person looking at email

In an era of ad-blockers and spam filters, marketers need relevant, innovative email marketing strategies and tactics to keep subscribers informed and engaged with your brand.

That was the key message Marketo's Mike Madden shared in a recent CMSWire webinar, 5 Tips to Master Email Marketing. You can watch the full webinar at the end of this article.

What to Do

Madden, Marketo's Demand Generation programs manager, shared five actionable strategies to increase email deliverability, increase click-through rates and optimize email for mobile.

1. Build Clickable Buttons

Unlike images that need to download, clickable HTML buttons render before the email is opened. That means when you use them, the main call-to-action stands out as soon as your customer opens the email.

In a Marketo test, email that included an HTML button had a 5 percent higher open rate, 15 percent higher click-to-open rate and 20 percent higher click-through rate. Madden recommends using a free tool from companies such as Da Button Company, CSS Button Generator or Egnyte's Button Generator to build HTML buttons.

2. Build Mobile-Responsive Email

Marketo estimates that 65 percent of people start their purchasing path on a mobile device. In contrast, only 25 percent start on a computer while 11 percent start on a tablet. More than 50 percent of consumers open email on mobile, Madden said, so a seamless experience guarantees not only a better email open rate, but also a possible purchase.

It's imperative to make sure items open the same way on a mobile device as they open on a desktop. Design your email for mobile by making sure the correct code is contained in every email template.

It's also a good idea to experiment with larger text and placement of your call-to-action “above the fold,” so people don’t have to scroll and search to find what they need. In Marketo’s test, the mobile-responsive template saw 27 percent higher unique clicks, a 28 percent higher click-through rate and a 31 percent higher click-to-open rate.

“Mobile-response is no longer a nice-to-have, but an absolute must-have," Madden said.

3. Increase Deliverability

Your email is only effective if someone reads it. That's why deliverability — a way to measure the success at which you get your marketing messages into subscribers' inboxes — is so important. Deliverability is calculated by the dividing the number of email delivered by the total number of email sent. And according to Return Path, 79 percent of commercial emails land in the inbox.

You want to avoid hard and soft bounces and spam traps, all of which hurt your deliverability, Madden said. Marketo works with New York City-based Return Path for reputation management. The company offers a free reputation rating for email senders called Sender Score.

“Five years ago, getting your email delivered was a matter of having the right email address and that the email wasn’t super obvious spam. But in today’s world, avoiding spammy words isn’t enough to help your email hit the inbox,” he said, specifically mentioning tools like Gmail’s tabs and filters, which make it easy for customers to block email.

To improve deliverability, some companies experiment with a lower soft bounce threshold. However, soft bounces may become hard bounces, and that can be detrimental to your reputation, he said. So be thoughtful and strategic.

Marketo’s rule for campaigns: If an email soft bounces more than six times in the past 30 days, retire the email. “You’ll potentially reduce something worse down the road, like a spam trap, and you’ll increase your deliverability,” Madden said.

As for hard bounces, retire the email address immediately so your sender reputation stays intact. Email service providers can view bounced email as spam traps, or email that was added to a list without permission. Sometimes, they set up spam traps to identify email marketers with poor permission and list management practices.

“Practice good email hygiene,” Madden said. Clean your email lists, mark bad or invalid addresses, and run small campaigns for unknowns.

Madden also suggests specifically checking the percentage of email that is actually delivered to the customer's primary inbox. But since mails that lands in a spam folder is still counted as delivered, you may need to dig deeper. Marketo, for example, can provide its customers a breakdown of exactly where email is delivered, including where it lands based on Gmail’s folder system.

Most importantly, only email people who have opted in, Madden said.

4. Write Good Subject Lines

screenshot of CMSWire Webinar on email

“Character limits matter,” Madden said, adding that the subject line should be between 30 and 50 characters. Consider:

  • Asking a question.
  • Leading with a number
  • Use “you” or “your”
  • Use rhymes and alliteration
  • Keep a consistent tone from subject line to body copy
  • Test different subject lines

5. Use Reactivation Campaigns

This refers to email campaigns targeted at “sleeping subscribers,” or people that haven’t engaged with your email in a long time, Madden said.

Use these campaigns to wake up the sleepers who may still want to hear from you, but also to determine who doesn’t want to hear from you anymore. Start by isolating the sleepy subscribers. Then test your language, offers and deals. What might inspire or excite them? Finally, think beyond a one-and-done campaign. Try to progressively build on a bigger message.

This article is a recap of a webinar sponsored by Marketo.

Title image by Maliha Mannan