Email marketing tips: 5 moves for improving effectiveness

August 28, 2014


open envelope with paper; improving email open rates and CTRsAnalytics make it simple to analyze your email marketing’s effectiveness, from hard and soft bounces to click-through rates and conversion. But what do you do with that information, and how to you improve if your campaigns are below the industry average?

Here are a few benchmarks broken down by industry, courtesy of MailChimp:


Industry Open Rate     Click-Through Rate
Architecture & Construction 25.38% 3.86%
Legal 21.23% 3.25%
Manufacturing 23.78% 3.14%
Medical, Dental, Healthcare 22.76% 3.07%
Professional Services 21.72% 3.21%


Did your last campaign perform within these ranges, or was it much better? Before we dive into tips for improving your rates, let’s review the key metrics that matter:

Delivery rate – aim high, baby. Ninety-five percent to be exact. Anything lower could be a reflection of your bounce rate. If one campaign has an exceptionally low rate, review the subject line and content. It may have been flagged as spam and never made it to your recipients’ inboxes.

  • Soft bounces: these bounces are caused by a temporary issue associated with a valid email address, like a server issue on the recipient’s side or a full inbox.
  • Hard bounces: these bounces mean your email will never reach the recipient because the account has been closed, or the email address is invalid or non-existent. This metric shouldn’t go ignored because it can impact your delivery rate. One way to avoid hard bounces is to require a double opt-in list signup. Once readers opt in, they receive an email where they must confirm their desire to receive communication from your company.

Open rate – this shows whether the email was successfully delivered and opened by the recipient. The quality of your lists and subject line greatly impact this metric. It isn’t the most important one, but it means your message is one step closer to being read and acted upon.

Click-through rate (CTR) – this metric is one that measures engagement, and should take priority over open rates (even though this number will be exponentially lower). How many readers are clicking on one or more links in your email? If you have a prominent and clear call to action (CTA), you are setting yourself up for success.

A caveat about CTRs – the rate can vary drastically by the type of email you’re sending out. Newsletters have higher CTRs than promotional emails, and transactional ones have the highest response rate. Be sure to factor that into your campaign evaluation.

List growth rate – the churn rate of an email list can be 31 percent annually, so working to grow your list should always be a priority. To determine your growth rate, subtract opt-outs and hard bounces from the number of new subscribers obtained in a month. Then divide that number by the size of your original list.

If you’re looking for ways to improve your open and click-through rates here are a few tips:

1. Optimize your sender text. Of course the “from” line should include an email address with the company name it. But according to a recent HubSpot test, sending an email from a real person at the company instead of a generic account like “” improved the open rate by 3 percent.

2. Spend time crafting the subject line. Your subject line has one job: to get readers to click. Much like the headline of the email or blog post, it needs to be attention grabbing without giving away the farm. Avoid any triggers that could ensure your email ends up in the spam folder via spam filters. You should also stay away from all caps, exclamation points and sales-y phrases like “opportunity of a lifetime,” “click here now” and “free.” Here’s an awesome list of spam trigger words put together by HubSpot.

A couple more subject line tips:

  • Personalized email subject lines can increase CTR by 17.36 percent according to a recent MarketingSherpa case study.
  • Be sure to keep your subject line to 50 characters or less. The only exception is a subscriber base that is highly targeted and would want more information. For example, a subscriber to a weekly food industry blog.

3. Optimize your preview text. Your preview text is the few words that appear after your subject line in your recipient’s inbox. They are usually the first few that appear in the body of your email, but it is possible to customize this content by creating preheader text. Use this opportunity to give any additional nudging in order to get the reader to click. Be funny or provocative. Maybe even include some personalization if you haven’t done so in the subject line.

4. Leverage segmentation. By segmenting your content, you can not only personalize the greeting, but also create messaging that will resonate with each of your target audiences, instead of spamming your whole list with a generic communication. Automated software makes it easy to create workflows, then send emails to relevant targets when pre-set triggers are activated (more to come on workflows).

5. Update your list(s) regularly. Evaluate your contact list(s) after a large email campaign, or make a point to do it quarterly, taking a long hard look at hard and soft bounces. Accounts with hard bounces should be deleted, unless the information in the list can be quickly updated upon closer review (maybe some letters were transposed or a name was misspelled).

There is no exact science to effective email marketing, but by following a few email best practices, you can greatly improve your stats while building relationships with your customers and leads.

To learn more about marketing effectively, download this free ebook, The Marketing Strategy Playbook, today.


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  • About the Author
    Heather Kingry

    Heather Kingry is a versatile writer with nearly a decade of experience in writing across all media. Blogs, websites and tweets have become second nature. Whether it’s b2b or b2c, she’s strictly business when it comes to generating results for her clients.

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