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Get More from HubSpot: 5 Email Marketing Best Practices

Contacts in your HubSpot email marketing platform are like a Rolodex for the digital age — a sleek, high-tech version of the classic contact organizer. Yet many of us fail to nurture our contacts fully and could be missing out on sales opportunities. By leveraging all of the features within HubSpot, you can engage with your contacts on a deeper level. It’s time to stop using Hubspot contacts like an old Rolodex, mindlessly flipping through them wondering if your customers will ever call you back.

In this blog post, we’ll focus on five ways you can strengthen your email contacts and lists using HubSpot’s Email Marketing Tool. We’ll show you how to:

  1. Assign marketing statuses to your email contacts upon creation
  2. Avoid common pitfalls in email deliverability
  3. Navigate the different types of email bounces and monitor bounce rates
  4. Understand the impact of Apple iOS 15 on email marketing
  5. Build strategies for improving email reputation and deliverability

No matter what industry you are in, HubSpot’s marketing tools streamline email efforts — helping you reach more people and drive more qualified leads to your business.

Let’s take a look.

#1: Not All Contacts Are Created Equal: HubSpot Marketing Contacts Versus Non-Marketing Contacts

HubSpot differentiates contacts into two categories, “Marketing” and “Non-Marketing” contact records. It’s important to remember that not all HubSpot contact records will be (or should be) “Marketing” contacts.

“Marketing” contacts are people that you are actively marketing to with strategic email messaging designed to convert them into customers. The system allows you to send these mass or automated marketing emails by setting contacts to “Marketing” contact status.

“Non-Marketing” contacts are different. These are the people you are not actively trying to convert into customers – people like vendors, partners, internal team members, or others. These are people who you wish to stay in contact with for more intentional reasons, such as sharing company news and updates, but not necessarily sell to.

Keeping your contacts tidy is important as Hubspot fees are determined by the number of marketing contacts you have in your lists.

Depending on your Marketing Hub plan, there is a set marketing contact threshold allotted. Once you exceed that limit, HubSpot bumps you into the next contact tier. A key thing to understand is that you can always increase your contact tier but you cannot decrease it.

For example, suppose you have a HubSpot Marketing Hub Professional license. In that case, you can have an unlimited number of contacts in total in your CRM but no more than 2,000 HubSpot “Marketing” contacts—if you assign 2,001 contacts as marketing contacts one month, you get bumped over your billing threshold into the next pricing tier.

Fortunately, you can manage your contacts to ensure only the contacts you intend to market to will count as “Marketing” contacts. When you change a contact to “Non-Marketing”, it will update either on the 15th or the last day of the month. When changing contacts to “Marketing”, that change happens instantly to prevent disruption of your marketing efforts.

Managing your contacts can help you fine-tune your contacts lists and target different segments for different marketing campaigns at different times. It can also save you money!

#2: Different Ways to Set Marketing Contact Status

There are multiple ways you can set and alter the marketing status of your HubSpot CRM contacts.

Manual Creation and Import

Manually setting a contact in your HubSpot CRM as a marketing contact is easy. Simply view your contacts list by selecting Contacts > Contacts in the top navigation, check off the contacts you want to change, click the “More” dropdown menu at the top of the table, and select “Set as marketing contacts.”

Conversion-Based Contact Creation

If you prefer to set your contacts on autopilot, you can set new form submissions to automatically register a new contact as a marketing contact. If you have a HubSpot lead gen form on your site, you can mark the form so any contact created through that form is set as a marketing contact upon creation.

Automated, Bulk Contact Editing

HubSpot also offers powerful marketing automation workflows that save you the trouble of manually updating contacts from general CRM contacts to HubSpot marketing contacts.

With a HubSpot workflow, you can set a rule that a contact in your CRM will automatically become a marketing contact if it meets certain criteria. Workflows make it easy to bulk-edit marketing contact settings and manage who gets set to what status throughout the month

HubSpot Sales Extension Integration

With the HubSpot Sales Chrome extension, you can use HubSpot sales tools directly in your email inbox, such as accessing information about your contacts and changing their contact type settings.

