Every game has rules, and every player needs to know those rules before they start playing if they want to win. Email marketing is no different – except instead of amassing a score, you build ROI, engagement and of course, conversions!

Knowing the rules of email marketing and what you should and shouldn’t do can make your email marketing campaign or break it faster than you broke the rules. Here’s 5 unbreakable rules to email marketing that you should adhere to every time you send to set you up for success!

Rule #1 – Use a Double Opt-In

This is not so much a rule anymore as it is a law!

With CAN-SPAM and CASL solidly in place in the letter of the law, you could face serious repercussions if you buy contact lists, send emails to people who don’t want them, or keep sending to subscribers who complain about your sends!

What is a double opt in?

In case you didn’t know, a double opt in gets the user or prospective subscriber to confirm their decision to subscribe to your newsletter. This usually comes in the form of an email being sent to their inbox or a specific landing page asking the subscriber if they’re sure they want to receive communications from you.

It also has some added benefits, like attracting subscribers who are less likely to complain and more likely to engage with your product.

Basically, a double opt-in = more qualified leads.

More qualified leads = more conversions for less emails!

Rule #2 – CAPS are for RATS

IF YOU’RE TYPING LIKE THIS YOU’RE EITHER EXTREMELY ANGRY OR WASTING YOUR EMAIL MARKETING BUDGET.

Whoever invented the Caps-Lock was a pretty angry guy – and you don’t need that kind of negativity in your email marketing!

Not only is using all caps a red flag for spam filters, but it’s also annoying to read for your subscribers. This goes for using too many fonts, too many different colours and adding unnecessary punctuation or emoticons to your email.

So how do I get attention?

As you grow up, you learn that shouting and screaming are not good way to get attention (excluding the police). However, there are ways to get attention when you need to – here are a few ways you can draw attention to specific parts of your email.

  • Use italics and bold – sparingly.
  • Use a picture or ‘word-art’
  • Use subtitles
  • Use a bulleted list
  • Insert a call to action next to the critical points in your email.

Rule #3 – You’re only as good as what you give

When you’re delivery emails, what are you actually doing?

If your answer is to trick people into buying your product, you should probably be using day-time television targeting pensioners and kids who have their parent’s credit cards.

Whenever you send an email blast out you should be delivering value to your subscriber list – whether it be an interesting article, a discounted promotion or some tips to make their personal or professional life better.

Now, I’m not saying you should go out and become an e-missionary or a lifestyle coach, but subscribers are more likely to interact with your email and keep reading if you constantly offer value to them.

A few ways you can offer value:

  • Include a downloadable ebook
  • Link to industry / current news
  • Offer a discount to everyone who reads the email
  • Use humour and give subscribers what they want

Rule #4 – If you love them, let them go.

Don’t be that guy who doesn’t include an unsubscribe button in his emails.

If you’re not giving value to your subscribers and they’re not interacting with your email; you’re not getting value.

In fact, you’re going to be hurting your sender reputation with spam complaints from people who still receive your emails but don’t want to. The lower your sender reputation, the more chance your emails will land in the spam box!

Make it easy to unsubscribe from your email newsletters and your email marketing mailing lists will clean themselves, so you won’t have to use a list clean up tool too often – saving you time, money and frustration.

Rule #5 – Go Mobile or Get Moving

  • Two of the most popular email clients, Gmail and Yahoo!, have a 68% open rate on smartphone or tablet.
  • 40% of email is consumed via mobile phones and 70% of consumers immediately delete email that doesn’t render well on their mobiles.
  • 5.1 billion out of 6.8 billion people own a mobile phone

If these stats mean anything to you, it’s to make your email mobile responsive!

The world is going mobile, so you have to adapt and go with them if you expect to see a decent ROI.

By designing for mobile, which is the most limited, you ensure that your mail will read well on other, more forgiving devices. Here’s some points that will help you design an email for mobile.

  • Keep your links large enough to be selectable with fingers
  • Keep large images to a minimum
  • Use large fonts
  • Use concise copy and calls to action
  • Avoid elements that require java or flash – rather use a .gif

The Final Law

Be creative!

Different markets and industries will respond to different techniques, tricks and copy – the above is just a basic guideline to apply to email marketing in general.

What are some of the rules you’ve come up with?

Try a free trial of SharpSpring Mail + and test of these out yourself with our reports function, or contact us and let us know what you think!


  • Author: maryka.burger

  • Maryka has worked across multiple industries ranging from hard news journalism to digital tech companies and advertising. She is an expert at building online presence, and offers a wealth of knowledge on digital marketing, social media and automation trends to agencies and digital start-ups.