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Email marketing remains one of the cheapest and most effective ways to bring in sales. During my career as a marketing manager, I’ve worked with a wide range of businesses from real estate companies to legal technology businesses, but the one digital marketing channel that I’ve always consistently used is email marketing

Similarly when I have been growing my own small business, I have always turned to email marketing because of its incredible reach.

In this article we explore 18 proven email marketing techniques which you can start implementing today to grow your subscriber list and improve engagement.

The Impact of A Great Email Marketing Strategy

Did you know that 99% of email users check their inbox every single day and there are nearly 4.37 billion email users worldwide? That’s a lot of people you could be marketing to on a daily or weekly basis!

An effective email marketing strategy can deliver huge benefits for your business, including:

  • Drive traffic to your website - Email marketing is a great way to increase traffic to your website and social media channels.
  • Build customer relationships - Email allows you to send highly relevant, personalized email content to potential customers.
  • Drive sales - Email can secure new customers for a fraction of the cost of paid advertising.
  • Gather invaluable data - Email marketing analytics tools provides real time information about how customers interact with your brand
  • Build a valuable asset - You own your email list and can monetize it how you choose, unlike social media or Youtube where you are reliant on other platforms for traffic. 

When executed right, layering other email marketing alternatives such as social media or paid media skyrockets your ROI.

Tips To Improve Your Email Marketing Campaigns

An email marketing strategy can only deliver the benefits we’ve talked about if it’s properly implemented, so read on to find 18 essential tips to include in your email marketing strategy

Ensure Recipients Opt In

Ensuring that your email subscribers opt in to your emails isn’t just best practice, it’s actually a legal requirement. In Europe there's the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a privacy law which dictates that consumers in the EU must know when their email addresses are being collected. In the US, we have the CAN-SPAM Act which also sets out rules for email marketing. While both these laws are open to interpretation the bottom line is that companies should not be emailing consumers against their will. 

If that doesn’t convince you, permission-based email lists have a 40x higher ROI than purchased or scraped email lists.

The best way to ensure recipients opt in, is to explicitly state what new subscribers are signing up to and to send them email confirmation when they are added to your email list. Double opt-ins result in more engaged lists as you avoid mistyped emails and subsequent bounced emails, and you get a more engaged list of subscribers. 

Segment Your Email List

Segmenting your email list means grouping your subscribers according to certain criteria such as their interests, purchasing behavior, source, and location etc. This is absolutely vital as you need segmented lists in order to send personalized emails (more on that below).

Segmenting your email list allows you to build stronger, more engaged relationships with your customers because you’ll only be sending them information that is relevant to them. For example, if you sell software then you could segment your email list to send a follow up email to customers that are coming towards the end of a free trial. According to Hubspot research, subscriber segmentation is the most effective strategy for email marketing campaigns.

Trigger Welcome Emails

Welcome emails generate 4x as many opens as other emails, so you could say it’s the most important email your business will send. If you’re a SaaS business rather than a bricks and mortar store it might also be one of the first interactions that a consumer has with your brand making it doubly important. 

Make sure you have an email automation in place so that new subscribers receive a welcome email immediately after signing up to your mailing list. It’s no use sending it out a few days later as they may have already forgotten who you are. It’s also a good idea to get your relationship off on the right foot by giving them a bonus - like a free trial for your service, a discount on their first month's subscription or a useful guide or case study. 

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Craft the Perfect Subject Line

On average we receive almost 320 emails a day. If you don’t have an enticing subject line, there’s a high chance that your email will disappear under the daily tide of emails filling our inboxes. When it comes to subject lines, keep it short, interesting and relevant for your subscriber. 

Think about your target demographic and the language they use. For example, if your subscribers are typically C-suite executives in B2B businesses then you should probably steer away from emojis! A lot of email software will enable you to add the recipient’s name into the subject line which can also help with open rates. 

Remember that CAN-SPAM Act we mentioned earlier - that also has rules about subject lines. It states that companies must avoid using misleading subject lines like “50% off new subscriptions” when there isn’t really a discount in the body of the email. Keep your subject lines honest and avoid lots of capitalisation and punctuation or your email could end up in spam. 

