Digital MarketingEmail MarketingThe top three secrets to increasing email open and click rates in 2021

The top three secrets to increasing email open and click rates in 2021

Acoustic's Norman Guadagno and Greg Bouton highlight what marketers need to know in order to optimize their email marketing in 2021

30-second summary:

  • Emails remain an effective communications channel
  • Don’t forget to constantly evaluate and optimize your email program
  • Deliverability and engagement metrics can help you get the most out of a reliable outbound marketing tactic
  • Test and learn to ensure your email program is continuing to support your business and Go-to-Market goals.

You have been asked this question before, but how many emails does your company send to prospects and customers each week? Hundreds of thousands? Millions? Tens of millions or more? Email remains the lifeblood of the digital marketing industry, and the past year has seen notable increases in email volume across many sectors as more and more people operated fully remotely.

It is the tool of choice for targeted outreach and where most business workers spend more time than any other application. Email, for all its history and all the competing technologies that were going to replace it, remains strong and vital.

Now, when was the last time you checked to make sure you were being as effective as possible with all those emails you send? Is your program truly state of the art, or has it become routine and repetitive? Are your emails engaging customers the way you want, or being ignored? Are you certain the emails are even arriving?

The fact is that many companies assume that emails are doing the job they are supposed to do while they turn more of their attention to new channels and new technologies.

Keeping a finger on the email pulse, and making sure it remains vital, is a critical element of a good outbound marketing program. Often, resource strapped marketing teams take a “set it and forget it” approach to proven channels, potentially increasing the overall risk to the overall marketing program.

There really is no excuse for this, especially when some basic hygiene can ensure your email program remains (or becomes) world-class.

Make sure the email arrives

The very best email ever written is only of value if it arrives in inboxes and is opened.

This may be email 101, but one was the last time you did an audit on the deliverability of your marketing email? If emails are ending up in the Junk folder (and filters have become more aggressive than ever), your program may have deliverability issues.

These can emerge when there are IP and domain changes at the company, when another department (hello, engineering?) are firing off large quantities of emails to dead addresses (automatic alerts are a common problem here), or for many other more subtle reasons.

As obvious as it seems, making sure your deliverability is good impacts everything else in the email program. Put email deliverability on your scorecard and check it quarterly.

Make sure the email engages

With so many emails arriving each day, and with every company trying to leverage best practices in subject line writing, it is easier than ever for your email to be skipped over by harried recipients. Avoid this by sticking to the basics and staying fresh.

  • Target wisely – never forget that your targeting is a function of the data available to your emails team. Good data helps drive good targeting. Bad data not so much. Do a manual check to make sure that your cohorts make logical sense and the email content is aligning with their known characteristics.
  • The subject is – subject lines have whole bodies of literature devoted to them, massive AI programs generating them, and no shortage of opinions about them. Sometimes even the best emails are hampered by the gut reaction of the reader to the question being asked in that subject line (since asking a question is considered a best practice!). If the answer to the subject line question is “no,” rewrite it immediately. Why would anyone open the email when their mind has already decided “no?”
  • Learn more is over – How many CTAs have you seen that say “Learn More?” Sometimes you can’t escape it, but it’s become a crutch in marketing – it’s lazy and unimaginative. Use action phrases like “See it in action!”, “Try it now”, or use a specific word or phrase from your overall email copy.

Make sure you test

At the heart of every great email program is the “Test and learn” ethos. Given the power of modern email automation platforms and the wealth of data available, testing should be deeply ingrained into your program.

That said, it is always a good idea to look at the tests being run and the results they are producing. Make sure the tests align with your overall business goals and your Go-To-Market strategy.

Testing should be hypothesis-based and iterative. Testing should also be coupled with regular quantitative and qualitative research on your audience. That’s right, send them an email and ask them to share their opinions about your email!

Email, like the weather, should never be taken for granted. Time and situations change, and the efficacy of your program can change as well. Check in with your team and ask them to demonstrate they are delivering the best program possible.


Norman Guadagno is Chief Marketing Officer at Acoustic, the largest independent marketing cloud, and a member of the ClickZ Advisory Board.

Greg Bouton is the Email Marketing Manager at Acoustic. Greg is responsible for strategizing, designing, and executing email marketing campaigns and programs, as well as for leading marketing automation. For more than 10 years, Greg has used his experience in the email and marketing automation space to create effective customer and prospect B2B and B2C campaigns.

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