I thought I knew everything about email marketing.

Then I attended a recent event organized by the Young Women in Digital group of Boston and hosted by digital strategist Jacque Boltik. It was an opportunity for digital marketers to share some best practices for optimizing and growing your email marketing campaigns. Here are my top 5:

Follow Strategies For Growth
There are four good strategies that will help you grow your email list. The first is incentive programs in which companies provide something of value for free at sign up (such as a 20 percent off coupon). Cross-channel promotion is another way to speed growth. This tactic includes prominent website sign up forms, social media,  lightboxes, and in-article signup forms. The third method is fostering growth externally through digital advertising, partnerships, email list swaps, etc. In addition, sharing or incentivizing current subscribers to spread the word can also be very effective.

Consider Design Elements There are a few rules of thumb to follow when designing your email. One memorable tip is the “arm’s length” rule. Open any marketing email that you currently have in your inbox on mobile. Hold your phone an arm’s length away and cover one eye. Can you still clearly read the text and/or click on the call to action? You want to make sure every message you send out passes this test. In addition, design should enhance content, so be careful not to overdesign. Opt for a font no smaller than 16pt, and ensure that no images are larger than 600 pixels. Avoid using an image as your entire email, as the image may not load for some users.

Pay Attention to Subject Lines Common questions at the event were related to subject lines, and how to entice a reader to open and click through your email. Stick to very short subject lines (three words or less). Keywords such as “Welcome,” “You’re Invited,” and “What?” or “Hey” (paired with a caveat) usually do well. Remember that email is social, which means that they will perform better if they have a personalized or human feel. Using a recipient’s name in the subject line, and phrases that sound more conversational, tend to perform better.

Avoid Common Legal Mistakes When thinking about all the different aspects that go into a successful campaign, it’s easy to forget about the legal regulations that pertain to email. The three most common mistakes companies make are failing to include a physical address (all emails MUST contain a physical address, usually at the bottom), neglecting to include a clear unsubscribe link (be sure to check this on both mobile and desktop), and finally, not removing a recipient from the list within 10 days after he or she has unsubscribed.

Take These Next Steps Set a goal to implement best practices for design, subject, pre-header, and from line. As far as strategy, try segmenting your list and targeting specific social channels to boost campaign engagement. Track metrics to see how different channels and factors change your engagement rates and then change your strategy accordingly. Make sure the content will be both relevant and interesting to your audience. And last but not least, don’t be afraid to get creative.

Thanks to Young Women in Digital for an insightful event!