Is email marketing still effective? Most definitely. Research by McKinsey shows email is 40 times better than social media for gaining new customers! So how can you improve your email engagement?
#1 – Choose a SPECIFIC audience
Is EVERY person on your email list the same? Probably not, right?
In reality most email lists contain several distinct groups of people. These may be people who:
- Have engaged with different content that you have published;
- Purchased specific products;
- Joined your list on specific landing pages; or,
- Have expressed certain preferences.
Personalising your emails to sub-groups within your database will increase email engagement.
Why? Because you will be talking to the specific needs and wants of those people.
You can ask your audience what their interests are when seeking permission to market to them. The more relevant your emails are the more people will want to receive them (and the better your email engagement will be).
A study by hubspot found 96% of consumers have unsubscribed from receiving emails. A worrying 52% also indicated they didn’t sign up for emails to begin with.
Often the truth is that they forget that they signed up for the emails. This can happen when messages are too infrequent or too irregular.
But, you also need to be careful not to send too many messages. 78% of people have unsubscribed from a email list because they were getting too many messages!
If you deliver REAL VALUE to your audience they will be excited to receive your email messages and this will increase your email engagement.
#2 – The subject line SELLS the email
To improve your email engagement, you need to remember that almost everyone filters their inbox by looking at 2 key components. Those are the sender and the subject line.
There are key people whose messages we will always open. For everybody else we read the subject line to see if it looks interesting.
If not, we delete the email without opening it.
Without a strong subject line your emails will not get opened (meaning you will get ZERO email engagement).
Think about how many emails you receive versus how many you actually read.
What gets you to open an email?
The best email subject lines use one or more of the following:
Let’s look at each one of those in a little more detail…
Driving Email Engagement with Curiosity
Sometimes the best subject lines have a sense of mystery and spark a question in the reader’s mind. The only way to answer the question? Open the email.
Using Urgency to boost Email Engagement
Most people hate to feel like they are going to miss out on something important. When a subject line suggests urgency or scarcity open rates will typically increase.
Only use GENUINE urgency and scarcity. People do not like to be mislead or manipulated.
Be careful. Do not overuse this type of subject line. If you do then your audience is likely to decide that your emails are not as urgent as they appear and this could actually cause your email engagement to drop.
Are Your Subject Lines Relevant?
How focused is the subject line and does it relate to the SPECIFIC person you are sending it to?
The easier it is for the reader to say ‘this is is for ME’, the greater the chance they will open and engage with it.
What is happening RIGHT NOW that you can include in your subject line?
A great way to boost your email engagement is to join a conversation that is already taking place. This could be something that is trending on social media or a topic that has hit the headlines.
Does your subject line speak to the readers IDENTITY? For example, does it specifically reference a group of people the reader feels they belong to?
Or, are you including the readers name in the subject line (or the visible message preview)?
#3 – The email focuses on ONE subject only
Email newsletters are dead.
There, I said it.
Emails with 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or even more topics are not going to get anything like the email engagement a super specific message will.
Yes, there was a time when people got excited to receive a newsletter but those days are now a dim and distant memory.
To get your audience to engage with your emails choose ONE clear topic for each message. Then share a STORY that explains it.
Did you know that a fact wrapped up in a story is 22 times more memorable than the fact on its own?
It is ok to to include some facts and statistics, but you also need to connect with your reader’s emotions.
This means telling a story that they can relate to.
Better still, share a story your reader will want to forward to other likeminded people (getting email engagement from an even bigger audience).
#4 – Boost Email Engagement by Talking to ONE Person
Only one person at a time is reading your message. Remember this and write in the way you would write to one individual customer.
Better still, write as if you were talking to a friend.
Imagine you have a close personal friend that has an interest in your industry. What would you say to them? What kind of language would you use?
#5 – Tell stories
I’ve already mentioned this, but it is so important I’m also giving it a dedicated section.
Stories drive engagement.
Why is traditional media filled with stories? Because that is what draws an an audience in and makes them want to read your stuff.
Facts and figures are ok, but they are so much more meaningful when put in the context of a story.
Tell a story your reader can relate to, or can picture happening to them. Include plenty of detail and be specific.
This is not about ‘once upon a time’ fiction. It is about giving real world examples that will boost email engagement.
#6 – Drop the corporate BS
Phrases like “here at XYZ agency” put people to sleep. Your audience will see through the corporate bullsh*t so avoid using it.
Yes, I know lots of people spent a fortune learning to create corporate copy. But, It stopped working more than 20 years ago.
Be personal instead.
Seriously, do YOU want to read corporate babble?
If you wouldn’t read it then what makes you think your audience will?
Always picture yourself as the reader. What is interesting for them?
They don’t care about you or your brand. They want you to educate or entertain them. And to the best of my knowledge, corporate speak has never managed to do either of those things.
#7 – Think about mobile email engagement
FACT: Most people read email on mobile devices.
How do your messages look on mobile? Are you including fancy formatting designed for a desktop environment?
Research showed that in 2015, outside of work Americans most check their email:
- while watching TV (70%);
- from bed (52%);
- on vacation (50%);
- while on the phone (43%); and,
- from the bathroom (42%).
I suspect that people in the UK are similar and that these percentages have increased in the last few years.
At least two in three emails gets read on mobile, so you need to make sure your messages are optimised for mobile email engagement and are easy to read on mobile devices.
Keeping your messages simple and avoid fancy formatting.
You don’t need images, logos or lots of colours. The clickthrough rate of the email tends to decrease if you add more images.
Let each email look like a simple message you would send to ONE PERSON.
In fact, why not compose your message on your mobile?
#8 – Have a call to action
Want to know if someone is really engaged with your emails? Then you need to know if they actually READ them. Opening an email does not equal reading it!
In some email apps the quickest way to delete emails is when they are open!
To track who reads (and engages with) your messages make sure you include some kind of call to action.
This could be as simple as a link to a blog post, video, download, social media post…
The important thing is to track the clicks. This is the REAL engagement and far more important than email the open rate.
#9 – Test, Test and Test Some More!
Not sure what the best subject line is? Then test more than one! Most email tools allow you to do simple A/B tests.
For example, you may send one subject line to 10% of your audience and an alternative to another 10%.
The subject line that gets the best response will then get used when sending the email to the rest of the list.
And it’s not just subject lines…
Test different days of the week, different times of the day, different lengths of email…
TEST EVERYTHING and…
#10 – Record Your Email Engagement Results
I shared that 52% of people unsubscribe from emails because they do not remember signing up for them.
This throws into question one of the key email metrics many marketers use: email list growth.
The growth of an email list is often used to measure marketing success. But, if people on the list don’t remember signing up does this metric really have any value?
You want to establish a clear set of metrics that measure not only the size of your list, but also things like:
- Open rate
- Click through rate
- Order conversion rate (for sales emails)
- Unsubscribe rate (and reasons given)
- Most successful subject lines
- Engagement by day and time
Track your results and look for trends.
Another way to improve your email engagement is to focus on making your messages easy to read. Hemingway is an awesome tool to help with this (and was used to write this blog post!)