percentage of emails that don’t reach your subscribers (e.g. because you have the wrong email address or their email server is full)
Conversion rate. The number of subscribers that complete the action you want them to (e.g. clicking on the CTA and following through with a purchase, sign-up, download, etc.)
Email list growth rate. The rate at which your list is growing over X amount of time
Email deliverability. The amount of emails that successfully reach inboxes (i.e. aren’t affected by spam, blacklists, etc.)
Nine types of emails to grow your business and engage your list
Here are nine different email types you can send to your list to keep them interested and engaged with your business.
1. Welcome email
Welcome emails have a notoriously high open and click through rate.. This is because you are speaking to newly engaged customers who are eager to connect with you.
The content of your welcome email(s) should introduce your new subscribers to your brand, set expectations and get them excited about being a part of your inner circle.
Also, it isn’t too early to offer a discount or promote a product within a welcome email. Welcome emails can generate up to 320% more revenue compared to other promotional email types, so don’t be afraid to take advantage of this attention to make a targeted sale.
What you include in your welcome email and whether it’s part of a larger email marketing campaign series depends on your brand messaging, target audience, product or service and content marketing strategy and goals.
Regardless of your industry, follow these best practices when crafting your welcome email:
Thank your readers for subscribing to your list. This shows appreciation and humility and makes your new customers feel personally welcomed and important.
Clearly define your emails’ value. This might include exclusive content, early access to new products or services, or special deals and promotions. By telling your readers what’s to come, they’ll understand exactly what value they’ll be getting in return for staying subscribed.
Set appropriate expectations. Tell subscribers about the type of information you’ll send and how often. This will help to build anticipation and get your readers used to a set schedule, such as a weekly newsletter or a monthly rundown of trending new products or services.
Ask them to take the next step. Whether it’s completing their online profile, whitelisting your domain, or logging into their account, encourage your customers to take immediate action. As your brand is top of mind, this will help you boost engagement
Including these elements helps you kick off your relationship on the right foot. Here’s an example of a successful welcome email by Virgin America:
On-brand appreciation. The email starts with a striking visual that says thanks in an on-brand way.
Communicates frequency. It communicates that they’ll send regular updates and special offers.
Communicates value. It reminds the subscriber that by staying on their list, they’ll receive the best possible price.
Gives the next step. It provides a call to action of what the reader should do next.
2. Discount or special promotion email
This is an email that includes a discount, coupon or another special offer that you send out to subscribers as a “thank you” for being on your email list. Offer emails tend to have high open rates.
Not all business models include offering sales and discounts, but it’s good practice to occasionally send out a special offer that’s exclusive to email subscribers. This will make them feel special and gives you an opportunity to say thanks for their loyalty.
Ideally, the discount or special offer generates sales and drives support. To ensure your special offer email is successful and encourages action, add an element of urgency or scarcity. Here are some examples of ways to do that in your email subject line and email preheader text:
Flash sale: Today only
Subscriber exclusive discounts
Early access to a new offer
Limited spots available
Free gift for first 50 registrants
Did you catch our last-minute deals? There’s still time…
Ends April 15th: Shop now.
Here’s an example of a special promotion email by Headspace:
Opens with the specific offer or discount. They highlight the key offer right away, which is getting 40% off of your first year.
Explains value to the user. They clearly state that if you buy in, you’ll “increase compassion, positivity and make new friends”.
Gives the reader a reason to act. By setting an end date, the reader knows that they only have so much time to take advantage of this massive discount.
3. New offer
New offer emails can include several things, including the launch of a new product, a limited-edition release, a special promotion, an upcoming event, or the option to pre-order a product.
Regardless of what your new product or service is, your subscribers should be the first to know. Email subscribers are some of your most engaged customers, so sharing it with them first shows appreciation.
When creating an announcement email, follow these email campaign best practices:
Clearly communicate the offer features so that your readers know what you’re talking about.
Explain both the new product features and benefits so they understand how it relates to their needs and why they should be interested.
Finish with a call-to-action (CTA) that communicates what they should do next if they’re interested.
If your new product or service isn’t coming out for another few weeks, you can still leverage your email list to build excitement and interest. For example, you can allow those on your email list to pre-order or get on a waitlist. You can also include teasers through video trailers, product previews and other engaging content.
