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  • Writer's pictureTom Kothman

150 Best Practices for Business Success

by Chad S. White. May 29, 2017. 488 pages.

Why read this book?

  • The author puts Email Marketing Rules, typically thought of as tactical maneuvers to improve email KPIs, into a longer term, subscriber-centric strategic context mirroring Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.

  • Complementing his strategically savvy perspective on email, the author provides an exhaustive list of best practices and tactics to stimulate and improve everyday email execution, serving as an email marketing reference handbook.

  • The book provides a workable definition of “email relevancy” from the recipients’ point of view via a progressive, Maslow-like Subscriber Hierarchy of Needs, emulating Stephen Covey’s Four Quadrants of time and action management and Habit # 3, Put First Things First.

50,000 Ft. Overview

Email Marketing Rules: Checklists, Frameworks, and 150 Best Practices for Business Success is a True North winner because it is both strategic in its structure and purpose while being tactically actionable through its exhaustive and detailed view of email marketing. Every email marketer, whether beginner or well-seasoned, should have a copy at the ready to realize near and long term success of their craft.

The True North designation identifies tools that have significant strategic planning value. The factors that go into the True North designation are ROI, Access, Actionable and Scalable. Learn more here.

In-Depth Review

Although the title suggests a check-off-the-box approach to email marketing, thinking strategically is clearly foundational in Email Marketing Rules: Checklists, Frameworks, and 150 Best Practices for Business Success. Early on White highlights the mutual needs inherent in strategic email marketing for both the business and the subscriber, tying it to Stephen Covey’s Habit #4, Think Win/Win. (True North point #1)

“Ideally, you want to strike a balance between subscriber needs and business needs. Email marketing is about mutual benefits—not in every email, but over time. For the subscriber and the business, the email relationship should be a win-win situation.” [pg. 23-26]

The 468-page book in its third edition begins with a thought-provoking presentation of email’s positive and negative aspects. It then presents 150 Email Best Practices organized into 14 clusters in Part I, complete with glossaries of relevant terms that most email marketers are at least passingly (or should be) aware of. The author then begins to show his baseline strategic thinking by crafting the first of four over-arching power rules, “The Permission Rule”. “Permission is consciously and willingly given, purpose-specific, email address–specific, channel-specific, brand-specific, and temporary.” [pg. 68] This paradigm provides the launch pad and purpose for the 150 best practices and serves as compass, or North Star, for interactions with subscribers. (True North point #2)

“A strong focus on permission … puts you in a customer service frame of mind that’s vital to achieving stellar email marketing performance—which is the subject of the remaining rules.” [pg. 68-69]

After detailing all 150 best practices, White offers up power rule #2, “The Tested Rule.” “Break the rules, but only if you can prove that doing so leads to superior long-term performance.” He then re-assembles these best practices into 14 countervailing and coordinating frameworks in Part II.

“Having broken email marketing down into individual components, let’s now put the pieces back together with some frameworks so you can see how different groups of components function as one. Understanding the following concepts allows you to coordinate your efforts, work toward a particular goal, and create an effective, cohesive experience for your subscribers. [pg. 332]

To illustrate, let’s look at the difference between Parts I and II discussion of Subject Lines and Envelope Content. In Part I White defines Envelope Content as “the portion of an email that’s visible to subscribers before they open it, which generally includes the sender name, sent date, subject line, and preview text.” He then provides best practices #66 thru #72 with the observation “Recognize that an unopened email delivers a brand impression and call-to-action through its envelope content.”

How often have you considered that non-opener perspective?

Then in Part II, Subject Line and Preview, White muses on the positive and negative aspects of email marketing’s propensity to focus on subject lines and open rates. “The fact [is] that the goal of subject lines is often misunderstood; its influence underestimated; and its relationship with preview text ignored.”

Instead, the goal should be to reach targeted subscribers who are likely to open, click and convert vs. simply open the email. Further, subject lines impact subscribers even if they don’t open the email. Subject lines send a positioning statement and image, intentionally or not. Consequently the focus on testing email subject lines gives testing of preview text short shrift, missing an optimization opportunity.

Going deeper into Subject Line and Preview, White re-arranges the Part I deck into what he calls CUE-DIVE, a list of ingredients that are easily remembered. Subject line and preview text content can be Contextual, Urgent, Emotional, Detailed, Intriguing, Visual, and Earned. After detailing applications and elements of each ingredient, he suggests that shuffling the deck of subject lines and preview texts from time to time is a worthwhile game.

At the end of Part II White puts email marketing into an organizational context with power rule #3, “The Team Rule” “Email marketing is a team sport, where you have to collaborate with and understand other teams, and vice versa.” Although White doesn’t say specifically, this is Covey’s Habit 5: "Seek first to understand, then to be understood" and Habit 6, “Synergize”. (True North point #3 and 4)

In the end White looks forward and, again if only indirectly, invokes Stephen Covey’s Habit #1, Be Proactive and Habit 7, Sharpen the Saw with power rule #4: “The Evolving Rule” “Be constantly learning and experimenting because email marketing is always evolving.”

“Given the constant change in our industry, especially on the technology front, it pays to be proactive (ed. Habit #1). If you wait until there are five case studies in hand before implementing or even testing a particular change or tactic, you will have guaranteed that you’re a year or more behind some of your competitors. As an email marketer, if you’re not living at least six months in the future (ed. Sharpening the Saw), you’re in trouble.” (True North point #5 and 6)

From the Back Cover

Email marketing’s power is matched only by how incredibly misunderstood it is. Email Marketing Rules demystifies this vital channel, taking you step by step through 150 best practices, providing extensive tactical checklists, and giving you strategic frameworks for long-term success. Updated and greatly expanded from 120 Best Practices in the first edition (214) to 150 in the 3rd Edition (2017) Email Marketing Rules will help you

  • Set the right program goals by understanding “deep metrics” and properly interpreting campaign, channel, and subscriber metrics

  • Build high-performance lists by identifying valuable subscriber acquisition sources, using appropriate permission practices, and managing inactives wisely

  • Ensure your emails are delivered by understanding the factors that cause inbox providers to block senders

  • Craft relevant messaging with effective subject lines, savvy designs, and smart targeting

  • Automate your messaging so you address moments that matter and create highly engaging subscriber journeys

  • Develop solid workflows that avoid errors and speed up production

About the author:

CHAD S. WHITE has written three books and more than 3,000 posts and articles about email marketing trends and best practices. Over the past 15 years, he has served as lead email marketing researcher at four of the largest email service providers—Oracle, Responsys, Salesforce, and ExactTarget—as well as at Litmus and the Direct Marketing Association.


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