10 Things to Learn from Your Own Inbox to Up Your Email Marketing Game

10 Things to Learn from Your Own Inbox to Up Your Email Marketing Game

You know what they say… Your email list is the only marketing channel you really own.

Social media is prone to constant algorithm changes, PPC campaigns may or may not work depending on your copy and your competition, and you can always put up a billboard – but there’s no guarantee your potential customers will see it.

That’s where email marketing comes in. Everyone checks their inbox a few times a day so it’s the perfect place to get their attention. Preferably with a good offer right after they’ve read a boring work message.

Since 2020 is going to be the year of email marketing, we’ve taken a look at our inboxes to show you what you can learn from your own inbox to up your email marketing game.

Here’s what we learned:

1) Email Deliverability: They Have to See It to Believe It

To paraphrase Dita Von Teese, “Your email can be the ripest peach in the orchard, but there’s always going to be someone who didn’t get it.

Email deliverability seems like an issue for your tech department, but it’s really not.

More and more marketing emails are going straight to the spam folder of your subscribers’ inboxes, and your goal as a marketer is to stop that from happening.

Here’s why emails usually aren’t delivered, and what you can do about it:

Situation no. 1: Too many emails

Some subscribers just love sending emails straight to spam. Especially if you’re flooding them with messages. If enough subscribers do this, all of your emails will be marked as spam in all of your subscribers’ inboxes.

Avoid this by capturing email addresses at the right stage (e.g. after a customer shows the intent to buy from you, or downloads your lead magnet, etc.) and having a straightforward email opt-in & onboarding process.

Warm up your email subscribers, and show them the value of receiving your emails.

After that, stick to a consistent schedule and if your audience is diverse, segment them according to behaviour and intent (more on that later in a bit).

Situation no. 2: I bought an email list, and I regret it.

Email lists are a dime a dozen today, which is exactly why we get spam emails like:

<Don't send spam emails

Ronald here has a good offer, but there was no formal opt-in process and we never subscribed to get this email. Our address was either scraped from a website somewhere, or sold as a part of a mailing list.

Fortunately, this email was already in our Spam folder, which leads us to our next point…

Situation no. 3: I’m on a blacklist, and I have no idea what’s happening.

ISPs are trying very hard to fight against spam, so your email IP address could’ve been added to a blacklist somewhere down the line (here’s how to check). It happens. And even if it’s an honest mistake, it’ll harm your email marketing efforts.

To stop this from happening, you can use an email verification service like mailfloss that will automatically remove invalid email addresses from your mailing list. Over time, this will help improve your email reputation and deliverability.

2) In a Sea of Statements, Be a List

The key to successful email marketing may be writing good copy, but no one’s going to read your copy if your headline doesn’t catch attention from the very start.

Take a look at this example:

Use a list in your email subject line

Your subscriber sees a lot of statements, a lot of plain text, and then a headline with numbers catches their attention.

WordStream’s “6 Huge Mistakes I Made with a $4 Million Ad Budget” is pretty flashy and attracts attention on its own, but the number stands out in a sea of statements found in a regular inbox.

You can do the same thing with emojis. 🚀

Don’t overuse them and get caught in the spam filter, but if it fits your industry (especially if you’re B2C), you can add in a tasteful emoji. It’s chic, everyone in Paris does it.

Personalizing the headline can boost your email opens, as well.

You can start off the email by addressing the subscriber, and honestly starting a conversation.

3) Message Previews: Show Them the Goods

Once you’ve optimized your headline, it’s time to make use of the second most important thing: the message preview.

A lot of email marketers seemingly forget about the message preview, or they use them like they use SEO meta descriptions. In either case, message previews tend to be boring and just reiterate the same thing subscribers grasped from the headline.

If you want to up your email marketing game, stop doing that. Use message previews to their full capacity.

Take a look at these 3 email message previews:

Use message previews effectively

Which one caught your attention?

The first one clearly announces what’s happening, and tries to start off with a question, but is cut off by the limit.

The second email’s headline starts with an emoji and has numbers in it. They use the message preview to (quite shockingly) address us and say that “this marketing thing we do has to change.”

The third has a number in the headline, and uses the message preview to reiterate what had already been said in the headline.

It’s clear that the second email is the winner. It has a lot going on for it, but “This marketing thing we do? It has to change” both addresses us, and stirs up emotion.

It baits clicks, without being clickbait.

It’s a wild ride from the start to finish, which makes us click and see that…

4) Email Copy Follows Suit

Write good email copy

After that whirlwind of a headline and message preview, we excitedly click… only to see that there’s a valuable course involved!

They provide value with their email marketing by:

· Keeping the copy short

· Explaining the “why”

· Showing a way to achieve the mission (getting better at marketing/changing marketing)

In contrast, if this was an email calling subscribers to donate to Kickstarter, this copy wouldn’t have worked.

As subscribers, we’d want to know more. Why should we support that Kickstarter, what’s the vision, and what do we get out of it?

