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19 email marketing best practices for a higher response rate

2018-08-07

By: Karen Lee

According to Email Marketing Industry Census 2018 by Econsultancy and Adestra, 74% of client-side marketers rate email as an effective marketing channel based on ROI. It's one of the best ways to reach out to your prospects and generate more conversions.

Related: 11 things to consider before your next email campaign

To use email marketing to its full potential, here are 19 effective best practices to get more responses from your target audience and entice them to take action.

1. Reach out with a purpose

When composing an email, think about what you want to achieve—and from there, decide what information you should include in your message. Going in with vague ideas will most likely lead to confusion and miscommunication, so make sure your emails are always driven by purpose rather than the calendar. Or, put another way: it's okay to send fewer emails if it means the emails you do send are more impactful.

Each email you send should serve a singular, clear purpose. Asking your audience to do too many things at once will result in them doing nothing at all—an unfortunate side effect of the choice paradox. With one strong call-to-action, you have a much higher chance of persuading your audience to take the next step.

2. Put yourself in their shoes

Step back and take a look at the email you've composed. Would you appreciate this email if it arrived in your inbox? Does it offer something informative, entertaining or valuable? If not, you still have work to do.

Here's an idea: present a problem to the reader and solve it in the email. If you've done your homework, you should know your target audience's desires and pain points. Speaking directly to their experience will be far more compelling than simply advertising your latest sale or blog post.

3. Make it easy for subscribers to contact you

Many times, emails are sent from a "no-reply" address that leaves no way for subscribers to respond. This means you're missing out on valuable feedback from your readers. Instead, send your emails from an address that accepts replies. It doesn't have to be yours—consider setting up a shared inbox for an address like marketing@domain.com or blog@domain.com.

Encourage subscribers to get in touch with you, or request a reply through email. However, make sure someone is available to promptly answer them before you implement this.

In all of your emails, include the name of your company along with the physical address, phone number, company website, and links to social media profiles in the footer.

4. Work on your subject lines

Your subject line is like the trailer of a movie. It strongly influences the first impression your subscriber will have of your email. Obviously, you do not get another chance at this. The more interesting the subject line is, the more likely a recipient will open the email. According to research, 33% of people open an email based on the subject line. Use a personalized and compelling subject line that would tempt your readers to find out more.

Short subject lines work best for achieving better open rates. You could even try using emojis to grab your subscribers' attention. Test your subject lines to see which pulls a better conversion rate and sells more.

Refrain from using buzz words like "You earned" or "Congratulations," because their overuse leads users to think it might be spam. Be truthful about what you are offering, and let the subject line shine to reveal the real value behind your message

5. Have crisp & engaging email copy

Personalization is an integral part of effective email marketing. Incorporate the principles of personalization to draft relevant, tailor-made emails that match the buyer's persona and each stage of the buyer's journey.

For example, if a subscriber has just signed up, it wouldn't make sense to send them your pricing structure right away. Instead, you can send a welcome email accompanied with a content resource that addresses their probable challenges & pain points—and how you can help resolve them with your product or service.

Avoid technical jargon as much as possible. Rather than describing the features of your product, talk about its benefits. Try to build personal rapport by appealing to the reader's emotions.

6. Don't use too much special formatting

Formatting has a remarkable psychological effect on a reader. Use bullet points or numbered lists to organize your content and make it more readable. Refrain from using various fonts and colors—instead, stick to one or two of each. Only use bold, italic or underline to emphasize important words in the copy. The simplicity makes your brand look more professional, and it's easier to read.

7. Adhere to the brand guidelines

If you want to build a credible brand personality through emails, follow the brand guidelines. In particular, pay attention to the sections on voice & tone. Send frequent emails that are in sync with your personas, business type and industry. Regular email communication will ensure that your brand remains at the top of your subscribers' minds—but consistency will keep your brand message strong.

8. Create mobile-responsive emails

Responsive emails that function and look great on mobile devices have become almost mandatory. According to a study, 63% of US consumers will delete emails from their inboxes if they don't open on mobile.  Even worse, what if they read your email and want to act on it, but the design prevents them from doing so? Either way, you lose your mobile audience and end up hampering your email response rate. Make sure any outbound links or downloads are accessible via mobile, too. Responsive design will help you reach readers on any browser or device, so your marketing doesn't go to waste.

9. Use a persuasive CTA

The ultimate goal of a marketing email is to convince subscribers to click on your CTA and take the next action. A strategically placed CTA button with clever copy can make all the difference in your campaign. Experiment with different colors and phrasing. Try action words instead of the standard "Click here." It's far more compelling to click a button that says "Download now" or "Get my free sample!"

(And remember: your CTA should be easily tappable on mobile devices, too.)

10. Automate your email marketing

Starting from the time a prospect signs up on your website, and continuing past the time they become a customer, you should trigger-send emails to them according to their interaction with your brand.

When a prospect downloads any resource from your website, you can send them relevant emails to follow up on the content and entice them to respond. Because they're directly connected to actions a subscriber has taken, these automated emails often have higher open and click-through rates. These emails even give you an opportunity to upsell, cross-sell, re-engage inactive customers, and create a customer loyalty program.

