When Are Email Marketing “Best Practices” Not the Best?

The term “best practices” is something that you are bound to run into at least a hundred times as you research email marketing strategy.

But what does “best practice” actually mean?

Best practice is simply a universally applicable technique that has been applied over and over again with great results in most areas of industry. Things like… “be sure your subject line is relevant and attention grabbing”, or “communicate your brand using the newest technology.”

Best Practice Is Just a Template

Here’s the thing, best practices can really only be thought of as a template. So what if that template doesn’t really work for your brand?

If everyone knows that subject lines have to be attention grabbing, then how will yours  stand out in an inbox inundated with hundreds of emails?

 There are quite a few very successful case studies out there that show that best practices aren’t necessarily always the  best.

Building upon best practice templates with your OWN brand personality and putting your OWN spin on your email campaigns is what really takes these pieces of advice to the next level!


The subject line of your email is like a billboard, or the headline of the front page on a newspaper. It should not only make your readers itch to know more, but it should provide them with straight forward, relevant information about the topic at hand.

At least, that’s what “best practices” will tell you.

So why, then, did the Obama email marketing team raise over $2.6 million dollars during his second presidential campaign with an email that started with the subject line “I will be outspent.” Another successful email sent out by this team simply started with the subject line “Hey.”

As subject lines go, these are neither particularly enlightening nor entertaining.

By abandoning the template that every other politician was using, the Obama team was able to capitalize on the relationship that Obama had formed with the more casual, younger, millennial generation.

By playing to his BRAND, these emails performed better than ever expected.


One of the many “best practices” email marketers often hear is that “more content leads to more clicks.”

From a purely statistical point of view, this is true. If you send out more emails with more links in each email, you are going to see a higher number of clicks.

However, will those clicks lead to more revenue?

In a case study performed by Hammock (a customer media & marketing content co.), this best practice was put to the test. While more emails led to more visitors, fewer emails every month with LESS content in each email led to a major increase in lead quality.

The reasoning behind this could be a combination of many things.

Ultimately, it boils down to getting the RIGHT clicks, instead of just “a lot of clicks”. When you take the time to target the right market, and to provide them with just the information that they need on a regular, but not annoying, schedule… revenue increases.


Consumer psychology tells us that people like to feel special.

By addressing your readers as individuals (you’re segmenting your lists, right?) you can connect with them personally, which leads to more loyal readership and more sales. But according to several case studies performed in the last few years, personalization can, at times… backfire.

Depending on your branding and your product/service, not only can using a first name make emails read like scams, it can also lead to more than 25% increases in complaints and more than 70% increases in unsubscribe rates. While personalization can be great, you don’t want to be creepy.

Striking a balance by simply providing tailored content, without OVER personalizing, is usually the best way to utilize this advice.

Value Customers Above Best Practices

There is never going to be a one size fits all. Use email marketing best practices to help you connect, but don’t forget to target what YOUR audience wants and needs above everything.

What Sendlane does is provide you with the tools you need to connect to your readers or customers, which is what your email campaigns should always focus on first.

Ready to put these tips to the test? Start your free trial with Sendlane today!

Caitlin Haines

Caitlin Haines

Social Media & Content Manager at Sendlane
Born in Honolulu, Hawaii and raised in San Diego, California, Caitlin has a passion for developing creative marketing content and is primarily responsible for overseeing development, execution and delivery of digital content across all of Sendlane’s channels. After putting in years of work experience in the marketing world of luxury real estate, Caitlin decided it was time for a change and that’s when she found her “home” at Sendlane! She has enjoyed being a part of a powerhouse team where she has had the opportunity to wear a variety of hats and take her knowledge and creativity to the next level. When not focusing on increasing Sendlane's online presence you'll find Caitlin playing music or spending time with her Fiancé.
Caitlin Haines