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Imagine walking up to someone’s house unannounced and knocking on the front door. Will they answer or peer through the window and wait for you to go away? Or will they open the door and interact with you? More importantly, will they buy what you’re selling?

Welcome to email marketing. It isn’t new and shiny, but it returns $40 for every dollar spent. The average conversion rate is 1.22%, according to Barilliance, which is almost one sale for every 100 emails.

According to Statista, 333.2 billion emails will be sent and received today and every day this year. And that number is projected to increase to 376.4 billion daily emails in 2025.

Email marketing has the highest penetration rate than any other marketing channel. And, unlike your website, your emails are not dependent on changing algorithms. You own your email addresses, and it is a direct pipeline to your customers and prospects.

So why aren’t your open rates higher? Why aren’t they clicking on your links that take them to higher-valued pages like “Schedule an Appointment,” “Join Us” or “Buy Now” for starters?

There are three important components of every email marketing campaign that you should re-examine to find better results.


Outside of “who” the email is coming from, subject lines are the first thing that pops up as the notification. Essentially, email subject lines are headlines, which are 90% formula. The last 10% is art. But here’s the good news: If you follow the formula, you will exceed expectations, no matter how many cups of coffee you’ve had today.

Your subject lines should be short and direct. The objective is to grab their attention from whatever they were doing before they glanced at your subject line, motivate them to act by opening the email and then clicking embedded links.

Research shows us that seven words, or 41 characters, is the optimal length for subject lines. That happens to be 10 characters less than the average subject line.

You only have a second or two to win over the recipient. In most cases, your emails will be sent without notice, so the subject lines will need to be strong enough to take them away from their regularly scheduled distractions.

Keeping subject lines tight turns the whole endeavor into a puzzle that you need to make fit.

Before you start writing, make sure you determine the tone of the email first. Should it be smart, funny, professional or heartfelt? Should it sell the sizzle, the news or the fear? Maybe it’s all of the above. (That’s a lot for less than 10 words.)

Using emojis in subject lines can help the email stand out in an inbox—and it is a good visual to connect the purpose of an email. Cleverness and having a little bit of fun can go a long way. For example, if I were to send out an e-blast promotion of a blog that is geared toward website design, I might include a laptop emoji that can catch the eye, but also provides context to the email.

Once you have determined the tone, start putting together the list of relevant keywords that you will use in the subject line. Keywords capture the essence of what you are writing, which teases to the content in the email.

Email marketing begins and ends with subject lines. It doesn’t matter how great the body text of your email is if no one opens it. But if they do, you should be prepared to deliver the goods.


According to research, the ideal length of an effective email is 75-100 words.

Having your most important message be “above the fold” in the first screen is key, but it should also incorporate a clear call to action and not be too wordy. Let the point of the email stand out right away. Also as mentioned above, cleverness and fun also go a long way, but you don’t want to go too far and come off pushy or arrogant.

However, there are a few ways around the short word count, if you have a lot to share with your prospects. After all, the studies reviewed a bunch of “standard,” run-of-the mill emails.

If you want to keep the same high conversion rate with a much longer email, you will need to write about something that your recipient would want to read. In other words, stop giving them things that YOU want to read. From a content perspective, there are different types of emails.

With that frame of mind, give your email recipients some news. In other words, give them something that is new, interesting and helpful.

Using “success stories” would be another valuable option to elicit action on behalf of your customers and prospects. Success stories are basically case studies written as a narrative. Most case studies are cut-and-dry pieces broken into a Problem-Solution-Results format. Success stories, however, are written as stories that include quotes from your happy clients, which can go a long way. Think of them as another form of online reviews.


Email marketing begins and ends with subject lines. It doesn’t matter how great the body text of your email is if no one opens it.



In terms of value, the call-to-action (CTA) hook surpasses the subject line.

Generally speaking, make it simple and clear. You may think a wordy CTA might explain why someone should take action, but the shorter, the more obvious, the better in my opinion. You can always explain the “why” more in the body of the email, and if people want to read it they will, but most people don’t have that kind of time. So, give them an “out” by being direct.

Another key point: the CTA should be at the top of the email so it’s the first thing people see without having to scroll all the way down the page. You know how much time you spent crafting the email, but people typically need one minute to read 200 words. And one minute is a lot of time in a digital world. Don’t assume your target audience will take more time out of their busy schedule to read all of your unsolicited emails. Make sure the first CTA is high up in the copy.

So, the next time you create an email, remember these tips on how to improve your CTA results:

Use a button. The average click-through-rate (CTR) for all CTAs across any industry is 4.23%, according to research from Leighton Interactive. The insight also revealed the average CTR for button CTAs is better at 5.31%.

Draft personalized emails with different CTAs. I’m not talking about personalization like, “Buy Now, Bob!” Leverage specific details about your target audience’s pain points. If they are in the same geographic location, use that to your advantage. Speaking directly to your target audience through personalized emails can improve your conversion rate by more than 200%.

Write about Them. In other words, instead of using “your” use “my” in the CTA, which puts the ask in the first person. The switch can increase your CTR by as much as 90%. Doesn’t “Start my free website/SEO analysis” sound better than “Start your free website/SEO analysis”?

Use Numbers. Statistics or simple numbers are like the smell of coffee in the morning. They wake up people. They quickly resonate with any audience. Plus, they are great at building reputation through expertise. CMA puts one of its clients in the news every two hours and in front of 190,000 targeted individuals every day. Doesn’t that sound more impressive than, “We’re good at PR.”

Use a Signature. Most recipients will scroll down to see who sent the email. Maximize that opportunity by placing another CTA link under your name that highlights a product or service that you want to sell. It’s one of the most overlooked pieces of real estate in the entire email.

Assess the Tests. In digital marketing, you have the ability to see if your work is producing results. Conduct an A/B test where you send the same email, except for one difference: the CTA. This kind of split test will provide invaluable knowledge about your CTA and your audience.

After all these years, email marketing still works. But is it working for you?