The Trouble with Email Marketing Best Practices: “Best” Practices Only Make You Average

why email marketing best practices only make you averageGood is the enemy of great. So says Jim Collins in his best selling book, “Good to Great.” He is referring to businesses that decide they are good enough, which means they are settling and no longer striving to be the best they can be.

And that’s why the term “best practices” is misleading: Adhering to so-called best practices might make you think you’re doing everything that you can to optimize your email marketing, when really it just makes you average.

Best practices lull you into a false sense of security
In the email marketing industry, we talk about best practices a lot because they matter. We even have a category for best practices as part of this blog, because we want to continue to push marketers to be and do better.

But the word “best” can lull you into a false sense of security, just like good can be the enemy of great. Just because it’s a “best” practice for one company doesn’t mean it is for yours, in the same way that being good enough keeps a business from striving to be great.

Don’t think I am telling you to forget about email marketing best practices, because I’m not. All have some good in them and probably most (if not all) of them should be followed. For example, it’s a best practice to segment your audience rather than do batch-and-blast email. It’s a best practice to write compelling preheader text. It’s a best practice to design your emails to render well on mobile devices. These are all no brainers, tried-and-true best practices you should follow. But they’re not enough.

Best practices help you keep up, not lead
Despite the name, best practices only make you average. Following best practices is how you keep up, not lead the pack. When you follow best practices, you are doing what works great for another company or other, but not necessarily for yours.

There is only one way to figure out your best practices. The only way to know what really works for you is to test, test and test again. This is how you find the best send time for you, the best subject line length for you, the best offer for you, the best call to action for you, and so on.

I’m not suggesting you dump all of the email marketing best practices you’ve been reading about and trying to implement, not at all. I’m suggesting you consider those best practices a baseline, a starting point for determining something even better.

Testing as habit
The marketers who have a mindset of constantly refining are the ones who will figure out what works best for their brands. They are the ones who continually tweak and test and tweak again, paying close attention to their email analytics to determine what did or didn’t work.

You too can practice habitual testing. Even if you just come up with two subject lines for each email and do an A/B split test, you’ll start learning.

Remember, good is the enemy of great. And email marketing best practices are really just good ideas. The truly best practices are the ones you figure out work best for you.