10 killer tips to improve your email campaigns

Don’t tell anyone but here’s my secret list of  email marketing tips  (I never was very good at keeping secrets!)  I’ve tried not to rehash the same old tired list of email tips which get documented all the time but rather focus on less well known techniques which could make a big difference to your email campaign effectiveness.

1. Resending emails to non-responders can boost open rates by 20%

NoJunkMailSignOk, before you accuse me of some heinous crime for condoning spamming, hear me out first!   Just because people didn’t open your email first time around doesn’t necessarily mean they ‘re not interested.   In fact, if their inbox is anything like mine it’s quite possible it got buried amongst a load of other unread emails.  The reality is that your recipients may have had every intention of reading your email at a more convenient time but never got round to it. That’s particularly the case for your warm prospects or handraisers who actively opted in to further contact.

Resending your email to all those who have not opened the email can be an excellent way of boosting your responses.  I’ve tested this in the last few email campaigns and have found it consistently improves open and click through rates by as much as 20%.  Not only that but it has a negligible impact on unsubscribe rates.

I can’t think of another technique which will have such a dramatic impact on your results. So try it out for yourself and sit back as you see your open rates nudge up another 20%.

2. Video streaming can improve CTRs by 2 – 3 times

According to a recent Forrester report, incorporating video into emails — a simple enough concept that wasn’t even possible two years ago — improves click-through rates by 2-3 times.

There are a number of techniques available which are starting to emerge. Certified video is probably the purist form of video streaming but it does come with certain limitations.

3. Get round firewalls with animated gifs

If you’re not sold on the idea of Certified Video then there’s a fabulous technique which I came across the other day which enables you to send videos with your emails without ending up in the spam filter.  Simply convert your video clip into an animated gif, embed this in your HTML email and hey presto! The file sizes are much smaller (approx 1 – 2 MB) and should get through most firewalls.  Unfortunately it doesn’t work with Outlook which is a shame but that’s the exception rather than the norm.  It just means that with Outlook you have to stick with your traditional static image.

Evans have started featuring 360 degree product views in their emails which seems to be impactful. You can view an example here towards the foot of the page.  According to Style Campaign, SewellDirect saw a 35% increase in sales when they adopted this approach.  I’m in the process of testing this technique for Infiniti Europe next month which looks really eye-catching so I’ll let you know how it performs compared to the traditional static email approach.

4. Filter out personal email addresses and send in the evening or over the weekend

It can be hard to compete with a crowded inbox during the working day.   But since few prospect databases make the distinction between work or personal email addresses we tend to lump them all together and send them out at the same time. You could be missing a trick here as your response rates could be depressed if a proportion of your recipients are less receptive at that time of day.

If your database doesn’t make the distinction between work or personal email addresses, simply ask your data bureau or email broadcast agency to filter out any addresses like  hotmail, yahoo, gmail etc and send these in the evening or weekends.  The chances are they’re more likely to take the time to read and respond to your email if you reach these people during their leisure time.

I have to admit I haven’t tested this yet but it’s something I intend to test in my next email campaign. I’ll update this post once I get results but if anyone else can verify this in the meantime I’d love to hear from you.

5. Integrate social bookmarking to increase your email’s visibility

To help make your email campaigns more social and potentially more viral include an ‘add this‘ or ‘share this‘ widget on the email so that the recipient is prompted to bookmark it or send it on to their friends.  You can see an example of what I mean here at the foot of the page.  The beauty of this approach is that once it’s bookmarked a few times on stumbleupon, digg or del.icio.us, you could see your campaign results grow exponentially as other people discover your email through different social bookmarking sites.

Even if you don’t see a huge impact on every campaign it’s a good habit to get into as it will become increasingly popular as consumers get more accustomed to seeing it on their emails.  And you never know, you may see your email end up on the Twitter trending charts.

6. Don’t forget the preview panel

This tip is well known but worth including here as a reminder.  Many recipients only open an email if it looks interesting after viewing it in their preview panel.  So it’s important to make sure the most compelling elements of your email are visible in the preview panel. Don’t forget that preview panels can either be horizontal or vertical so the ‘sweet spot’ is really the top left hand corner.

