In Email Marketing, Little Things Make a Big Difference

Email is still the most trusted form of marketing communication. According to a report by McKinsey and Company, email is 40 times more effective of an acquisition tactic when compared to Twitter and Facebook—combined.

In the same report, email led to three times more purchases, and email customers spent 17 percent more per purchase than other customers.

Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute argues that you need an email presence as part of your subscriber strategy. Not only that, he argues that email subscribers are more valuable than any other kind of subscriber.

The reason: email lets you have direct, one-to-one conversations with your audience. This is especially valuable if you have a long sales cycle; a prospect probably takes a while to decide which sequencer or contract manufacturer to use, and building a relationship during that time can keep you top-of-mind.

But if you’re going to go in on email marketing, it’s important to get the little things right.

Technical factors, like preheader text and image alt text, work together with subject lines and compelling CTAs to make your email marketing more effective.

Increasing Open Rates and Clickthrough

Ultimately, the quality of your email content is crucial; everyone’s inbox is flooded, so you need to make sure that your messages stand out as top quality.

At the same time, your email content doesn’t matter if no one opens it. Likewise, your landing page design doesn’t matter unless people click to it.

Optimizing the technical aspects of your email campaigns helps make sure that people get to read the content you’ve worked so hard to produce.

Factors that Increase Open Rates

Subject Lines

Subject lines are step one, and are far and away the most important factor in getting people to open your emails.

An effective subject line captures attention and intrigues readers, compelling them to open your email to learn more.

Ways to capture attention include:

  • Questions: Asking a question intrigues readers and increases open rates. Just make sure your email has the answer!
  • A clear promise: If your offer is appealing enough, stating exactly what to expect from your email can increase open rates
  • The unexpected: An unusual subject line creates a sense of mystery, especially if it isn’t immediately obvious how it relates to your brand or goes against conventional wisdom

Subject line writing is similar to headline writing, but be careful: subjects like “6 Surprising Ways to Stand Out in [Industry]” work at first, but start to become less effective if used exclusively.

Preheader Text

Preheader text is the small preview of your email that shows up in the recipient’s inbox. In most emails, your email provider will pull from the text of the email itself. But you can adjust what shows up here, and doing so can help your open rates.

To increase open rates with preheader text, build further suspense for the content of your email. You can give a preview of the email, build on a mystery created by the subject line, or find other ways to creatively work with the subject line.

Sender Names and Email Addresses

Your sender name should not be “Do Not Reply” and your email address should not be “”

If your from names and email addresses communicate that you aren’t interested in talking to your readers, the quality of your content gets undercut. It makes your brand less accessible and personal.

Better options include:

  • Using an actual person’s name
  • Using your company name
  • Combining these approaches (e.g. “Name, CompanyName”)


Most email marketing software and all of the major automation systems allow you to personalize emails with information from your database.

Using a first name or city name in the subject line and body of the email can improve open and click-through rates respectively.

Using strong subject lines, clever preheader text, personalization, and personal from names/email addresses can help increase your open rates.

Factors that Improve Clickthrough

Striking Visuals with Alt Text

Images make your emails more attention-grabbing and generally appealing, improving clickthroughs.

A big, striking visual is a good place to start, but there are a couple of tweaks you can use to make sure your visitors aren’t clicking away.

First, make sure that your image and text automatically adapt or respond to the size of a reader’s device. Computers, tablets, and phones are all commonly used to read email, so your images need to work across platforms.

Email images can also fail to load. Whether due to platform, internet access, or user settings, you need to make sure that your email still makes sense without its images. Alt text, the words that appear when your images don’t load, can ensure that your clickthrough rates don’t dip when images fail to show.

One or Two Prominent CTAs

A strong call-to-action is a must to increase clickthrough rates. What do you want your readers to do after reading your email? Make sure you highlight that aspect of the email.

When creating your CTAs, focus on just a few options. Increasing the total number of CTAs decreases the total number of clicks, so prioritize wisely.

Large CTAs that appear above the fold (at the top of the email, before the first scroll) can increase clickthrough rates as well, but be careful. Because the CTA occurs before you’ve delivered value, this approach can reduce trust in your brand and become less effective over time.

Use Buttons, Not Links

Roughly two-thirds of all emails are opened on phones. You need to make sure that your CTAs work just as well on mobile devices as they do on desktops.

If you’ve ever tried to open a link on your phone, chances are you’ve accidentally missed or clicked on the wrong one. In your emails, use buttons 40 pixels (thumb-sized) or larger to make it as easy as possible to follow CTAs.

Which Emails Do You Always Open?

Everyone is on dozens of mailing lists these days, but chances are there are one or two that you always set aside time to read. The goal of great email marketing is to become one of those lists.

That doesn’t change in science marketing. Getting these factors right can tip the scales in your favor.