My key takeaways from the AMA Lunch & Learn

It can be hard to keep up with the ever-changing trends and best practices in digital marketing. We all know that what seems like a great idea one week, can become a Zune or Windows Vista the next. And with email marketing remaining as the strongest driver of ROI, with $44 returned on every $1 spent, I thought I’d better brush up.

So, to keep my skills on fleek, as they say, (Oh, they don’t say that anymore?)… I attended an AMA Lunch & Learn on Effective Email Marketing, hosted by Tim Hickle. Here are my key takeaways:

It’s all about the list.       

Like getting into the hottest club in Miami, it’s all about the list. When referring to your email list, think quality over quantity. You don’t want just any names to bulk up your numbers. When given the option of sending to 5 actual leads or 500 industry-related addresses, you should take the leads every time. Hickle is staunchly against purchasing email lists (although he notes there are always exceptions, and an extremely targeted list could have potential). He preaches that you should never email anyone who did not give explicit permission to contact them. So where do you get these names then? He offers SEO and tradeshow contacts as two examples of in-bound tactics that are much more successful.

It’s okay to dump unengaged users.

Breakups are always hard, but an unengaged recipient who has ignored or deleted your past ten emails is only going to drag your ranking down lower and lower, as it’s noticed (and recorded) that your email is unwanted and ignored. Sending to a dormant email address will do the same. He notes that if you reach out to an inactive user personally and ask them if they are still interested in receiving emails, their engagement often skyrockets, as they feel noticed and valued. (Sometimes we just need to know you care!)

It’s not about looks.

Simplify your email template. While we want to send out an aesthetically beautiful, slickly designed email, it’s actually not best practice. The more images added to an email template, the lower the open rate.

Write emails like your Grandma.

No, seriously. Hickle says the emails that are most effective at landing in an inbox are simple text, written out as if you were writing a letter to a friend. Strive for communication that looks personal versus promotional. And your grandmother probably doesn’t know HTML 5. (Or if she does, tell her we should grab some microbrews together to share our favorite quinoa recipes and talk about the Girls finale because she’s clearly a trendy and awesome enigma.)

Avoiding “Promotions Folder” purgatory.

The best way not to get stuck in the Promotions/Spam folder? Don’t send promotional emails! Send valuable, relevant content that reflects and emphasizes your unique value. If you’re not sure what your unique value is, try asking your top five clients what value you provide to them. It could be as simple as offering a unique perspective on the industry. Once you’ve become a valued source for content, it’s okay to slip in a promotional email once every two or three weeks.

Testing is the best thing.

Design for the lowest common denominator. Not everyone uses the latest version of Chrome on a Mac. In fact, most don’t. Always test your email on multiple providers, such as Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, and yes… even HOTMAIL. If it works in Hotmail, it should work everywhere else. Also, view it on at least one computer, one tablet and one phone.

Emojis in subject lines, so 2016

This trend is getting noticed more and more, and not just by email recipients. Providers are wising up and are throwing more emoji-laden emails to rot in the Spam slammer. A good rule of thumb, Hickle says, is to check your Spam folder for commonalities. Then do the opposite. If I check my Spam folder right now, I see a lot of sun emojis and cool sunglasses emojis, so it’s probably only a matter of time before they’re flagged. And if we’re going back to his rule about communicating as we would with real people, I never send my friends emails with emojis in the subject line.

What do you think? Do you agree with these tips, or does one have you thinking, “What the heck, Hickle?!”

Mary Flenner is a Senior Copywriter at AKHIA.