It’s been my experience that email marketing either works incredibly well or falls completely flat. There are industries that are predisposed to excel in email marketing — like retailers. But if you’re not offering a coupon code or reminding people about a sale, how do you create emails that people open, read and remember?


Laying the Foundation for Email Marketing

There’s a lot of little things you can do to stick in the minds of your readers, but first laying a foundation is crucial for success.


1. build an engaged email list.

You want your email list to be filled with real people. Buying email addresses can be helpful, only if the addresses are active and connected to customers that are likely to need or want your product. It’s a tiresome process to build a strong list, but it can be a very effective tool for getting the word out about your company.


2. set goals for conversions.

Email open and click-through rates can be discouragingly low, so it’s important to orient yourself with industry standards. For retailers, their emails are opened by about 25% of people who receive their emails. However, only 5.75% of those people click through the email to a web page or link. This tends to be on the high end of the spectrum when it comes to email marketing. So when you set goals for your open rates, be reasonable. Set your target based on your list size, list quality, and industry.


Email Marketing Tips

Once the fundamentals are in place, creating strong and enticing content is the name of the game. Here are a few tips for constructing an email worthy of opening.


1. your subject line matters.

Subject lines can make or break an email’s success. From a technological standpoint, if your email is coming from an address that is not in the receiver’s contact list, a coherent subject line alerts the email host to whether your message is spam. Words like “FREE” or “SALE” tend to be filtered out by systems with high-spam thresholds. Subject lines written in fragments or with improper capitalization, punctuation or grammar will also be filtered out. Your email can’t be read if it’s not received.

Another subject line tip is to use emojis. Aside from the visual discrepancy it provides in an inbox, data shows emails with emojis are more likely to be opened. Check out our blog about the power of emojis to learn more.


2. personalization is standard.

With so many automated email marketing tools available, it is easy to personalize your emails. This goes back to the ability to build a sound list. You list should include first and last names, preferred names and even regional information. Being able to directly address the consumer builds authority and establishes intimacy customers expect.


3. segment your audience.

If you’re sending out an email with a singular message, it can be tempting to send a bulk email to your entire list, but separating your lists into groups based on previous purchases, likeliness to open the email, age, gender or region can give you the flexibility to craft a message that a particular customer would respond to. While your end goal may be the same for each customer, overlooking the truth that demographics respond differently is a big mistake.

In addition to targeting specific customers, dividing your list into subsections can give you important messaging data. Trying different subject lines or images can help you determine how to construct emails in the future. This A-B testing costs nothing and can provide valuable information about your audience.


4. use images wisely.

While most people today have updated their email settings to automatically download images, it’s important to consider how your email would be perceived if the images didn’t download. There’s nothing you can really do to effect users settings, but using images to support your text information is key. If you use text graphics with important information on them, be sure to reiterate it in the copy. You’d hate to create a beautiful graphic with the date and time of your important meeting, only for the image not to download and the recipient to miss all of the information.

However, it is also important to balance the impact visuals can have. A large, clear and pertinent image at the top of an email can invite your customers to scroll down. Scrolling down invites them to click, and clicking asks them to buy. As with any digital marketing, beautiful or engaging images are worth a thousand words.

(Bonus tip: consider using gifs or video that automatically play when the recipient opens the message!)


5. adapt your content.

Most of your recipients will be receiving your email on their phone, even though you’re designing it on a desktop. Just like your website or social media, be sure that your email is constructed in a way that adapts seamlessly. This means paying special attention to what populates the first screen in mobile version. Is the image too big? Is the title visible? When emails are shrunk down for mobile, the formatting can get a little wonky, so it’s important to anticipate this and adjust accordingly. Look at line spacing, and notice where words are shifted to a new line, how captions appear or how your footer realigns. All of those components can vary between devices. Ignoring this attention to detail can send a message that you’re not a progressive company, you don’t care, or you’re just technologically behind. Even worse— it distracts from the message you’re trying to send.


6. give your audience something they can’t get anywhere else.

A big misconception about email is that they are vehicles to reuse content–That they reiterate a point made on social media or on your website. I’d challenge you to think about how you can create unique content that solely lives in that email. The last thing you want to do is create an email with content that your audience has already seen. Maybe you post an interview with your president on your website, but provide “bonus material” in an email. This does two things: engages users who watched the original interview to see more, and invites those who missed it to go back to your website. Win-win.


7. listen

Are there topics that garner especially high or low open rates? What buzz words does your audience clammer around? Take note and use that data going forward. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, so mix up your email game and then sit back and listen to your audience.


in summary:

Email marketing can be discouraging, but approaching it as trial and error, and collecting data for the future is in itself a valuable tool. Even an email that isn’t quite a slam dunk can provide pertinent insight for moving forward. Happy emailing!