Email isn’t dead. It has never been dead—and for the foreseeable future, I believe, it won’t die. For now, email performance is more closely tied to the true audience engagement, and not the algorithm of a platform trying to make ad revenue. 

Email is a channel that can be easy or complex, depending on company need. Choosing what makes an email program successful can feel like boiling the ocean. Below are three main themes to keep in mind when evaluating email performance. 

Give People Something to Look Forward to

Long-form, single-column, mostly-text newsletters are having a comeback. Here’s what some of the best newsletters have in common: 

They have a personality. Newsletters should read like it is someone speaking directly to the reader. It’s important that brands keep bringing a level of humanity to their content because it resonates more with people.

They introduce new parts of the internet. There’s a growing trend of brands sharing content from other publishers. This unselfish sharing is one reason people stay subscribed. 

They’re full of content. In a culture where every marketer says to make collateral as succinct as possible, lots of email content may seem counterintuitive. While content does need to pack a punch quickly, consistent value will encourage people to continue to read/watch/listen. 

They give you a preview. I really enjoy brands that let me read their content before I commit to a subscription. Much like the samples at Costco in a pre-COVID world, this structure lets the consumer decide whether the content is worthy of subscription status.

Now, every email your company sends can’t be a newsletter. Eventually, your emails have to promote and sell products—but those themes still hold true. 

Metrics

The second variable of email marketing success is metrics. Your email is out in the wild, how is it performing? Review these metrics:

Open Rate

In order to have a successful email, your audience needs to open it. And there are a multitude of things that determine whether or not someone opens your email.

TRUSTWORTHINESS

Consider how your email send is coming off to its recipient. Are you sending too many emails? Are you sending from an actual person’s email address, or using a standard “No Reply”? Ensure the emails won’t come off as spam.

SUBJECT LINES THAT GRAB ATTENTION

Your subject line is the most powerful tool to get people to pay attention to your emails. What “grabs attention” is up for debate, but can include the use of personalization, emojis, or offers. But don’t lay everything out in the subject line—if I can figure out your sale is for two days only and is up to 50% off just from reading the subject, I don’t need to open your email.

TIME OF DAY

For years Tuesday at 10 a.m. was considered the best time to send an email. It’s a time when people are working, getting settled. So, naturally, everyone started scheduling their emails for Tuesdays at 10, which meant it was no longer unique or effective.

Make sure the time you send matches the intent of the email and its audience. For example, B2B companies should send during business hours as much as possible. But if you’re a retailer, there’s no harm in sending in the evening or on weekends.

Email Rendering

How does your email look? Not in wireframe form—how does your email look on mobile/desktop/tablet in Gmail/Apple Mail/Outlook? Do your images automatically download? Is your text a color that people can read well? Consider all ways people may view the email. Bonus points if you start testing in dark mode. Otherwise, all the work you did to get your reader to open it could very well be wasted effort.

This is where a simple design can really save you. Instead of having a lot of coding energy spent on a really beautiful template, consider old faithful: single column, mostly copy.

Email Content & Click-through Rate

The Call to Action

Okay, so the email looks good, but did it create action? Consider whether one call to action (CTA) should be included, or multiple.

Is the audience at the top of the funnel? Are you trying to make them aware of how great your brand is and how many resources exist? Then sure—give them options and direction. Are they an SQL who you want to learn very specific things? Then give them a single action: Sign up for this webinar. Talk to sales.

There are so many variables to emails; something will go wrong sometimes. But emails last a few minutes in the real world and then we’re onto the next thing. If it’s a major error, send an apology note. If it’s not—move past it.

Lynsey Johnson is a Senior Digital Marketing Manager at Element Three, a marketing consultancy.

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