Quick & Easy Ways to Increase Email Engagement

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My inbox is full of unopened emails. New products, 48-hour sales, updates I didn’t ask for, etc. The common thread is that they all want me to do something specific: click, sign up, buy, or share. They all try to increase email engagement. The problem is that I don’t have time, and neither do your customers.

Your email engagement strategy has to acknowledge the fact that we now have shorter attention spans than a goldfish, and we also have more competition for digital screen time than ever before. What can an everyday email marketer do? Well, a few things, actually.

Use emotionally-reactive subject lines

We all know that the subject line plays one of the most crucial roles in whether your email will be opened or not. Depending on who you ask, anywhere from 33% to 66% of people open emails based on the subject line alone.

What’s interesting is that emotional triggers are much more powerful than intellectual ones, so if you can tap into a clear feeling in your subject line, you’re much more likely to trigger a response from the recipient.

Case in point: A company in Austin, TX that was trying to regain business from potentially lost customers. The customers were people on their email list that had not bought anything for over 2 years and likely had gone to a competitor.

The company decided to craft an email in the style of an old boyfriend/girlfriend asking for another chance to come back into their life. The following subject lines were tested: “What happened to us?” and “I miss you.” Not only did the email generate almost $10k in new revenue, they received dozens of funny responses from people appreciating the tongue-in-cheek humor.

The lesson: target the heart, and not the head. Also, don’t be afraid to take calculated risks, assuming it’s not too out of sync with your brand image.


Write shorter emails

You don’t have time. I don’t have time. Just assume that nobody has time. One of my pet peeves is sitting in marketing meetings were diligent copywriters are pouring over every word of a long and elaborate email. Sadly, I know most people will simply not read the emails as carefully as we hope. So, don’t waste their time (or yours). Write short emails, and get to the point.

One celebrity that does this consistently well is Louis CK. About a year ago, he launched a new online series that he produced and financed in secret. To release the series out onto the world, for the first time, he simply sent this beauty of an email to his massive list of subscribers:

Nobody knew what “Horace and Pere” was. This is the first time anyone had ever heard about it. There was no trailer, no promotion, no nothing. It’s brilliant in terms of immediately creating a curiosity gap in the reader. In the end, not only was he able to make a profit from his self-financed show, he was able to get an enormous amount of publicity for breaking all the conventional marketing and promotional rules. 

In a nutshell: know that your audience doesn’t have time, so get to the point.

As a bonus, the unintended side effect might be increased curiosity.


Make it personal beyond the first name

When email marketers talk about making emails “personal,” they usually refer to using the person’s name in the copy or subject line. Assuming that it’s in keeping with your brand image, you can easily personalize beyond that by using language that you would use to write to a friend or colleague.

So instead of saying something like, “John, don’t miss our blowout 48-hour sale happening only today and tomorrow!” Say something like, “Hey John, we’re putting up pretty much everything we have on sale, and there’s a lot of stuff here you might like. Come check it out.”

Of course this is dependent on what your company does and what you’re selling, but the point is that you will increase email engagement if the copy comes across as personal instead of promotional.

In other words: Nobody likes ads, so try not to sound like one.


Don’t sell anything

This is more of a long-term strategy for increasing email engagement, and it sounds counter-intuitive. Instead of selling, try to make your audience laugh, smile, or cry from being moved. If your audience begins to associate your emails as non-promotional and simply fun and engaging, then they’ll be more receptive when you do promote something.

By giving without asking for anything in return, you’ll be building positive brand equity in their inbox. This is a winning strategy, because like my mom taught me, “giving is receiving.”

The bottom line: You can’t stand out by following what everyone else is doing.

Engagement is a constantly moving target; people always wear out winning strategies, and your audience gets tired. We have to come up with new ideas all the time, and that takes patience and careful listening.

But hey, while you’re coming up with the next bright idea to increase email engagement, how about signing up for a free 14-day trial of Sendlane and letting us take care of most of the other moving parts of email marketing? I mean, you don’t want your email to end up unopened in my inbox, right?

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Jerrik Neri

Jerrik Neri

Jerrikis a Sendlane warrior by day and an avid and aspiring Web Developer ninja by night. His passion for programming and technology which has cultivated since he was young, has landed him in this company - helping people and fixing code.
When he’s not helping out and fighting for Sendlane’s cause or staring hard at long lines of code, you can find him at the gym trying to lift heavy things, or at home, trying to be the next E-sports gaming professional.
Jerrik Neri