Email Marketing Breakthroughs: 9 Insights to Drive Clicks

According to Smart Insights, on an average, only about 22.87% of your email subscribers – the people who actually said they want to hear from you – open what you send.

Even worse, only 3.26% click your calls-to-action.

This means that 96.74% of your subscribers never even see the “on-the-money” content you’ve spent so much time creating.

Yet, email is still one of the most profitable and effective means of not only communicating, but marketing. It’s quick and personal, yet still professional and timely, which makes it perfect for businesses to communicate with their target.

To help you get your own 96.74% to start engaging, here are nine email marketing breakthroughs to drive clicks and get results.

1. Segment Your Audience

The most important element in any marketing campaign is your audience, and email marketing is no different. Email marketing, however, is one of the few strategies which allows you to segment your audience in order to communicate with each type separately. As Larry Alton explains on Tech.Co:

  • Segmentation can increase engagement and conversions in email marketing, because smaller segments allow more targeted emails. The larger an email list gets, the more diverse subscriber demographics become. This makes it difficult to target content and provide relevant opportunities for engagement.
  • Segmenting one list into multiple smaller lists drives relevant engagements.

One-size-fits-all solutions to segmenting your audience don’t exist. So, how you segment depends on your brand, products, and the characteristics of your target market.

For example, a tech blogger might segment their audience based on the topics each reader prefers, and send a varied newsletter based on each type. A productivity app startup, on the other hand, might segment their audience based on the frequency and/or length of usage of the tool by each subscriber.

In other words, start by defining your goals and what each segment of your audience needs to do next to get there.

2. Personalize Your Message

According to a study conducted by the Aberdeen Group, ninety-six percent (96%) of organizations believe that email personalization can improve email marketing performance.

And they’re right. On average, personalized emails improve click-through rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10%.

Of course, one of the most common ways to personalize your emails is to simply use your customer’s name, instead of a generic “Dear Subscriber.” While this tactic is still a best practice, it won’t set you apart from the pack. Everybody’s doing it.

A much more effective way to truly personalize emails is to send something that only applies to the individual, like when Warby Parker reminds customers that their prescription is almost up, or the emails from charity: water that update donors on the progress of the projects to which they have contributed.

You could also consider the way Blinkist, an app that provides short summaries of popular books, recommends reads based on books you’ve read before or lets you know when a book you want has been added to their library.

3. Test Your Subject Lines

The only thing standing between your email being read and being dead… is your subject line.


Because your subject line is one of only three lines – (1) the From name, (2) the Subject line, and (3) the first line – that the vast majority of your subscribers ever see.

This means your subject line has one job and one job only: to get your email opened.

To discover what works best… you have to test. Email A/B testing involves sending out multiple versions of the same email with just one difference, to track how your audience responds.

Take a look at these subject lines being tested on GetResponse – notice how all of them say basically the same thing, but using different words? Something as simple as adding a date to your headline can make a significant impact, since some people hate having emails sit around unopened too long.


A/B testing subject lines using GetResponse (Source: HowToWebmaster)

For subject lines, you can test:

  • Length – Do they prefer lengthy sentence-type headlines or short phrases?
  • Jargon – Is your audience more interested in industry jargon or everyday phrases?
  • Sentiment – Should you be more positive and inspirational or go for shock value?
  • Phrasing – Would it be best to phrase it as a statement or pose a question, answered in the email?
  • Personalization – Would seeing their first name included in a friendlier subject line freak them out?

To get the most effective results with subject line A/B Testing, remember to do it continuously, as part of your overall email marketing strategy, and only test one element at a time.

4. Optimize for Mobile

According to Experian’s Quarterly Email Benchmark Report for Q3 2014, 53% of total email opens occurred on a mobile phone or tablet.

That should be more than enough motivation to realize that your emails need to be viewable on mobile devices. Otherwise, those unable to view your email will probably not give it a second look.

Mobile email optimization involves several things:

  • Font sizes should be larger (at least 16 points) for easier viewing.
  • Images may not load based on email client, so you should eliminate them or use them only to enhance your content.
  • Content needs to be responsive, i.e. adjust to fit the screen automatically.
  • Call-to-action buttons should be coded as HTML, as opposed to images, which may not load (as previously mentioned).

