There are lots of hot takes out there that email is all but dead with the rise of messaging apps like Slack, the pervasiveness of social media integration, and the ever-shortening feedback loop that our digital lives are built on. Chances are though, you’re reading this because I sent you an email and enticed you over here. So, voila.

Email is very much alive, and a great channel for communicating with customers. Good, valuable content, packaged in a timely, relevant email, sent to a specific group with specific wants and needs — it’s a powerful tool for nurturing leads and boosting conversions. Easy enough, let’s dig in and look at how to put email marketing to work.

Google’s Gmail service has 1B users worldwide. Some smart folks believe that nearly half the world’s population (3B) will be using email by 2020.

Communication, schmommunication

With that out of the way, some tips for building that email marketing muscle:

1) Send emails to lists that want to hear from you.
Do your subscribers a solid: don’t pack their inbox with junk they aren’t reading. Email lists with low engagement activity can actually hurt your domain reputation and impact your chances of connecting with other future customers. Instead, look for the ones that open your emails and consider ways to grow that group. Focus on the content they’re responding to and deliver more of that.

2) Have a goal for each email before you press “send.”
Always have a plan. Conceptually, consider what your goal is and build the email to reach that. Without a strong foundation, your message might get lost, and goals won’t be met. With an established goal — whether it’s opens, shares, or conversions — you’ll have a metric for evaluating performance and making future email decisions.

Goals for your emails could include a contact filling out a longer form for a gated content offer to provide your team with more information about their organization, or redeeming a promo code for a purchase on your website.

Whether you’re shooting for subscribers to redeem a promo code or fill out a form for gated content, give them multiple paths to get there. Calls-to-action or links in text give subscribers multiple avenues to achieve your goal. Everyone’s behavior is different, so make your emails flexible.

3) Personalize and test your emails.
Email personalization really works: back in 2014, Hubspot found that emails with the recipients’ first names in the subject lines had higher clickthrough rates than emails that didn’t.

  • Don’t go overboard — personalize recipient names and company names; too much more gets weird fast.
  • Nothing is less personal than receiving a “Dear Customer” or “Dear First Name” email, so test every email to make sure you’re sending to recipient names.
  • Don’t send emails from a “noreply” email account — personalization works on your end, too. Boost your engagement by personalizing the “from” email address to drive replies from subscribers to a real person instead of “[email protected].”

4) Experiment with sending emails on different days of the week.
Stop sending emails on Tuesdays. Seriously, just stop.

I bet you get a lot of email on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays — they’re the most popular days for marketing emails. Ditch the crowd and see how Monday or Friday mailings go, you might see some better engagement.

  • Emails with calls-to-action perform well on Saturdays, so don’t be afraid to send emails on the weekend, either.
  • Experiment with your scheduling, your subscribers might have a little more attention to spare on quieter days.

5) Engage with contacts who’ve submitted forms, not contacts whose information you’ve imported.
When someone fills out a form and offers you their info, they’re engaging and giving you permission to interact. They want to hear from you, so reward them with your attention and quality content — this is at the heart of inbound marketing and key to successful email efforts.

Never, ever buy email lists — you’re only hurting your credibility and annoying people who haven’t asked to hear from you.

6) Suppress your unengaged subscribers to avoid sending graymail.
You may be sending spam without knowing it, and that’s because the definition of spam has changed. Graymail — bulk email messages, to a list of recipients who’ve opted in, but that are never opened — can hurt your rep. Engagement rates plummet if recipients don’t open your first email, and if they continue ignoring you, the probability of them ever opening your messages is going way, way down.

  • Stop sending graymail — listen to what people are telling you when they don’t open your emails.
  • Start suppressing your unengaged subscribers. That way, your open rates will increase, and inbox providers will see that you’re responding to subscriber behavior.

7) If people are unsubscribing, don’t worry too much (yet).
There are lots of reasons that subscribers leave your list. You can’t please everyone all the time, so don’t fret. But, if the list is hemorrhaging subscribers, take note and start looking for the cause.

  • Consider suppressing or sending fewer emails to subscribers who aren’t engaging as much.
  • Look for patterns, what are the numbers telling you about behavior?
  • Evaluate over time — what’s changed in content or frequency to explain any exodus?

8) If people stop opening your emails, figure out what’s going wrong fast.
If your email open rate is falling, it means you’re missing the mark — recipients’ expectations aren’t being met and some bad things could be around the corner. Spam complaints and unsubscribes typically follow falling open rates, so don’t hesitate to suppress your unengaged subscribers, showing email providers that you’re responding to feedback. Test different emails to see if you can improve your open rates.

9) If people mark you as spam, immediately stop sending email and identify the source of the complaints.
Don’t put your domain reputation at risk — being blacklisted by email providers sucks. Look for the cause, and work to clear up the issue. Bad forms, low-quality content, over-sending to your lists, whatever the reason, address it and slow or halt emails until you’ve got it all squared away.

If you aren’t getting unsubscribe or spam complaints, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the clear — the messages could be going straight to recipients’ junk folders. Dig around and make sure you’re following email performance.

10) Take your subject (line) seriously.
Don’t write clickbait. Treat your subscribers like the smart folks they are, misleading them through clickbait is a fast way to kill your clickthrough rates and increase that dreaded bounce.

For best results, customize and personalize email subject lines and experiment with emojis. Read your subject lines out loud before sending. Would you open that email if you received it?

11) Email works, if you’re putting in the work.
Every year, engagement rates start to slip, and it gets harder to reach people’s inboxes. This doesn’t mean that email marketing is losing its efficacy, it’s just more competitive. The divide is growing between email marketers who know what they’re doing and those who don’t, so make sure to put in effort to test different strategies and keep your subscribers engaged.

Every audience and contacts database is different, so make sure you’re testing the implementation of new strategies and tailoring them to how your subscribers engage.

Would you open this?

The Nigerian Prince

So, why would you send it?

Let’s send better emails, contact us today to get started.