Since images are not always automatically downloaded it’s probably best to avoid featuring any in the sweet spot as this will result in a blank preview panel which could adversely affect response.   That said,  I have to admit I’ve lost this battle on a few occasions when creatives have prefered a more aesthetic design, so I’m guilty of not always practicing what I preach!  However, this example by Nectar is a good way of demonstrating what I mean.


7. Horizontal nav bar enjoy better click through rates

I’ve read a number of times that nav bars tend to work better horizontally than vertically for some reason.  This may be because more people have horizontal preview panels or it may have something to do with eyetracking studies,  I can’t quite remember.   Something worth testing for yourself anyway if you haven’t done so already as it may have a surprising impact on your click through rates.  I like this example by Streetcar as everything is above the fold and the nav bar is always in view.


8.  Include a short precis of email contents

A simple but effective way to capture the recipient’s attention is to include a short precis of the email content up front.  This technique works particularly well for e-newsletters or longer emails to help the recipient see at a glance whether or not the email is relevant.

Walkers crisps email below is a good example of how to do this.  Note how it’s in the sweet spot so that you can easily see what the email’s about before opening it.  The beauty of this approach is that you have a slightly bigger canvas to articulate the essence of your email or offer instead of relying completely on the subject header.


7.  Test time and day

weekly calendar“What’s the best day to send my e-newsletter?” To be honest it’s impossible to answer this as every email campaign, brand or consumer is different.  The best advice I can give is to test it and keep testing.  Nevertheless, if you don’t have the time, budget or sample sizes to test it right now, here’s a simple rule of thumb I’ve heard to help you answer it.

If your newsletter is of vocational interest and read at work, send it on Wednesday or Thursday.  If your newsletter is primarily read at home and focuses on spare-time activities, send it on Sunday.

Ok, I have to admit I haven’t tested this theory but it does seem to make sense.

8.  Test clickthroughs by domain name

It’s really important before broadcasting your email to test it across all the main domain names.   Your test results may reveal that AOL and MSN emails were particularly poor which is probably because some of the links aren’t appearing correctly.  Special thanks to Target Marketing for this tip.

9.  Abandoned shopping carts campaign

If you have an e-commerce site and can identify those who abandoned their shopping cart,  you may want to consider creating a resolicitation email campaign specifically for this audience.

Diapers.com created a sepcific shopping cart abandonment campaign where they e-mailed parents the following message:

“We know how hectic life with a baby can be!
If you’d like to come back and complete your purchase,
simply click, ‘View Cart.”

In May 2008, the campaign generated 78 percent higher clickthrough rates than previous campaigns, 129 percent higher conversions and 10.4 percent of the total e-mail marketing revenue for that month.  Nappy Days!

10. The Zeigarnik effect

It seems to be human nature to want to finish what we start and if it’s not finished, then we experience some sort of dissonance.  It’s a bit like when I started this blog post a week ago it was bugging me that I hadn’t got around to finishing it!  This cognitive behaviour is what is known in the trade as The Zeigarnik Effect. It’s also a consumer insight which is frequently exploited by marketing practitioners.

Mark Joyner who wrote the book Mind Control Marketing uses this term to describe the consumer behaviour of being ‘glued in’ to discover what’s going to happen next.  Consumers have an inate desire to finish what they’ve started and experience a sense of torment when things are left unresolved.  That’s why it’s always hard to leave the cinema midway through a film, regardless of how naff it is!

For this reason, it’s important from a marketing perspective to include a cliffhanger in your communications to either entice consumers to explore further or to build anticipation for your next communicaiton.  News At 10 use this approach to encourage you to come back after the commercial break and even the ancient British gameshow ‘Countdown’ provide an anagram for you to solve before the next show!

The same principle can be applied to your email campaigns either in the form of intriguing subject headers or in the body copy itself where you give a taster of what’s to come in your next email.  Let’s face it, if your consumers know that your next email is going to include some compelling added value content, they’re going to be much more inclined to open it.   I’d like to thank  Kenneth Yu from Mindvalleylabs for this useful tip.


So there you have it.  10 killer tips to improve email effectiveness.  This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means but hopefully there’s a few nuggets which you may not have thought about which might make all the difference to your next email campaigns.

If you’ve got any other ones you’d like to add to this list I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.

One thought on “10 killer tips to improve your email campaigns

  1. Pingback: Exploiting the Zeigarnik Effect « ‘If only we’d thought of that’

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