MasterWing Creative Agency Delray Beach

Don’t SPAM: Small Business Best Practices for Email Marketing

90% of email gets delivered to the intended recipient’s inbox,

whereas only 2% of your Facebook fans see your posts in their News Feed.  

– Forrester Research


An email list is a top tool used by nonprofits, small businesses and online marketers to connect with customers and increase their sales. Whether you send a monthly newsletter, a weekly email offer or daily email updates, an email marketing strategy is a must. Building an email list that has the right subscriber demographics is a powerful sales tool: but your email has to be valuable, useful and interesting to your subscribers. 

Most importantly, your email marketing strategy should not SPAM your prospects. SPAM is when you send unsolicited emails to people. SPAM isn’t just annoying, SPAM is often illegal.

In many states and countries, SPAM is not only unsolicited, but it’s also illegal with serious fines. 

  • CAN-SPAM are US laws passed in 2003 that set rules and penalties for businesses that send emails. 
  • Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) went into effect in 2016 and are more specific than CAN-SPAM to protect individuals’ privacy and have significant fines for email abuse. 
  • The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) went into effect May 25, 2018, and standardizes data protection across Europe, in order to protect the data of private citizens, and regulate the way organizations manage data privacy. Most US companies opt to comply with GDPR’s much stiffer regulations to avoid future problems and penalties as more states adopt anti-spam and consumer privacy laws. 
  • The California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) became law in November 2020 and goes into effect in 2023. It creates new data privacy rights and obligations for anyone doing business in California – with strong penalties to enforce the law.

According to, nonprofits lose about $15k/year in donations due to spam filters blocking fundraising campaign emails from prospects’ inboxes.

So what can a small business or nonprofit do to make sure their emails get opened – and read?


7 Email Marketing Best Practices for Small Business

  1. Get Permission

Invite your audience to subscribe and opt-in to your mailing list. Mailing lists made of people who actually want to know about your small business get better results than spamming people who have zero interest in your business. Ask subscribers to confirm their subscription so you’re whitelisted and get in their inbox. Most email service providers (ESP) added GDPR compliant opt-in checkboxes in 2018. 

  1. SPAM Triggers

Certain words in your subject line can trigger SPAM filters; such as:

  • Free
  • Buy
  • Click
  • Cures
  • Guaranteed

You should avoid using SPAM trigger words in your email Subject line and Preview. For a list of trigger words, see: Ultimate List of Email SPAM Triggers 

  1. Personalize

Send your emails from a person, not a bot. Sending emails from a person increases open rates up to 31%. Send your emails from a name, such as from amanda@, not info@, newsletter@ or noreply@. 

Collect your subscribers’ names on your subscriber form, then personalize each email using their name. People respond better when they realize your email isn’t generic, they actually signed up for it! 

  1. Unsubscribe

Your emails or newsletter should have an Unsubscribe option, typically at the bottom of the email. If someone opts to unsubscribe from your emails, honor their preference and don’t add them back to your mailing list!

When you don’t give your contacts an unsubscribe option, they may opt to designate your email as SPAM or Junk in their inbox – which could lead to you getting banned by that ESP or reported!

  1. Mobile-Friendly

Over 50% of emails are now opened on mobile devices or tablets. 75% of recipients will delete an email if it’s hard to read on a mobile.  Mobile-friendly email marketing isn’t expensive: Free and low-cost email software is effective, affordable and easy to use. Tips for creating mobile-friendly emails include:

  • Use a larger font: Small fonts are difficult to read on mobile.
  • Use smaller images to reduce load time: Hi-res images take longer to load.
  • Use large social media and call-to-action buttons: Larger buttons are easier to tap with a thumb on mobile.


  1. Optimize Subject and Preview

Create a Subject line that clearly says what’s in your email and entices the recipient to open it. Using the recipient’s name in the email subject line increases open rates by 42%. Preview text shows up in most ESP inboxes. Create the preview text yourself or your email tool may automatically pull the preview from the body of your email.

  1. Track Open Rates

Track your email’s open rates to discover when is the best time to send an email to your audience. There is no overall best day or time to send an email: the best day and time of day to send an email is when it’s best for your specific audience. For example, emails targeting stay-at-home moms with small children will have very different optimal send times than emails targeting college students. Your ESP should track who opened your list, and when.

You can also set up A/B testing by segmenting your mailing list into 2 different batches and sending the same email at different times to determine what time is optimal to send emails to your mailing list.

These 7 email marketing best practices for nonprofits and small business owners will help you get better results from your email marketing  – without resorting to SPAM!