When launching a new offer, it’s best practice to email your list more than once to build up anticipation. Here’s an announcement drip email marketing sequence to make sure your audience is interested and excited about your new product.
Email 1: Announce that something new is coming and ask if they’d like to receive updates.
Email 2: Announce specifically what is coming and ask if they’d like to keep receiving updates.
Email 3: To the segmented list that showed interest, share more details and include a CTA. This could include signing up for a waitlist, pre-ordering, or saving their spot by registering early.
Email 4: Share relevant content about your product that shows how it may help your subscriber. Tell them the next email they receive will be the official launch email.
Email 5: Officially launch the offer and invite them to join, purchase or otherwise participate.
Segmenting your list according to new offers is an effective way to understand what offers resonate with your audience and segments.
Here’s an example of an engaging new offer email by the mattress company Casper:
Introduces the new product in plain language. There’s no room for confusion – it’s a mattress for dogs. It’s a clean layout with no distractions from the main announcement.
Entices with engaging copy. They use personal language that speaks to their dog-loving audience.
Adds social proof. They call attention to their award-winning engineering team, sleep studies and world-class testing.
Includes call to action. They invite subscribers to get the mattress and make a purchase.
Provide helpful tips that their customers can use. They highlight delicious milkshake recipes that use Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and how to prevent freezer burn on your ice cream.
Show their brand values. They also educate their audience on things that align with their brand values.
Create sales opportunities. The footer includes information on how to connect and where someone can make a purchase nearby.
5. Survey email
Your email list includes some of your most engaged leads, making it a goldmine for conducting market research and receiving feedback via surveys. The people on your email list can provide insights into what they‘ve enjoyed, what they’ve disliked and what they’d like to see offered in the future. It can also reveal why people haven’t made a purchase yet.
In the body of your survey email, make sure to thank your customers for filling it out and explain that your goal is to serve them better. Make sure to provide an estimate of how long the survey will take so people know if they have time to complete it. Because feedback benefits you more than your reader, it’s also worth offering a small incentive for their time.
Before you conduct market research or send feedback emails, discuss with your team what information would be most valuable to learn. Doing this now can help shape which questions you ask and who you contact.
For example, if you’re looking for feedback on a new offer, you should send a survey email to subscribers with a purchasing history. If you’re looking for insights on how to make current offers more appealing, those who haven’t purchased yet may have valuable ideas.
The questions you include will depend on the insights you hope to gain and your current business goals. Here are some standard questions that can help guide what to include in your market research or feedback survey:
What problem does [the offer] solve for you?
How do you use [the offer] in your life or work?
How well does [the offer] meet your needs?
What features or changes would you like to see in the future?
What do you like [most/least] about [the offer]?
What made you choose our brand over other options?
How likely are you to recommend our brand to a friend?
Here’s an example of a market research survey request by Airbnb:
Say thanks. It refers to the customer’s past purchases and thanks them for their loyalty.
Explain the purpose. They explain that they’d like their feedback so they can improve their customers’ experiences.
Make it clear that it’s quick and easy. The note says the survey only takes three minutes.
6. Referral email
Referral emails are a great way to generate word-of-mouth marketing for your business. By asking happy customers to refer your business to their network, you can build customer loyalty and attract new customers.
It’s worth noting that referral customers aren’t the same as routine new customers. Because the recommendations come from trusted sources, referral leads tend to convert 30% better and are more loyal than leads generated from other marketing channels
Referral emails also pair well with feedback emails. You can segment your list by survey results and ask those who were likely to recommend your brand to proactively refer your business to their network in exchange for a reward or elevated status.
In your referral email, email campaign best practices dictate to include these key points:
Thank them for their positive feedback or customer loyalty
Explain that you’re asking for a referral
If relevant, highlight past successes and positive reviews you’ve received
Make it clear if and how they’ll earn rewards if they successfully refer business to you (e.g. “Your friend’s purchase gets you 20% off”)
Offer a template or social sharing buttons that make it easy for them to pass the information along.
Here’s a template that a service-based business could use:
Hello [customer name],
I‘m so glad to hear you’re happy with the results of working with [your company name] so far. It’s been a pleasure working with you and I’m so pleased you‘re already seeing results.
