When it comes to digital marketing, there are few things more frustrating than watching an email marketing campaign crash and burn right in front of you. Staring at the stubbornly stationary engagement numbers, your mind reels trying to pinpoint the exact step in the process where you went wrong and doomed your email to obscurity.

Although this kind of outcome can be extremely discouraging, there are numerous important lessons to be learned which will help you to avoid similar results in the future. Here are some helpful tips to consider ahead of time so you can start garnering the engagement that your emails deserve.

1. Keep Your List Tidy

Maintaining the integrity of your email list is a vital step towards consistently hitting your engagement benchmarks. You never know when someone on your list shut down their email account, moved jobs, or has neglected their inbox until it’s become too full to accept more messages.

An important aspect of list maintenance is managing the bounce rate of your email. When an email fails to be delivered to the intended inbox, it “bounces” back to you and is marked as a “bounce”. Emails can bounce for a number of reasons – invalid email addresses, strict email security on the recipient’s server, etc. – so their occurrence can be quite common in your campaigns.

Clearing the email addresses on your list that consistently bounce will help your message actually land in as many inboxes as possible to maximize your potential engagement.

It’s also a good practice to run re-engagement campaigns for your subscribers who never seem to interact with your emails. As a last-ditch effort to re-engage, send inactive subscribers a polite message with an option to either continue to receive your emails or opt-out entirely. If they end up opting out via this message, make sure you ask why so you can improve your future correspondences.

In a way you are appealing to the “won’t miss it ’till it’s gone” part of their brains but also, if they do decide they won’t miss it, your email list just got a bit stronger and your engagement scores will reflect that improvement.

2. Does it Fit?

The importance of making your emails responsive – giving them the ability to dynamically scale to the size of the screen without sacrificing anything in design – seems like old hat at this point but yet, as of last year, only 17% of email marketers are using responsive emails.

The issue of responsiveness, in general, has come to a head users are now 5x more likely to leave a site that isn’t mobile-friendly. People have come to expect a certain level of quality in their online experience, so when a site doesn’t live up to that standard they don’t stick around for long. Since 32.81% of the banking and finance industry uses mobile email regularly, optimizing your emails’ responsiveness is more relevant than ever.

If your emails aren’t responsive yet, do yourself a favor and investigate possible solutions. Responsive designs result in nearly a 15% increase in unique clicks for mobile users so you won’t regret making the change.

3. Stick to the Subject

Imagine your email subject lines like the headline of a newspaper and your target’s inbox like a newsstand full of various publications. The initial hook of your subject line is the only way you can stand out amongst the competition and the only thing standing between you and the engagement you want.

33% of email recipients open email based on subject line alone. 

The unfortunate reality of email marketing is that you could have designed the most elaborate, artistic, incredibly written email ever to hit an inbox, but if your subject line is crap, your email won’t get read. Because of this, you should be spending about as much time drafting the perfect subject line and preview text as you spend on designing the contents of the email.

To give you some direction with the tone and vocabulary of your subject lines, make sure you are running A/B tests every time you send a campaign. Split testing your campaigns gives you some options and provides valuable insight into the preferences of your target audience. The more you test, the better you will understand what stands out in your audience’s inbox.

There are few truly hard and fast rules about writing good subject lines, but here are some trends that we found interesting:

  • “Emails with “You” in the subject line were opened 5% less than those without.”
  • “Emails with “Meeting” in the subject line were opened 7% less than those without.”
  • “18.7% decrease in open rates when the word “newsletter” is used in subject lines. “
  • “Using “Daily” or “Weekly” in subject lines boosts open rates whereas “Monthly” hurts them.”
  • “Personalized subject lines are 22.2% more likely to be opened.”

4. Right on Time

Like the subject line and preview text, the time that your email hits your recipients’ inboxes is another variable that’s about as critical to your campaign’s success as the contents of the email itself.

Odds are you won’t be able to hit everyone on your list at the perfect time, so the goal is to send at a time that the majority of people would reasonably be at their desks, looking through emails. According to StoneShot’s Digital Marketing Survey 2016, 49% of financial advisors prefer to receive emails in the morning. This only stands to reason as this is typically when advisors are sifting through their daily emails, having a coffee and getting prepared for the day ahead.

There’s not a formula for the perfect time and date to send out your emails, however, which is where testing comes back into the picture. By testing your emails at different times of day and on varied days of the week you can start to hone in on the perfect window of time to maximize your engagement.

5. Play to the Crowd

If you happen to have all of the above sorted out and you’re still seeing your content underperform, perhaps it’s time to look at the content itself. There are two key aspects of your content you have to focus on getting right if you are to start garnering the engagement numbers you want: Relevance and Medium.

The content you’re sending out needs to be so relevant to your target audience that they feel compelled to click through your email to find out what you have to say. In order to achieve that outcome, you have to have a thorough understanding of your audience. If you haven’t already, a great way to start this process is by creating audience personas. If you already have your personas in place, perhaps it time to once again ask yourself things like:

  • What’s their motivation to engage with a brand, in general?
  • Are they price-focused or service-focused?
  • Are they trying to be convinced to buy or reassured they’ve made the right choice?
  • What problems do they have that I could help them with directly?

Understanding your audience and making content that is relevant and useful to them is the basis of inbound marketing and in time will expand your audience organically.

The content you are putting together also has to be in a medium that your audience will find immediately intriguing and ultimately educational and/or engaging. In 2017, the name of the game is visual content. People want to not only get educated but also simultaneously entertained, which is why visual content like infographics and videos are becoming more and more popular.

51% of B2B marketers prioritized creating visual content assets in 2016. 

Although they take more time, effort, and know-how than a traditional blog post or white paper, the results will reflect your effort. According to research done by the Neilson Norman Group, “Eye-tracking studies show internet readers pay close attention to information-carrying images. In fact, when the images are relevant, readers spend more time looking at the images than they do reading text on the page.”

In B2B specifically, infographics were the content marketing trend with the biggest boost year over year, jumping from 50% to 58%. The good news is, with free tools like Venngage that let you create stylish infographics, turning a stale piece of old content into something shiny and new is now easier than ever.

For more information on list cleaning, responsive email design, subject line optimization, or content marketing, check out these helpful articles: