These strategies will keep your marketing emails where they belong: in inboxes, not the junk folder.
Here, you’ll find:
- Why email marketing deserves extra attention
- Ways to improve your email marketing strategies
- Simple tweaks that can make a big difference
- Common email mistakes to avoid
With the right approach, email marketing can achieve a 4,200% ROI (yes, you read that right).
But you won’t get anywhere near these results if people aren’t opening your emails.
We get it: Most people are inundated with emails daily, from work and newsletters related to interests and hobbies to deals from brands, or all of the above and more.
That’s why it’s as important as ever to make sure that what you’re sending has earned its place in each inbox.
Email is one of the oldest digital marketing methods around, but that doesn’t mean it’s outdated. In fact, a well-designed email in your customer’s mailbox can do wonders for your conversion and retention strategies.
The power of email marketing
Email marketing has been around since 1978 when Gary Thuerk sent a promotional message to 400 recipients via ARPANET (a pre-internet server).
While this is also considered the first instance of email spam, he claims it brought his company $13 million — along with, admittedly, its fair share of complaints.
Email marketing has come a long way since then. Consumers have become more well-versed in telling a worthy email apart from a sales-y, self-serving message — and so have email service providers.
The power of email marketing is still going strong:
- 68% of millennials prefer messages from companies to come via email
- 99% of consumers check their email every day
- Email has a more than 90% penetration rate among U.S. internet users (comparatively, only 69% of U.S.-based adults are on Facebook)
These days, email marketing experts have to stay on top of the latest strategies to achieve a high open rate and avoid the spam folder. Read on to find out how they do it.
1. Keep your email list clean
Gathering email addresses is time-consuming, tedious work. That’s why each address you’ve obtained seems priceless. Unfortunately, with time, some of these addresses are no longer functional.
Reasons for email addresses to become invalid vary, but they include:
- People switching jobs or positions
- Changing last names or company names (such as after an acquisition)
- Switching to new email service providers
- Accidental or intentional typos made while filling out contact forms
To make sure your emails don’t end up in the void while upping your bounce rate, keep your list fresh. You can remove subscribers who haven’t been engaged by your campaign for over six months or after you run a re-engagement campaign.
You can also take advantage of email list validation programs. And, of course, you should remove people who have unsubscribed from your email list.
2. Make the sender a person
Sending emails from a company address, such as [email protected], makes them appear official. However, recipients are more likely to open emails written by a regular person. (Plus, an email from a company is more likely to be marked as advertising by filters.)
Consider sending messages from an email address with a name, like [email protected], instead. This address doesn’t have to be the actual sender.
If you’re in charge of email marketing for your company, get with your CEO or head of your department to see if you can ghost-send the email as him or her to bring your message more authority.
Otherwise, if you’re cool with sending it from yourself, you can still consider creating a specific address just for email marketing missives so your primary work email isn’t flooded with bounce-backs or out-of-office auto-replies.
3. Focus on recipient segmentation
One of the reasons why emails end up in the spam folder before being opened is the lack of relevance. That’s where segmentation comes in. Make sure you segment your target audience to personalize the offering as much as possible.
You can choose to segment by:
- Purchasing behavior
- Business type
- Stage in the marketing funnel
- Website activity
- Engagement level
- Time with the company
Depending on your industry and the email platform you use, you can create marketing emails with content that will change depending on the recipient. (In HubSpot, which we use to send our monthly HawkTalk newsletter, these are called rich text modules.)
This way, you can make sure the content you’re sending out is relevant to each of your audience types.
Pro tip: Apple’s iOS 15 upgrade includes the option to activate “Mail Privacy Protection.” This could potentially cause all of a person’s emails to be marked “opened” on mobile, whether or not they actually were, affecting open-rate metrics. It might be wise to adjust your current goals and leverage UTM parameters while paying attention to other email-related data to get a clear picture of performance.
