Email Word of Mouth

Email Marketing 101: How to Get Customers to Open Emails and Act on Them

Posted by Bri Bauer on February 8th, 2013 at 2:45 pm

As email marketers, it's gratifying to see our sign-up lists growing. Whether we're trying to grab a new client, customer, donor or reader, it feels pretty good to know our efforts are working. “They” signed up to hear from you (or rather, your brand); they want to be kept informed. Now it's your job to provide them with communication that gets opened and drives them to take action.

By the Numbers, Email is King

When it comes to digital marketing, email communication is as classic as it gets. When done effectively, email marketing can drive a significant amount of traffic to your business; consider these numbers, courtesy of the 2012 Channel Preference Survey, conducted by the digital marketing group ExactTarget:

  • 96 percent of online consumers use email at least weekly
  • 66 percent have made a purchase after receiving an email marketing message
  • 76 percent prefer email over all other channels for customer service messages
  • 66 percent of teens (ages 15-17) prefer email over all other channels for permission-based marketing
  • Email marketing drives more consumers to make a purchase than Facebook and text messaging combined

To put the popularity of email into context, this helpful graph from GovDelivery shows the breadth of users across various communication platforms.

  • If Facebook were a country: Population: 850 million. It would be the world’s third-largest country, bigger than North and South America combined
  • If Twitter were a country: Population: 200 million, bigger than Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan
  • If email users formed a country: Population 2.9 billion. It would be an empire.

Email marketing is untouchable because of its immense user base and the way it brings targeted messages into users’ most personal digital space – their personal inbox. There are variances in email approaches and strategies and new advancements in email marketing software that aid in this process, and here are some tips to get you started:

Use a catchy subject line. No pressure, but the fate of your email rests in the 50-something characters used in your subject line. Avoid spam-friendly language such as “free,” “act now” and “limited time” – these words will send your email straight into spam purgatory. Never use all-capital letters (why would you yell at a potential customer?) and cool it with the exclamation points (ditto – why are you exclaiming? It! sniffs! of! overstatement!). "Reminder” is another word that usually causes users to click “delete” right off the bat.

Make the design user-friendly. Your email communication must be both responsive and scalable. Users must be able to take action, whether they are viewing it on their mobile device or desktop computer, so scale your content to be viewed on multiple platforms. “For all the sophistication of mobile devices, email marketers see the most success with layouts that have as little noise [i.e., graphics, photos and video] as possible and the call to action visible without scrolling," Dean Levitt, chief of culture at email marketing software provider Mad Mimi, told

Value the importance of permissions marketing. Because your customers are highly valued and have opted to receive messages from your brand, it's important to communicate with value. Your emails should offer relevant substance and value to your readers. Bring news, brand insights, customer survey information and more to the table. Avoid puffery and pumped up nothingness in the body copy. Have your readers see the effort of substance that your brand is putting forth, and how you are staying true to your company’s brand and mission statement.

Make the user want to read your email. What motivated people to sign up for your emails in the first place? Knowing this will help you understand them as a community and facilitate delivering what they want. Are they looking for discounts? Do they want something to do? Provide them with relevant content other than your featured promotion. In return for their time and loyalty, engage with them to inspire their curiosity.

Give a call to action above the fold. Provide a link, special promotion or other eye-catching tactic on the initial screen, without no need to scroll down. A clear call to action drives the reader to take the next step toward conversion.

Finally, before you click “send” … Make sure your address list is accurate before you send your email. A recent Experian survey found that more than 90 percent of companies suspected that up to 25 percent of their data is inaccurate. Look at the number of bounce-backs or routinely un-opened emails.

Remember, your marketing emails are sharing valuable real estate with consumers’ personal messages. Consistently give them something they want. To ensure deliverability, research how users like to receive updates (all posts, limited information, etc.) and determine what day and time are the most effective when it comes to open rates and click-thrus.

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