Resources Hub » Blog » 5 Strategies for Solving Low Email Marketing Engagement Rates

This is a guest post from Megan Wright at

Today’s marketers have access to a huge number of email marketing tools, making it easier than ever before to connect with subscribers where it matters most: in their inboxes.

But just because it’s easy to send marketing emails doesn’t mean that it’s easy to do email marketing well. Nearly every marketer out there can recall at least one message they expected to perform well that ended up falling flat with recipients.

Solving low email marketing engagement rates is critical for improving overall campaign performance. To get to the bottom of any issues that are impairing your engagement, you’ve got to start thinking like an email marketing detective. Here’s how to do it:

Strategy #1: Change your engagement approach.

When we start talking about low email marketing engagement rates, it’s easy to point to factors such as weak subject lines or the lack of a clear CTA. And we’ll get to these and other issues later on in this article, but you’ve got bigger fish to fry first.

One of the biggest drivers behind lackluster email engagement rates is an erratic (or nonexistent) engagement approach. Here’s how it happens:

You convince subscribers to opt into your email list and then you send them a handful of messages. But then…you go dark. You get busy, and sending more messages simply falls off your to-do list (or never makes it there in the first place).

Change your engagement approach to combat low email marketing engagement rates. Realtime does this well by checking in with their subscribers, as this email example shows.

Source: Really Good Emails

Start by creating a welcome series of emails that are sent out at a reasonable frequency. For example, you could create a welcome sequence where the recipient receives a welcome email as soon as they opt into your subscriber list and then receives 5 informational emails spread out over the next 3-5 weeks.

You can get even more technical and create different automation paths based on the subscriber’s behaviors. If they engage with a piece of content you email them about a particular subject, you may want to start sending them more content on that subject.

If you aren’t investing in building a relationship with your subscribers, they aren’t going to engage. Period.

Instead, put some thought into how and when you’ll engage with the people who trust you with their contact info. Test different send frequencies and the lengths of your individual email sequences. Boosting engagement may be as simple as making more of an effort to connect regularly.

Strategy #2: Get personal.

“Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened.” That’s huge, but it’s not surprising.

Think about the way you engage with your own emails. How likely are you to open a message that doesn’t feel relevant or that doesn’t appear to be tailored to your needs? That’s what makes personalization so powerful.

But, although many marketers hear the word “personalization” and think of slapping recipients’ names into the subject lines of the emails that go out to them, true personalization can be a lot more sophisticated.

A few strategies in particular you may want to test—depending on the capabilities of your email marketing platform—include:

  • Incorporating other personal details into subject lines (such as recipients’ employer name, business name, or city name)
  • Sending targeted offers built around buyer personas, geographic areas, or past purchase behavior
  • Optimizing CTAs and message content to recipients’ lifecycle stage
  • Sending targeted messages prompted by particular engagement patterns on your company’s website

The key to effective personalization is having a strong understanding of who you’re mailing to and what types of messages are most likely to resonate with them.

Segment your subscribers based on the data you already know about them. For example, a high-end online watch retailer may want to send different messages to different customers based on things like how much they spend annually or the brands they like the most.

This level of personalization makes the recipient feel like you actually care about what they like.

If you aren’t clear how they’re likely to view your company and its messaging, revisit your most recent SWOT analysis (or conduct one in the first place) to develop email content that’s likely to connect.

Strategy #3: Use a data-driven testing process.

A/B split testing may be a commonly used marketing practice, but, if it isn’t done correctly, the results it generates won’t be as impactful as possible. In fact, they may even be harmful.

Applying split testing to email marketing campaigns requires that several factors be in place:

  • A hypothesis for the outcome you expect to see
  • An understanding of the components that have the greatest influence on whether or not emails are opened
  • A valid testing process that results in statistical significance

Here’s why these factors matter: If you aren’t working from a sound hypothesis, you’re effectively testing at random.

That effect is amplified if you don’t understand which components drive email open rates, as you’re testing blindly without this understanding.

Finally, if you aren’t monitoring for statistical significance, you can’t be confident that any results you do see—relevant or not—are likely to be replicable in your future email campaigns.

SuperOffice contributor Steven MacDonald suggests that sender name and subject line are the two most important components that get an email opened and read.

Working from that hypothesis, you might decide to focus your testing on these two components before testing other elements of your messaging.

If your tests don’t produce statistically significant results, you can go back to the starting board, choose a new hypothesis, and create a testing protocol that either proves or disproves it.

Strategy #4: Minimize compatibility Issues

Certainly, the quality of your marketing emails is important. But, even if you test your way to the best possible messages for your subscribers, they won’t receive them if you run into compatibility issues on your end.

Your email marketing platform provider should be able to offer guidance on steps you can take to ensure your emails are being delivered as promised. Follow their tips, but do your own due diligence as well.

If you’re sending messages full of HTML images or emails built on templates that display poorly on mobile devices, compatibility issues could prevent your recipients from ever seeing the messages you’ve spent so much time crafting.

Strategy #5: Go with your gut.

Before sending every email, ask yourself, “Would I be happy receiving this message?”

When you’re putting a marketing email together, it can be easy to get caught up in fancy language or fun design tricks.

But, at the end of the day, is your message providing real value to your subscribers? Is the offer it’s making compelling? Does it feel appropriate for the relationship you actually have with your subscribers (versus the one you wish you had)?

Wrap up

If you can’t honestly say that you’d be pleased to see the message in your inbox, iterate instead of sending. A single inappropriate or ill-considered message can destroy a carefully built relationship in an instant.

Hold every message to these quality standards, and your low email marketing engagement rates will quickly become a thing of the past.

Megan Wright is the Chief Editor for As a small business expert, Megan specializes in reporting the latest business news, helpful tips, and reliable resources, as well as providing small business advice.

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