4. Consider Fridays
A lot has been said about choosing the right day to send emails. Studies from years past suggested Tuesdays were the best days to send company missives. However, with so many organizations following suit, it seems there’s been a shift.
According to a recent study conducted by Campaign Monitor, emails sent on Fridays show the highest open and click-through rates. Tuesdays now appear to have the lowest click-to-open rates.
Each company may have its own optimal open-rate day. Find yours by conducting some A/B testing so you can analyze your email marketing metrics and see which day or days work best for you.
Pro tip: Don’t be concerned if the day you send your email is also the day you see the highest unsubscribe rates. This is understandable, since the more emails people open, the more chances they get to unsubscribe.
5. Experiment with subject lines
The subject line is one of the most important make-or-break factors when it comes to the success of your marketing email’s open rate.
It’s your chance to make a first impression, catch the recipient’s eye, and make them want to click through.
HubSpot explains the best subject lines possess elements like:
- Relevance and timeliness
- Name recognition
- Cool stories
No matter how much you work on the technical aspect of your email marketing strategy, it’s what you write in the email that matters the most — and that includes your subject line.
Don’t be afraid to have fun with your subject line. Be funny, be bold, be witty, as long as it’s aligned with your brand voice and tone.
Some examples of creative subject lines include:
- Capitalize on the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out): “You’ll never guess what we put on sale.”
- Entice curiosity: “Facts about the Christmas season you’ve probably never heard of.”
- Take advantage of numbers: “10 ways you can earn $10 this week with cashback rewards.”
- Use vanity: “Our new smartwatch design is as stylish as you.”
- Address pain points: “Tired of dealing with razor burn?”
- Personalize your message: “Annie, look what we’ve got in store for you.”
6. Don’t buy email lists
Buying a list of email addresses can be tempting. Sadly, it’s also inefficient, not to mention in violation of the rules of consent under GDPR. These lists are far from being clean, and they usually contain many invalid addresses, or worse, spam traps.
Any list you didn’t create yourself is a ticking time bomb. Most likely, it’ll only serve to reduce your open rate while ruining your IP and domain reputation. Much like black-hat SEO techniques, this trick seems too good to be true… because it is.
Need more help with your email marketing strategy? Let’s chat.
7. Avoid spam filters
Spam filters are becoming more and more sophisticated each year. Sometimes, they turn overzealous and can catch authentic, high-quality emails in their nets.
Luckily, there are ways you can avoid getting your emails caught in the spam filter:
- Use a personal or brand name to be recognized by the recipient
- Use a reliable email service provider, which is registered at SenderBase
- Study the CAN-SPAM Act and follow it
- Avoid all-caps subject lines
- Limit the number of links
- Limit the number of graphics (spam filters may view numerous graphics as adult content)
- Don’t use exclamation points in the subject line
- Avoid embedding forms in the body of your email
- Don’t include attachments
- Avoid spam trigger words (like “earn,” “cheap,” and “free”)
- Avoid keyword stuffing
8. Adjust messages for mobile devices
Your message should look just as perfect on any mobile gadget as it does on a desktop. This is one reason why your subject line shouldn’t be too lengthy.
You should also do a quality check to ensure your email is rendering properly on mobile (many email platforms will let you do this before sending.) With 74% of smartphone owners using their gadgets to check email, you need to cater to their needs.
9. Be strategic about email frequency
You may be excited about your brand-new email campaign. But just like applying hair gel or salting food, you don’t want to overdo it.
Sending too many emails could result in email list fatigue and unsubscribes. To achieve higher open rates, try not to send more than two emails per week, maximum.
For a content roundup or newsletter, biweekly or monthly will often suffice. Again, it’s about the value you’re providing your readers at the end of the day — not your open rate.
Email marketing is a powerful strategy. But, no matter how well you design your emails, they don’t work unless they get read.
That’s where the above tactics come in. By taking full advantage of these tips, you can increase your email open rate and add serious power to your digital marketing campaign.
This article has been updated and was originally published in June 2020.