key takeaways | decoding email marketing
It’s very rare for one email to be appropriate for your entire list. Segment the hell out of your list, and focus on sending highly-personalized content.
Numbers aren’t everything. Go for quality over quantity while building your list, and give people a clear pathway to opt out if they aren’t interested in your content.
Experiment with emoji use in your subject lines or preview text, and see how that impacts your open rates. A/B testing is a great strategy to test subject lines, emoji use, and varying tones.
Alright, let’s cut to the chase—nobody likes getting marketing emails. All you wanted to do was shop for cute dog toys to keep your puppy entertained, and now you’re getting 17 emails a day with “Buy Now!!!” and “You’ll Never See This Deal Again!!!” subject lines that are making you crazy.
No wonder why people get fed up and give most emails the trash-bin treatment…
Of course, the stats don’t lie. Hubspot reports a $36 return for every $1 spent on email marketing, and we’ve generated huge revenue through email marketing—both for ourselves, and for our clients. (Wanna see what we’re sending? Sign-up for our email list here. Okay, shameless self-promotion, done…)
How can you provide value and keep your audience engaged with your business’s marketing emails? Below, we’ve broken down the essential strategies you need to be using to prevent your emails from meeting an untimely demise.
What Makes Email Marketing Effective?
There are two key components that can make-or-break your email marketing strategy: personalization, and the quality of your content.
Personalization is key
Let’s be real—nobody likes generic crap. Your audience isn’t a faceless crowd; they’re individuals with distinct preferences. Personalization isn’t about sprinkling in a first name here and there; it’s about hitting them when and where it counts. It’s rare for any one email to be appropriate for your entire email list. Make sure to segment the hell out of your email list—client or lead, or referral partner, or tag members based on product preferences, personal interests, purchase history, or industry—so you can craft emails that are sure to resonate with recipients. Beyond personalizing your targeting, get personal with your content. Sharing anecdotes from your own experiences, trials and tribulations can add a personal touch (and give people a much-needed break from all the AI-generated garbage being pushed out via email these days).
You’re not writing a Shakespearean play; you’re sending an email. Keep your content tight, relevant, and straight to the point. Remember that your audience’s inbox is constantly being filled with appointment reminders, letters from their kids’ school principal, and bank notifications about bills that need to be paid—no one’s got time to read an epic novel in their inbox. The rule of thumb is to keep your emails under 250 words, and, actually, studies show that 50–125 words is the real sweet spot.
You should also make your content easy to skim by using bullet points, and draw attention to your call-to-action through the use of color and layout. And—not to keep harping on personalization—but a well-placed anecdote could be the spice that makes your message memorable. Just don’t overdo it.
Best Practices for Email Marketing
Make sure you’re employing sound email practices in order to generate the best possible results. We suggest starting with these five tips:
Build a Quality Subscriber List
Quality over quantity is the name of the game. Develop a list of subscribers genuinely interested in your content. Don’t worry if your newsletter is only going out to 100 core audience members—if they’re reading and engaging, then they’re more valuable than a 100,000 member list where no one reads or engages!
It’s also important to make it easy for members to unsubscribe. Don’t make them solve riddles to opt out of your email list. If they don’t want to hear from you, say sayonara and good riddance…and focus your time, energy, and marketing budget on the folks who DO want to hear from you.
Segmentation and Targeting
Think of your audience like a diverse community. While you may think one email will resonate with everyone, sometimes it’s best to spend time writing for a few different sets of people. You’ll want to send different content to clients than leads, or to someone who works in the legal services industry versus someone who works in mental health, or to someone whose goal is weight loss versus someone else who is more interested in athletic performance. Tailor your content to each unique segment to ensure relevancy and resonance.
No need for complex theories: A/B testing is your friend. Send two versions of the exact same email (minus whatever element you are testing, i.e. subject line, imagery, tone, broadcast date or time, etc.) to halves of your list, and learn from the results. It’s about refining your approach, not reinventing the wheel.
We live in a mobile world; your emails should reflect that reality. People will scroll down; they won’t scroll sideways. If your email looks wonky on a smartphone, you’ve already missed the mark and caused frustration. Optimize for mobile to ensure your message doesn’t get the trash can treatment.
Provide Clear Opt-Out Options
Respect your audience’s choices, and follow email standards. While it seems counter-intuitive, including an easy opt-out ensures a transparent and positive user experience, and will reward you in the long run. If someone unsubscribes easily and without hassle, they’ll remember that interaction with your brand.
Avoiding the Trash Folder
Before email marketing, there was direct marketing, and we used to joke that 90% of direct mailers were “round filed,” i.e. tossed in the garbage can. With the right strategy, you can prevent your emails from meeting the same doomed fate.
Ensure Optimal Deliverability
Treat your email list with care. Ensure that your email domain is set up correctly and verified to avoid spam filters. Remove inactive subscribers. And always maintain a positive sender reputation so that nobody sees your email come in and groans, “Oh, I gotta unsubscribe from that.” It’s about being a respectful host rather than an uninvited guest.
Craft Engaging Subject Lines
Your subject line is your first impression. Craft it to be sharp, intriguing, and relevant. Use an emoji to lighten the mood or give context. You want your audience to open the door, not slam it shut.
Find the right email cadence for your audience
Contrary to popular belief, there is no hard-and-fast rule about how often to send emails. It’s purely based on your goals, your audience, and how valuable your email content is. The majority of marketers send a weekly email, or even just several emails per month, and then reduce that cadence for less-engaged subscribers. The truth is, if your list is well-segmented, you’re doing a killer job of personalizing your email content, and you are only sending emails when you have something truly valuable to say…then email cadence shouldn’t be your biggest consideration. However, if you are seeing a higher-than-usual rate of unsubscribes—higher than the average rate of .26% per email—then you might want to reconsider your cadence, try something bold in your subject lines, or just work on developing more powerful content.
What We’re Really Trying to Say Is…
In the ever-evolving world of digital communication, mastering email marketing requires a blend of authenticity, relevance, and adaptability. Your emails should be more than just messages; they should be meaningful interactions that resonate with your audience. Craft messages that not only make it to inboxes but also leave a positive impact. As you navigate the email marketing landscape, let the focus be on building connections, delivering value, and ensuring your audience looks forward to what you have to say. Here’s to creating email campaigns that don’t just survive, but thrive in the cluttered space of digital communication.
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