7 Ways to Make Your Email Marketing Better


With the increased adoption of social media, email may seem to have taken a back seat in content marketing strategies within companies. On the contrary, email marketing has shown to have almost two times the return as other channels. So how do you make sure you’re capitalizing on a valuable part of your strategy?

1. Plan your content

If your business is a content marketing machine and you’re churning out white papers, webinars and blogs every week, content might not be your biggest worry. It does, however, need to be planned out strategically.

Create a list of content you’ve produced recently. It’s much easier to develop a newsletter based on existing content, than scrambling to develop ideas after you’ve committed. Narrow it to what is going to be the most engaging and valuable to your audience(s).

2. It’s all about the subject line

  • Your subject line will be the first thing your audience sees after they see who the email is from, so don't take it lightly. Readers won’t see your amazing design or the valuable content you’ve put together until they’re interested in the subject line and open the email. Hint: people will click on content if you’re solving a problem they have.

  • There’s been a lot of research done into how subject lines affect open and click-through rates. MailerMailer surveyed over 1.4 billion messages in 2013 and found that subject lines between 4-15 characters had the highest click and open rates (2.6% and 15.8%, respectively). An example of this success was Barack Obama’s re-election email campaign that started with the subject line “Hey”. The campaign later said that specific email had been the most successful subject line over the duration of the campaign.

  • Asking a question brings attention to your subject line because it’s not a widely used tactic, but make sure that you make it relevant to both your audience and the content of your newsletter.

3. You don’t need to be on a first name basis with everyone

Personalization in emails, i.e. “Jessica, discover what influencers read”, has produced a decline in open rates and click-through rates in recent years. Instead of personalization, try localization. If you’re email list is scattered throughout the country, consider segmenting your list by location and including a city or region name in your subject line to improve open and click-through rates. You’ll still get attention without readers wondering how you know their first name. 

4. Test your inbox

When you’re talking about email marketing, there might not be a more important aspect than testing. Email clients (desktop and mobile) are going to show the designs slightly differently, and while it might look great in Gmail, it might look terrible in Outlook.  Tools like Litmus are a great way to preview your emails, as well as test out plain text versions and subject line optimization.

5. Sending times

The ideal time and day of the week to send emails has also been the subject of a lot of research. The best rule is to test and refine as you get results. However, there are several guidelines that have shown to be statistically relevant. When choosing a day to send, Monday and Tuesday both provide solid open rates, with the average being 10.7%. Click rates were the highest throughout the year for Tuesday and Sunday ranging between 2.1% and 2.6%.

When choosing a time to send, there are different schools of thought, but generally early morning and after work hours do the best in terms of click and open rates. MailerMailer found that emails between midnight and 8 am had open rates between 11.6% and 20.4% with lower rates during 5 - 6 am and later in the morning (9 am - noon).

6. Refine

After you’ve sent your email, you’re going to want to check the results. Each year Silverpop produces their Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study, below are some common metrics that we find helpful in benchmarking and seeing how our emails have performed.

  • Open Rate - The average open rate for emails in the U.S is 18.9%. Industry open rates fluctuate between 16.4% (media & publishing) and 26.2% (education).
  • Click-Through Rate - The average across industries is 3.3%
  • Unsubscribe Rate - 0.25%

For more in-depth information, check out the study in its entirety here (PDF).

7. A/B test to get more information

A/B testing is the process of creating two copies of, in this case, emails, and only changing one variable at a time. Variables include your subject line, layout, calls to action, copy and your content. When you’re choosing your variable, think about what you want to improve upon. Do you have a steady open rate, but your conversion rate is lower than expected? Try testing out your calls to action.

If you have the ability to track different links within your email, you can watch the click-through rates to determine which content is doing better, which can help you create and send out the most valuable content.

When you test, it’s important to only change one variable at a time and make sure that you’re testing all variations simultaneously. If you changed your subject line and the content and sent it at different times, it’d be hard to attribute success to one variable or the other.

Additional resources:

  • If you’re just starting out and are looking for some design inspiration, check out HTML Email Gallery.
  • If you’re having trouble with coding a responsive email template (and responsive is the way to go), check out James’ blog.

Banner image courtesy of Flickr user Kevin Fitz