6 Fundamentals of Successful Email Marketing

6 Fundamentals of Successful Email Marketing

Email is arguably your most valuable marketing channel and your subscriber list is your most important asset. Why? Because your subscribers have consented to receive your content within their personal space: their inbox. Something they check dozens of times throughout the day.

Being in your prospects’ inbox can be extremely valuable as studies have shown that people who buy products marketed through email spend 138% more than people who do not receive email offers.

So now you have your prospects’ email addresses and their permission to sell to them, how can you make the most of this golden opportunity?

Here are six email marketing fundamentals to ensure you don’t blow it.

1. Personalise

Personalisation involves sending out targeted content based upon subscriber preferences, interests and purchase history. It’s not as complicated as it sounds and in fact it’s very easy to achieve – you can even let your list do it for you and from there, a lot of the emails campaigns you set up can be automated. Here are a couple of ways you can implement personalisation for email:

Check box preferences on sign up

When your prospects initially sign up to your list, offer a box for them to check their interests. Here’s how Fast Company has set out their sign up page:


You can see for each of their magazines that you can tick which areas of business and innovation interest you.

Once subscribers select their interests, they’ll be put into your email and marketing automation software in a segmented list based upon their preferences. So for example, if Fast Company wants to send out an email about “technology”, subscribers who selected this as an interest will receive this email content.

Transactional emails

This is something you’re probably all familiar with. When you’ve purchased something, you receive confirmation of that purchase in your inbox – this is something you have triggered and your purchase history and preferences will now be stored in the business’ CRM (customer relationship management) software. You’ve probably then noticed that you’ve received follow up emails related to that purchase, cross-selling other products or services which might be of interest.  Ebay is a good example of a business who does this well. For example, I recently purchased some fabric and then received this email the next day:


I triggered this email based upon my purchase history and your business can do this too with simple automation software and segmented lists.

Overlooking personalisation and automation could seriously harm your email marketing success as studies have shown that more personalised emails deliver six times higher transaction rates, much higher click through rates and super-targeted content also helps to reactivate interest from dormant subscribers.

As an extra tip, personalised emails with deals and incentives are more likely to get a click through to your site so it’s something to consider when you’re looking to drive sales.

2. Split test and then split test some more

Most email platforms allow you to split test your emails and this can be a valuable approach   when trying out new techniques or formats to improve conversion rates.

Split testing works by testing a variable, which could be a subject line, email content or delivery times. You send out both versions of your email to a small percentage of your audience and set what you would like to measure and improve, be it click-throughs or open rates. The winning variation goes out to your entire audience.

You can test many things including:

  • Subject line
  • Headline
  • Content of the email
  • Imagery
  • Delivery times
  • Different offers or promotions
  • Different layouts

Before you carry out any split testing it’s important to carefully consider which aspect of your email you would like to test as it’s likely to have an effect on parts of the conversion process. For example, if you find open rates are down, you’ll want to test subject lines. If your click-through rates are down you’ll want to test your calls to action or trial different promotions.

We split test every single email newsletter we send out at Receptional and it’s helped us to achieve an understanding of the type of language we should use in a subject line to attract higher open rates.

3. Use direct copy and a tantalising call to action

Writing concise copy, which describes a clear benefit to your audience, will help to boost clicks. For example, including a call to action like this “click here to receive 25% off your purchase” or “download your free digital strategy boosting guide” are obvious benefits to the reader. Here’s a good example of a time-sensitive promotional call to action from a photo book company:


Note how they’ve highlighted “your photo book deal ends today” and included a generous 40% discount before the “make your book” call to action button.

Your subscriber list are going to be incentivised to click your call to action because of an immediate need and emotional benefit or achievement. Piquing your audiences’ curiosity with a value proposition can help to drive your prospects to where you want them to go and further down to the point of sale.

4. Make your emails responsive and mobile friendly

It’s estimated that as many as 70% of emails are now read on mobile devices. So if your email template or design does not display well on smartphones or tablets, you’ll likely alienate a large proportion of your audience – most likely incentivising opt-outs as rather than click-throughs.

Most email platforms allow you to visualise what your email looks like on a mobile device before you send it, like this:


Image source: http://mailchimp.com/features/email-designer/

The key things to check for when optimising for a mobile device include

Email Length – nobody wants to read long sprawling text on a small screen. You’ll need to get better at editing and including key information and benefit lead copy in fewer words.

Imagery – ensure that your images display well when scaled down on smaller screens. Also, check whether your images are too large and push text down the page.

Call to action – is the call to action obviously clickable on a small screen? Consider using larger buttons for calls to action instead of hyperlinked text as these can be tricky for people to tap on their smartphones.

5. Use a strong subject line

Using a strong, enticing subject line can mean the success or failure of your email marketing campaign. If you fail to hook your subscribers’ attention in that character space limit you risk your email being condemned to the spam folder.

There are a few exercises you can try to make your subject lines more engaging; here are the most popular and efficient:

Avoid using sales spiel or over-used words – the word “free” or “% off” usually trigger spam filters.

Keep subject lines short and punchy – most people quickly scan their mailboxes and decide by the subject line whether they’ll open the email: keep your subject lines to 50 characters or fewer.

Try personalisation – using merge tags to personalise subject lines with content that’s unique to them, such as their location, could help to pique their interest.

But, as with any modification, it’s recommended that you test every subject line you send out. This means that the most engaging subject line is sent out to the majority of your list helping to boost open rates and engagement.

6. Take advantage of transactional emails

Typically, order confirmation and account setup emails have the highest open rates – up to four to eight times higher than other emails. Therefore these types of emails offer additional opportunities to include cross-sells, calls-to-action, special offers and other promotions. For example, you could welcome a new subscriber with a discount or special offer to incentivise their custom.

If you don’t sell products or offer services, you could include a free no obligation quote for one of your services. Here’s an example from The Gents Pack which I recently subscribed to. They’ve provided me with my own discount code and £5 off online as a way to incentivise a purchase:


If you want to refresh your email marketing strategy, or add email to your existing marketing channels, get in touch with us.

Zoe-Lee Skelton

Zoe-Lee is responsible for creating Receptional’s content strategies. Zoe-Lee’s work has encompassed everything from performing keyword research to re-writing a niche company’s entire website copy. She has created successful content marketing plans for clients from a variety of industries. Zoe-Lee is Google Analytics Qualified.

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