Email Marketing 101 for Financial Marketeers

With email marketing, deliverability is at least 50% of the job.

After all, it matters not one iota what you write if nobody gets to read it.

Now, I’m not talking just about getting past spam filters, although that is a job in itself, and if we knew how to do that all the time, every time … well, I expect I for one would be living a rather more luxurious life in the Cayman Islands having sold my secrets. No, because although passing those essential filters is a big part of the job, even once it’s arrived in the inbox your receipient has to want to read it.

So, let’s look at really simple tips to try to keep your copy out of the spam filters:

  • Don’t use subject lines that include phrases like “XXX% return”, or “guaranteed performance” or “this will make you $$$”. Spam filters are going to lap that up, as will most decent desktop email clients.
  • Ensure that your plain text version of the email *exactly* matches your HTML version; because if not, guess what? Yep, spam filters don’t like that.
  • Make sure your copy is W3C compliant because, yeah, you guessed it, spam filters don’t like non-compliant copy as much as they like compliant copy. Check yours out at
  • Don’t place too much reliance upon jazzy images. A balance of 50/50 text and images is much better – and never, ever send an email that only comprises images. Also, ensure that any images you do send have a decent ‘ALT’ tag behind them so that desktop and mobile clients can see the message without having to download the images.


So what’s the other 50%?

How about subject lines? Yeah, really.

Let’s look first at a personal hatred of mine – Personalisation. You know the score – an email lands in your inbox that says “Hey Bob, my mother in Nigeria …” and your pinky can’t hit that delete key fast enough. Why do people insist on personalisation? It sucks. Five, six, maybe seven years ago it was a big deal because nobody really did it. Now, everyone does it, even those Nigerian spammers, and it’s … well, it’s done, in my opinion. Frequently, we’ll see email copy where the advertiser insists that we include ‘FirstName’ or ‘ABC Member’ fields. What’s the point? Well, there is no point, quite honestly.

Another one, favourite to the financial arena, is the blasted annoyed, dated practice of pretending that the offer, whatever it is, is Time Limited, because chances are, it’s not. Back in another life when I used to sell cars for a living, I remember a guy walking away from a deal because he wasn’t going to get another £100 off the car. I remember saying to him that I couldn’t believe he wasn’t going to buy it for the sake of £100 when it was a £25,000 vehicle. In the end, the guy bought it without the extra £100 but the point is this; do what you say you’re going to do.  Don’t fool around with emails and banners on webpages that say the offer is going to expire at midnight on Tuesday if it’s not.  If your discount is part of a genuine promotion within say, a marketing sequence, it’s fine to run that offer because hopefully your marketing software will actually take care of the discount if and when it’s applicable, and people will, over time, realise that it’s a genuine offer. But mostly, people don’t buy the story anyway.

Another favourite is Too Many Letters In The Subject Line. Think about it; how long is the space for a subject line when viewed on, say, your Smartphone? 20 characters? 30 characters? 40 absolute maximum. So if you’re subject line is longer than that, it gets truncated to “Come and look at our wonderf…..” – and what’s the user going to do there? Oh yeah – delete it. So, be smart about it. Desktop clients aren’t much different to mobile because screen real estate is still pretty limited, and nobody wants their email client taking up the whole page.

How about Punctuation? Don’t go littering your subject line with odd characters, exclamation marks, question marks, ampersands and more. Make it clean, plain and simple.

To finish off, we’ll end with my all-time personal favourite … Trying to Trick Me Into Thinking I Already Spoke To You. This is usually done by including ‘RE:’ or ‘FW:’ in the subject line to try to get the reader to discard the fact that they never heard of you, and people are getting too savvy for this kind of thing these days.

So, stick by some of these guidelines and with some luck, you’ll find your email deliverability and response rates improving.



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