Email Marketing Best Practices 2018

GDPR could have damaged some marketing departments and businesses beyond repair

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Email marketing best practices in 2018 need to consider GDPR

Email marketing best practices in 2018 need to consider GDPR

It’s been a while since we wrote an email marketing best practices post.

There’s a good reason for that – GDPR.

It was all consuming (for a time) and even though the noise around GDPR has dropped off, it hasn’t disappeared without a trace.

The world of email marketing has changed forever – well, at least until the next massive change in how data is used and collected comes by!

The number of people searching for GDPR online has dropped significantly since it came into place, but it has left a mark on email marketing:

In this article I will discuss email marketing best practices in 2018 and the new age of email marketing that we now find ourselves in.


This is going to be a work in progress, email marketers are still finding our feet after the chaos of the last 2 years of GDPR planning!

Email Marketing Best Practices for 2018

Marketing teams affected by GDPR are having to adapt and become flexible in how we work. We can’t rely on the data collection methods that we have become accustomed to.

In a lot of cases, our marketing lists have decresed in size – for some companies, so much so, that they might not be able to survive in the post GDPR world.

GDPR could have damaged some marketing departments and businesses beyond repair

GDPR could have damaged some marketing departments and companies beyond repair.

You’ve probably read a few email marketing best practice posts already. Companies write them towards the back end of the year and make a guess at what the best practices are going to be.

We hate that!

We only want to share the best and most up to date information with you, so took the decision to wait until the dust settled before we gave you the information and insights that we have learned in the real world.

We only want to share the best and most up to date information with you,. We'll give you the information and insights that we have learned in the real world, not just guesswork!! #digitalmarketing #marketing #marketers Click To Tweet

Not regurgitated guesswork from 8 months ago!

You’ve waited long enough.

Here are our tips on surviving in the new age of email marketing.

Get Used to Working with Smaller Contact lists

Companies of all sizes took a hit on the size of their marketing lists when the GDPR deadline came and went. It was that optin “thing” that we had to contend with.

We had been happily collecting contact details for 20+ years (if you’ve been around that long) without any issue and the majority of us we’re looking after that data and not doing anything naughty with it.

That was before the days of the giant data collecting social media channels and all the other types of personal data that people now share.

Email marketing got the rough end of the deal under GDPR.

Yes – SPAM has been an issue for quite some time, but there are other regulations that police that, and to be honest, GDPR isn’t going to stop the millions of SPAMMERS out there anyway! They don’t care about the data that they abuse.

Working with smaller contact lists is now a fact of life after #GDPR. It's not the end of the world though is it? #marketing #digitalmarketing #emailmarketing Click To Tweet

The honest marketers and marketing teams who were just trying to get by day to day are paying a heavy price.

We had enough time to start getting consent from our contacts, but open rates are seldom 100%, so even with a prolonged campaign of consent seeking emails, we could never be sure that every contact would open those emails and then optin.

This cut through contact lists like the grim reaper’s scythe. Some companies may never recover from the damage that was caused. It could take them years to build their lists again.

(I know – maybe they should have started consent seeking and lead generation earlier? Maybe they were caught up with trying to manage a business though!)

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Build relationships using email

You should feel honoured that the contacts that are left in your marketing lists are sticking by you.

They had a chance to cut and run from your email marketing messaging, but they opted in and stood by you instead. (Well, they should have opted in if you’re going to be compliant! Unless you’re not using consent as a grounds for processing their data.)

You already have a major advantage over your competition – your contacts have chosen to still receive your emails. You might even be the only company that they have subscribed to that offers your type of products and services.

We all have issues with our inboxes being full. More often than not, these emails aren’t relevant to that time, or even at all, so we just ignore them.

Here is a quick exercise to get you in tune with your contacts:

  • Stop reading this post now
  • Open your inbox in another browser tab
  • Count how many unread emails you have in your inbox.

How many thousands of unread emails do you have?
(Leave a comment below to tell us how many!)

Now that is the same experience that your contacts have when they look at their inbox. They need your emails to stand out, just as much as you need them to!

Your customers and prospects need your emails to stand out in their inbox, just as much as you need them to!

I’ve mentioned this already – your contacts have opted in to receive your emails.


You now have a duty to deliver your best content (that is the most relevant to them), at the perfect time for them, and taking into account their preferences, opinions and behaviours.

In short, you need to send:

  • the right content…
  • to the right person…
  • at the right time…
  • and in the right format.

This graph sums up this approach:

Email Marketing Conversion rate graph

Increasing relevance and building relationships means more conversions

Let me talk you through it.

As your marketing becomes more relevant using the approaches in the bars to the individual contact (on the bottom axis), your conversion rates rise.

Like most marketing strategies, it is a little bit more involved than that brief description, but don’t worry. I’ll talk you through how to make your emails (and marketing in general) more relevant.

