Raw notes: Email Marketing Best Practices from SendGrid

I attended a “Lunch and Learn” workshop from SendGrid at the Voyager HQ offices on 25th St in New York City on 27 Oct 2016. Here are my raw notes.

In April 2016, SendGrid reached a big milestone: 1 billion emails sent per day!
In April 2016, SendGrid reached a big milestone: 1 billion emails sent per day!

SendGrid: Fast facts, UPDATED for Oct 2016

  • Techstars company
  • 300+ employees today
  • Over 1B emails sent per day
  • On track for IPO by end of 2017
  • 40,000 paying customers

Transactional vs Marketing Emails

Mailbox providers recognize that transactional emails will not go into Promos tab. Your receipt from Uber, for example, always goes into your Inbox. But if Uber sends you a “Top New Places to Eat on UberEats,” that’s likely going into the Promotions tab.

Authentically Growing Your Email List

  • Don’t bury your sign up form
  • Don’t ask for a lot – an email address is all you need
  • Provide incentives – free gift, discount, valuable content

Multiple Opportunities to Sign-Up

  • Sign-up forms on blogs, Homepage and subpages
  • Pop-ups are your friend (sometimes!) — especially if they are a discount deal. One site is SumoMe which has an easy WordPress plugin.
  • Please note that Google may dock you if you have a mobile pop-up, which is bad for user experience. This hurts your SEO.
  • Landing pages to start customer segmentation
  • Reward current subscribers with discounts and referrals

Create a Stellar Welcome Email

Note: Takes about 5 impressions, on average, for someone to become familiar with you.

Example: Flipboard sends a great welcome message. They can segment users based on what they click on.

Develop Valuable Content

  • Write addictive subject lines
  • Grab attention with images

Create an Email Preference Center

More than just a simple unsubscribe page.

Email Deliverability

This is a complicated subject. It is why SendGrid was born! So that emails get into the Inbox, not into spam.

Examples: A startup they showed sent 259K emails one day, with 225K delivered, 21K bounced, 9K unique opens. 4K blocked on Day 1, 9K blocked on Day 2. They were kicked off of SendGrid and had a reputation score of 62%.

But: This was a reputable company! They just didn’t know how to send email properly.

Should you use multiple domain names?

If you burn your domain with a lot of bad reputation, it is almost impossible to fix. (It follows you: it’s not impossible to fix, but it is very hard.) That’s why some companies will send email from a different domain name.

Benefits of a Dedicated IP Addresses

If you’re on a shared system like Mailchimp or other email provider, you’re only as good as the average or the worst person on the network.

Easy Strategies for Better Customer Segmentation

Treating your users the same does more damage than good.

Think of these factors to better segment your customers:

  • Activity – How often are they logging in, buying, or using your service?
  • Demographics
  • Engagement
  • Types of emails: Weekly stats, Daily roundup → these can be considered transactional emails (which have an open rate of 65%). Keep transactional email style consistent.

Great customer example: Foursquare and Swarm, hyper-segmenting their user emails (like Coffee addict) for people who search for coffee shops while traveling.

How to Build a Strong Call to Action


  • Make it bold and prominent
  • Strategic placement to draw eye of reader
  • Don’t clutter the space
  • Pro tip: Design your email around your CTA


  • Tell the reader what to do
  • Create a sense of urgency
  • Add more information if it encourages the desired action
  • Connect the link directly to the specific destination


  • Test link vs button?
  • Consider how the reader will view email, make it responsive in design: mobile vs desktop
  • Use color to draw attention
  • Be consistent with the look and feel of your brand

Vary Your CTA

A/B Testing

Test in three buckets: Content, Design, Timing

How do you test?

  • Send to a test batch
  • Focus on a sample, 10% of your list
  • Perform a 50/50 split test
  • Monitor Opens and Clicks

FUN FACT: 3-5 words in subject line = best, 7 words or more = bad

SendGrid Accelerate

This presentation was from a team on the SendGrid Accelerate group, to help give back to the startup community with free platform credits. 10 total people on this team, our two reps today (Jennifer Litorja and Devin Chasanoff) are based in Colorado and handle the East Coast.

Key Takeaways

  • Obey the law
  • Send emails to people that want to hear from you
  • Find out what your customers’ interests are (such as: Are they happy puppy person, or a grumpy cat person?)
  • Be scientific about what you send, such as A/B testing
  • Send content people love

Suggestions from SendGrid about Museum Hack

  • If you stop sending your emails, would people miss it? That should be the benchmark. Compare it to The Skimm: people would be PISSED if they stopped.
  • Museum Hack may be like that for some. Our fun art history images, our thought leadership articles, etc.
  • For longer articles, DO NOT INCLUDE the whole post in the email. Just give them enough to tease them, and then send them to the blog.
  • Have we ever considered sending a digest, like “Our most popular articles from the past 3 weeks” — these tend to get a lot of clicks and people like seeing “most popular” stuff.
  • DO NOT use URL shorteners in our emails!! A lot of spammers use these. Put the legitimate link in the email.
  • There is a thing such as “too many links” in an email. Use your best judgement.
  • SendGrid has a quarterly newsletter that they send out which has about 8 top articles, including a header image for each article — which is really visually appealing.

See these 9 examples of Direct Mail Marketing for small businesses and check out one of the best written, best executed direct mail letters I’ve seen!

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