Email Marketing Secrets Your Competitors Don’t Want You to Know

Learn to make your email marketing smarter with proper segmenting, measuring, and scheduling. Plus discover how to write better subject lines & content.

Email marketing is a lot like managing customer expectations at a bar. Just imagine, you’ve got a few people with their eyes burning into the back of your head while you try to quickly and gracefully get their drink ready and swipe their credit card.

But, these bar advocates aren’t going to be happy until you hand them that cold frothy beverage with a smile, and maybe even a joke. That’s right. People have opted into your mailing list because they want to drink the Kool Aid you’re serving, so you better make it good.

If you send the wrong piece of information, are inconsistent with your messaging, or don’t have a clue about how to target the right customers, you will quickly see your unsubscribe and spam rates jump into the stratosphere.

The bottom line is that your email marketing needs to be smarter. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Be a Segmenting Ninja (Part 1)

Segmenting your audience might seem like a no-brainer, but oftentimes it is one of the most common steps that marketers overlook. It’s critical that you dig deep into who your audience really is.


It’s common for business owners and marketers to think, “Everyone in my audience is going to be interested in everything that I do.”

WRONG! You couldn’t be farther from the truth!

Just take a second to think about it…. When you walk into a grocery store, do you want every single product they are selling?

No, and neither do your customers.

So, how can you segment your audience to make sure that your messages are getting to the right people? By definition, market segmentation means dividing  a broad target audience into smaller groups of consumers who have similar needs. Align your media channels to meeting these specific goals.

The way to start is by pretending that you’re talking to your audience 1:1.

You don’t need to be a technical genius to start. If you have any information about your audience at all, then you already have the intelligence you need to target your messages accordingly.

Examples of the most common types of segmentation are:

  • Current clients/ prospective clients
  • Male/ female
  • Buying habits (such as clients who buy full prices versus those who only purchase sales prices)
  • Geographic segmentation – nation, state, city, zip code
  • Holidays – Christmas, Diwali, Kwanzaa
  • Age
  • Segmentation by product benefits

You probably know some of these details already. Everything else is just good housekeeping. Make sure that your lists are up to date.

2. Be a Segmenting Ninja (Part 2)

Even if you think that your segmented audiences is good enough, think again. If you really want to dive deep into a successful strategy, you need advanced segmentation.

To break your segmentation down further, you probably want to look at the following pieces of information:

  • Products related to recent purchases
  • Abandoned shopping carts (think “triggered messages”!)
  • Visitors who have not visited your website within a certain period of time

Often, a good place to start is by looking at your analytics. Your data will tell you who is opening what, how long they are spending on a webpage, where they wander on your website, and how much time they will spend on your site. So take a look and try to figure out the trends that are standing out. Clarity, a matchmaking platform between advice seekers and experts, does a great job responding to specific actions that users take on the website:

clarity email

“But how do I choose the right segments for my email campaigns?” you may ask.

Don’t worry,  this post gets into that too. Let’s cover a few more basics first.

3. Treat Goals Like a Bulls-Eye

Every successful email marketing campaign has clearly defined goals, pinpointing which segments to plug into specific campaigns.

bulls eye

So, what’s the goal of your email campaign? Is it to increase your social media fans? Is it to sell more products? Is it list building? Is it to tell your fans about a product update? Is it to sell end-of-the year inventory?

Once you have a crystal clear idea of what you want your outcomes to be, you need to take a look at the segmentation you just did. Is there a certain group of people who would be interested in that value proposition? If so, then bingo – there’s your target audience for that specific campaign.

After you position your messaging with the needs and desires of your consumers, you have hit the holy grail. You now have the capability to deliver a really valuable message to someone who actually cares about what you are saying.

3. Woo with Awesome Email Subject Lines

Here’s where you really need to stand out. Your customer is already bombarded with everyone else who is trying to sell products, so your competition just to get your email read is becoming more and more difficult every day.

