Email Marketing Rules By Chad S. White

Welcome to my personal book notes of Email Marketing Rules by Chad S. White.

Let’s dive in.


  • Title: Email Marketing Rules
  • Subtitle: Checklists, Frameworks, and 150 Best Practices for Business Success
  • Author: Chad S. White
  • Author’s website:
  • First published: 2017
  • Type: non fiction
  • Genre: marketing
  • Rating: 4/5
  • Recommended: Yes

If you’re not fulfilling your subscribers’ needs, then they won’t help you fulfill your business needs.
- Chad S. White

Table Of Contents Of The Book

  • Intro
  • Understanding Email Marketing’s Power & Purpose
  • The Cure for Email Marketing’s Complexity
  • The Hierarchy of Subscriber Needs
  • Part I
    • Must-Follow Best Practices
    • The Last Word on Must-Follow Best Practices
    • Recommended Best Practices
    • Email Metrics & Program Success
    • Deliverability & Sender Reputation
    • List Building & Profiling
    • Welcome Emails & Onboarding
    • Subject Lines & Envelope Content
    • Email Design & Body Content
    • Seasonality
    • Targeting & Automation
    • Inactivity Management
    • Landing Pages
    • Workflows & Quality Assurance
    • Corrections & Apology Emails
    • Unsubscribe Process
    • Testing & Optimization
    • The Last Word on Recommended Best Practices
  • Part II
    • Permission
    • List Growth
    • Inbox Placement
    • Email Audience Funnel
    • Subject Line & Preview Text Writing
    • Rendering & Defensive Design
    • Email Frequency
    • The Subscriber Lifecycle
    • Subscriber Journeys
    • The Minimum Viable Email & Incremental Improvements
    • Cross-Channel Synergies
    • Recovering from Mistakes
    • Email Marketing Workflows
    • Email Attribution
    • The Last Word on the Frameworks
  • Part III
    • The Only Constant
    • The Last Word on the Future
    • Acknowledgments
    • Glossary

Key Concepts & Ideas

Email marketing’s return on investment is significantly higher than that of paid search, social media, and other digital channels - and way higher than that of direct marketing and other traditional channels.

  • unbeatable scale and reach
  • longevity and stability
  • low cost of access
  • less intrusive, more convenient, searchable, and more eco-friendly than other channels
  • preferred by consumers
  • email is a one-to-one communication channel (very targeted)
  • email is immediate
  • checking email is a top activity on smartphones
  • email marketing is THE power channel for retention marketing
  • email is the account of record for consumers (list asset)
  • the continued shift of messaging from postal mail to email will guarantee that people will be checking their inboxes regularly for decades to come

Chad on the current state of other (online) advertising channels:

  • users increasingly block or skip ads
  • closed platform social media sites increasingly require pay-to-play

Downsides of email as a marketing channel:

  • the email inbox becomes a very crowded and
  • unpleasant place for some people
  • there can be wild inconsistences in
    • how an email is displayed,
    • what content and functionality is supported, and
    • what determines whether an email is blocked, junked, or makes it to the intended recipient successfully

Testing is itself a best practice.

Best Execution

Instead of putting a lot of effort into searching out those rare instances where you can break best practices, focus on bringing your business needs and your brand values and voice to your execution of best practices.

Ask yourself:

  • Do my email practices reflect my brand?
  • Are my email practices in line with how I treat my customers in other channels?
  • How do my email practices influence my customers’ views about my brand?
  • How do my subscribers respond to my email practices?

In other words, use best practices to guide you as you search for the best execution for your brand.

Outstanding Email Marketing Examples

Here you can find real-world examples to get you inspired and to demonstrate the concepts, tactics, and strategies discussed in the book.

Being useful and interesting and relevant needs to be the least of what your brand is known for, now and in the future.
- Jay Baer

The Hierarchy of Subscriber Needs

You want to create subscriber experiences that are

  • Respectful
  • Functional
  • Valuable
  • Remarkable

You can measure how respectful your emails are by looking at opens, spam complaints, and unsubscribes.

You can measure how functional your emails are by looking primarily at clicks.

You can measure how valuable your emails are by looking primarily at email conversions and revenue.

You can measure how remarkable your emails are by looking primarily at forwards and social shares.

Treating email like an ultra-cheap form of direct mail or a digital ad that you push into people’s inboxes not only causes consumers to bad-mouth your brand on social media and to friends, but causes them to report your email as spam.

The Law

Follow the law, but recognize that doing so doesn’t protect you from spam complaints, being blacklisted, or other negative outcomes.

CAN-SPAM requires email marketers to:

  • Include a working unsubscribe link in every promotional email
  • Honor opt-out requests as soon as possible
  • Include their mailing address in every email they send
  • Never use misleading or deceptive sender names, subject lines, or email copy
  • Never attempt to conceal their identity or the fact that they’re sending advertising

Besides violating CAN-SPAM, not following these requirements erode subscriber trust and lead to unsubscribes, spam complaints, and negative word of mouth.

The Permission Rule

Most of the Must-Follow Best Practices focus on permission, because it is the foundation of the email marketing relationship.

And in the minds of consumers, there’s no clearer or more immediate marker of a spammer than violating permission.

