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Email Marketing Best Practices: Sometimes, 'It Depends' Is the Right Answer

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by: Loren McDonald (@LorenMcDonald)
13 March 2009

There’s one thing there's no shortage of in the email industry: Opinions on the best way (meaning "the only way") to do email marketing.

Three examples of hot debates: Does single opt-in rule or double opt-in? Check the permission box in advance or leave it unchecked? Retain inactives or remove them?

If you're a marketer, you've probably gone looking for the definitive answer to these and other issues in many places, such as industry blogs, columns like Email Insider or ClickZ, Webinars featuring industry leaders, workshops, etc. And if you have, you know there are as many opinions on the "best" way as there are "experts" expressing them in blog posts, columns or white papers.

The trouble is, the “right” answer is often “It depends,” not “Never do this or that.” In fact, the right answer for you and your email program and company could be all wrong for another company that runs its email marketing program differently.

In my recent Email Insider column, "Everything I Tell You Is Wrong," I suggest that the best way to sort through all this conflicting advice is to focus on the logical aspects in the debates over best-practice recommendations instead of the black-and-white insistence on one approach over another. Then, test, test and retest to find what works for your company.

Read the column to see why "It depends" is sometimes the best answer in the three current best-practice debates: whether single or double opt-in works best, prechecked versus unchecked permission boxes, and whether to remove or retain inactives.

I do believe there are "generally accepted best practices"—such as using welcome emails, gaining permission, and optimizing for blocked images—but implementing them has no single "right" way.

Have a favorite email practice for which the right answer is "It depends"? Let us know in the comments below.


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