5. Keep It Short

The very fact that subscribers have to decide whether they want to open your email, and that they’re viewing your emails on-the-go, should tell you that time is a precious commodity.

In fact, the phenomenon of skipping out on reading things because of their length has spawned its own acronym: TL;DR… “too long; didn’t read.”

With so many time demands, the last thing anyone wants to do is read a long email.

This means, you need to get to the point quickly and show the value of your emails within seconds. To do this, keep your emails short and concise.

Minimize the number of topics you address in each email to 1-3. Limit the body copy and opt for bullet points. Also, provide summaries with links to additional content.

Here’s a perfect example from Hipmunk.


Concise email with short tips in bullet point format (Source: HubSpot)

6. Call-to-Action

A call-to-action (CTA) tells your audience what you want them to do next.

If you leave “what’s next” up to them to figure it out – or, even worse, simply assume that they’ll know what do it — your results will take a nose dive.

While there are no perfect calls-to-action, there are some best practices you can use to increase the likelihood of clicks.

Most importantly, stick to just one CTA.

Provide the reader with multiple options and you might invoke the paradox of choice – they get anxious because they simply aren’t sure which one to choose … and end up doing nothing.

There are cases where multiple CTAs might work – when you have different options. For example, if you are giving options to join a webinar hosted at different times, creating a link for each time would make sense.

To make your CTR even more effective, include your CTA – your one CTA – at multiple points in your email. This is especially important at the close of your email or in the P.S. (more on this below).

7. Ask Them Questions

A great way to get conversations started is to ask your audience questions.

Emails are no different.

Questions about best practices and tips to share with others can lead to great conversations. Just remember to give them a place to respond and share their thoughts, such as a discussion board on your website or on Twitter using a dedicated hashtag.

Of course, another approach to asking questions is to use them as an incentive.

If you ask: “What’s the number productivity technique to get the most out of each day?” and link to your blog post on the subject, it will tempt those wanting to know the answer.

As we mentioned above, questions like these can also work in subject lines. Pose your heading as a question to be answered and see how many people react to it.

8. Have a Conversation

Email marketing is not just about selling your products.

Even though this is often a benefit, and usually one of the main reasons businesses get involved in it, email marketing is about building solid relationships with your audience, so they will be more loyal to you and willing to support you when the time arises.

As with a person-to-person relationship, you need to provide some form of value outside a transactional arrangement. When you share genuinely engaging content and offer tips to make their lives easier, you start conversations.

Even better, you inspire and entertain them.

Once you’ve become “friends” with your audience, you don’t have to worry about whether they’ll click on your emails, because they will be eagerly awaiting whatever you share next.

Because it’s not about you, it’s about them.

That means using the word “you” in your emails is essential.

9. Add a “P.S.”

Postscript messages might seem redundant in the age of digital communication.

To be honest, you no longer need to write an afterthought to a letter when can simply go back in and edit the content. And yet “P.S.” is an incredibly effective way to breakthrough to your audience, especially in email marketing.


P.S. can be used as a hook, to throw in an additional benefit not related to the main copy. It can also be used to offer a special deal for those who scroll through the email without reading the rest.

After a compelling subject line, your readers’ eyes are automatically drawn to the bottom of your email, because that is where they typically find the summary and call-to-action.

It is well-worth it to make use of this space as a final attempt to draw readers in and get them to click.

Over to You

Email marketing is a great way to get your audience’s attention and see real business results, but with so many businesses doing it and fighting for space in the inbox, it’s a tough job to get those eyeballs in your direction.

If you keep in mind that your audience members have varied interests, and use the information you have about them to create personalized, valuable content that is easy to read on any device and provides the motivation to take the next step, expect to see great results from your email marketing efforts.

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Written by:
Tracy Vides is an independent researcher and content strategist, who blogs about things as diverse as tech, fashion, cars, and finance. You can follow her on Twitter @TracyVides or catch all her posts on Google+.
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