With an average return on investment up 53% in 2014, direct email remains an essential marketing strategy tool, according to figures released by the UK's Direct Marketing Association. Deliverability, open, click and conversion rates all increased between 2013 and 2014, proving that the email sector is here to stay.

90% of UK marketers who took part in the DMA (2015) survey stated that email marketing is instrumental in helping them achieve their business goals. These could be short or long-term goals, such as boosting sales, winning over new clients, reinforcing client relationships, increasing traffic to your site or even crafting your reputation. As the end of the year approaches, it's time to exceed business objectives by increasing your open-email rate!

So how do we create compelling subject lines to increase open rates?

Use a short subject-line, snappy and to the point

In 2014, the average open-rate on the English market was 44% (DMA, 2015). Subject-lines containing between 6 and 10 words will increase your open-rate. A study found that e-mail subject-lines containing between 28 and 39 characters resulted in the highest open rates. Short subject-lines are more suitable for mobile reading, while long subject-lines display poorly.

Ensure your subject-line does not contain spam words

Dodge the spam-filter by avoiding blacklisted keywords, such as « deal », « free ». Also avoid special characters, exclamation marks and word repetitions. Save your sales' talk for later.

Subject-lines such as « buy this product and get 20% off » attract very limited returns due to being too direct and sales' focused. To optimise the catchiness of your subject-lines, give the preference to verbs suchas : «enjoy », « benefit from »,.... The aim of such subject line is to highlight what the potential-customer expects to gain.

A few successful subject-line examples…

  • Final days : an extra 15% off
  • Fred, would you like to win our competition?
  • 10 ideas for gifts costing less than £15

How do we engage recipients to take action following the email mailshot?

Use HTML for your action buttons

Forget using images for your action buttons: users only rarely display images embedded in their emails. Also, spam-filters can sometimes block them from being displayed. Your “action buttons” should be set up with HTML/CSS code.

Be convincing

Action buttons should incite clicks. Optimise open-rates by being snappy! Marketing tests regarding the wording used in calls for action has revealed that the “action button” titled “Find your solution” instead of “Learn More” has increased click rate by 77%, “Subscribe & Save” instead of “View Subscription Options” has increased the click rate by 181% and “Get Started” instead of “See How this Works” increased the click rate by 104%.

Select strategic button-location

A Canopylabs study found that clicks tend to happen after the user has finished reading the email. Optimal click rates coincide with action buttons located towards the left or at the bottom of an e-mail.

Make it hard to say 'no'

In your emails, suggest special offers, interesting content, immediate rewards. In short, recognise expectations and rise to meet them. The trade-off to getting their email address is that they should receive exclusive advantages.

Best practices with email marketing

Play with timing

Time your emails with users' specificities in mind. For example, in the case of professional client-targets, forget sending weekend or Friday afternoon emails. Study customer behaviour and use an A/B testing tool to gauge the perfect times for dispatching newsletters. Send the same content to several samples drawn from your database, on different days and at different times.

Manage emailing frequency

If you elect Tuesday as your day to send emails, your database contacts will come to expect emails on that day. So make sure you are providing them with updated, interesting newsletter-content every, or every other Tuesday. Don't forget that highly frequent emails will harm your open-rate. Choose email-offer quality, rather than quantity. Ask users to select the frequency with which they wish to receive your newsletter.

Segment your database

Ensure you choose relevant criteria when segmenting your database. Offer selected segments differentiated, exclusive advantages. Choose to broadcast a local event to users inhabiting a specific customer caption area.

Use tools such as RFM notation in order to ensure the most pertinent segmentation. You can then address the right message, to the right person, at the right time.

Send emails that match the quality of your target audience; different messages will apply for prospective or loyal customers. Prod inactive clients with suitable messages.

Optimise email reading

35-44 year olds and users over 55 are those who spend the most time on their smartphones (roughly 3.5 hours a day). The use of mobile devices to read emails is therefore on the rise. Effortless legibility is a must if Tend to your newsletters if you want to increase click and engagement rates.

Test your emails

Before the final mailing, test your newsletter on a few addresses in order to check how it displays across a range of different inboxes. Ensure that the HTML code permits optimal displaying in all inboxes and terminals, whether mobile or not.
Also test each link in your newsletter; outdated links give your readers a poor impression of you.
How to develop successful email marketing materials

Use social media

Reach more users by combining social media and email marketing campaigns! Add a newsletter subscription tab to your Facebook page. The more communication channels you master, the stronger the impact of your message will be.

Promote client participation

Setting up scenarios for your products is an excellent way of prompting clients to share your content. For example, ask some of your loyal customers to send you pictures of your products that you can then relay in your newsletter. Make them your social media ambassadors and your emails will go viral.

Offer free content

Encourage your users to gain from your expertise and enjoy your creativity by offering free downloads from your site. This could include e-books, computer graphics, surveys and studies, calendars and greeting cards A prime way to develop and adjust your database. Promote the free access to your content via customised newsletters and market these widely!

Exceed your objectives and boost performance by applying our advice to your campaigns!


By Marc Schillaci, CEO of Actinic (Actinic is a brand of Oxatis Group). 

GDPR Summit Series is a global series of GDPR events which will help marketers to prepare to meet the requirements of the GDPR ahead of May 2018 and beyond. Further information and conference details are available at http://www.gdprsummit.london/

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