However, there are really fun ways to get your audience’s attention. And, hey, you might even have a ball in the process!

email offer

Use Caution with Your Words

Did you know that “help”, “percent off”, and “reminder” are all words that negatively affect open rates? Mailchimp did a study of over 200 million emails and found that these three words actually hurt email open rates. Instead, try to utilize other power words that will motivate your readers.

Words are sensory and even emotional! Use them to your benefit. Use them wisely.

Pique Your Customers’ Interests

This might sound elementary, but try promising them something good.  Or, ask a provoking question. Or, make them wonder what they’ve missed. Whatever it is, if your readers know that you’ve got some information that will give them the product they have been wanting, be happier or more informed, your reader will be wanting more.

Maybe even try throwing in an interesting number like 23 or 19. Digits stop wandering eyes.

Learn from the Email Jedis Before You

If you’re a marketing nerd like me, then you’ll sign up for a list just because you like a marketing initiative they are doing. So try doing the same. Take a look at what brands are doing and how they are attracting attention. What captures your attention? What inspires you to open an email?

And yes, experimentation is crucial to this process. Don’t be afraid to try something that is off the wall. Who knows? Maybe it will be one of the newest trends in email marketing.

4. Don’t Be Boring (Talk LIKE a Human)

At this point, I hope I wouldn’t have to say this, but if you’re going to go through all of the work to target your audience, determine your value proposition for each segment, craft witty subject lines, and to finally get them to open your email, you better be delivering some engaging content.

Neil Patel does a great job connecting with his audience on a human-to-human level:

Neil Patel email

Remember, your audience is smart, and your job is to keep their attention. So, here are some quick ideas for email writing:

  • Keep it concise and easy to read. Don’t make reading your email difficult. Get to your point quickly. Your audience will thank you – trust me.
  • Cake on that personality. Cultivate your brand’s voice and use it to connect with your audience. Don’t be afraid to show the quirky side of your business and how you interact behind the scenes. This is actually one of the reasons why your audience will fall in love with you.  The like humans, and they want to know that you are one.
  • Ask interesting questions to pique their interest. Your readers already expect a certain level of marketing from you, but what if you asked them something that made them question themselves. It’s always crucial to keep your readers thinking.
  • Look as un-automated as possible. For example, take out those standard greetings. Instead, try to make it personal to that segmented audience we talked about. Your readers are smart and will quickly discern if you are writing a generic message.
  • Use your words wisely. We’ve said this before, but it’s REALLY important.  For instance, did you know that the word “you” happens to be one of the most persuasive words in the English language?  And you’re like trying to get your audience to, like, and trust you. So, use that word. Yea, you.
  • Stop being dull. Your readers have been through years of email marketing. They’ve seen it all, and they are savvy now. Don’t waste time on being boring. That’s an one-way ticket to “unsubscribe.”

5. Stop Sending Emails at 6 AM

When you wake up in the morning, how many emails do you have in your inbox? If you have an alarmingly high number, the chances are that your customers do too.  Instead of adding another email for them to delete, why not try sending this at a time of day when your chances of them opening it is higher?

gmail inbox

After all, isn’t that what analytics are for? Try using some testing to determine the optimal time for your segmented audience. Your analytics won’t lie.

Do you remember when Hautelook, Groupon, RueLaLa and other deal sites first popped up?  These amazing companies suffered from the same fundamental problem. It was clear that none of those companies had sorted their data by geographic location.

Over time, they got it and staggered their emails to around noon for west coasters. Now, recipients could digest these emails during their lunch breaks.

A recent AdWeek article  shows that people responded more to marketers emails over the weekends when the volume was also lower. It’s important to keep these details in mind because your email is simply not the only email your recipient will receive that day.

Interestingly enough, the article also found is that response rates were highest at night and early in the morning.

So does this necessarily mean there is a “one size fits all” model for email marketing? Of course not. But, hopefully these bits of information should help you make informed decisions for your target markets.

Final Thoughts

To sum it up, email marketing doesn’t need to be a big scary process that yields unsatisfying results. If you use these tips wisely, we’re sure that you’ll start to see a change in your open rates.

At the end of the day, always think about your customers. Give them what they want – they’re not asking for much! They just want to be entertained.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to have a little fun doing it.

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