This all shows us the importance of the tone and the style. And we determine those by determining the purpose of each email we send.

5) Know Your Why, and You’ll Know Your Everything

We talked about why the previous example worked, and it only serves to show us the importance of email marketing having a clear purpose.

Chipotle gif
Use a strong CTA like Chipotle

[sources: HubSpot 1 & 2 ]

In this example, Chipotle uses an animated gif to let us know they’ve got a new product. They joke around with their subscribers, and create an all-around good atmosphere.

The CTA at the end is: “GET IT NOW” and this is as straightforward as it gets.

Chipotle knows what it wants to do with this email: announce a new product, and motivate customers to get it.

Our second example comes straight from Dropbox, and this email is sent with the purpose of user re-engagement.

Dropbox example

[source: HubSpot 3 ]

Okay, the guilt-tripping isn’t very tasteful, but it can be a good way to show the personality behind the product.

Dropbox doesn’t avoid the subject; you haven’t been using their service, but they think you should be. To prove this, they add a quick bulleted list with the main three Dropbox benefits.

In case a subscriber isn’t using Dropbox because they don’t know how, they link to a tutorial.

Dropbox could’ve woven a story about the human effort that goes into the service, or provided ten examples of using Dropbox (sentimental stories included), but they didn’t. They kept it short, sweet, and full of value.

So if you want to up your email marketing game, know your purpose, and make your emails serve it. Keep the subscriber’s behaviour (and motivations) in mind, and single-mindedly guide them towards the final, clear (and just one) CTA.

If you don’t show your subscribers what to do, they won’t do it.

6) No-Reply? Heck no, YES REPLY!

If your intention is to stimulate as much engagement as you can from your (potential) customers, don’t send email from don’t-reply addresses.

Instead, write an email that shows that you want to keep the conversation going. Ask the subscribers about their experiences, and reply to them.

This is especially great at the onboarding stage, where you want to warm-up leads and convert them into customers.

Brian Dean writes emails to keep the conversation going

Brian Dean of Backlinko does this well. This is the first email subscribers get (no matter if they sign up through the opt-in pop-up or through a lead magnet).

He uses phrasing that creates a sense of urgency: “Reply to this email right now.” And then follows on to explain that you should tell him what you’re struggling with (because he can help).

It’s a very down-to-earth approach that stimulates engagement, but the main prerequisite is understanding the buyer/subscriber journey. What does this subscriber want to do next?

Then help them do it.

7) Email Quantity: Toeing the Line between Too Few and Too Many

Only one of the following statements is true:

We love the smell of fresh coffee in the morning, and a bunch of emails from the same sender in our inbox.

Can you guess which one it is?

Even though we know that email marketing is the best way to directly get to your customers, sending too many emails will get you on the spam list.

However, you shouldn’t send too few emails because your customers will forget about you (inboxes are crowded). It’s a thin line, and it may seem like you have to be a pro dancer to tap your way along it.

A good starting point is asking yourself:

Am I providing value with this email?

Are you sending a special offer, or educating your subscribers on a topic that’s related to your business?

If you’ve been using email marketing for a while, you should take a look at relevant metrics, but if you haven’t, start off slow and modify your pacing.

But no matter what you do, your pacing should be defined by the email’s value to the subscriber.

Also, avoid duplicate emails. This is where proper audience segmentation comes into play. You don’t want to send a subscriber the same email just because they’re in two audience segments.

8) Seasonal and Special Offers in Email Marketing

Using seasonality in email marketing is great if you’re actively selling a product, but just because you’re selling a service doesn’t mean you can’t use it.

Always adapt to the season and add something extra to your regular email marketing to follow suit.

For example, you can do as little as modifying the headline like AdWeek:

Modify the headline like Adweek

They’re a media company, so they can’t really do much – but they’re getting right into the holiday spirit.

eCommerce stores take seasonal offers to a whole ‘nother level, but even plumbers and handymen can send out helpful emails preparing their customers and subscribers for a flood/hurricane/fire season.

9) Let Me Read My Emails on My Phone!

A shockingly high number of email marketers don’t make sure that emails can be read on mobile devices.

Making emails compatible with mobile browsers and apps is a priority, and will continue to be a priority in 2020.

If your emails are graphic-heavy, make sure that they’re equally as visible for subscribers who’ll consume them on their phones as for those who read them on desktop.

There’s nothing like catching up on your Promotions tab during the commute, and as always – email marketing is used here to keep subscriber behaviour in mind, and adapt for maximum ROI.

10) In the Right Place at the Right Time

Finally, know your subscribers.

We don’t know why we’re receiving a National Geographic photography email on a Monday, at 8am when we’re at work. It’ll just stay unopened (forever).

Great email marketing arrives exactly when customers need it.

Yes, this can require a lot of testing. But don’t forget about the serendipity effect that your subscribers will feel:

Wow, this email is exactly what I needed right now.

Now that’s called having email marketing game.