There are few things more frustrating than building an engaging email marketing strategy just to see your recipients unsubscribing in large numbers. Such a development creates pressure from stakeholders and confusion regarding the measures that can address the issue. The success of email campaigns lies in their ability to determine contacts to take any action, be it to purchase something, connect with your brand on different platforms or channels, download gated content, provide feedback, or something different directly linked to your overall business and marketing goals. But when your email deployments fail to properly engage subscribers, you know some changes are in order. Creating relevant and efficient action points may seem like a difficult endeavor, but in this article, we are going to show you some proven measures that will positively impact your email marketing engagement and reduce the number of unsubscribers.
The science behind email engagement
There are five main key components of an email marketing strategy that contribute to overall engagement. These components are:
- The format of the email
- The email subject line
- The email body copy or content
- The call-to-action
- The layout of the email
So how can these components be effectively used to improve email engagement and reduce the unsubscriber rate? By taking a closer look at each element distinctly, we will be able to identify solutions, best practices, and tips and tricks.
Email format: plain text vs. HTML
Most modern email marketing platforms or email service providers (ESPs) allow marketers to choose between plain text and HTML formats for their emails. Both formats offer benefits, but they are used for different purposes and they should not be treated as equals.
Plain text is best used for transactional emails, such as order confirmation or account update notifications. It can also be used when you need to provide information on a sensitive topic, such as new product announcements or product recalls. In addition, plain text emails are much easier to manage since you do not have to worry about styling or complicated coding issues.
On the other hand, HTML is better suited for newsletters and promotional emails. It allows you to include more content in your messages and create a more personalized visual experience for your recipients. Using an HTML email ensures that every element you include in the message will appear as it was designed. However, sending an HTML email requires having knowledge about proper HTML coding and being able to customize your code accordingly to make sure that you provide a good user experience for all subscribers, regardless of their devices.
Subject line: create interest and get engagement
Your subject line is what will make your recipients open your message or decide whether to hit that dreaded “unsubscribe” button instead. To create an effective subject line, here are some general guidelines that should always be kept in mind:
- Keep it short
Simple and direct subject lines are easier to read and remember; they create a sense of urgency, they grab attention faster than long ones, and they increase open rates with no additional effort required.
- Make it memorable
Use personalization in subject lines by using your recipients’ first names or by leveraging the existing relationship between your brand and the subscriber.
- Keep it consistent
Do not change the tone of voice from one campaign to another. Additionally, make sure that the phrasing is appropriate for your audience. If you are communicating in a B2B space, do not use emojis. On the other hand, if you are managing a B2C brand, try not to be too formal. But, whatever you realize is working, always be consistent with your subject lines.
- Stick to one content idea or action
Even if your email communication addresses multiple topics, it is important that the subject line sells the main one. You should put this main topic above the fold so that recipients can easily identify it as soon as they open your email.
- Use dynamic content in subject lines
Try to include dynamic content in your subject lines and use it as an opportunity to personalize each campaign in a way that makes sense for your business goals.
- Be careful with humor
Humor is a way of making your content more engaging for recipients, but it depends on the type of your brand and what your target audience may be expecting from you. If you are running campaigns for a B2B brand, your recipients might not be looking for humor delivery in your subject lines.
Email body copy: make it personal
The content of your email body goes a long way to reinforce the brand voice or to be able to take advantage of the email as a marketing tool. Your email body is an opportunity for you to connect with your subscribers on a deeper level, so use it wisely and add value to their lives. Here are some tips for creating an effective email body:
- Add value with content
Always have something interesting to share with your recipients and include valuable and useful information in your emails. Whether you are sending transactional emails or promotional ones, always provide something helpful that can guide your recipients through their purchase process or help them accomplish their business goals.
- Put yourself in your recipient’s shoes
Think about how you would react if you received an email from the company you are sending out email communications from. Try to write emails that would make you want to read more or click on a link. Always keep in mind that your goal is to make your readers interested in exploring what else you have to say.
- Create engagement with visuals
If possible, use images in your emails. Images help to tell stories and they also create a more engaging environment for recipients. If you do not have any images that fit the context of your message, try using GIFs, photos, or even videos. Receiving an email with an image included is always better than receiving one without any visuals because it adds some color and excitement and it also encourages subscribers to engage with your messages.
- Use the right tone of voice in your emails
You may think about the tone of voice as something that is used only in social media communications, but it is also a very important factor when we talk about email marketing campaigns. Take into consideration who your recipients are, what relationship your brand has with them, how many times they have interacted with your brand, how familiar they are with your brand’s voice etc. Determine which approach works best for each situation that arises and try not to vary too much between campaigns.
