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7 Overlooked but Critically Important Details of Profitable Email Marketing

Jay Harper of Red Apple Lipstick made $10,895.54 from a couple of emails he sent out to the people on his email list.

Nathan Barry, a web designer, launched an eBook that made $12,000 in sales in 24hrs and went on to make over $85,000 in its first year.

Whether you run an ecommerce store, sell a SaaS product, or offer consulting services online, your email list often is your most important marketing asset.

In fact, 92% of marketers in Marketing Sherpa’s 2013 Email Marketing Benchmark Survey said that email is producing, or eventually will produce, a positive ROI for them.

Marketing Sherpa’s 2013 Email Marketing Benchmark Survey

So how hard are you working to build, and make the most of, your email list?

The survey shows that most marketers aren’t giving it the attention it deserves. Only 17% of respondents say their lists are growing significantly, and a third of marketers report that their lists are not growing at all or are even shrinking.

email marketing list growth

If email marketing produces a positive ROI, why are so many marketers not making the cut? The pie chart below offers a hint. It shows that 83% of marketers are overlooking the importance of tracking (and testing) their email marketing and metrics.

email tracking

Once we go over some helpful tips and tests for your email marketing, you’ll be in a much better position to make adjustments that will have a great impact on your revenues.

Now that I’ve made a clear case for the importance of email, let’s look at 7 ways your company can profit from it.

1. Mobile

The above report also highlighted one area of substantial concern – mobile.

Only 21% of respondents said they have integrated mobile into their email program. That means they’ve given little thought to how their emails display on mobile and what interactions their users are having with them.

The 3 charts below from a Rackspace infographic are a testament to why this is such a serious issue for marketers.

mobile email users

Mobile email users are headed toward 4x growth over the next 2 years. While, currently, more emails are opened by webmail and desktop, that will change soon, and mobile will lead the pack.

email open rates

If that data doesn’t scare you, maybe this will…

BlueHornet found that 69.7% of consumers immediately delete emails that don’t render well on a mobile device.

consumers delete emails

This doesn’t apply to email only. Google’s Mobile Ads Blog shares a study that found 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing from their phone, and 40% will go to a competitor’s.”

Litmus has a nice case study on how Lasoo made the transition from their old site to a mobile-friendly one. Take a look at the before and after below and think about which you’d prefer to read.

mobile friendly email

We’ve just completed a total redesign for mobile at and are now moving on to do this at my other business because I see it as so important.

Takeaway: If your email and landing pages don’t display well on mobile, you’re losing money.

2. Lists and Segmentation

A MailChimp study found that by segmenting email lists, the following increases occurred:

segmenting email lists

I’m not sure why the unsubscribe rate would go up in this case. But the general idea is that you can “select” groups of subscribers based on similarities they have and send them more targeted and relevant messages.

There are several ways to segment your list. You can do it by:

  • Geography
  • Merge field
  • Signup date
  • Purchase history
  • Behavioral data
  • Demographics

This all depends on what data you’ve been collecting and what your email service provides you with.

Takeaway: Test segmenting your list and customizing your message to be more relevant to each segment.

3. Format and Length

Many information marketers still find the simple, almost plain-text style of email performs best. Why? Because the email looks more personal to the recipient. It’s like getting an email from a friend, compared with getting an email from an advertiser.

(Like everything I’m sharing with you here, this isn’t a universal rule, so you’ll want to test different formats for yourself.)

It’s not just the format and style, though. It’s also the length of your email.

At Business Consulting Buzz, I usually send personal-looking emails to segments of our list. The email provides an introduction and summary of the latest post on the blog. Recently, however, I noticed that Neil Patel sent some emails that were very short and had only one or two lines and the link to his blog post.

Neil is a smart guy, so I figured why not give that a try. The next email looked like this:

Neil Patel Email

That email got a 45% increase in clicks. Thanks Neil. :)

Takeaway: Test different formats and measure your open, click, and conversion rates.

4. Personality

Email is one of the most personal mediums we have. What other medium allows you to reach people almost anywhere they are (even places where they shouldn’t take their phones) at any time of the day?

Few people will read your emails if they find them boring. Yet many marketers write their emails like 1990’s corporate brochures.

“Sadly, for most people, their email inbox is a constant reminder of the many mundane and mind-numbingly boring tasks they have to deal with, such as paying bills, taxes, and other such responsibilities.

“If you, in that very same space, can bring something exciting and interesting to their lives, then your emails will always be opened and will be keenly read.

“Let the engaging, charismatic, and intriguing person that you are shine through in your emails. Do this, and you’ll notice your “open” rates will literally skyrocket!”
Revenue Inbound

Takeaway: If you’re sending only corporate types of emails, try sending more personal, friendly, and fun emails to your list.

5. Subject Lines

Out of all the elements in email marketing that are tested, the subject line is the most popular.

email campaign elements do you test

Why is this? Probably because it’s so easy to test. Many of us are lazy or just “too busy,” so testing a subject line is like grabbing for low-hanging fruit.

And that’s okay, as a starting point anyway, because it works. The results can be profound.

Most email service providers will have an A/B subject line option that allows you to send emails with one of two different subject lines to a percentage of your list. Then emails with the other subject line are sent out to the remaining people on your list.

MarketingExperiments found that it was able to increase its click-through rate by 125.9% by testing its subject line. Not only that, but they drove twice as many people to their registration page.

The winning subject line was: “Do your landing pages pass this test?”

And the losing subject line was “A scientific way to increase your conversions.”

There are all kinds of studies that point to whether a shorter or longer subject line is better and whether or not to capitalize, add symbols, use numbers, and so on. The reality is what worked for others won’t necessarily work for you.

