Tim Ikels - Creator, Publisher, Marketer

Email Marketing Rules By Chad S. White

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Welcome to my book notes of Email Marketing Rules by the author Chad S. White.

Let’s dive in.


If you’re not fulfilling your subscribers’ needs, then they won’t help you fulfill your business needs.
- Chad S. White

Table Of Contents Of The Book

Key Concepts & Ideas

Email marketing’s return on investment is significantly higher than that of paid search, social media, and other digital channels - and way higher than that of direct marketing and other traditional channels.

Chad on the current state of other (online) advertising channels:

Downsides of email as a marketing channel:

Testing is itself a best practice.

Best Execution

Instead of putting a lot of effort into searching out those rare instances where you can break best practices, focus on bringing your business needs and your brand values and voice to your execution of best practices.

Ask yourself:

In other words, use best practices to guide you as you search for the best execution for your brand.

Outstanding Email Marketing Examples

Here you can find real-world examples to get you inspired and to demonstrate the concepts, tactics, and strategies discussed in the book.

Being useful and interesting and relevant needs to be the least of what your brand is known for, now and in the future.
- Jay Baer

The Hierarchy of Subscriber Needs

You want to create subscriber experiences that are

You can measure how respectful your emails are by looking at opens, spam complaints, and unsubscribes.

You can measure how functional your emails are by looking primarily at clicks.

You can measure how valuable your emails are by looking primarily at email conversions and revenue.

You can measure how remarkable your emails are by looking primarily at forwards and social shares.

Treating email like an ultra-cheap form of direct mail or a digital ad that you push into people’s inboxes not only causes consumers to bad-mouth your brand on social media and to friends, but causes them to report your email as spam.

The Law

Follow the law, but recognize that doing so doesn’t protect you from spam complaints, being blacklisted, or other negative outcomes.

CAN-SPAM requires email marketers to:

Besides violating CAN-SPAM, not following these requirements erode subscriber trust and lead to unsubscribes, spam complaints, and negative word of mouth.

The Permission Rule

Most of the Must-Follow Best Practices focus on permission, because it is the foundation of the email marketing relationship.

And in the minds of consumers, there’s no clearer or more immediate marker of a spammer than violating permission.

Condensing those rules on permission gives us our first Power Rule, The Permission Rule:

Permission is consciously and willingly given, purpose-specific, email address-specific, channel-specific, brand-specific, and temporary.

By taking the time to earn a consumer’s permission and respecting the limits of that opt-in, you take a huge step toward fostering the trust necessary to build a profitable email relationship, as well as toward safeguarding your sender and brand reputation, protecting yourself from excessive spam complaints, and ensuring your deliverability remains high.

A strong focus on permission also puts you in a customer service frame of mind that’s vital to achieving stellar email marketing performance.

The ultimate goal of your email marketing program is to create one thing: trust.
- Andrea Mignolo

While permission grants marketers access to inboxes, sending relevant messaging maintains that permission.

Unsubscribes And Spam Complaints Can Be The Result Of…

The subscribers’ time is far more valuable than the pittance it costs to email them.

Marketers must deserve their subscribers’ attention.

Email Metrics Matrix

Email metrics like opens, clicks, unsubscribes, and spam complaints are important to track because they indicate campaign engagement and email channel health.

However, none of those necessarily directly translate into business success.

Supplement those email-centric metrics with business-focused metrics such as sales conversions, average order size, revenue per subscriber, return on investment, and email marketing’s impact on customer lifetime value.

Those metrics directly impact email campaign success, email channel success, and business success.

Subscriber Optimization: subscriber lifetime value, subscriber RFM (recency, frequency, monetary), length of email, inactivityBusiness Success: customer lifetime value, customer RFM (recency, frequency, monetary), length of customer inactivity
Email Channel Health: hard & soft bounce rates, spam complaint rate, delivered rate, inbox placement rate, inactivity rate, open & click reach, engagement reach, acquisition source metrics, metrics per ISP, list size & list growth rate, list churn & list churn rateEmail Channel Success: email marketing revenue, revenue per email, revenue per subscriber, sales conversions & conversion rate, email marketing profit, email marketing return on investment, incremental lift across all channels from email, lead generation
Email Campaign Optimization: unique & total opens, open rate, unique & total clicks, click rate, click-to-open rate, mobile/desktop opens & clicks, mobile/desktop open & click ratesEmail Campaign Success: email campaign revenue, email conversions & conversion rate, post-click metrics (browsing, carting, etc.)

Marketers have to stop reporting on activities and start reporting on business outcomes.
- Allen Gannett

Focus on maximizing the value of a subscriber, not on maximizing the results of a campaign.

