email marketing best practices

Email Marketing Best Practices: Get Back to Basics

With so many marketers caught up in social media initiatives and the rapidity with which the email marketing landscape can change, it’s easy to lose sight of the basics.

ClickMail’s Director of Sales & Business Development Michael Kelly recently summed up some back to basics core information we need to remember as email marketers: the 40/40/20 rule.

Despite all the integration and technological innovation and newness of social media, email marketing best practices still adhere to the 40/40/20 rule. This rule says that for any email marketing campaign:

  • 40% of the success depends on the messaging
  • 40% of the success depends on the audience
  • 20% of the success depends on the creative

In terms of email marketing best practices, what does that really mean?

It means that 40% of your success depends on what you’re saying: your email copywriting, the offer and the urgency of your message.

It means that 40% of your success depends on your audience. Is it the right audience? Have segmented your audience so you can deliver targeted, relevant messaging?

And it means that 20% of your success will come from your creative. Your email design, the layout of information and graphics, the images you choose, the colors all come into play.

You implement this rule as an email marketing best practice simply by making sure you’re adhering to it. Ask yourself, where are we putting the most effort? Are we adhering to the 40/40/20 rule? If your email marketing team is constantly discussing design factors and arguing over photos, but no one focuses on segmenting your audience, your efforts might be out of line with what your priorities should be.

Or if your email marketing team is holding countless meetings to go over messaging and offers, but you’ve been using the same email design template for years without ever testing its effectiveness, again, your efforts might not line up with what our email marketing best practices tell us about the 40/40/20 rule.

Are you focused on the basics like this email marketing best practice of 40/40/20? Take a few minutes to think about it.

Published On: September 29th, 2010Categories: Email marketing best practices

About the Author: Sharon

Sharon Ernst from is on a mission to improve the business and marketing writing skills of today’s workforce with her blog, newsletter and online classes. Her newest class on intermediate email copywriting covers 19 tips and techniques non-copywriters can put to use right away for better results. The class has real-life examples and before/after comparisons to make the lessons stick. Find her class at When she’s not busy helping employees, managers and marketers master their writing skills, she and her husband are busy raising pigs, cows, chickens and vegetables on their 20-acre farm.

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