Private Apps and Integrations

HubSpot offers seamless integration with a plethora of third-party marketing, CRM, and website apps. Within HubSpot, you can change your settings so contacts created from a certain app or platform automatically register as marketing contacts.

#3: Exploring Factors Affecting Email Deliverability

The most important thing about email marketing is making sure your emails are actually reaching your HubSpot marketing contacts in the first place, aka deliverability. Several factors can negatively impact your emails’ ability to reach your contacts’ inboxes, including:

Email Service Provider (ESP) Tracking and Spam Filtering

ESPs use complicated algorithms to differentiate between legitimate content and spam. Many of these algorithms are trained on user feedback. If a contact manually marks enough emails from you as spam, deletes them without opening them, or moves them into specific folders, the ESP will eventually learn to do this automatically.

ESP filtering is why crafting engaging, useful emails and avoiding negative feedback from your contacts is important.

Sender Reputation

When you send an email to HubSpot marketing contacts, your email domain and IP address matter. If your emails come from a reputable domain that ESPs know and trust, your emails have a greater chance of going through. Emails from domains with a reputation for spam or phishing tend to get blocked.

Business and Corporate Email Policies

Businesses and other organizations often have strict email policies to prevent spam and protect employees, such as spam blockers or deny and allow lists. To make sure your marketing emails get through to your corporate contacts, you may need to experiment with different types of email such as plain text with no images and additional styling, removing links, and excluding attachments of any kind. If you continue to run into bounce notifications, and your email absolutely needs to reach the intended recipient, then reach out to be placed on the allow list.

Company Content Filtering Policies

Likewise, some companies employ strict firewalls and content filtering to protect their internal data. These policies may have overly broad censorship rules that could classify legitimate marketing emails as spam. If you have corporate prospects where you suspect sensitive email policies, you may want to prioritize other communication channels for them to ensure that they are receiving your messages.

Email Deliverability Starts With You

To improve the deliverability of your emails, you need to take your positive sender reputation into your own hands by following email marketing best practices, monitoring your engagement metrics, and utilizing authentication protocols like SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) as needed.

Additionally, different types of emails might prove to have better deliverability. Explore testing plain text emails vs. emails that include images and links. Email size also has a factor in deliverability.

HubSpot can improve email deliverability by helping you keep track of your sender reputation and manage the right authentication protocols for your marketing contacts.

#4: Demystifying Email Bounces

It’s also important to keep a close eye on your email bounce rate.

An email “bounce” occurs whenever an email fails to reach the intended recipient’s inbox. The ratio of email bounces within your sent emails is a pivotal factor in shaping your sender reputation and quality of your email list. Too high of a bounce rate can mean too much “junk” takes up valuable space among your HubSpot marketing contacts.

There are two types of email bounces: soft bounces and hard bounces.

Soft Bounces

A soft bounce is a temporary failure to deliver an email to a recipient’s valid email address. Possible reasons for a soft bounce include:

  • Temporary technical difficulties, such as server or network issues
  • Email filters or spam detection systems triggering from some part of your email’s content
  • The recipient’s email server has an automated responder in effect, such as an out-of-office notification or vacation auto-reply

Most of the time, when a soft bounce happens, the email will be re-delivered at a later time. While the occasional soft bounce is temporary, repeated soft bounces to the same email address may prove that a contact in your HubSpot CRM isn’t worth the trouble of keeping them as a marketing contact. Repeated soft bounces can turn into a hard bounce.

Hard Bounces

A hard bounce is a permanent failure to deliver an email. The email cannot be delivered and will not be delivered at a later time. Causes of hard bounces can include:

  • The email address is invalid or nonexistent; either it’s been mistyped, deactivated, or was never valid in the first place
  • Your email domain has been flagged as suspicious or blacklisted by the recipient’s email server filter rules
  • The recipient’s mailbox is full
  • The recipient’s domain or email server does not exist or is unreachable

Hard bounces need to be removed from your HubSpot email contacts. Too many hard bounces clutter up your limited amount of HubSpot marketing contacts, and having a too-high hard bounce rate can flag your domain as a potential source of spam.

