These 7 little tactics could help boost engagement with your email newsletter

03 Jul 2017

  • Digital Marketing

By: Simon Harris, Chief Creator, Designus

I’m sure like me you receive thousands of emails a week each trying to get you to do or buy something. I find these days I rarely open emails even from organisations that I care about deeply.

Of course, what can we expect when of the nearly 200 billion emails sent every day worldwide (84% are considered spam). We’re overloaded!

That’s 168 billion emails . . . disregarded. That’s a lot of energy and money wasted.

You might be tempted to think that just applies to marketing emails. But you’d be wrong.

A full 55% of all email users admit that they don’t open and read messages regularly—whether business or personal. And we can’t just blame the "reply all" button. Email interactions are shifting entirely.

In fact, according to a recent GetResponse study, 41% of all emails are now opened on a mobile device. Even more shocking, according to that same study, 42% of users delete emails that don’t display correctly their mobile phones. That's nearly half of your email . . . getting dumped directly into the trash.

Here at Designus we’ve worked with many clients on their email design and often get asked about how to improve engagement. So we’ve put together seven tactics we always use to boost engagement and our clients have found these to work.

So here goes:

1.Short, Funny Subject Lines

Think about it if there’s no incentive from the subject line to click on that specific email right this instant why would your subscribers. I feel a better approach would be to try to have a different, creative, engaging subject line for each newsletter you send.

All of your subject lines should be on the short side. (They work better that way.) But have you ever tried infusing a little humour into your copy? It could put a smile on your recipients' faces -- and potentially improve your open and click through rates.

Check out out App Sumos great article on subject lines and headers – we use it all the time.

Below are a few great examples:

  • Were we boring you?
  • Steve, where are you?
  • How I grew the KissMetrics Blog From 0 to 350,000 readers a month

2. Keep copy to a minimum

A newsletter can easily feel cluttered and who has the time to read to decipher and read through pages and pages of amazing copy. The trick for email marketers to look uncluttered revolves around two things: concise copy and enough white space in the design.

Concise copy is key -- because you don’t actually want to have your subscribers hang out and read your email all day. You want to send them elsewhere (your website or blog, for instance) to actually consume the whole piece of content. Concise copy gives your subscribers a taste of your content -- just enough that they want to click and learn more.

White space is key in email newsletters because it helps visually alleviate the cluttered feel, and on mobile, makes it much easier for people to click the right link.

Here’s a great example of white space being used by the King Arthur Flour Company. They sent this email: “Fresh pumpkin tips: roasting seeds, making purée, and more.” The email is a great example of a helpful season tip — in this case, what to do with pumpkins outside of creating jack-o’-lanterns. The message includes a link to 50 delicious uses for pumpkin, including no less than 11 pumpkin pie recipes!

While the email shares helpful ideas and recipes, the net result is likely increased engagement and brand affinity toward King Arthur Flour and sales of ingredients to make the recipes.

king arthur flour

3. Pick one primary call-to-action

What makes a newsletter a newsletter is featuring multiple pieces of content with multiple calls-to-action (CTAs). But, that doesn’t mean you should let those CTAs share equal prominence.

Instead, let there be one head CTA -- just one main thing that you would like your subscribers to do. The rest of the CTAs should be “in-case-you-have-time” options. Whether it’s simply to click through to see a blog post or just to forward the email to a friend, make it super simple for your subscribers to know what you want them to do.

Check out this example from Manpacks

man packs

Speak your prospective customers’ language and you can get them to do pretty much whatever you want. Case in point, this call to action example from men’s grooming product site Manpacks.

On their own, underwear, razors, and condoms might not be terribly exciting, but appeal to men’s desire to build something and you’re onto a winning strategy.

By combining imagery that might otherwise be stereotypical (a man in a plaid shirt sawing timber) with strong phrasing (“Build a Manpack”), this company makes putting a male grooming gift box together sound as exciting as building a house – or a log cabin in the woods.

4. Make your emails more educational not just promotional

Chances are, your email newsletter subscribers don't want to hear about your products and services 100% of the time. While they may love you and want to hear from you, there’s only so much shilling you can do before they tune out.

Don’t be that company. In your email newsletters, get rid of the self-promotion (most of the time) and focus on sending your subscribers educational, relevant, timely information. Unless you actually have an exciting, big piece of news about your product, service, or company, leave out the promotional parts.

This great email from Swap Couture offers customers advice on how to get the most from their product. At the same time they are establishing themselves as the authority in the industry.

My couture

5. Set expectations on your 'Subscribe' page

Once you’ve figured out your newsletter’s focus and content balance, make sure you’re properly communicating about them on your subscribe landing page.

Get specific. Tell potential subscribers exactly what will be in the newsletter as well as how often they should expect to hear from you.

6. The dreaded unsubscribe

This seems counter-intuitive, but it’s key if you want to maintain an active, engaged subscriber list. Get people off your list that don’t want to hear from you they’renever going to buy from you.

Don’t use weird language like “Alter your communication with us.” Don’t hide an unsubscribe button behind an image. Besides keeping your list healthy, having a clear unsubscribe process will help ensure your email isn't marked SPAM before it hits the rest of your list's inbox.

The thoughtful clothing company, Free People, notices that subscribers haven’t been interacting with their emails and they send a friendly note asking if they’d still like to receive their emails.

This may prompt subscribers to start engaging with Free People’s content again, but it may provide a friendly opportunity to unsubscribe from their mailing lists. True to their brand, the unsubscribe page is girly with its floral design and “handwritten” typefaces.


7. No Images

Most of the emails featured in this post have lots of gorgeous, compelling images ... but that doesn't mean you need them in your emails.

Try stripping away images in favour of seriously well-written copy.

Below is a great example of a plain text email with excellent copy from Tim Ferris. I especially love the briefness and the links within the email. I read this email mostly as it feels more personal.

personal email

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