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Guest Post

stefan debois2

Stefan Debois is the founder and CEO of Survey Anyplace, an online software tool to create engaging surveys, quizzes, and assessments.

Besides kitesurfing, Stefan is passionate about the use of technology to build professional relationships with people, at scale.

Connect with Stefan on Twitter.

Email marketing has been around since forever. It may not be as sexy as AI or Augmented Reality, but it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Here’s why:

  • Email marketing has an ROI of 4400%

That makes it the most profitable marketing channel available. For every $1 spent, email marketing generates $44 in ROI

  • Email is effective

Email open rates hover around 25%, making your message 12 times more likely to be seen through email compared to Facebook’s 2% organic reach or AdWords’ average CTR of 1.91%.

  • Even marketers agree that is email marketing is still the best tactic for lead generation

marketing tools

So email marketing is still a powerhouse.

But how do you leverage this medium?

To do that, you need the perfect email and email design. You might argue that such a thing is doesn’t exist.

Still, armed with these tips and tricks I got from several experts on the matter, you’ll come pretty close.

Subject Line

Let’s start with the first thing people will read, the subject line.

Did you know, 47% of emails are opened or discarded based on their subject line.

To be honest, there is no “one subject line to rule them all” as the perfect one will largely depend of the goal or purpose of the email.

In most cases, you’ll be asking a favor. Whether it’s asking for a link or a request to fill out your survey. Most of the time, they will have to do something for you.

If that’s the case, you’ll want to trigger someone’s curiosity.

For example:

  • Quick question
  • Two things
  • Interested?

If you would ask for the favor in the subject line, they will think to themselves:

“I’ll read or do this later”

And then forget about it.

That’s why Mark Lindquist from Mailshake uses short one to three words subject lines for these kinds of emails:

“The only way to drive engagement from an email is to get your recipient to open it, and that all comes down to the subject line. I have two approaches to subject lines. The first is a two word, very general subject line like ‘quick question’ or ‘your thoughts?’.

It’s intriguing and reads like a personal email instead of a big marketing blast.

The second is just to ask what you’re asking. This one is longer, and it summarizes in 6 or so words the purpose of the email.

An example would be ‘featuring {{company}} as a top sales tool’. I use that one when I think the ask is super compelling, and I want to make sure the recipient sees it. My open rate on that subject line, by the way, was almost 95%, and the email itself got a reply rate of 53%. The power of a compelling offer!”

Other subject line examples for Mark’s second approach are:

  • An addition to your article on [topic]
  • Include [company] in an upcoming article
  • I totally admire the idea you shared

Most of these examples contain a variable, that’s because of subject lines with at least some personalization increase email engagement with 22%.

Email Body

Okay, your recipient has opened your email.

So far, so good.

Now it’s onto the body of the email. Great copywriting is important, but to tell you something new, I have reached out to a couple of email marketing experts on what makes great email copy.

Here’s what they had to say:

Avoid superfluous copywriting. Keep it short and concise. Break up paragraphs into 2-5 sentences to make it easy for people to quickly scan your email and locate the important details.” – Eric Jackson, CEO of CapLinked.

Use the right tone. Apply your branding and voice guidelines to your email marketing. Like communications across social media platforms and your website, you should tailor the voice and messaging to your audience while remaining consistent in your brand personality and voice.” – Tahnee Elliott, Founder/CEO of T.C. Elli’s.

Add an element of personalization. The difference between an email with no personalization beyond the recipient’s name, and just one element of personalization is huge.

It turns what appears to almost certainly be a mass email into something that at least had a little effort put into it. That little bit of perceived effort puts you ahead of 90% of the cold emailers out there.” – Mark Lindquist, Marketing Strategist of Mailshake.

How does this translate to your actual email? Here’s an example from JetBlue, that used something as simple as the signup date to personalize a “one-year anniversary” email.

JetBlue personalized email

Source: JetBlue

First, you should do a little research on your recipient. What’s the company called? How does the person like to be called? For example Alex or Alexander, not sugar or sweetheart.

Wrong company name

It’s Survey Anyplace and not Survey any place…

Mistakes like these are the fastest way for your email to get trashed.

When you consider length, shorter is better. For most, keeping up with their inbox is a necessary evil, so keep the KISS (“Keep it simple, stupid”) principle in mind.

Obviously, there’s always room for your personality and some experimenting, but in my experience, people prefer it when you get straight to the point.

Another tip is to worry less about word count and more about white space.

Take a look at these two emails:

Mail 2 2


Mail 1

Which one seems the longest?

Which one is more readable?

Many marketers are concerned about being as concise as possible in their emails. And many of them judge that by the number of words and sentences.

But people worry about it because shorter emails are more likely to be read because they appear more readable.

Smart use of whitespace does the same thing.

So take advantage of bullet points, limit paragraphs to fewer than two sentences, and focus more on white space in your next email rather than the sentence or word count.

Another great way to spice up your emails is by including a quiz in your newsletter from time to time. Make sure your email subject contains a teaser, such as a challenging number like this one: “Only 1 In 50 People Can Identify These 16 Grammar Mistakes. Can You?”

Call To Action

So, our recipient has opened the email and read it. We have 2 out of 3 boxes ticked.

Now it’s time to pull them across the threshold and make them do what we contacted them for.

You do that with the perfect call-to-action (CTA).

To craft such a call-to-action, ask yourself three questions:

  • What do I want the reader to do?
  • Why should they do it?
  • How will they know to do it?

Less is more – one study found that click-through rates increased by 42% when the number of CTAs in an email decreased from four to just one. So limit the click-through options and guide your recipient to that one, most important CTA or action.

Optimizing your call-to-action increases click-through rates, drives conversions, and ultimately increases revenue.

Be specific, opt for “Buy it today” or “Order now” instead of “Click here” or “Learn more”.

Make sure to A/B test your CTA’s on a smaller portion of your list, before moving forward with the best performing one.

As mentioned by Wiza – keep it simple, “Ask a simple yes/no question. This does a couple things: it makes it incredibly easy for them to respond to your email, and it opens it up for them to say ‘no’”.

Bonus tip about email timing:

“I like spreading emails out randomly throughout the day to gather data on the best time my subscribers open and engage – then use that data to optimize.” – Ryan Farley, Co-founder LawnStarter.

Who to contact

Apart from what you write in your email, it’s equally important to reach the right people with your email.

“Your ‘who’ needs to be a North Star that guides your email marketing strategy, messaging, and timing. Relevance in content is key: great content for the right set of contacts at the right time can bring measurable value to your brand but great content for the wrong audience will quickly fall flat. Ask yourself, “who is the right person for this email?” – Tahnee Elliott, Founder/CEO of T.C. Elli’s

You need to be deliberate about who you ask.

Who are you emailing? What do they normally write about? What’s a relevant success you could mention? How will your email benefit them and their readers?

This technique works great if you’re asking referrals or recommendations. Which customers are already happy with what you do? These customers are likely to provide you with positive recommendations and would be willing to refer you to their friends.


In my opinion, driving opens and engagements from email is all about doing what others aren’t doing.

A well-written and well-timed email pitch can deliver a seriously effective bang for your buck.

Using that philosophy, all ‘best practices’ eventually expire, as others catch on and users become fatigued by reading the same thing over and over again.

I like to keep an email account that I use to subscribe to all sorts of marketing newsletters and see what subject lines and formats stand out.

Then I test them on my own audience.

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