Bounce rates are an important metric for determining the quality of your email lists. HubSpot features bounce tracking to help you manage bounced contacts and keep your bounce rate low, including automatically flagging bounced contacts, creating suppression lists to quarantine bounced contacts from your email campaigns, and offering guidelines on email deliverability best practices.

Before importing large lists into HubSpot or sending emails to an older list, clean your list using an email validation tool such as NeverBounce. These tools scrub your lists and break them into different categories based on deliverability projects. These tools aren’t 100% accurate and other issues might come into play, such as email size and images, but by using these tools, you’ll be able to start with cleaner lists.

#5: Understanding the Apple iOS 15 Email Impact

The release of Apple iOS 15 in September 2021 profoundly affected the email analytics visibility for email marketers due to its data privacy changes, aligned with similar recent data privacy regulations such as GDPR.

Apple iOS 15’s email impact includes, first and foremost, that email open rates are less reliable as a metric, so many marketers have shifted to measuring click-through rates, website traffic and conversions, and changes in unsubscribe or spam rates as essential KPIs instead.

Marketers have also started gaining user data from other sources unaffected by privacy changes, such as emails coming from non-Apple users, and expanded their use of other messaging channels, such as SMS, to meet their audience where they are.

With privacy changes necessitating email strategy pivots, making your emails as engaging and deliverable as possible by following email marketing best practices is still of the utmost importance.

Using HubSpot to maintain a healthy and hygienic email list, personalizing your emails to boost engagement, providing easy and user-friendly unsubscribe options, and ensuring GDPR compliance will still help you make the best of a changing email marketing landscape.

#6: Improving Your Email Engagement

HubSpot provides a wide range of tools to make adhering to email marketing best practices and improving your engagement among your HubSpot marketing contacts easy. With HubSpot, you can:

  • Always clean your lists before any import and if they are stale by utilizing tools like NeverBounce. Implement strategies to ensure your lists are cleaned continuously
  • Segment and divide your contacts database into specific targeted groups based on specific criteria, such as demographics or interests, and send personalized emails tailored to their unique interests
  • Vary email send times to see what works best per industry; with Seventh Sense for HubSpot, you can dial in on the best times to send your emails to each individual with AI and stagger your send times rather than “blasting” them all at one time
  • Monitor your email sending reputation and stay alert for risks of spam flags with the HubSpot Email Health tool
  • Explore metrics beyond open rates, such as click rates and click-to-open rates, to understand the performance of your emails
  • Utilize A/B testing to experiment with subject lines, sender names, email content, CTAs and more to see what drives higher engagement
  • Optimize your emails for mobile
  • Use HubSpot’s email automation features to deliver relevant content at the right time

By leveraging these key concepts and practices, you’ll gain an understanding on the technical side of things that can impact your email strategy. Even if you write the best email in the world, it’s pointless if it doesn’t land in your contact’s inbox. Whether you utilize HubSpot or another tool, these same principles apply and can impact your marketing efforts and the ROI of your digital marketing strategy.

Intuitive Websites is here to help with any email marketing tool. From onboarding to ongoing strategic guidance and technical support, we’re here to invest in your success and help you make the most of HubSpot’s marketing automation tools. Intuitive Websites is a Platinum HubSpot Solutions Partner with expertise in leveraging HubSpot for email marketing and beyond.

If you are interested in discussing how HubSpot can benefit your organization or if you’d like to discuss how HubSpot compares to other tools in the industry, contact us today for a free consultation and see if Intuitive Websites is right for you!

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Liz Acosta

Elizabeth Acosta is Intuitive Websites’ Digital Funnel Manager. Liz’s specialties are creating winning email marketing campaigns with stellar results and developing innovative social media engagement with sticky content.