8 Tips to Improve Email Engagement

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Ali Garbero on August 22, 2022

Email marketing is a powerful tool. More than 4 billion daily email users are out there just waiting to hear from you. And if you think I’m wrong, ask the 78% of marketers who have seen an increase in their email engagement over the last year.

Emails are an easy way to maintain your connection with potential and current customers. And whether it’s a nurture campaign, a sales series or just a welcome note, you want to make sure customers see it in their inbox and find the value inside.

In other words: you need them to open that email.

To figure out how to entice people to open an email, I spoke with our resident email writing expert and copywriter, Ali Garbero. In this blog, she shares her eight tips to get your email opened (and form a great relationship in the process). She breaks down a great email in three sections:

  • Content
  • Format
  • Calls to action

Content

Emails are unique because there are multiple fields of copy. The email subject line draws people in, the preview text explains the “why” and the body copy delivers your message. You need to optimize each area to get people to read and engage with your emails.

Subject line

“If you don’t have a good subject line, it’s over,” Ali says. It’s that simple. People open emails when they’re intrigued by the subject line, so it has to grab readers’ attention.”

There’s no shortage of research about the most compelling subject lines, but Ali has a favorite method — the C.U.R.V.E. approach. Every subject line should target at least two of the following:

  • Curiosity
  • Urgency
  • Relevance
  • Value
  • Emotion

These are all feelings people quickly respond to that prompt you to open their email. For example, “Only two days left to save!” employs urgency and value. A customer can save money but only if they act within the next two days.

Ali adds that emojis are another way you can increase engagement. Adding emojis to your subject lines are easy ways to stand out from other emails in someone’s inbox and immediately draw their eye.

“Only use these if they’re consistent with your brand, though,” Ali adds. “If they clash with your brand personality it’s more likely to confuse people than encourage them to open your email.”

You also want to keep your subject line short and sweet. It’s all about concise clarity — conveying the heart of your message in as few words as possible. The average subject line is about 7-9 words, but studies show that 4-8 words typically get more engagement.

Asked for her advice on writing a short subject line, Ali says: “Just don’t lie to people. Creativity is important, but so is being honest. Even though you want to keep your subject line short, it should still match the body copy. This is how you build trust with readers and reaffirm the value you’re offering.”

Preview Text

Many businesses forget about the preview text, but it’s a key consideration in crafting emails people will open. Usually, the preview text will auto populate as a snippet of the first sentence of the copy. But according to Ali, you should write custom text that supports your subject line and give people information about what’s inside your email.

“Just like your subject line, the preview text should be short,” Ali says. “Keep it to about one sentence if you can. It should be longer than your subject line but still short enough to show the full message in the preview display.”

Ali adds that your preview text is a great way to introduce the main idea of your email copy. She recommends using ellipses to pull readers into the email. You can do this by starting a thought in the preview…

…and finishing it inside the email!

Copy

The main goal of creating compelling email copy is that it’s not only easy to read, but easy to scan. Because be honest, when’s the last time you read every word in a marketing email? Probably never.

Creating scannable content is all about breaking up the information into small chunks. Try to keep paragraphs to three lines maximum and sentences as short as possible. You can also use bullet lists to break up the text and highlight key points. Ali recommends playing with heading and subheading fonts to help main ideas stand out.

“Another way to boost engagement is to write your emails in a story format,” Ali says. “This engages people emotionally and makes them care about the ending, which brings them all the way to the end of your email.”

The key to using this story format is to remember that your brand isn’t the hero. Position your reader at the center of the story you’re creating and make it all about them.

think outside the inbox

Format

It’s not just about what you say; it’s also about how you say it. And these few tips about email formatting will help you arrange your message so it resonates with your audience.

Don’t Yell

No one likes to be yelled at — even if it’s excited yelling. It’s important to remember that things like all caps and exclamation points might seem energetic and fun to you, but can be loud and off-putting to your audience. Email etiquette is key if you want people to open and read your emails.

This doesn’t mean you can’t use emphasis to make a point. Ali recommends bold and italics text to emphasize a point without being overbearing. She says you can also underline a word or two (but keep this to a minimum).

“Emojis can be helpful here too,” she notes. “Just like grabbing attention in the subject line, in the body copy it can ensure you’re conveying the right emotion to your audience and help with the clarity of your message.”