11. Keep it simple

Simplicity and straightforwardness are two key elements of an effective email marketing campaign. Emails shouldn't be overly cluttered with design elements, but they also shouldn't be so sparse that they fail to grab attention. Go for a healthy balance between the two and create a comfortable design that pleases the eye. As for the copy, remember that you are talking directly to the reader through this email, so make it conversational but stay professional.

12. Measure performance

We're in the era of data-driven marketing. You must measure and record the data generated by your email campaigns—not just to see how well you did, but to uncover insights on how to do better. Overall, there are four major elements you should be tracking in an email campaign: opening rate, click-through rate (CTR), bounce rate and response rate. With this data in hand, you can start to measure trends, tweak your strategy, and gain key insights about the reach of your newsletter and how it's perceived by your audience.

13. Use gorgeous images

Images are a surefire way to make your newsletter more appealing to an audience. The human brain processes visual info much faster than text, and those few extra seconds can make or break the difference between an email that gets read and one that gets deleted. So, choose your images wisely.

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Custom graphics in particular offer an opportunity for memorable branding. Follow your style guide to match colors, icons and photography styles. Pay attention to the tone and voice your images convey as well. Stock photos are a fine shortcut, but only if they reinforce the look and feel of your brand. If you're worried about spending too much time on your images, use a tool like Lucidpress to set up editable templates, then switch out the text and graphics as needed.

14. Try animated content

Animated content is popular with readers, but many brands still haven't mastered how to use it. If photos are more expressive than text, then videos and GIFs are even more swift at relaying the message. GIFs are also a great way to provide a snippet of a larger video.

You can make the tone of your newsletter lighter by adding GIFs in the body section. Initially, GIFs were almost always used to add humor to content. Nowadays, you can use them in many ways, such as showing how your product or service works. However, there are some drawbacks for animation enthusiasts who are planning to use GIFs in their next email:

  • Several versions of Outlook do not support animated content. (Oh, Microsoft.)

  • GIFs have larger file sizes, which might slow down the loading speed of your newsletter on older devices.

  • If used incorrectly, your brand can come across as insensitive or insincere. Consider asking a few people to read your email before you send it, to make sure your tone comes across as intended.

15. Consider timing

It's been estimated that most emails are read by people in the evening, the time when they are most free. It may seem counter-intuitive, but sending an email later in the day could result in a higher conversion rate because readers have more time to follow your message.

Since most marketers work during the day, you can use a scheduling tool to do it for you. According to Accelq: "Automation should be integrated into the overall lifecycle, and not a 'test automation' silo." The more you can automate, the less you have to babysit.

16. A/B Test

Any kind of marketing strategy that aims to increase conversion rate should be tested. A/B testing is the easiest (and cheapest) way to check the effectiveness of your strategies.

Testing will help you develop a clear idea of how a campaign is going and how you can improve it in the future. Email marketing campaigns can be hugely successful when you start testing and tweaking any flaws in the interface. You can also validate your hypotheses for things like CTA buttons, images, time of delivery, and landing pages. Here is a comprehensive starters' guide for A/B testing your emails.

17. Segment your audience

It's an unfortunate reality: most people who sign up for your newsletter are not going to open it. How do you encourage them to open the email and convince them to convert? Sometimes, you need qualitative data to find out. That's right: send them an email to find out why they are not opening your emails.

Sound futile? It doesn't have to be. You can offer incentives and promo codes to lure them in. With the results, you can set up audience segmentation to ensure that various user personas are targeted differently through your email marketing campaign.

If an email survey doesn't sound like your bag, you can also collect this data via phone calls or personal interactions with your customers. Regardless of how you do it, you need to create targeted, personalized emails for your readers. "One size fits all" doesn't work anymore. [ ]

18. Build relationships

When someone subscribes to your newsletter, they're agreeing to an ongoing relationship with you. You need to show that you value them, that you care about their problems and choices. This applies to every part of your email: the graphics, the copy, the offer, the tone. Use your findings to consistently improve your email campaigns and serve your customers better than before. Build a relationship that makes them proud to be your brand's loyal customer.

19. Proofread and test your emails!

So many people forget (or choose not) to do this, leaving mistakes in their content which make them seem unprofessional. Definitely not a good look for anyone, this can be prevented with a simple process called... proofreading. Simply reading your work goes a long way toward catching any grammar mistakes you have made, which will save you a load of embarrassment. No one wants to discover that they misspelled a word in an email to their entire customer base.

How about another pair of eyes? If you want someone to see it fresh, you can ask someone else to do it. You could even hire an online freelancer to get help from a highly qualified person. Sure, it costs money, but it might be worth the peace of mind to know your emails are top-notch.

Finally, send yourself a test version of your email. See how it looks in different browsers and on different devices, including desktop and mobile. A formatting error which is unnoticeable in Chrome might be egregious on iOS, so it's better to cover your bases before you hit send.

Key takeaway

Getting more responses to your marketing emails is not an impossible goal. With the right techniques, you can stand out from the competition, create lasting impressions of your brand, and build relationships with your readers through their responses.

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Karen Lee

Karen Lee, a passionate email marketer for 5 years, specializes in email marketing automation programs. She has helped numerous clients improve their email marketing strategy. You can find her in nature's lap, penning profound quotes in her personal diary when she's away from the world of email marketing.

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