Condensing those rules on permission gives us our first Power Rule, The Permission Rule:

Permission is consciously and willingly given, purpose-specific, email address-specific, channel-specific, brand-specific, and temporary.

By taking the time to earn a consumer’s permission and respecting the limits of that opt-in, you take a huge step toward fostering the trust necessary to build a profitable email relationship, as well as toward safeguarding your sender and brand reputation, protecting yourself from excessive spam complaints, and ensuring your deliverability remains high.

A strong focus on permission also puts you in a customer service frame of mind that’s vital to achieving stellar email marketing performance.

The ultimate goal of your email marketing program is to create one thing: trust.
- Andrea Mignolo

While permission grants marketers access to inboxes, sending relevant messaging maintains that permission.

Unsubscribes And Spam Complaints Can Be The Result Of…

  • Emails that are sent too frequently
  • Emails that contain irrelevant content
  • Emails that are difficult to read or don’t function well on the subscriber’s device of choice
  • Landing pages, websites, or mobile apps that are difficult to read or don’t function well on the subscriber’s device of choice
  • Negative customer service experiences

The subscribers’ time is far more valuable than the pittance it costs to email them.

Marketers must _deserve _their subscribers’ attention.

Email Metrics Matrix

Email metrics like opens, clicks, unsubscribes, and spam complaints are important to track because they indicate campaign engagement and email channel health.

However, none of those necessarily directly translate into business success.

Supplement those email-centric metrics with business-focused metrics such as sales conversions, average order size, revenue per subscriber, return on investment, and email marketing’s impact on customer lifetime value.

Those metrics directly impact email campaign success, email channel success, and business success.

Email Marketing Metrics Matrix

Marketers have to stop reporting on activities and start reporting on business outcomes.
- Allen Gannett

Focus on maximizing the value of a subscriber, not on maximizing the results of a campaign.

Don’t Attach Too Much Meaning To Open Rates And Other Surface Metrics

Surface Metrics vs Deep Metrics

The open rate is really a misnomer, because it doesn’t accurately reflect the percent of recipients that viewed the content of your email.

In fact, some factors inflate opens, while others obscure them.

For instance, an open is registered only if a recipient views an email with images enabled so that an invisible tracking pixel renders.

So if a recipient reads an email with images blocked, no open is recorded.

Because image blocking is fairly common, roughly 30% of email reads aren’t tracked as opens.

Also, some email clients download or cache images automatically, generating false opens.

Moreover, just because you’re seeing an open doesn’t mean that the recipient gave the email much or any consideration.

They could have just been flipping through their emails and the images in your email loaded for a split second before they continued on to the next email.

Benchmark Yourself Primarily Against Yourself

Everyone wants to know how their email program stacks up against others, but external benchmarks are of little use for a number of reasons.

First, most aggregations of data are not going to be relevant to your industry or company. Even if the benchmark is for your industry, accounting for differences between companies of different sizes that operate within different sub-verticals is impossible.

Second, the open rate and click rate data that is typically shared may not be very useful. Because brands manage their lists differently, these numbers don’t provide an apples-to-apples comparison.

And third, beating an external benchmark can give you a false sense of security and make you complacent when you shouldn’t be.

All of that said, if you are massively trailing external benchmarks, changes might be needed. Otherwise, focus on systematically beating your own performance.

Our goal is to beat yesterday.
- Andy Crestodina

Single Opt-In (SOI) vs Double Opt-In (DOI)

Single Opt-In (SOI) vs Double Opt-In (DOI)

Setting The Right Expectations

Set expectations regarding how many emails you’ll be sending subscribers and what content will be in them.

The top two reasons given by subscribers for why they unsubscribe are consistently that they received too many emails and that the emails weren’t relevant.

Use your signup messaging, signup confirmation page, and welcome emails to set expectations appropriately.

Consider providing images of or links to previous emails as examples of the kind of content you will send.

Regarding email frequency, set general expectations, but avoid being overly specific so that you have some wiggle room to increase frequency during key selling seasons.

If you offer multiple mailstreams during your opt-in process, be reasonably clear about what each one of them entails.

Keeping A Swipe File

Keep a swipe file of your most successful email campaigns and components to inspire future campaigns.

A swipe file is a record of your emails, subject lines, calls-to-action, content blocks, landing pages, and other email elements that performed really well.

You can return to this file for learnings and inspiration.

For instance, a swipe file helps you keep track of subject line arrangements, keywords, and offers that your subscribers responded to best.

It works the same for email designs, allowing you to model new designs off previously successful ones.

You can even reuse past winners, although it’s best to reimagine, re-skin, or further optimize them.

Monitoring what your competitors and others do with their email programs can inspire new ideas that you can then test and make your own.

You can do that by signing up for their emails yourself or by using a service that aggregates and categorizes commercial emails, making monitoring easier.

Closing Thoughts

This concludes my book notes on Email Marketing Rules by Chad S. White.

My book notes only cover small parts of the book, so if you like what you read, please consider buying the book from the author.

Thank you for reading and stay awesome,

Tim for Online Business Dude

PS: Start And Grow Your Own, Profitable Online Business From Scratch, Step-by-Step, Today!

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