Scroll straight to the end to watch the video of this post instead.

Email newsletters offer one of the highest returns on investment in online marketing, second only to search marketing. But it only works when you do it right.

Email should be a top priority for your marketing and sales teams. It’s a great way to nurture relationships with your customers as well as generate new leads. But for your emails to do this, you need to make sure they’re being opened and read rather than sent straight to the trash.

Here are a few tips to help you optimize your email strategy to get the best response rates:

The key parts of an email newsletter guaranteed to bring you success.

1. Subject Line

Your very first point of contact. Use this to tempt the reader to open the mail.
I add the company name to every subject line to build trust over time. Readers learn that if the mail is from Sheepstealers then there will be something inside they will enjoy or find interesting.

The subject line of the email is important as it’s the first thing the recipient will see. It’s one of the main deciding factors (with #2 below) as to whether or not they will open your email. You need to grab their attention.

You want to make the subject line short enough that it won’t get cut off by browsers or devices. Keep in mind that a lot of people view emails on their phones, so there is even less space to deal with. 50-70 characters is probably best for a subject line. However, that’s not to say that a longer one won’t be opened. If you have a longer line that you want to use, it’s worth testing it and seeing how it works (more on testing later).

Your subject line also needs to be specific and concise. You don’t want a rambling line that has nothing to do with the actual content of the email. You want to make sure that the recipient has an idea of what they’re getting in the email. A subject line that’s too vague won’t pique their interest and will more than likely end up in the trash folder. Get to the point so they know that your email is relevant and useful to them.

Asking questions is a good way of provoking curiosity in your recipient. A subject line such as ‘Are you making these sales mistakes?’ is likely to make the recipient want to open to find out what they might be doing wrong.

You also want to have a bit of personalization in your email subject lines. A customer’s name or something specific to their location is most likely to interest them and make them read the email.

2. Preview

This text will appear in the preview pane of the email client when it arrives in the inbox. It should be added to the subject line and provide more reasons to open the newsletter.

2.5. Personalisation

(Ok I admit I forgot to add this on the first edit!)
You want to build a relationship and a sense of trust with the recipient. Personalizing the contents of the email and the subject line will show them that you know them. It shows that you understand them and what their problems are and that you can help them.

Use any data that you have collected about your recipient from forms they have filled out on your website or any contact you have had with them. There is so much information that you can use to personalize your emails. This includes the company name, the recipient’s role within the company, their location, the kinds of pages and items they’ve looked at on your website, etc. Any of this information is worth putting into your email. It shows your recipient that you know them and makes them feel like they’re special.

It’s also worth personalizing it from your point of view as well. Make sure that the email is sent with your name in the ‘sender’ box. Having an email from an actual person rather than a generic company email or a ‘do not reply’ sender is much more likely to get the recipient to open the email.

3. Main Offer and Call to Action

A clear offer with a strong call to action. A reader should be in no doubt about what to do next and why. Fancy fonts will need to be images so make sure you have text and links that work when images are turned off.

This is the most important part of your email. It’s the reason you’re writing the email in the first place: to get the recipient to do something you want them to do. So your call-to-action needs to be a priority.

First, you need to make sure you know what it is you want your recipient to do. Are you looking for them to download an e-book, sign up for a newsletter, make an appointment, or, if they are further down the funnel, sign up for a product demo? Once you know what you want the recipient to do you can figure out what your CTA should be.

Make sure that your CTA is prominent and clear when the email is opened. You don’t want the recipient to have to scroll too much to have to find it. If possible, have more than one link to the same landing page throughout the email. This makes the recipient more likely to click on at least one of them.

It’s important to use the right words in your CTA. Make sure it’s clear what you want your recipient to do by using words such as ‘download’ or ‘register’, and create a sense of urgency by saying ‘now’ or ‘today’. You want to make it as easy as possible, and as desirable as possible for your customer to click on your CTA.

4. Sell Stuff

Don’t forget your ultimate goal is to sell your products or services.

5. Being Useful

Subscribers would get turned off pretty fast if every mail was about me. I always add content I know would be of use to a subscriber. It increases the chance of them opening again next month.

6. Expand the Conversation

People love sharing good links and information online. With an army of subscribers loving your updates, make it easy for them to tell others and chat back to you.

7. Reminder

A personal touch to let them know you are human and a simple reminder of where they signed up can drastically reduce the number who unsubscribe. But if they want to go let them.

8. Short & Sweet

I like keeping my newsletters short and easy to scan. If I have a long article I split it into a snappy taster for the newsletter and a read more link going to the blog.

Test Everything!

I mentioned testing your subject lines earlier, and this is an important step in optimising your emails. A/B testing is the key to finding out what’s working and what’s not. This is the practice of comparing two of the same messages but with slight differences, to see which works better. For example, the length of your subject lines. Sending one email with a short line and one with a longer one will show you which length works better with your message.

The two things you have to remember when doing A/B testing are, firstly, only test one thing at a time. There’s no point in having multiple differences in an email and not knowing which difference is the one that’s having the effect. Secondly, know what result you’re looking for. Do you want a bigger open rate, reply rate, or click-through rate?

Everything I’ve mentioned in this post can be tested. The subject lines can be tested for length, whether a question or a statement gets a better open rate, or even what different words are more likely to get someone to read the email.

In regards to personalization, you can test the quantity of personalization that works best, whether two or four aspects are preferable. Or you can test if focusing on the recipient’s location or industry is more effective. Or is it worth having their name in the subject line as well as the introduction, or just the introduction?

A/B testing can show you what resources work better for your CTA. Which e-books have a better chance of being downloaded, and which resources work better for what stage of the sales cycle?

There’s more than just what I’ve mentioned here that can be tested. Things such as the length of the email, the time of day it’s sent and the opening lines are all good things to test to see what parts of your email are more effective at achieving better response rates.

Once you know what parts work best you can optimize your strategy to get the best out of your emails.

That’s all! If you start applying these points to your email marketing campaigns you will see your open and click-through rates start to rise.