Don’t Attach Too Much Meaning To Open Rates And Other Surface Metrics

Surface MetricsDeep Metrics
Email list sizeEmail list productivity
Email opensEmail conversions
Web trafficSales conversions
Campaign metricsSubscriber metrics

The open rate is really a misnomer, because it doesn’t accurately reflect the percent of recipients that viewed the content of your email.

In fact, some factors inflate opens, while others obscure them.

For instance, an open is registered only if a recipient views an email with images enabled so that an invisible tracking pixel renders.

So if a recipient reads an email with images blocked, no open is recorded.

Because image blocking is fairly common, roughly 30% of email reads aren’t tracked as opens.

Also, some email clients download or cache images automatically, generating false opens.

Moreover, just because you’re seeing an open doesn’t mean that the recipient gave the email much or any consideration.

They could have just been flipping through their emails and the images in your email loaded for a split second before they continued on to the next email.

Benchmark Yourself Primarily Against Yourself

Everyone wants to know how their email program stacks up against others, but external benchmarks are of little use for a number of reasons.

First, most aggregations of data are not going to be relevant to your industry or company. Even if the benchmark is for your industry, accounting for differences between companies of different sizes that operate within different sub-verticals is impossible.

Second, the open rate and click rate data that is typically shared may not be very useful. Because brands manage their lists differently, these numbers don’t provide an apples-to-apples comparison.

And third, beating an external benchmark can give you a false sense of security and make you complacent when you shouldn’t be.

All of that said, if you are massively trailing external benchmarks, changes might be needed. Otherwise, focus on systematically beating your own performance.

Our goal is to beat yesterday.
- Andy Crestodina

Single Opt-In (SOI) vs Double Opt-In (DOI)

Single Opt-In (SOI)Double Opt-In (DOI)
Faster List GrowthSlower List Growth
- One-step opt-in process - Higher completion rates for opt-in process - Lower failure rates for opt-in process- Two-step opt-in process - Lower completion rates for opt-in process - Higher failure rates for opt-in process
Higher Total EngagementLower Total Engagement
- More opens, clicks, and conversions- Fewer opens, clicks, and conversions
Lower Engagement RatesHigher Engagement Rates
. Lower open, click, and conversion rates - Higher inactivity rates - Higher unsubscribe rates- Higher open, click, and conversion rates - Lower inactivity rates - Lower unsubscribe rates
Higher Risks to DeliverabilityLower Risks to Deliverability
- Higher need to monitor deliverability Higher risk of needing to intervene to fix deliverability - Higher spam complaint rates - Weaker protection from malicious signups - Weaker production from typo spam traps- Lower need to monitor deliverability Lower risk of needing to intervene to fix deliverability - Lower spam complaint rates - Stronger protection from malicious signups Stronger production from typo spam traps
Weaker Proof of ConsentStronger Proof of Consent
- Do not have opt-in confirmation from email address owner- Have opt-in confirmation from email address owner

Setting The Right Expectations

Set expectations regarding how many emails you’ll be sending subscribers and what content will be in them.

The top two reasons given by subscribers for why they unsubscribe are consistently that they received too many emails and that the emails weren’t relevant.

Use your signup messaging, signup confirmation page, and welcome emails to set expectations appropriately.

Consider providing images of or links to previous emails as examples of the kind of content you will send.

Regarding email frequency, set general expectations, but avoid being overly specific so that you have some wiggle room to increase frequency during key selling seasons.

If you offer multiple mailstreams during your opt-in process, be reasonably clear about what each one of them entails.

Keeping A Swipe File

Keep a swipe file of your most successful email campaigns and components to inspire future campaigns.

A swipe file is a record of your emails, subject lines, calls-to-action, content blocks, landing pages, and other email elements that performed really well.

You can return to this file for learnings and inspiration.

For instance, a swipe file helps you keep track of subject line arrangements, keywords, and offers that your subscribers responded to best.

It works the same for email designs, allowing you to model new designs off previously successful ones.

You can even reuse past winners, although it’s best to reimagine, re-skin, or further optimize them.

Monitoring what your competitors and others do with their email programs can inspire new ideas that you can then test and make your own.

You can do that by signing up for their emails yourself or by using a service that aggregates and categorizes commercial emails, making monitoring easier.

Closing Thoughts

This concludes my book notes on Email Marketing Rules by Chad S. White.

My book notes only cover small parts of the book, so if you like what you read, please consider buying the book from the author.

Stay awesome,

P.S. Questions or comments? Reply via email.

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