Email Marketing Best Practices: Tips to Increase Email Newsletter Engagement

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Email marketing is a versatile strategy that can be applied to almost any business use case and customer base. Emails ability to establish a direct line of communication with people opens up campaign possibilities from sharing thought leadership to product promotion.

To explore how email can serve as a marketing channel for you, check out our email marketing tips and insights below.

Why Email Marketing? 

While email might not seem like the sexiest or flashiest strategy in a world where new social media platforms and marketing tools emerge regularly, email is by no means going anywhere. According to Statista, the total number of global email users is set to grow to 4.48 billion by 2024. 

And with users increasing on email in general, engagement is also on the rise, as in 2020 80% of marketers reported an increase in email engagement (HubSpot, 2021). 

When Should I use Email Marketing? 

With statistics like that in mind, it is highly likely that email can be an effective channel for your strategy, but when exactly should you use it? Email marketing can be deployed at different marketing funnel stages, such as using email newsletters to share regular updates with new top of funnel leads, and targeted email drip campaigns for email list subscriber segments that have reached the mid funnel stage.

You can also deploy email automation for bottom of funnel leads with strategies like retargeting and abandoned ecommerce shopping cart campaigns. For more email marketing strategies for each funnel stage, check out our blog posts on the best mid funnel marketing tactics and bottom of funnel marketing tactics.

Regardless of how you are thinking about incorporating email into your strategy, these email marketing best practices will help increase subscriber engagement and ROI for your efforts.

1. Use an Email Marketing Platform

Email automaton platforms serve as a home base for newsletters and drip campaigns. They enable you to create and schedule emails, organize email lists, include tools to help you grow email newsletter subscribers, and feature reporting dashboards to measure email engagement.

The benefits of email marketing platforms include better organization, campaign automation, and the ability to A/B test and refine email efforts based on data.

Learn more about email marketing platforms on our Marketing Resources page.

2. Create an Email Template 

As discussed above, email automation platforms cover the full email marketing stack, and this includes writing and designing the emails themselves. Reusable email templates are another example of the way in which these platforms accelerate email marketing, and make it easy to scale it as a strategy. 

To create your own time saving email templates, these platforms feature drag and drop tools for creating emails, as well as the option to code your own HTML templates. The drag and drop option should suit most people’s needs, with the ability to create combinations of text, image, and video fields, as well as custom branding.

Use a Consistent Content Layout

Establishing a consistent email template will make your job easier when you go to make your newsletters and try to come up with what content to include, and it will also make your emails recognizable to subscribers. Consider creating a template that has these sections:

  • An email header banner that matches your branding (see section below)
  • Image and video thumbnail sections for embedding visual content
  • A list at the bottom for links to 4-5 blog posts, white papers, news articles, and website landing pages
  • A footer with a link to your website and social channels

Use Your Brand Colors and Elements

Email newsletters are an opportunity to showcase company branding and make your emails recognizable. A visually appealing newsletter will also receive more engagement than a plain text email.

Whether you are sending emails as an organization, or as a strategy for building your personal brand, styling your emails with brand elements like font, colors, and your logo will make it look and feel like the rest of your marketing channels. 

3. Make Emails Mobile-Friendly

Both the design layout of your email and the content itself should be created with both desktop viewers and mobile users in mind. 

Creating emails that look great and read smoothly on desktop, but are hard to read on mobile will have you miss out on a sizable segment of your audience, as last year 46% of all email opens occurred on mobile devices. 

Consider making Mobil versions of your email assets, or use images that have a more narrow aspect ratio to avoid them displaying incorrectly on mobile. The email automation platforms mentioned above like MailChimp and HubSpot feature mobile responsive email templates to help with mobile design.

4. Segment Your Email Subscriber Lists

Segmenting your email list based on your audience’s interests is a way to make your email marketing efforts more engaging. People who use segmented email campaigns reported as much as a 760% increase in revenue in 2020 according to HubSpot.

For example, if you have contact forms on your website for different products, you can create unique email content for each of those products and deliver it to the individuals who expressed interest in them. 

Another example of a subscriber characteristic you can use for email list segmentation is industry, as you can send different email content to people in different industries letting them know about your unique services or specialization in their particular industry. Create an email strategy that includes both content designed for your general audience, as well as specific content for subsets of your audience.

5. Use Engaging Subject Lines and Preview Text

The first things someone sees then they receive an email are the sender (see reply-to personalization tips below), the subject line and the preview text. Customizing the latter 2 items is critical, as subject lines and the preview of the email influence open rates.

