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As an email marketer, you’re probably already familiar with the feeling that emerges when people don’t engage with your email campaigns.

We’ve all been there.

Email marketing has the highest ROI of all marketing channels, and yet many marketers don’t take full advantage of it, and instead, are left with average email campaigns that don’t perform as well as they could.

In this post, our friends from Sleeknote share seven best practices for improving your email marketing campaigns that you may not have tried before.

1. Get more opens and clicks with split testing

Split testing is to me what a violin is to a violinist—indispensable.

Split testing is not just fun, it’s the best way to test your email marketing hypotheses and find the optimal solution for subject lines, content, calls-to-actions (CTAs), send time, and so on.

The best part?

You can always find new things to split test.

Naturally, the first step in email marketing is to get your emails opened, otherwise, all your other efforts are wasted.

Thus, your subject line is a great place to start.

Your subject line should always aim to evoke emotion in your recipients. If you get people to feel something such as curiosity, excitement, joy, or even fear, they’re more likely to open your email.

This example is an email I received from Brian Dean and immediately opened because I was curious and excited:

Brian Dean – Email Subject Line

Test different tactics to see which works best for your specific audience.

In our experience, personal subject lines get higher open rates.

The easiest way to create a personal subject line is to add the recipient’s name.

These subject lines from Ebay and Netflix caught my attention because they included my name:

Ebay – Email Subject Line

Netflix – Email Subject Line
It makes the email seem like it was written specifically to me (even though we know it wasn’t), which helps build a stronger relationship with your recipients.

Next, you should test your content.

Many e-commerce businesses use the same template over and over again for their newsletters, which can save you loads of time, but you still need to test your content.

It’s easy to get lazy when creating email campaigns (trust me, I’ve been there myself), and your email campaigns end up looking pretty much the same every time.

While email templates can provide you with the right setting for your content, you still need to create new and unique copy each time suited for your specific audience.

Most promotional emails I receive look a lot like this one from GoPro:

Let me start by asking you this: How many people at this stage are ready to just purchase a new GoPro camera?

I doubt it’s many.

Promotional emails are usually packed with product images and buttons that say “shop now”.

And these emails might work for some e-commerce businesses, but I would recommend testing other types of content as well.

This could be testing softer CTAs, fewer images, fewer links, and more.

Writing a CTA such as “shop now” might scare off potential customers who aren’t ready to buy yet because they want to know more about the product or alternative products before they make a decision.

A softer CTA in GoPro’s case could be: “Check out the HERO5 now”, “Get your free bonus mount now”, or “Learn more”.

The voice is still active and with the headline “Two days left to get a bonus mount when you buy a GoPro camera” they’ve already created a sense of urgency that, along with the right CTA, can get them to click through.

No matter what type of CTA you go with, your email copy should convince people to click through while the CTA gives them the final push.

This brings me to the next item on this list: storytelling.

2. Tell stories for higher click-throughs

Storytelling is one of the oldest principles in direct response sales, and some might even argue if you can’t tell a good story, you can’t sell your products.

We connect with each other every day through emotional stories, and applying the same practice to your email marketing can prove insanely helpful.

Here’s an example from BarkBox:

They don’t mention the product until the very end of the email and focus on getting their recipients to feel gratitude toward their pet, making them more inclined to make a purchase.

Storytelling is an effective way to provoke feelings in your recipients and convince them to buy your product without actually pitching to them.

3. Sell your product without selling and boost revenue

Continuing on from storytelling and how you can sell your products indirectly, I have another effective tactic for you:

Your email footer.

This is a great place to add a short CTA for your product along with a link to where people can buy it.

This is an example from Boxcloud:

Boxcloud – Email Campaign – CTA Button

They use their footer to promote their webinar and drive more conversions through there.

This soft CTA doesn’t require people to make a purchase decision on the spot, but rather another way to indirectly sell your products.

When you use this type of CTA, don’t forget to have a strategy for how you will convert webinar participants into leads or customers.