By moving away from the 1:many, batch and blast email approach, to email marketing that uses segmentation and the smarter use of contact data and behavioural insights, you increase engagement, interactions, and conversions as a result.

That’s what you see from your side, but your customers see more professional email campaigns, a better customer experience and a stronger, more meanigful relationship with your brand.

That’s a win-win that you can take to the bank!

So, building and nurturing relationships with email is vital to marketing success and you can do that by giving people the content that they want, when they want it.

Humanise your email marketing

Marketers can be guilty of hiding behind our activity and the channels that we use. If we choose, we can stay remote from our audiences. Sales teams don’t have that luxury.

In the new age of email marketing that we are working in, we can’t afford to distance ourselves from the very people who we are trying to build relationships with and who we are trying to influence.

Marketers need to remain human in the post-GDPR world of email marketing. #email #emailmarketing #gdpr #marketers Click To Tweet

So, how do you humanise email marketing?

For one, you make your email campaigns and content more relevant by following the advice in the last bullet point.

After that, you consider your email campaigns from a contact’s point of view.

Building relationships with contacts is one of 2018's email marketing best practices

Building relationships with email marketing will grow your business

Here are some questions to answer to applying email marketing best practices to humanising your brand and your messaging:

  • Are your subject lines friendly and personalised?
    Not just with a contact’s name though. Is the format of the subject line and the tone of it personalised for that specific segment of contacts or audience?
  • Does you header text give your contacts the reason why they personally should be opening the email?
    Again, is the content specific to the audience and segment that you are sending the email to and does it act as another call to action to get the contact to open the email?
  • Is the reason for the email and the timing of it perfect for the stage of the journey that the contact is at?
    If the reason for the email is crystal clear and the timing of it is perfect, you are much more likely to get that contact to take the action that you need.
  • Have you personalised the content of the email and the call to action (CTA)?
    The last stage of humanising your email marketing is to deliver the most relevant content to that contact that you can. Use their previous purchase behaviours, click activities and any other data that is helpful to ensure that the content is perfect to move that contact on down your conversion pipeline.

Humanising your marketing isn’t just one of 2018’s email marketing best practices. It applies to all your marketing channels and strategies. The more human you appear, the better the relationships you have with your audience and the better their experience with your brand.

This all converts into more money in the bank.

Automate & trigger your email communications

It seems a bit odd to talk about automating when you’ve just told people to humanise their brand!

The thing is no marketer (doing their job right) has the time to get everything done that they need to. Teams are short of staff and budgets are almost non-existent.

The only possible way to make life easier and to get more done with less is to automate. This has happened in every industry since business began.

Automation doesn’t take jobs – it helps us to pick up the slack.

Note: There has been a lot of worry recently around marketing automation and AI taking over marketing jobs, but this is totally unfounded. (I’ll be talking about this topic again very soon!)

Marketing automation won't steal marketers' jobs, but it will pick up the work that we don't have the staff or resource to do - 24 hours per day, with no hoilidays! #marketingautomation #marketing #digitalmarketing Click To Tweet

Your contacts are all at different stages of the customer journey and they don’t just interact with your brand from 9am-5pm on weekdays!

They engage with your website and your marketing messaging at the time that suits them.

Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t fancy sitting up for 24 hours per day, 365 1/4 days per year, for who knows how long, watching every contact to see who reacts to what and who looks ready to convert!

This definitely isn’t one of the 2018 email marketing best practices, although some companies might consider it an option!

So how do we offer the most human experience that helps us to nurture and build relationships with our contacts when don’t have enough time in the day, or enough staff to watch each contact permanently?

Marketing automation is one of the email marketing best practices in 2018

Marketing Automation is a helping hand, not a job stealer!

We automate the email marketing process. This has been one of the email marketing best practices for a number of years now, but there are still companies who don’t do it!

I’m not 100% sure why they don’t, but like most business decisions it probably comes down to money.

The thing is, marketing automation isn’t an expensive thing!

Take a look at the Wired Plus Pricing Page to see how affordable it is. Then work out how much money you could make by being more effective an more timely with your email marketing campaigns.

The ROI of Marketing Automation is huge!

Getting started with marketing automation doesn;t have to be complicated either. This can put companies off.

If you find the right tool, creating marketing automation workflows will be a quick and easy task:

Summary of the 2018 Email Marketing Best Practices

The time for change has hit email marketing, but all is not lost. The business world isn’t a barren wasteland filled with lost marketers wandering aimlessly whilst trying to find the next contact to send an email to.

Email marketing best practices for 2018 are not really anything new, but they need to be observed if email marketing is going to stay as the marketing channel with the best ROI.

So, get out there! Get your content marketing and lead generation on point, and nurture the relationships with your contacts by delivering the perfect content, to the right content, at the most appropriate time for them.

Prospects and customers are now in charge, so give them some respect.

For those of us who want to embrace the changes, it’s a “Brave New World” for email marketing.

Let us know what you think of these email marketing best practices by leaving a comment below.

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