The Ten Commandments of email marketing by John Caldwell @jacaldwell

The Ten Commandments of email marketing

John Caldwell of Red Pill Email presents the Ten Commandments of email marketing!

1. Permission is sacred
Email is permission-based.  You cannot legitimately buy or sell someone else’s permission, it comes directly from the recipient.  Permission may be revoked by the recipient at any time for any reason.

2. Respect the recipient
Each email address represents a person so treat it accordingly.  Honor opt-outs when they happen.  Be relevant in time and content to the recipient.  Live by the expectations you set.

3. Be relevant
Segment by declared and/or implied interests.  Ask questions of your subscribers and target to their answers.  Power boaters don’t care about standing rigging, and sailors don’t care about trim tabs, but both as boaters, care about lifejackets.

4. Provide value
What information can you provide to engage the recipient and earn their trust? What are you promising the recipient and why should they care?  What is in it for them?

5. Call for action
Tell the recipient what you want them to do.  Ask for the order – Buy Now; Subscribe Here; Share with your Network – whatever it is.  Don’t waste time on subtly.

6. Tend your reputation
You are known to ISPs by the mail you send.  Your recipients reaction to your messages – do they open it or click? do they mark as spam? do they filter it away? – will have impact in forming your reputation with ISPs; as will properly configured authentication, and reverse DNS.

7. Keep it clean
Your subscriber list, that is.  Promptly remove any spam complaints and hard-bounced records.  Set limits on how many times a recipient’s messages soft bounces before being suppressed.  If you can’t win them back, remove non-responders that fall outside normal buying cycles.

8. Benchmark metrics
Measure against your own benchmarks over time by recipient, by message, and by program.  Look at operational statistics, list growth and attrition, and financial value by recipient, by message, and by program.

9. Test, test, test
Test against your assumptions; test subject lines; test value propositions; test calls to action; test with purpose and reason.  Apply the results as you continually test against your own benchmarks.

10. Follow the law
Be sure to follow any email laws of the country you are mailing in and to.  Following the letter of the law does not guarantee reaching the recipient.

So how did I do?

Takeaway: Good email marketing doesn’t have to be complicated. Follow these simple rules to succeed.

Meet the author:



Active in the email marketing and operations space since 1996, John Caldwell is an innovative marketing executive experienced in integrated and tactical email marketing and operations. As an independent consultant John has brought his utilization of email marketing best practices, including customer segmentation and profiling, and operational analysis, to a number of major clients including Teleflora, eHarmony, Experian Consumer Direct (, and more. While at Experian, prior to becoming a consultant, John created and implemented the company’s strategic email marketing plans. He designed the company’s email marketing guidelines and developed comprehensive reporting matrices to measure the operational statistics of email programs and campaigns providing actionable intelligence to Business. John has spoken at Industry events on deliverability and other topics, and is a Member of the Email Experience Council of the Direct marketing Association, where he is actively involved on the Measurement Accuracy Roundtable as 2009 & 2010 Co-Chair.

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