Call-to-action: do not be afraid to ask for action
Creating a call-to-action (CTA) should not be a difficult task. This is an action that you are asking your recipients to take, such as clicking on a link in your email or filling in a form. Even though this may seem like an obvious step, many marketers are afraid to prompt their audience to make a purchase or take another specific action. Therefore, they do not add CTAs at all and they end up losing potential customers. Remember that the purpose of your email campaign is not only about keeping the contact information of your contacts but also about getting them to engage with your brand on different platforms and channels and to drive sales.
Here are some proven suggestions for creating relevant CTAs that will encourage your recipients to remain subscribed to your email list:
- Create a sense of urgency
Make sure that your recipients know exactly what they will miss out on if they do not take action. Create a sense of urgency by making your CTAs timely, even if we are not talking about new products or limited-time offers and discounts. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a strong incentive for users to take action.
- Use social proof
Show how many people have already taken action and encourage your followers to join them. For example, if you send out an email announcing a sale, include a testimonial from one of your customers who has already purchased your product. You can also include the overall review score of your product or service. Anything that helps you establish usefulness will help you in the long haul.
- Give clear instructions
As you have probably noticed in your email marketing experience, most emails nowadays get deleted without even being opened. If this happens with an email that has a CTA in it, there is no chance for your recipient to take action. Therefore, if you manage to get your subscribers to open your email, make sure that your instructions regarding the CTA are clear and easy to follow and that they provide all the information needed to take action immediately.
In addition to these three recommendations, we recommend creating CTAs that are short and simple but also direct and interesting. Don’t try to be too creative thinking about how you can create an eye-catching CTA, instead, focus on its relevance to the topic of your email campaign. Once you have created relevant CTAs for every email campaign, make sure to test them against each other in order to discover which one is working best for you at the moment. Keep on testing different CTAs until you notice an improvement in engagement and a decrease in unsubscribers.
Layout: create a unique experience
Your layout should always be completing, simple, clean, and easy to read. Try using images but be careful with how many you include in one email campaign. If you are sending out transactional emails, keep the layout very basic. On the other hand, when it comes to promotional emails, try adding at least one image. The look and feel of your emails will determine how recipients will react to them. Therefore, it is critical that you find a layout that works for you, that your subscribers react positively to, and that provides you with the results set out in your strategy.
Follow these tips and tricks when designing your email template with the aim of reducing unsubscribers:
- Use images as links
Users have a tendency of clicking on images. While this behavior has its roots in web pages and blogs, you can use it to increase engagement. Engaged subscribers are less likely to opt-out from receiving emails from you in the future. But even if you include links in images, make sure to not include them in icons.
- Do not use bright colors in your template
Bright colors look especially good for print, but when it comes to digital assets, such as a web page or an email, bright colors can create a sense of emptiness. Use contrasting colors to help email skimmers get a full picture even if they do not read the entire email.
- Use the same font throughout the email campaign
You should always strive to create a sense of consistency with your email communication. It is a good idea to keep the font simple and easy to read for everyone. Arial, Verdana, Tahoma, OpenSans, and Georgia are just a few examples of fonts that work well on all devices and browsers.
- Avoiding graphical backgrounds
If you want to make sure that your page looks good after being sent through certain email clients or devices that have smaller screens, simply use a graphical background for the entire page rather than within the text areas. Then have a device-specific version with different formatting that can be shown to recipients who view your emails using specific devices or software. This way, you can guarantee that your emails will always look good no matter where they are opened.
Unsubscribe rates reduction tips and tricks
Based on everything we have talked about so far, here are some specific measures that can help you reduce your unsubscribe rate:
- Make sure that you are not sending out too many emails
Sending too many emails can affect your overall email engagement and leads to unsubscribers. Try to limit the number of emails that your contacts receive from your brand, especially if you are communicating with a B2B audience. Sending more than 3 emails per week can be considered spammy or overwhelming. When it comes to B2C businesses, you can send more emails but only if they are relevant and valuable for the recipients.
- Make sure that you regularly optimize your email content
Do not include irrelevant information in your email campaigns. If you send updates or promotions about products that are no longer available, it will create an impression on your subscribers that you are not serious about what you do and this will eventually lead to unsubscribes. Always make sure that the information included in your messages matches what is provided on other channels or platforms of communication.
- The layout of your email should be clean and simple
Always remember that less can be more when it comes to the layout of your campaign. Limit yourself to one image and a short text box with an interesting headline or statement. This will help you avoid making your email look like a spam message. Also, try using a single-column layout so that recipients can focus on the content in front of them without any distractions. Another thing to keep in mind is that every image included in the message should have an alt tag, which is used for visually impaired users or when images fail to load properly.
- Personalize your subjects lines as much as possible
When it comes to subject lines, personalization is key because it creates an immediate connection between recipients and the messages they receive from your business. Try putting recipients’ names into subject lines instead of corporate names, avoid generic expressions such as “Dear customer” and use something more personalized instead, try asking a question instead of providing a statement. It all depends on what works best for each situation but always keep in mind to be consistent with what works well for your brand and stick with it.