Email Marketing Best Practices for Subject Lines:

  • Include numbers in your subject line 
  • Ask a question
  • Personalize the subject line with the person’s name
  • Include an offer
  • Create a sense of urgency 
  • Keep subject lines short - 50 characters is a good standard that will not be cut off on mobile devices 

6. Cross Promote Other Marketing Content

Email newsletters are a great place to promote other marketing content you’ve created. This will increase the ROI for the time and money you spent making marketing content, while simultaneously adding value to your newsletters. 

Marketing content like blog posts, videos, and imagery will make your newsletters more visually appealing, and drive traffic to your other marketing content. They will also help tell whatever story you are trying to tell with your newsletters, and position them as a resource for subscribers.

Email Marketing Tips for the Best Content to Include in a Newsletter

Consider these suggestions for content that can add value to your newsletters:

  • New blog posts
  • White papers
  • Case studies
  • Video content
  • Recent company news
  • Infographics and photography 
  • Banners / promotions for new products
  • Industry news

7. Personalize Your Email Newsletters

While one of the benefits of email marketing is the ability to reach a large number of targeted audience members at once, the risk of this one-to-many strategy is appearing generic, or impersonal to people. In order to reap the benefits of email marketing’s scale without turning your audience members away, you need to take advantage of the personalization options afforded by most email automation platforms.

Email personalization is the number one tactic used by email marketers to improve performance. (HubSpot, 2020)

Personalize Your Email Intros 

Just as you would personalize an email you are sending to an individual, email marketing platforms feature the ability to use a macro to pull in the first name field for each of your newsletter subscribers, automatically adding it to the introduction of your bulk emails. To ensure this works and includes the unique first name of each of the contacts you send your email to, you need to: 

1. Ensure each of your email list subscribers has the first name field filled out within their contact information in your subscriber database. Make sure your contact forms and other tools for growing your email newsletter subscribers have “first name” in the form, so that every inbound subscriber will already have this information in their contact properties.

2. Add the first name macro within your email template in platforms like HubSpot and MailChimp.

To avoid embarrassing mistakes and first name macro fails like the dreaded email that says “Hello First Name,” test your emails on yourself and your colleagues to ensure this field is in fact pulling in the correct first name information. 

Personalize the “Reply-To” Field

Most email platforms give you the option to set the email address that the email newsletter will appear to be sent from for the recipient. 

Customizing their field will add a level of personalization that can make people more likely to engage with your email. Consider creating an email alias for your newsletter like “newsletter @,” or make the emails come from an individual for a personal touch.

Add an Email Signature 

If you choose to have your emails appear like they are sent from a company email alias, you can use a general signature along the lines of “ Sincerely, The Brand Credential Team.” If decide to have your emails associated with your own email address, or the email address of one of your team members, you can add a personal signature at the end of the email, and even consider adding a visual e-signature that looks like a handwritten signature as an even more personal sign-off. 

8. Measure Email Marketing Performance Metrics

Open Rate

Email open rates are influenced by tips 5 and 7 above, which cover subject lines, preview text, and personalization for the reply-to fields and introduction sentences within your newsletters. These are the elements that display within a person’s inbox prior to opening an email

According to MailChimp, the average email open rate across all industries 21.33%.

Click Through Rate

Click through rate (CTR) is a critical engagement metric because it signifies whether or not people were engaged enough by your newsletter content to click on one of the resources you provided, and it also indicates how much email marketing is supporting your other channels. 

According to Campaign Monitor, the average click through rate for email marketing is 2.5%. Use this as a reference as you test and optimize your own email templates and distribution strategies.

Newsletter Subscriber Growth

This metric is important because it represents the total addressable market for your email newsletters. Email newsletter subscriber growth is a product of both following email marketing best practices, as well as having a solid plan for promoting your newsletter and integrating it into other marketing channels. 

Track your list growth over time to see whether you see a trend toward an increase in subscribers, or a decline through unsubscribes. Unsubscribes are an indication of multiple missteps, such as emailing too frequently (aka getting spammy), creating low quality newsletters, or a misalignment of newsletter subject matter to your email list segments. If you see this trend in your own data, explore new content types within your newsletters, and consider segmenting your list to deliver content that is more targeted to your audience (see segmentation tip above).

Email marketing can be leveraged at every stage of the buyer’s journey to increase engagement and conversions. Follow these email marketing tips to improve your newsletter engagement and make email a high performing channel in your strategy.

Bonus Personal Branding Tips and Insights

About the Author

Hi, I'm Justin and I write Brand Credential.

I started Brand Credential as a resource to help share expertise from my 10-year brand building journey.

I currently serve as the VP of Marketing for a tech company where I oversee all go-to-market functions. Throughout my career I've helped companies scale revenue to millions of dollars, helped executives build personal brands, and created hundreds of pieces of content since starting to write online in 2012.

As always, thank you so much for reading. If you’d like more personal branding and marketing tips, here are more ways I can help in the meantime:

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