Nail the Email Preview Text

Don’t forget your email preview text - this is the brief bit of text (usually between 35 to 140 characters) which appears under your email subject line in the inbox. Sometimes your email provider will automatically display the first line of the email but all too often it will display clickable links or generic text like “how to read this email online”. 

Including interesting and engaging text here has been shown to increase click through rates - nearly a third of subscribers read the preview text before deciding whether or not to open an email. It’s also a good opportunity to include text you can’t fit in your title. For example if you're sending a promotional email, you could state how many days are left on the promotion to introduce scarcity. 

Personalize Messages

The ability to personalize is one of the main pros of email marketing - after all we all want businesses to treat us as individuals. In fact, personalized subject lines can result in 50% higher open rates.

With email marketing software, it’s now possible to personalize nearly every aspect of your email, including:

  • The types of email you send in the first place (e.g sending happy birthday messages)
  • What time you send them based on location
  • The subject line
  • The content you include (e.g. relevant promotions, products, and information)

Personalizing your emails will not only help build customer trust and loyalty but also reduce unsubscribe rates. 

Always Be Relevant

As with all your marketing efforts, it’s essential to keep your target audience in mind when creating your email marketing campaigns. Think about your subscribers - what matters to them? What problems do they need help with? What language do they use? 

Make sure that all the email content you create meets these requirements and that you send it in a timely manner. For example, it’s probably not a great idea to send out your new product promotion on thanksgiving!

As we’ve discussed, segmenting your audience will make this a whole lot easier as it will allow you to send emails personalized to your audience. The more relevant the emails, the more likely they are to be opened. 

Re-Engage Inactive Subscribers

If you’re not engaging with your inactive subscribers then you’re missing an easy win. Inactive customers are typically subscribers that haven’t engaged with your emails (e.g opened your emails) for a set amount of time. Sometimes all it takes to re-engage a dormant subscriber is a special discount or promotion code.

You could even ask inactive subscribers how you can help them and what they are looking for. This could start a dialogue and provide some invaluable feedback. 

Regularly Scrub Your List of Bots

You might think that trimming down your subscriber list is the last thing you want to do when you’re trying to grow it, but inactive subscribers, bots or duplicate accounts can actually be really damaging for your distribution list and email blast marketing campaigns.

If you have a lot of bots in your list, your email open rates and click rates can be skewed which will make it hard for you to accurately judge the success of your email campaigns. Inactive or duplicate accounts will reduce your open rate. 

If your email open rate starts to dip too low you could find email deliverability being affected as Gmail could start labeling your emails as spam. 

Use A/B Testing to Improve

A/B testing is a crucial to email campaign management and a way for marketers to test different aspects of their email campaigns to improve open rate and engagement. One common thing to split test is the email subject. As we’ve discussed, your email subject line can make the difference between your email getting opened and getting deleted. With A/B testing you can find the perfect subject line for your email.

You can also A/B split testing to compare imagery, email design, email copy, different promotions and lots more. 

If this sounds a little complicated, don’t worry, a lot of email software offer A/B testing so all you need to do is input your options and then start analyzing the results. 

Optimize for Mobile

70% of emails are opened on a mobile device, so it’s absolutely essential you optimize your emails for mobile. There are a few things you can do to make sure your emails are mobile-friendly:

  • Optimize your images
  • Make sure all the CTAs are easy to click on mobile
  • Make sure the text is easy to read - you might need to edit the font size, spacing and margins
  • Make sure pages load quickly on mobile.

Again, a lot of email software providers will enable you to view what your email will look like on desktop and mobile so you can check this before you press send.

Test Different Send Times

Timing plays a big part in your email open and conversion rates, both in terms of when you email a subscriber during their lifecycle and also what time/day of the week you email subscribers.

No matter how well you know your target audience, it’s essential to test timing. When I worked at a legal tech business, I had always assumed that Fridays were a bad day to email our subscribers as I thought everyone would be trying to get their work finished for the week. After looking at the email analytics, it turns out that our open rate was actually a lot higher on a Friday.

