Most business tasks can be reliably backed by ‘best practices’. If you’re going to draw up a quotation for someone, for example, you’ll employ best practices throughout the process, as you would when building a car. But what about email marketing? Is there such a thing as a list of best practices to abide by?

An industry-leading digital marketing consultant recently remarked that the two most important words in email marketing are: ‘it depends’. That may seem a bit of a cop out, until you consider the types of questions we ask ourselves when conducting a campaign:

What time should I send my email?

Should I continue to include inactive subscribers in the recipient list?

What constitutes an ‘inactive’ subscriber?

Do I need a welcome email?

What – and how much of the – content in my email should be dynamic?

Those that live their lives by best practices may be inclined to believe that there are definitive answers to the above, but the reality is quite different. If you look back at the posts on this blog, you’ll see that many of the practices recommended always come with caveats; which industry do you operate in? Do you possess a physical shop alongside your website? Do you deal in purely business-to-business, or direct with consumers? All of these questions will impact greatly on what you should consider best practices.

So, ‘it depends’ is highly apt, in this case.

Obviously, this doesn’t always hold true. There are some exceptions to the rule – things which, regardless of who you are, what you do and how you do it, will always apply when sending an email en masse. For example, open and click-through rates have little or no relation to the level of engagement the recipients had with your email – that will always be the case. One million people could read your email but, equally, one million could be turned off by it. On the other hand, newer subscribers are likely to be more engaged than those that have been on your list for some time. This stuff isn’t industry specific and should always be adhered to.

Discovering your own best practices isn’t easy, but you can learn an awful lot from your competitors. When do they send their emails? What do they include within them? Don’t always assume they’re getting it right, either; if you have a feeling they’ve announced a new product on the wrong day, you’re probably right – learn from their mistakes.