Quick. Test your knowledge: who sent the first email marketing mass mailing in history? If you guessed Gary Thuerk, you’ve earned a seat at your agency’s next pub quiz.

On May 1st 1978, this computer company marketing manager sent an unsolicited, promotional email to 400 customers. His ROI? Thuerk attributes approximately $13M in sales to that single campaign. This was pre-Internet and before most people had an email address. What have marketers learned since then? Quite a lot. We’ll take a look at some best practices, as well as highlight pitfalls you can avoid.

Qualify your leads

When Gary Thuerk hit “send” on his mass emailing to 400 customers over the Arpanet to promote the launch of Digital Equipment Corporation’s new T-series of VAX systems, little did he know that he would go down in history as the father of e-marketing.  In doing so, Thuerk respected one of the fundamental rules of sales and marketing: qualify your leads. Thuerk sent his email to a select group of existing customers on the U.S. West Coast. These were prospects he knew would be interested in his message. Use email to further qualify your leads and you’ll convert your newsletter campaign’s inbound leads into viable sales opportunities.

Send at the right time

Every email marketing guru has a different theory as to which day and time guarantees a better open rate. The reality is that… it depends. Every audience is unique, and you need to determine which is best for your own target market. This is where A/B testing comes into play, and Symplify makes it easy. Testing subscriber behaviour is the best way to determine what works best for your audiences. Take our advice: approach this process one parameter at a time and let the results speak for themselves.

Adapt your content to the platform

An email newsletter needs to keep the reality of digital communication in mind. Short and sweet wins the day. You should stick to one or two main content pieces, and pay attention to your branding and campaign identity. Don’t forget that an email newsletter is a drive-to-web tool that acts as a transitional springboard. Pique your audience’s interest and your newsletter will act as a bridge between them and your online property, whether that be your main website or a dedicated landing page.Looking for more best practice recommendations? We’ve just released a White Paper that makes for very interesting reading. You can download it right now.

This post is the third in a four-part series dedicated to the email newsletter and its place in the digital marketing ecosystem. Keep an eye out for post number four, where we’ll present a case study that will inspire you to unlock the full potential of Symplify’s communication platform.