Keeping Email Best Practices Real

My wife and I recently launched a small business, a dance studio. Thanks to an ideal location, we’ve had to do very little in the way of “traditional advertising,” so much of our marketing has been focused on social media, word of mouth, and well-timed events.

And, of course, email marketing.

More than anything, the past month of email marketing has been one giant lesson in practicing what I preached as a self-appointed and kinda-sorta-qualified “email expert.” Let me tell you — it’s not that easy.

Take for instance our Grand Opening. We had more than 150 attendees throughout the day, and at a couple of points, there were lines of people waiting to sign in, providing us with their all their information.

Should we have asked their explicit permission to capture their email address? Even put a little checkbox beside the line on paper? Of course. But when you’re trying to progress a line and get people in the door, permission takes a backseat to efficiency.

Should we have sent all these “visitors” a confirmation email before we sent them a follow-up asking them to register for classes? That definitely would have been the wise move, from a email best practices and deliverability perspective. But at 36% open rate and 13% CTR (with only 1 bounce!) tells me that maybe we were okay shirking the straight-and-narrow just this once.

And how about list management? It’s so easy for us to advise clients about connecting their customer database to their email program via an API to ensure that all the data is synced in real-time and free of human error. But what we often forget is that setting up an API is a lot of work that many small business owners don’t have time for. And what if their CRM — like ours — doesn’t support API integration? The result is lots of time spent adding contacts one at a time, which is by no means efficient and definitely not a preferred way to manage your contacts.

But I’ve learned that sometimes you have to settle for trying your best can when it comes to best practices. And this whole experience has given me a newfound respect for the businesses that use my company’s product.

About the Author: Harry Kaplowitz is the Deliverability Product Manager for iContact, an email and social marketing service of Vocus, a provider of cloud-based marketing and PR software. You can follow him on Twitter (@Inboxygen), or visit