Again, she notes not to overdo it with this tactic either. Create a message strong enough that it speaks for itself without needing much emphasis throughout.

Personalize It

“When crafting your email copy, always write the way you would speak to a friend,” Ali advises. This level of personalization draws in readers and makes them feel like you’ve put your spotlight directly on them.

Ali notes that your email copy doesn’t have to sound as formal, stuffy or proper as your other web copy and content does. Using a more conversational tone makes emails easier to read and creates an emotional connection.

“The mistake I see most with personalizing emails,” Ali says, “is that brands will lose themselves trying to connect with their audience. Don’t compromise your brand identity for an email. Think of your brand as a person and imagine how that person would speak to one of your customers.”

To find that middle ground, Ali recommends creating a word bank. Come up with a list of words that your ideal customer identifies with or that describes them, and one that reflects your brand. See where those lists mirror each other and try to use those keywords in your emails.

Other ways to personalize your email copy include:

  • Use the recipient’s name throughout the email
  • Speak to the customer’s problem and feelings about that problem
  • Speak directly to your audience

Mind the Fold

The concept of “above the fold” was borrowed from newspapers years ago and is a guiding principle in almost any design setting, including website design and email campaigns.

The idea is to keep your most important information as high in the email as possible so people see it before they scroll. (Hint: This includes your first call to action.) People should be able to immediately identify what you’re offering, which is what makes them read the rest of your email and click your link.

Above the fold content can be especially helpful in long emails. When readers see a wall of information, they lose focus and are tempted to leave. But if there’s value established right away, before they have to scroll, you’ll have them hooked and looking for ways to get your offer.

Action

The last part of crafting an expert email is to call readers to action. The whole point of content marketing — emails included — is to encourage people to engage with your brand. That’s why ensuring you’re giving people the right direction at the right time is critical.

CTAs

Calls to action (CTAs) are your main source of encouragement in the email. These can be buttons, links, forms, anything that prompts your reader to take the next step with your brand.

Many people struggle with creating effective calls because they don’t want to seem pushy or insistent. The truth is people want you to tell them what to do. They want you to clearly outline the next step they should take on their journey.

To do this, Ali recommends using an active voice as much as possible. “A passive voice can come off unsure and lack confidence. People are looking for clear, direct instructions. So give it to them!”

She says keeping your calls short and sweet is key to getting people engaged. A few phrases that encourage action include:

  • Register now
  • Download the form
  • Call today
  • Schedule an appointment

Each of these are clear, concise, and leave nothing to the imagination.

Oh, by the way, you’re not limited to just one CTA. In fact, it’s best to include multiple CTAs in your emails. At the very least, place one above the fold and one at the end of your message. The more you repeat those CTAs, the more likely people are to click-through to your landing page.

Timing

You know the marketing adage: “Give them the right information in the right place at the right time.” Well the “right time” part couldn't be more important in email marketing.

Although we all seem constantly connected to our emails, there are actually peak times throughout the day most people check their inbox. That’s when you want them to see your email.

Every pundit will have their own opinion of the best times. In general, Tuesday through Thursday mornings seem to be a sweet spot for most. Sending emails at the end of the day or over the weekend is usually advised against because not as many people are checking their inbox when they’re off of work.

“Send times can be somewhat subjective to your audience too,” Ali adds. “I like to think about what brain state my readers are in each day of the week. For example, I wouldn’t send a long email on a Friday afternoon when everyone is ready for a relaxing weekend.”

Ali adds that some email platforms like Mailchimp and Google Analytics offer send time optimization services. They’ll help you analyze your email data and pick the best times to send out your marketing emails.

Don’t Leave Money on the Table

Studies show that for every $1 spent on email marketing, businesses can expect an average return of $36. “So if you’re not sending emails, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table,” Ali says.

Your email list is a gold mine if you know how to create messages that grab attention and engage readers. Using the tips in this article, you can start to make your messages more effective and start working toward that ROI.

For more reasons why you should invest in email, check out our blog about Why Email Marketing is Still Important.

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Ali Garbero
Ali Garbero
Word Nerd. That's how Ali describes herself, and she adds, "Storytelling is the name of my game." Ali helps business owners connect with their ideal client through clearly written websites, emails, social content and other forms of written communication.

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