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Grow Your Business Sales & Marketing

For Email Marketing Success, Focus on Timing, Design and Subject

For Email Marketing Success, Focus on Timing, Design and Subject
Credit: Rosenthal/Shutterstock

Are you planning email marketing initiatives for the holiday season? Research shows that when done right, email campaigns can pay off mightily.

A past study from the Direct Marketing Association found email marketing has an average return on investment of $38 for every $1 spent. The numbers could easily go up, if businesses got more customers to actually open their emails: New research from GetResponse shows that email marketing messages are opened just 22 percent of the time by consumers.

"When used correctly, email is an essential tool in a salesperson's arsenal to build these bonds that drive business growth," JP Werlin, CEO and founder of sales and account management CRM provider PipelineDeals, said in a statement. [See Related Story: Best Email Marketing Software for Small Businesses]

PipelineDeals believes that small business can improve their email marketing efforts by focusing on three key areas:

Time of day: Making sure your emails hit a reader's inbox at the right time is critical to whether or not your message gets read. Unfortunately, there isn't one magic time for everyone.

Research from PipelineDeals found that the timing window varies depending on the target audience of the email campaign. For example, software companies see better open rates in the afternoon, while businesses in the marketing and advertising industries have better open rates in the morning.

"Ignore the general wisdom of when you should send out email and actually start testing when you send out email messages," the study's authors wrote. "If you're just getting started sending email, look for industry specific data."

Template use: While email templates might make it easier to create your campaigns, they often don't provide the results businesses are looking for. PipelineDeals found that emails sent using a template perform approximately 30 percent worse than those that aren't based on a generic structure.

Businesses that do use templates should be sure to keep them fresh and current. Data shows campaigns using templates that are rarely updated perform worst of all.

PipelinesDeals suggests using a merge tag, which helps personalize email messages, when using templates.

"More personalized emails will always perform better, so consider using merge tags in the subject lines to enhance open rates," the study's authors wrote.

Subject lines: When it comes to subject lines, the shorter the better. The best performing email campaigns are those with subject lines with less than 40 characters. The PipelineDeals research found that subject lines with between 40 and 70 characters resulted in a strong decline in success rates.

"This makes sense given trends towards viewing email on mobile and the fact that most mobile email browsers restrict your view to roughly 40 characters," the study's authors wrote.

In addition to the tips from PipelineDeals, email marketing service provider StreamSend believes there are several strategies businesses can implement to get the most out of their email campaigns:

  • Measure it: Take advantage of tools that show who read what and where and who didn't as a way to best determine when to build on successful efforts or fix lagging results.
  • Use video: Adding videos to emails increases return on investment and monthly revenue by 40 percent. Additionally, click-through rates increase by as much as three times when marketers include a video in an email.
  • Go mobile: Mobile devices offer marketers a way to reach customers wherever and whenever they want. However, this makes creating a solid campaign more critical than ever, since the email will often be judged with just one glance.
  • RSS feeds: Businesses with regular RSS updates ― syndicated live Web feeds ― can more effectively connect with their audiences and attract new followers. Sharing RSS content allows organizations to multiply their number of readers, which helps draw in more customers in the long run.
  • Add social: Emails that include social-sharing buttons have a click-through rate 158 percent higher than emails that don't. Adding social media to an email strategy can produce large campaign results.
  • Bottom line: When creating email campaigns, ensure they align with your overall business goals so you can best guide content and strategies.

The PipelineDeals research was based on an analysis of more than 30,000 campaigns from small and mid-size businesses that took place over the last seven months.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.