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PHOTO: Meghan Schiereck

Over the last few years, marketers have been reevaluating where they choose to spend their marketing media budget. They've also been critically assessing their relationship with external platforms, from the data provided by social media platforms purporting to represent customer behavior to noting the increased complications involved in applying tags.

In the midst of this, the humble email list has emerged as a quiet hero. A renewed interest in optimizing open rates finds marketers looking to build connections with customers — connections which become more challenging to establish as customer attention diminishes.

Email campaigns offer some advantages when it comes to matching message to audience. Compared to social media campaigns, email-related metrics are not threatened by undue influences such as algorithm adjustments that impact the reach of a post. An open email for the most part represents an email subscriber who has opened that email to view your message. 

Yes, open rate errors can occur. But the causes of those errors are more accessible for marketers from a technical standpoint compared to a social media platform that algorithmically controls when an intended audience sees a message in a newsfeed. Given the many caprices of social media, marketers may feel a sense of comparative relief being able to focus on an audience that is receptive to their message.  

While it is true that attribution can be straightforward with only few risks compared to other campaigns, most businesses have not refined their email strategy. Here are a few ways to get started.

Personalized Subject Lines Speak to Your Subscribers

Personalized subjects are a tried but true method that can have a large impact on your campaigns. Many email tools offer a personalization feature through analytic tags. Mailchimp, for example, allows a merge tag that permits dynamic content based on information stored on the customer, like the customer’s name, or provide a coupon based on a store near the reader. These personalization features require some familiarity with APIs in terms of what dynamic content can be imported. But using them in an email’s HTML is straightforward.

Related Article: Good Personalization Hinges on Good Data

Create a Sense of Urgency 

Offering a sale with an expiration date helps create a sense of urgency. Segmenting a subscriber list by period or recent purchase activity can help ensure you send the right urgent message to the right reader. Someone who bought something from your company in the past six months may not have the same drive to purchase as someone who is anticipating an event in a region you serve. Urgency is the oldest marketing trick, but these days urgency must be directed with more care to be effective.

Consider Subject Line Length

Your subject line needs to be short. Avoid long sentences or needless characters. What is the right length? Depending on the study you read, some would say 20 characters, others as long as 40.

No matter what study you believe, you can at least optimize the length of your subject lines. Consider writing out several drafts in an excel sheet. Then set a character count in the adjacent cell so you consistently choose subject lines that are as short as possible.

Related Article: How Many Marketing Emails Is Too Many Marketing Emails?

Use A/B Testing to Discover the Right Email Message 

A/B testing campaigns can reveal what changes impact open rates. Over the years the choices for email content has increased the combination of influences on open rate performance. An A/B test of a set of elements can be helpful in assessing what worked well and what really needs tweaking.

Check Your Tag Labels

UTM tags are usually associated with digital ads, but as marketers have long known, they work in other media too. But a common mistake is failing to establish a tag that uniquely identifies the link within the email. Use URL builders to ensure your link in an email is labeled “Holiday Sales Email” or some other text that associates the link with your email.  

As suggested in a previous CMSWire article I wrote on campaign launches, emails have a real chance to energize a captive audience — the list represents real people who have bought into your business, not from a platform filled with unknown prospects. Work still needs to be done in terms of using email to support a reach campaign, but the renewed interest in email allows marketers to tap into their already opted-in audience, leading to more clicks, fewer unsubscribes, higher customer satisfaction, and ultimately a better customer experience.