Using A/B testing you can try sending out your email campaigns at different times and days of the week and assess which timing gets the best open rate. You need to monitor your email analytics (more on that below) and pay attention to which emails get the best and worst conversion. Using this data, you can edit your email flows until you find the perfect format. 

Don’t Hide the ‘Unsubscribe’ Button

As we’ve mentioned, you don’t want your subscriber list to be full of inactive or dormant email accounts. Making it hard for people to unsubscribe could impact the health of your subscriber list, driving down click through rates and overall deliverability.

It’s not just email marketing best practice either. One of the requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act is that you make it easy for subscribers to unsubscribe. 

Don’t try to hide your unsubscribe link - make sure it is clearly visible at the end of your email. You could also give subscribers the chance to update email preferences - it might be that a subscriber still wants to stay on your list but would prefer to hear from you on a monthly basis rather than every week. 

Reward Your Readers

Once you’ve got a reader to open your email, you need to reward them so that they continue to open your future emails. That starts with the welcome email where you need to hook your new subscribers with a lead magnet such as a guide, free download or promotion.

But it doesn’t stop there, every time you create a new email for your subscribers, you need to consider what they get in return for opening your email. It doesn’t necessarily have to be discounts, it could be some really useful information or data that they couldn’t get elsewhere. 

For example, if you sell design software then you could include helpful design tips in your emails. 

Include a Call-To-Action (CTA)

Every email you send should have a Call to Action (CTA). Examples of CTAs include:

  • Following you on social media
  • Downloading a guide or free tool from a landing page on your website
  • Viewing a promotion or discount
  • Registering for a webinar or event

CTAs are a chance to build a relationship with your subscribers by offering them something useful while also highlighting your product offering. CTAs also provide really useful data in the form of click through rates which you can use to improve your emails. Don’t forget to make sure your CTA is easy to find and displays properly on mobile devices. 

Use a Real Reply Email Address

How many times have you gone to respond to an email, only to find that it’s a no-reply email. Annoying isn’t it?! Making it easy for subscribers to respond to emails is really important for building trust in your brand - it helps subscribers feel like they are communicating with a real person rather than faceless organization. 

It also helps improve your deliverability rate as email service providers are less likely to send your emails to the spam folder.

If you need to use a different email for responses, you must make sure that you make it very clear in your email how subscribers can get in touch with you. 

Use Automation to Your Advantage

Email automation is an absolute lifesaver, particularly if you're marketing a small business. Nowadays there is no need to send out individual emails multiple times a day. Instead you can use email software like MailChimp or Convertkit to create email templates and automations - email sequences that are sent automatically when your subscribers perform a certain action. 

For example, you can automate your welcome email so that it goes out as soon as someone joins your list via your website. You could set up re-engagement emails so that you automatically email subscribers who haven't opened an email from you for a month with a special offer. 

I even automate my weekly email newsletter which goes out to subscribers of my candle ecommerce business. I spend a couple of hours a month creating emails for the newsletter and then schedule them to go out weekly at a suitable time for my subscribers. 

Track Everything with Email Software

Tracking the success of your emails is vital. Using email software you can analyze important email analytics which will tell you what’s working with your email campaigns and what needs improving. Some email metrics I monitor include:

  • Email open rates
  • Click through rates
  • Bounce rates
  • Unsubscribe rates 

I look at the data on a monthly basis and then make tweaks to emails or automations that aren’t performing well. Email software also makes it easy for you to carry out A/B testing so you can keep improving your metrics.  

Have a look at the average open rates for your industry so you can benchmark your progress. For example, the average open rate for the software industry is 21%.

Get Started

While that might sound like a lot of email marketing tips, they’re actually pretty simple and quick to implement, particularly if you use an effective email marketing tool. So start putting these techniques into practice and you could start growing your email list today. 

If you’re looking for more ways to improve engagement with your email subscribers then check out our 5 effective email marketing strategies that increase engagement.

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Clare Gilbey
By Clare Gilbey

Clare Gilbey is a London, UK-based senior marketing manager, consultant, and the founder of ecommerce brand Chakra Practice, which is focused on teaching people how to practice mindfulness and meditation through Chakra related techniques. Clare is a graduate of Newcastle University and has extensive experience in the legal sector.