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Everything you’ve heard about email marketing is probably wrong

At a conference we attended last year,‘s Jay Schwedelson said “no one cares about your blog, website, or webinar, they care about themselves” and he’s right. The average professional gets around 140 emails per day. So why would yours stand out? Maybe “why” is wrong, better would be “how” will yours stand out? Even with a staggering number of emails hitting your audience’s inbox every day, here’s what you can do to cut through the noise.

It’s Not About You

So no one cares about your blog, website, etc. is a little harsh, but if we’re being honest with ourselves it’s true. What they do care about is themselves and how your product or service can make their life better. So don’t lead with “read our blog” or “visit our website”. Instead, give them an emotional reason to read the blog or visit your website. Talk about them and their problems in your subject line, not yourself. “Three Tips For Every Marketing Manager On A Deadline” is way better than “Our Project Management Software Is Rated #1”.

Give them a reason to open right there in your subject line, it’s the first battle you’ll have to win.

  • Use their industry in the subject line to boost your open rates up to 25%
  • Use their job function to boost open rates up to 31%
  • Use their job title to kick the open rate up to 27%
  • Include aspirational language to increase open rates up to 28%

If They Don’t Open The Email Nothing Inside Matters

Your subject line and preview text are more important than the content inside. You read that right. If they don’t open it, they can’t click, so spend time crafting a punchy subject line. Make them laugh, talk about them, their industry, profession, pain points, etc. Then make the body of the email play off that subject line and preview text. One element leads to the next:

Subject Line > Preview Text > Email Body

Even if they don’t open it, they will see your subject line. Make that brief moment count, and with a little pizzaz you might even get them to stop and open up for the payoff (and ultimately the conversion).

Do One Thing Per Email, And Send More Often

Humans have short attention spans. Don’t make them work any harder than they need to when they do open your email. Focus in on one thing, not six. Have a monthly newsletter? No one is reading all six articles you stuck in there. Break that sucker up into six separate emails that each focus on a single message and spread them out over the month. Not only are you more likely to get them to actually focus in and click the thing you want them to click on those emails, you’ll keep yourself present in their inbox.

You routinely post 3-5 social posts per week, why is the inbox sacred? It’s not. Find a good measure of what works for your brand and don’t be afraid to send more then 2 emails a week. The average B2C brand sends four per week and the average B2B sends five. That one newsletter per month is looking pretty weak now isn’t it? Break it up and don’t cede the inbox battleground to your competitors.

Worried About Unsubscribes? Don’t Be.

Unsubscribes are bad is the common thinking, but that isnt’ true. There are a lot of reasons someone might unsubscribe from your emails, and most of the time it has nothing to do with you. People change jobs, industries, retire, etc. Life happens. If and when they’re ready to have you in their inbox again (remember, you ideally have other targeted marketing efforts out there keeping your brand in front of them), they’ll resubscribe.

And if they don’t so what? Why would you want to keep talking to someone that isn’t listening. All those folks are doing is pulling down your open rates and hurting your sending reputation. Let them go and focus on the ones that still care.

Give them options to chose what and how often you communicate with them if you’re worried you’re sending too often (even though you’re probably not).

Think about unsubscribes as “goodbye for now”.

Jazz It Up

Emails aren’t the most exciting medium on the planet, but they don’t have to be. Spice yours up with some simple movement from an animated GIF and watch your engagement rates increase big time. When it comes to copy use simple language and remember shorter is better. Bullet points are your best friend too. Readers are more likely to skim a bulleted list than they are to eye wade through paragraphs of copy.

One last thing here, chose a single CTA (Call To Action) and make it sing. Avoid snoozer words like “Read More” or “Learn More” (no one ones to learn more), and put action words and phrases in that speak to the reader. “Learn More” for an email focused on promoting your new white paper is boring. “Download Now” isn’t much better. Instead, try “Give Me That Valuable Info!” Emotionally, make it desirable for them, not a chore.

Break The Rules

Consider yourself a bit of a rebel? Good, because to get ahead in the email game you’re going to have to break a few “rules”. But don’t worry, these “rules” are way outdated anyhow and actually hold everyone else back that still follows them. You gotta know the rules if you’re going to win the game, and playing by recommendations and best practices from 2008 isn’t going to get it done.

Here are a handful of outdated rules that are over a decade old and no longer relevant you have probably are a “best practice”. They’re not, they’re holding you back.

ALL CAPS in Subject Lines Will Land You in the Spam Folder

Wrong. This has been tested and you likely got an email today with all caps in the subject line. This one is very outdated.

There are Certain Words Like ‘Free’ That Send You To Spam World

Wrong. There aren’t any specific words or content that can send you to Spam World. Spam World is where you go when your email sender (Google, HubSpot, Constant Contact, etc.) has a bad reputation. In fact, those companies we just listed are so big and have so much monitoring and care that they put into keeping their overall sending rep golden, they’ll basically protect you from this ever being an issue. The only way you could have any effect on this is by continuing to send to people that have opted out or unsubscribed from you (don’t do that).

We Have To Use Personalization (User’s Name) To Increase Open Rates

Wrong. Personalization is NOT just using a person’s name token in your subject line. It’s actually such an old and outdated trick it has the opposite effect you probably think. Everyone does it, it’s not that special. Instead of getting “John” into the subject line, use that precious real estate to further make John want to open your email.

Send It Again

Resend your email to the non-openers within 24-48 hours with a new subject line and watch your open rates grow. Maybe you caught them in a bad moment on the first send, or the subject didn’t hit them right. Send it again and get more opens. When they didn’t open it the first time, the second time is often the charm.

Change Your Email Game

These are just a handful of the tips and tricks email marketing pros are using to leverage their email lists into conversion machines. Most of these have been proven out through tried and true testing. In fact, if you only take away one thing from this article make it this—test, test, test.

Test your subject lines, test your visuals, test your send times, test it all until you zero in on what works best for you and your audience. Then sit back and watch those open rates and clicks grow.

Want to hear even more great email tips and tricks? We highly recommend subscribing to Jay Swedelson’s outstanding podcast, Do This, Not That! It’s one of our favorites, and we think it’ll be one of yours too.


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