You can experiment with a hard CTA in your email footer, where you directly ask people to buy your product.

The only way to figure out what works for you is to test it. See which option drives the highest engagement.

4. Write effective welcome emails to build stronger relationships

Welcome emails are a crucial part of your email campaigns because they set the tone for your relationship with your customers.

Foremost, your welcome emails should always be sent immediately after signup, when your business is still top of mind.

Your welcome email should be personal, including the name of the recipient, and an actual sender—so stay away from no-reply emails.

Next, your welcome email should set expectations for what recipients can expect to get in your emails moving forward.

Let them know what content they’ll be receiving, how often you’ll email them, and how to get in touch with you.

And more importantly, you need to meet these expectations.

This is how James Clear welcomes new subscribers:

If people signed up to get a free gift or another offer, this is where you would give it to them.

Your welcome email is a perfect platform to get valuable subscriber insights.

Ask people why they signed up, or why they made a purchase. These insights are extremely useful when you’re optimizing on all fronts.

5. Avoid Gmail’s Promotions tab and get your emails opened and read

A few years back, Gmail started using tabs to sort promotional emails from regular emails in their users’ inboxes.

Gmail – Emails under Primary Tab

Emails filtered to the promotions tab are easier to ignore, which is why we want them back under the Primary tab.

When filtering emails, Gmail looks at the content of your email such as the number of links, images, whether you use “spammy” words like free, MLM, low risk, urgent, winner, and they look at previous engagement with your emails.

As previously mentioned, you can test the number of links and images you use to see if it’s necessary to include them all.

Also, getting people to respond to your emails, is a sure-fire way of telling Gmail that people want to read your emails.

Once again, you can simply ask your subscribers or customers for feedback and make it as simple as just replying to your email.

The best place to do so is in your welcome email where you’ve already set expectations.

If you don’t want to ask for feedback in your welcome email, you can add a simple sentence telling people to add your email to their address book to ensure they’ll keep receiving your awesome newsletter.

6. Segment your list and drive maximum engagement

If you want to ensure you’re only sending relevant content to people, segmentation is key.

Once a user has signed up or purchased a product, you can ask them to choose their preferences by asking what their interests are and what kind of content they’d like to receive moving forward.

Segmented email campaigns drive a 760% increase in revenue, so what’s not to like?

If you run an e-commerce store with sports equipment, ask subscribers what kind of sports they’re most interested in, and create personalized email campaigns based on various segments such as tennis, football, skiing, etc.

There are different ways to ask subscribers this information:

  • Ask in your welcome email
  • Have subscribers complete a user profile
  • Send a new email to existing subscribers asking them to update their preferences
  • Segment based on previous purchases

This is how Pat Flynn asks for subscriber interests:

This email might be a bit too long (I only took out the part where he asks for user information), but it shows exactly how you can ask your subscribers for more information with a single click.

7. Measure the success of your email campaigns effectively to increase performance

When we measure the success of our email campaigns we tend to focus on the open and click rates for each email.

While this doesn’t constitute a problem, there are better ways to measure your email campaign performance.

The answer is: open reach and click reach.

For example, you could check the total number of people who have opened and clicked your emails in, say, the last 30 days.

Then, you could create segments based on inactive and active subscribers and tailor your campaigns thereafter.

While open rates and click rates only measure the effectiveness of one campaign, open reach and click reach measure the long-term effectiveness of all your campaigns.

Another effective way of measuring long-term engagement is through your click-to-open rate (CTOR). Your CTOR is the percentage of subscribers who click through after opening your email. This metric can be used across different campaigns to determine the effectiveness of your CTA, your content, and so on.

Wrap up

There’s never just one simple solution or answer when it comes to email marketing.

It’s about experimenting with different tactics and figuring out what works best for your business.

However, I hope these best practices have given you some ideas and inspiration as to how you can optimize your email marketing efforts and increase engagement.


About the Author Rikke Berg Thomsen
This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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