15 ways to improve your email marketing campaigns

Email marketing pros share their top tips on how to craft emails that will get opened and acted upon.

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“Each email you send out should have a stated and clear purpose, whether you want your subscribers to purchase, learn more or sign up,” says Vandenberg. “Don’t beat around the bush. Placing a bold call to action, say a button or graphic, in a prominent spot above the fold can generate more clicks and engagement than a simple ‘Click Here’ embedded in the text at the end of your message. The less scrolling and searching your subscribers need to do, the easier it will be for them to engage with you.”

8. Keep the preview pane in mind. “Remember, most recipients will view your email through a preview pane with the images blocked,” says Malayna Evans, vice president, marketing & business development, PWR New Media. “So make sure key information and calls to action are above the fold (the upper left quadrant in email) and visible even when images are blocked. Most recipients will glance quickly at the preview pane, the from line and the subject line (and pre-header if they’re on mobile) and decide whether or not to open your email based on those elements.”

9. Optimize your pre-header text. “According to Litmus, mobile opens represent 55 percent of all email opens; this makes pre-headers even more critical to improving response rates,” says Pam McAtee, senior vice president, digital solutions, Epsilon, a global marketing company. “Ensure your pre-header text supports your subject line and provides another reason to open the email by leading with an offer when relevant and using personalization and urgency (i.e., ‘ends soon’ or ‘expires tonight’) to engage the subscriber and drive your open rate.”

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10. Be succinct – giving readers an option to read or learn more. “If you have a lot of content to share, consider including teasers for each section and then a ‘read more’ link to the full copy,” says Malivuk. “This will help you avoid forcing readers to scroll past one huge section of content to get to the other secondary pieces of content. This is especially [important] for mobile, where content tends to get stacked vertically [and] you risk a reader browsing the first topic, not connecting with it and then [deleting] the email instead of continuing on down to other content.”

11. Find out the best time of day to reach your target audience(s). “Don’t assume that all businesspeople will respond between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays,” says Nancy Gerstein, CEO, Creative Marketing Associates. “For an email campaign directed [at] attorneys, [for example,] we discovered a much higher open rate between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. After 9, a.m., we could see a significant drop off in the open rate.”

“When scheduling your emails, consider the time zone of those in your database,” says Jake Diserio, digital marketing manager, etouches, a provider of global event management software. “It is a good idea to segment your send times so that each area gets their message at optimal open times. We segment our sends by North America, APAC and EMEA regions, and have seen higher open rates when APAC gets their message in the morning versus North America, [which] prefers the afternoon.”

12. Allow customers to manage their email subscriptions. “One easy solution to reduce your list attrition rates comes in the form of a preference center,” says Shelly Alvarez, director of client services at PostUp, an email marketing company. “A preference center is a landing page on your brand’s website that allows your subscribers to change their email preferences [or unsubscribe].  Leverage your preference center and use verbiage [such] as ‘We understand your needs change. Would you like to receive emails from us less frequently?’ Then allow subscribers to select the frequency they would like to receive emails from you.”

13. Track your emails. “Use UTM codes so you can track post-click visitor engagement,” says Tara Chambers, director of marketing communications, Scott’s Marketplace, an ecommerce platform for local businesses to sell products. “Some email service providers generate these automatically, but if not, take the time to add them to every link in an email. Having consistent UTM codes in place allows you to see if your subscribers are converting, what pages they’re visiting or if they bounce immediately.” 

14. Constantly test. “Email marketers need to test everything, including subject lines, featured content, creative and send times,” says Meghann York, director of product marketing, Salesforce Marketing Cloud. “For example, one of our customers, Loxa Beauty, was trying to adapt its email content to appeal to a younger audience, so it used A/B testing to determine what resonated with that audience. Through A/B testing content and send times, the company found its customers were in buying mode Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, but engaged with content most on Sundays – critical information that helped it increase open rates.”

Just remember when conducting A/B testing to “keep your variations subtle so that you can determine what any difference in open rates, click-throughs or conversions is attributed to,” says Malivuk. “Want to boost open rates? Test the same email with two different subject lines. Click-through rates? Use the same email, but change only the button positioning for your CTA. By constantly testing, you put yourself on a path to data-driven, constant improvement in your marketing efforts.”

15. Regularly update and cleanse your email list. “Remember to keep your recipient list as clean as possible,” says Victor Amin, a data scientist at SendGrid, a cloud-based email delivery platform. “Well-maintained lists consistently have higher engagement rates than older, neglected lists. Make sure you’re removing addresses that haven’t been engaged in a long time and segment your list by engagement.”

“Up to 40 percent of your subscribers are inactive,” says Macdonald. “Sending email marketing campaigns to subscribers that do not open or read your emails can negatively impact email delivery rates. Simply remove subscribers who haven't opened up an email within the last 12 months and instead focus on the subscribers that do engage with your campaigns.”

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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