As we embark on a new email year, we have the best of intentions to start off fresh and creative with our email campaigns. You’ll read a lot of resolutions from email marketers to embrace interactivity, hyper-personalize their copy, hyper-charge their testing strategies, and be more data-driven.

All of these are good things—no, great things.

But what if you’ve been there, done that, or want to try something a bit different?

To help and in the spirit of New Year, New You, I’m sharing 3.5 (yes ½!) unconventional tactics to help your email program’s copy, engagement, and advocacy.

So without further ado…

1. Read your email copy out loud

Seriously. It’s very easy to get in a copywriting rut with your email campaigns. Whether you’re writing one campaign a month or multiple a week, it’s not uncommon to fall into a routine of saying the same thing, the same way. When you do, your emails read repetitive and impersonal. Unfortunately, both of those adjectives correlate to poor email engagement.

One trick that I like to implement when writing a blog post (including this one) is to read it out loud.

Your words sound different and resonate differently when read aloud.

And better yet, ask someone else to read your email copy to you. The inflection your readers use and where they run into stop words or take extra pause may surprise you. Take note of these areas and edit your copy accordingly. Note where your reader concentrates more, or where they smile, and highlight these points in your copy.

Follow this simple recipe:

  • Anything that falls flat or doesn’t flow = DELETE or REWRITE (and run the test again).
  • Anything you’ve heard or read before, REMOVE.
  • Anything that flows, brings a smile, or is easy to remember, KEEP.

Small adjustments can make an important impact on your final copy and also adds some discipline to your writing process. (And if you’re looking for more copy-related tips, my teammate, Kelsey has step-by-step tips here.)

2. Audit your email campaigns

Audit can feel like a four-letter word, but trust me, auditing your email program is one of the best things you can do for it in the new year (and throughout the year). Start by evaluating your email campaigns by their age and overall engagement score.

Email age

Email copy and offers get stale quickly–especially to recipients who have their inboxes inundated on a daily basis. So to ensure you’re not a part of the problem, bucket your email copy by “last edited date.”

For example:

  • 1 month – 3 months
  • 3 months – 6 months
  • 6 months +

Evaluate how relevant your copy currently is to your recipients and how accurately it reflects the present state of your product or service. Anything over 6 months shouldn’t be in rotation if you can help it. Shelve it if it’s “past due” and prioritize it for a refresh or decide to retire it altogether.

Most edits and updates will end up being small, so don’t be intimidated by the workload. It will be more of a lift up front and will get easier each time you do it. (Aim for quarterly if possible!)

Email engagement

Then, if it’s not already common practice for you, evaluate your campaigns by their recipient engagement. Categorize your campaigns by those that are:

1) Extremely effective

2) Moderately effective

3) Not effective

Just 3 buckets should do it (or 2 if need be–simply effective and not effective).

Define effective as any campaign that exceeds your average open and click rate benchmarks. (And if you’re looking to compare your benchmarks to others in your industry, check out our Global Email Benchmark Report that includes stats for over 15 industries. Aggregate stats for the past 3 years are included below for reference).

Identify what similarities exist in the emails that are in each bucket. Then aim to replicate and optimize the top performing similarities and eliminate those that are low performing.

It’s important to implement this discipline on a regular basis–because like most things, the more you do it, the easier it gets. Once you do, you’ll notice that auditing your email program will have a positive effect on your recipient engagement and the overall quality of your email program.

2.5 : Don’t get too excited!

I mean it. Lay off of those excessive exclamation marks in your subject lines. No one likes over eagerness in their inbox–unless you’re telling someone something truly outrageous (like lottery-winning outrageous). Data from our Black Friday/Cyber Monday sends showed a decrease in engagement with an increase in excitement in subject lines.

So as part or your email audit, check your enthusiasm and make sure it’s at the right level!

3. Identify your VIPs

Email segmentation is one of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal as a campaign manager. Eliminating the batch and blast mentality for hyper-personalization is always your best bet. But how strategic are you with your current segmentation? How much are your differentiating your campaigns for your high engagers?

If you haven’t already, identify a segment of your VIP recipients (those who regularly engage with your emails) and create dedicated campaigns that solely recognize their loyalty and attentiveness.

For example, you could:

  • Send VIPs individual correspondence (yes, legitimate 1:1 personal email) with an introductory or thank you note from you or from a team member. Simple acknowledgment can go a long way with keeping your subscribers engaged.
  • Incentivize and thank your recipients with additional resources, reports, or extra discounts or advanced notice on deals.
  • Ask for advice on how you can improve. Humility and asking for feedback are a great way to build added trust with your subscribers. Your VIPs are likely to be the most honest with you since they engage with you the most. Just be prepared to honor their feedback (if it’s consistent) and make some changes! (Implement the changes in the optimization you commit to as part of your email audit above.)

If you’re looking for an easy way to segment your list, I’d be remiss not to mention SendGrid Marketing Campaigns. Your engagement segments are easy to create and monitor so you can make the most out of your campaigns and your advocates.


We all have a lot of excitement and work to do as we start off a new email year. Do yourself a favor and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Identify a few adjustments you can make to your program now, and some you can implement later in the year.

Start simple and start reading your email copy aloud and building out an advocacy segment and then work your way into building an audit in your program calendar.

If you’re looking for help on any of the above, SendGrid has an amazing Expert Services Team that help you every step of the way or if your 2019 email goal is to try a new ESP, SendGrid offers a free trial to help you get started. 🙂

As Twilio SendGrid's Sr. Director of Content, Jillian is responsible for ensuring that SendGrid provides valuable thought leadership content through the blog, whitepapers, webcasts, and more. When not writing and editing, you can find Jillian frequenting Denver restaurants in search of the best queso.