Email marketing is one of the most powerful customer acquisition channels out there. When asked to evaluate their email programs’ performance, marketers in one MarketingSherpa study reported a 119% ROI.

But there was an interesting, surprising trend in this study. The marketers who sent fewer emails (fewer than 100,000 emails per month) reported a higher ROI. There are a number of reasons that explain this user behavior, including the following possibilities:

#1) The marketers who sent fewer emails were more efficient with their email programs, deploying sophisticated techniques including customer segmentation.

#2) Marketers have a tendency of sending more emails when they feel that their programs are dipping in performance.

#3) There was a potential bias in the sampling pool.

The reasons for this trend may be unclear, but the ‘guessing-game’ is thought-provoking, reminding us why it’s so important to optimize our email marketing programs — as strategies and campaigns are far from equal.

It’s critical to optimize your email marketing campaigns — and the process shouldn’t be difficult. Here are 7 steps to help you get started.

#1. Experiment with Subject Headings

Your subject heading is the crucial first step in any email marketing strategy. It’s the sole reason whether audiences choose to open your messages.

Study after study suggests that there are certain words that ‘inspire’ subscribers more than others. But here’s the thing. These studies look at averages rather than trends within specific groups. Email marketing performance — and subject line responsiveness — will be specific to your unique company and subscriber base.

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Test multiple options for subject lines instead of fixating on the ‘best’ one. This mindset will (1) help your team get campaigns up and running faster and (2) help you reinvest learnings into future campaigns.

Email marketing requires a commitment to learning, and optimization will be iterative.

#2. Reinvest Your Data

Over time, your email marketing software will collect a wealth of user-level data. This information can help you streamline future campaigns.

Here's what we mean.

The process of building your email list organically involves attracting audiences who are interested in your company and brand. At first they’ll be very engaged, but over time, they may lose interest — and stop engaging with your emails.

They’ll either un-subscribe or remain on your email list as dead weight. As time passes, these users may forget about your brand and even become frustrated with your messages.

It’s important, when you’re emailing your lists, to ensure alignment of messaging with qualified recipients. Here’s an example worth studying.

The following campaign data reflects a newsletter campaign that was distributed to all recipients on one particular mailing list:

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And here is how the newsletter performed in a future campaign that was targeted to audiences who had engaged with a previous campaign — the open rate was much higher:

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Over time, you’ll start to see relationships between your email marketing content and user behavior patterns. You can re-invest these trends into your future email marketing campaigns.

#3. Engage Audiences Across Platforms

Email is the atomic unit of marketing and one of the most direct ways to engage audiences on an individual level.

On Facebook, for instance, you can actually upload your customers’ (and subscribers’) email addresses to target them, based on specific actions that they have taken on your website. This particular advertising product is called Custom Audiences. You can then target ‘lookalike’ audiences that demonstrate similar interests and behavioral characteristics to your existing audiences.

Email addresses will empower you to  target your most engaged users — and reach new audiences.

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By integrating your email and social media marketing campaigns, you’ll be able to extend your brand’s reach — and remain top-of-mind among your key audience segments. This cross-platform strategy will help you minimize churn and increase conversions. An otherwise fleeting email will have a longer lifespan.

#4. A Real-Time Engine

A call-to-action (CTA) connects the dots between your email marketing campaign and business goals. That’s why it’s important to make sure that your offer is clear and compelling — demonstrating a value proposition that your audiences will find irresistible.

That's where real-time marketing comes in.

Marketing messages fall flat when they’re generic, especially since audience attention spans are becoming increasingly shorter.  Instead of providing a one-size-fits-all offer, optimize your email marketing campaigns with something that’s more heavily tailored towards a specific interest or pattern of behavior.

This level of personalization will be helpful for (1) capturing the attention of new audiences and (2) continuously engaging existing audiences with something new.

These offers can be ebooks, free trials, subscriptions — you name it. Custom-tailor initiatives to your  unique conversion funnel.

Your Thoughts

What tactics have helped you boost your email marketing strategy? Share your thoughts, observations, and feedback in the comments section below.