One of your most valuable assets is your email list. You use it to nurture, communicate, and close the deal. What email marketing best practices should you follow? We connected with Seth Rasmussen, co-owner of Small Biz Triage, which is known for its Unapologetically Human eMail Marketing for B2B and B2C. Because PlanItPDQ integrates with MailChimp, we asked Seth to include tips specific to that program.

Small business marketers are strapped for time. What are your top three timesaving hacks when developing email campaigns?

My number one timesaving hack in is using the replicate button. Go back to a campaign that did well, replicate it, and edit it rather than starting over. It will save you a bunch of time. And you can revise what isn’t performing to come up with a better campaign each time.

Number two is getting organized up front. Be more proactive than reactive – make an editorial calendar, anticipate events, make sure that everyone on your team has the same information on what should be happening. For a solopreneur or solo marketing person, it is a struggle to stay organized – take 10 minutes to plan ahead for your week. It will save you so much time in the long run. [Editor’s note: Amen]

Number three for me is using MailChimp’s suite of ecommerce integrations. They are amazing. With platforms like Shopify, Big Commerce, and Woo Commerce you can easily insert product recommendations into your emails. You don’t have to pull links, images, and pricing from your site – just drag in a block to show best sellers or recommended products based on a user’s previous purchases.

Everyone wants to know how often to send emails. Do you have any rules of thumb for email marketing best practices?

I like to use the analogy of sustainable fishing. You can run an algorithm and figure out just how much you can fish to maximize your bottom line. That’s not particularly sustainable – if you overfish, sooner or later you’ll run out. In email, if you over send, you’ll get ignored. That will start to impact your inbox placement – you’ll get bumped to the spam folder.

In general, weekly should be fine. If you’re doing an automated drip campaign, daily can be fine. But be careful about sending more than once a day – most of your email opens will be in the first hour, but they tend to accrue over the course of the day. If you send another email on top of the first one, it will get ignored.

Your email open rates will tend to decline over time, especially without list hygiene measures in place. But if you have good list hygiene, you can establish a baseline. If you see it going down, you’ll want to back off.

You can also ask your list to choose – they can sign up for emails once a week or daily. Let them decide.

Bottom line: don’t overfish.

What kind of open rate should companies look for? Clicks?

It varies a lot from industry to industry. One way to check is right there in your MailChimp dashboard. The reporting tab shows your open rates and click rates, and also will show the average for your industry. If you are above the line, keep doing what you’re doing. Just make sure you pick the right industry to compare yourself with!

I find when I jump into an account for the first time, a large percentage of their list hasn’t opened an email in a long time. List hygiene is important. If folks are not opening your emails, it doesn’t help you to keep them on your list. It is actually destructive for the people who are opening your emails because your open rate can determine whether or not you land in the spam folder. Ditch the dormant people and your open rate will increase.

By the way, you can automate a win-back or dormant subscriber campaign in MailChimp. Your list will clean itself.

What are the most important elements in any email campaign, and how should they be displayed? In particular, do you have hints on how to get the most engagement on calls to action?

Big picture, the most important thing is your intended outcome. Don’t build your email like a website. For example, don’t put a menu up top and include links without a specific purpose. Some big brands get a bit sloppy with this, partly because they are emailing to lists of a million people or more – small business should not take clues from them on how to construct an email!

Your first question on designing your email should be, what do you want people to do? Do you want them to sign up for a demo? Call you? Buy these shoes? Whatever it is, make that call to action (CTA) front and center. Embed the link in the text and give them a big, thumb-friendly button to click. Your number-one desired outcome should be your primary content.

What do I give them if they say no to the primary CTA? Try something self guided. You don’t care about this new shoe? How about taking a look at our jackets. Not ready for a demo? Click here to learn more about us. Give them something else to say yes to.

A primary and secondary CTA is all you need. You can add a tertiary CTA but stay away from social media follow links. Everyone adds them, but it pushes people online and further away from what you want them to do. This comes from the notion that email is like a website. Your emails should be guided by intent – what you want a subscriber to do. [Editor’s note: BRB, gotta go pull the social media icons out of all of my emails…]

You are a MailChimp email expert. What do you love about it? Any features that small business marketers should take advantage of? 

There are a lot of reasons I love MailChimp. One is accessibility: for how sophisticated the tools are, the platform is democratic. A small business owner can start out with a free or low-cost account and they will get access to ecommerce integration, all the automations available, and they can start using it right away.

It’s also user friendly. Some of my clients want me to manage their email marketing, others want me to train them. I can work faster and train faster in MailChimp than other platforms.

I have not seen anything that comes to close to MailChimp for its combination of being accessible to small business and being powerful enough to keep using as your list and email marketing needs grow. Starting last year, MailChimp has been looking at a more holistic picture – you can create landing pages, Facebook ads, and Google remarketing ads from within MailChimp. They give you the tools you need to send successful emails and keep your list clean.

Any other email marketing best practices you want to share?

Set up an automated welcome email to greet people and tell them what to expect. That sets the table and helps you get better engagement over time.

Thank you, Seth! If you have more questions or want to sign up for Seth’s email newsletter, visit Small Biz Triage.

High five – you’re on track to start using email marketing best practices. Are you ready to organize the rest of your content calendar? Sign up for a PlanITPDQ account today.

I So Want to Get Organized