Run your own tests and generate your own results. Then you can decide how to move forward. FulcrumTech suggests that you look at what’s trending in Google and use its Keyword Tool to ensure you’re using the most relevant wording in your subject lines.

Takeaway: Testing your subject line is easy. Plan out several variations for upcoming emails and analyze the results. You’ll learn a lot in this process. Be sure to only test a statistically significant percentage of your emails first to see which subject line is the winner. Then use the winning subject line for the remaining emails.

6. Deliverability

It’s important that you use the right service provider. Most companies give little thought to the deliverability of their emails. However, as this Quicksprout post shows, just by switching providers, open rates and click rates increased from 26.07% to 37.57% and from 10.46% to 17.48%, respectively.

If you’re running a six or seven figure business and rely on email, you could be leaving a lot of money in those “undelivered emails.”

inbox vs spam

Return Path’s email deliverability research team shows that 12% of global emails are simply going missing. Another 7% are ending up in spam folders. If you’re generating $10,000/month from email, that could be up to $1,900/month that doesn’t reach your pockets.

And that’s simply because you’re using the wrong email service provider.

Takeaway: Check with your email service provider to see what data they can share with you about their deliverability rates. Then search online to see if you can verify its accuracy through other studies. If not, have a discussion with them, or consider making a switch.

7. Test One Thing

Experian suggests that you limit your email marketing tests to one element at a time. If you’re testing too many things at once, you run the risk of not knowing what actually contributed to the increase or decrease.

Start by looking at some big areas you can test, because often these will generate the biggest results. Here is a list of 25 little experiments you can run as well.

And if you’re looking for a great outline of A/B testing for email campaigns, have a look at The Beginner’s Guide to A/B Testing.

Takeaway: Though it may take longer to test everything you want to, testing one element at a time will help you isolate exactly what is working and what isn’t.

Take these 7 email marketing suggestions to heart and think about how you can implement and test each of them in your business. Then watch your revenues grow.

About the Author: Michael Zipursky is a direct marketing consultant, author, and co-founder of Business Consulting Buzz, a leading resource for consultants with over 700 articles, interviews, and courses. To learn how to land more clients, increase your income, and become a successful consultant, get Michael’s Free Consultants Toolkit.

  1. Navid Moazzez Jul 18, 2013 at 2:29 am

    This is a reallly great post, thanks so much for sharing this! I’m in the process of setting up my email liste and creating an initial offer to start growing my list and this article has been really helpful for me and I got some great tips I can implement when I do my own email marketing.

  2. Great post. I manage my company’s email marketing program and I’ve recently been looking into the mobile use trend over the past year. It’s definitely on the rise! Although we’ve made significant improvements to our email program over the past year regarding the optimization of email campaigns, our average email CTR (clicks/sent) YOY has remained consistent (open rates have increased, though!). I’m wondering if this is due to the increase in mobile email users who are less likely to spend time clicking around on the content when they’re using a mobile device. Our clients pay special attention to the clicks/sent percentage so this may be something we’ll need to explain if CTRs begin to decrease.

    Couldn’t agree more with the importance of segmenting lists! I’m guessing that the increased unsubscribe rate would correlate to the increase in open rate. If you have more people opening the email, you’ll have more people who have an opportunity to unsubscribe. That’s OK, though, if they don’t want to receive your emails, they’re doing you a favor by removing themselves from the list!

    • Kristy – thanks for the thoughtful comment and sharing your experiences. Mobile is definitely an area to watch. Sharing a summary of data or research with your clients is a great way to keep them educated on the work you’re doing for them.

  3. I personally send short and ‘get to the point’ type emails with good clicks. No fluff and no bluff stuff will be liked by the subscribers.

    Thanks for an excellent information and marketing materials!!

  4. Christoffer Moen Jul 23, 2013 at 1:31 am

    Really enjoyed the post, but what do you think about frequency? Say you post one article every day, and sending a personalized email out every single time might be overkill?

    On top of that, if it’s a new subscriber and you’ve setup a lifecycle campaign – they’ll be getting a lot of emails.

    What are your thoughts?

    • Christoffer – common but good question. As long as you’re delivering valuable and/or interesting information that your subscribers want to read they will be happy to get emails from you often.

      I have several colleagues that send emails to their lists 5 days a week and are getting great results.

  5. Great tips on how to boost email marketing profitability. Email marketing is often overlooked by Internet marketers focused on social media which gets a lot of the marketers focus these days. That said, Email marketing has the 2nd highest ROI tactic behind SEO according to data from Marketing Sherpa and is what many savvy marketers consider low hanging fruit, especially if a good in-house list exists. Personalization matters and can have significant impacts to open and click through rates. Optimal frequency varies greatly by audience and subject. In a noisy environment/inbox, relevancy matters so segmentation is a must. I couldn’t agree more with your advice on testing. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Thanks Linda. Glad it was helpful.

  7. If you are doing segmentation, the unsubscribe rate goes up.
    This is perhaps counterintuitive, but if you’ve segmented and some people have been grouped into a segment that’s ‘wrong’ for them (perhaps, for example, I bought a present for my wife or a friend and you’re sending me offers associated with that one-off purchase) I’m much more likely to unsubscribe than if you’d kept sending me generic offers covering a wider range of products.

    So maybe giving your subscribers a way of fine-tuning the segmentation you’re doing. Collecting information on the unsubscribes with a very simple radio box survey can help you diagnose any underlying issues here. Did we send too often / wrong offers / change of circumstances / just get too many emails / etc.


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