Flashy marketing emails aren’t always the most successful. Sure, things like GIFs and fun graphics are attention grabbing, but they don’t necessarily lead to better performance.
What really improves performance is a focus on the basics. The basics may not seem nearly as exciting as developing witty conversion copy or designing fancy images—but they’re effective.
Here are the five elements that are at the heart of high-performing emails.
1. Perfect the Subject line + preheader
These may arguably be the most important elements of your emails. They’re the first thing people read and dictate whether a recipient will open your email or delete it.
Your subject line should be short, sweet, and intriguing. Ditch the all-caps and multiple exclamation points and use a gentler approach to convey urgency.
Also, add personalization—like someone’s first name—into your subject line. It makes your audience feel like what’s inside your email was curated just for them.
A/B testing of subject lines is an area where marketers often fall short. Many make the mistake of A/B testing subject lines that are too similar. You must have a subject line that’s different enough to truly test against. If they’re too similar, you won’t learn anything to apply to future subject lines.
2. Improve deliverability
The performance of an email is a moot point if it never gets delivered, goes into the wrong inbox, or if the content isn’t visible. There are several factors that impact an email’s deliverability.
Sender reputation score
Your organization’s sender reputation score is tied to your IP address. If your score is low, email service providers (ESPs) could send your messages to s spam folder or block your IP address entirely.
Increasing your sender reputation score is a multi-faceted process that we spoke about in depth recently. Authentication is another technical component that tells ESPs that an email is legitimately coming from the email sender.
You should also know what ESPs your audience uses. If you have a heavy Outlook audience, there are restrictions to be aware of. Outlook, by default, blocks images and only shows the first frames of GIFs.
Knowing the platforms your customers use and the expectations they have will help you understand what quirks to consider.
It’s also important to know what device or devices your audience is likely to read your emails on. If most of your email opens happen on mobile, make sure you optimize for that. Likewise, audiences who primarily open emails on desktop expect a different experience.
3. Reconsider open rates as a key performance indicator
Email open rates are facing a crisis. While open rates have never been 100% reliable, Apple’s new iOS 15 privacy update is impacting reliability even more.
HubSpot does a great job explaining what the iOS 15 update means for email marketers. Going forward, focus on metrics like clicks, bounce rate, and website tracking. These metrics aren’t affected by Apple’s change.
But even before you start tracking metrics, know what the goal of each email is. Do you want people to simply read it, fill out a form, click a link, or reply to you? Knowing your goal will dictate what metrics to use.
4. Optimize your timing
Timing is about more than just the hour of the day you hit send. It’s also about understanding the lifespan of your emails.
The lifespan of most emails is 1-2 weeks, tops! Beyond that, they get lost in the sea of new emails. Send your emails at a time when your audience is active and able to take the desired action quickly.
Relevancy plays a huge role in timing. What you’re communicating must resonate with what’s currently on your audience’s mind or what’s happening in their life.
5. Incorporate calls to action
Finally, your email should direct readers to a call to action (CTA). You direct them in two ways: strong, singular messaging and links/buttons.
Generally speaking, your audience should know exactly what you want them to do before they start scrolling. Everything from your headline, to imagery, to copy and the accompanying CTAs should be cohesive.
It’s also helpful that concise message be visible as soon as your reader opens the email. You can, of course, add more copy and details below the “fold,” and even a second CTA. Just make sure that second CTA is asking audiences to take the same action.
Nail the email basics
Nailing the email basics will set your organization up for future success. They act as the foundation for your email marketing program.
Knowing your emails are actually being delivered and going to the right people at the right time means you can experiment with copy variations and creative imagery. Just remember to look for cracks in your foundation and go back to the basics if needed.
You can identify other ways to improve the performance of your emails by conducting an email audit. There are nine elements you should analyze.