Since things are going so well, I was wondering if you have any friends or colleagues with comparable needs who might benefit from our [product/service]. I’d love to help them achieve similar results.
If you participate, we’d be excited to offer 15% off your next purchase. Simply paste the below message into a new email or social email post to quickly and easily pass the message along.
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!
7. Abandoned cart
An abandoned cart message is targeted to customers who add an item to their online shopping cart but leave before making the purchase. Across a range of industries, an average of 88% of online shopping orders are abandoned or not completed.
Thankfully, if you have the right website tracking tools and customers are logged into their accounts, you can send automated emails that remind them to complete their purchase so you can recover those sales. Here is a list of common reasons people decide to abandon their cart:
They get sticker shock from additional fees such as taxes or shipping and handling
They didn’t trust that it was a secure checkout page
They didn’t see their preferred payment option
The checkout process was confusing or had too many steps
To send a compelling abandoned cart reminder that inspires people to go back to your website, follow this email structure:
Write a short and direct subject line that refers to their cart
Open with a few friendly sentences that remind them that they haven’t finished checking out
Add images and descriptions of items they left in the cart
(Optional) include a special offer such as a discount, free shipping or a bonus gift with their purchase
Add a relevant review, testimonial or other social proof
End with a checkout button or other call to action that leads them back to their cart
Send anywhere from two to four abandoned cart emails and A/B test which style has the best conversions.
Here’s an example of an effective abandoned cart email sent by Society 6 that follows design best practices, email marketing tips and more.
Email inspires action. It tells the reader that their cart is waiting for them, but only for the next 48 hours.
Offers a discount. By offering 30% off, Society 6 incentivizes them to return to their cart.
Engaging visuals. The images remind the reader what type of items they were browsing.
Increases appeal and decreases risk. It mentions that every purchase pays an artist, which is appealing to those who shop at Society 6. They also mention their return policy, which helps remind readers that their purchase is low-risk.
Social proof. The footer with logos helps show that their offers are established, recognized and celebrated.
8. Exclusive content emails
Exclusive content emails are great for building relationships and giving your subscribers insider tips, tricks and resources that might be helpful to them. It shows that you’ve given a lot of thought to what they care about and how you can help them.
Here are some examples of exclusive content that might interest your list:
Checklists for common procedures or practices
How-to content that gives step-by-step tips and tricks
Fun freebies that relate to your reader
Sneak peeks and behind the scenes
Helpful summaries of industry news or reports
Calendar of curated events or training
Manage an exclusive online community or forum
Sharing valuable content consistently tells your subscribers they can turn to you for interesting, relevant and helpful information that resonates. Here’s an engaging email by Asana that shows how to create content that connects with your readers.
Friendly message that provides context. It empathizes with the user and offers to share exclusive content that will help them with their needs.
Unique, curated content. Because Asana is a communication and project management tool, this email is filled with valuable tips that might help a manager keep their team on track.
Think outside the box. Although Asana isn’t a music tool, the email acknowledges that everyone can appreciate a great playlist to listen to as they work.
9. Reorder and upsell email
Reorder emails are an effective way to re-engage past customers with offers you know they’ll like. By sending an email that includes an offer to a past purchase, you might remind them that it’s time to buy again.
You can also leverage reorder emails to upsell products by offering upgrades, extra accessories, or other useful items that could improve their experience.
Here’s an example by Dollar Shave Club that invites subscribers to add-on to their purchase.
Estimated renewal date. Although Dollar Shave Club is a membership service, non-membership brands could still include a date of when they anticipate customers will need to replace or replenish their order.
Upsell when the customer is already expecting to make a purchase. People are less resistant to upsells when they’re already committed to making another purchase.
Suggests related products. By recommending certain products, you can help the customer explore options they might be interested in and increase the purchase order.
Easy, casual language. This makes it feel like changing their order is effortless, so why not throw in something a little extra.
The best email marketing strategy leverages several or all of the above email types. Varied and valuable content is interesting and engaging, so mix and match and A/B test emails to see what works.
If you leverage the email campaigns best practices shared in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to growing your email list and conversions.