The email inbox is a fragile place, where only the strongest emails survive. Most messages get deleted without ever being opened, and some don’t even make it out of the spam folder. 

With 89 billion business emails sent each day, it’s becoming more and more difficult for businesses to stand out from the vast majority of promotional content that their audiences receive on a daily basis.

From writing captivating subject lines to designing polished email content, read on for some of the hottest email marketing strategies to survive the inbox and boost your open and engagement rates.

Write irresistible subject lines

When you sift through your inbox that’s flooded with personal, professional, and promotional emails, what makes you stop and click? Obviously, the subject line!

 As marketers, subject lines are your golden ticket to make a first impression on your audience and help your email stand out in a crowded inbox. 

It’s crucial to write irresistible subject lines that appeal to your readers and encourage them to click through to your email. The best subject lines are short, clear, and give just enough information to leave your reader wanting more. 

Consider the following subject line best practices to get your messages noticed and eventually opened at a higher rate:

Keep it short You don’t need to cram all of your information in the first line. In fact, when President Obama used email marketing to fundraise for his campaign in 2012, the most successful subject line used was simply “Hey.” Short and concise subject lines are most effective for driving click-through rates, and can easily be read and understood on a mobile device. Shoot for a subject line shorter than 5 words.

Create a sense of urgency When phrased correctly, subject lines that inspire a sense of urgency or scarcity can urge your subscribers to click (or act) fast on your emails. Include action verbs in your subject lines that resonate with your audience and encourage your subscribers to participate in time-sensitive promotions. There’s a fine line between urgent and spammy, however, so limit these subject lines for when the offer actually requires immediate action.

Use numbers People are usually lazy when it comes to reading long paragraphs of information (I’m not talking about you, of course). Entice your readers with easily-digestible, bullet-point lists that promise to teach your readers a lot of information in a short amount of time.

Avoid spammy words People can sense spam in their inbox from a mile away, and send those emails to the trash without a second thought. Including overused words like free, help, percent off, or reminder in your subject lines will negatively affect your open rates and scream junk mail to all of your recipients.

DON’T USE ALL CAPS or overuse exclamation points!!! People don’t like to be yelled at, both in-person and online. Overusing caps or exclamation points can rub your readers the wrong way, and are likely to get flagged by email spam filters. A study revealed that 85% of respondents actually preferred an all-lowercase subject line to one written in all caps, so use an inside voice when crafting your subject lines.

Make it personal Everybody loves hearing the sound of their own name. Emails that contain the first name of the recipient in their subject line had a higher click-through-rate than emails that did not. When appropriate, include the name of your recipients in subject lines to establish an individual connection with each of your subscribers and make your offers impossible to resist.

Pose a question Asking compelling questions to your readers can make them stop, think, and ultimately, search for answers (in your email, hopefully). The key is to ask questions that are relevant to your target audience. For example, a subject line “Are you making these marketing mistakes?” will likely inspire fellow marketers to consider their own practices and to continue to read your email to learn about what they could be doing wrong.

Don’t be afraid of humor Why so serious? Adding humor to your subject lines can make them stand out in a sea of boring emails that flood the inbox. Including pop culture references, puns, jokes, and plays-on-words are a great way to spice up your messages and charm your recipients.

Check out these 29 Best Email Subject Lines for more inspiration.

Create dynamic email content

You wrote a captivating subject line that convinced your subscribers to click on your emailhooray! Now, it’s time to make your emails even more engaging by presenting your readers with dynamic content that is relevant, valuable, and visually-pleasing.

While the subject line is the appetizer to your email, the content itself is the main course. If you consistently deliver polished and engaging email content to your recipients, they will look forward to seeing your name in their inbox each day.

When creating content, the first step is to identify the value that your email provides to your readers. What do you want them to do once they open your email? More importantly, how will they benefit from receiving it?

Your customers don’t always want promotional blasts or industry updates; they want information that is directly useful to them.

If you can provide your customers with relevant, visually-pleasing content, then you’re well on your way to driving higher engagement and improving your sending reputation. 

Here are some best practice tips for designing dynamic email content:

Send the right message Before you even craft your email, you should always be thinking about your customers’ wants and needs. Yes, it may be tempting to blast your latest sale or company news to all of your recipients, however, doing so won’t yield the results you’re after. Only send emails that are beneficial, timely, and relevant to your recipients to avoid damaging your brand reputation. 

Let graphics tell the story too In your email content, a picture is worth a thousand words. Nobody has the time to sift through a text-heavy email, especially when a picture could convey the same message. Include relevant, eye-catching images and graphics in your emails to make your content appealing to your subscribers. 

Create a polished email design When it comes to email, what you say is equally as important as how you say it. If the information in your email is difficult to consume, chances are your subscribers will get confused and stop engaging with your messages. Having a clear, understandable, and polished email design is crucial for customer engagement and will encourage subscribers to read through your entire email. 

Include interactive elements Interactive features such as videos, gifs, games, polls, and quizzes are some of the hottest email design trends at the moment. Not only do they entertain your audience, but they can also increase the click-through-rates of your email and drive conversions. When appropriate, include interactive elements in your messages to keep your audience interested and add some spunk to an otherwise dull inbox.

Have a prominent call-to-action Yes, you want to entertain your customers, but you also want them to act! Having one clear, prominent call-to-action in your email is essential for increasing engagement and driving customer behavior. Make your call-to-action creative and eye-catching so your readers simply can’t refuse clicking through to your website.

Optimize for mobile Over 55% of emails are opened on a mobile device, and that number only continues to grow. With this in mind, it’s imperative that your email content can be read and understood easily on a smartphone. Take advantage of images and graphics, and keep your copy short and sweet to optimize your email content for all devices.

Take a look at these 11 Effective Welcome Email Examples for more inspiration. 

Segment your email list

You’ve crafted an enticing subject line, and you’ve designed a creative, interactive email. Now, it’s time to press send.

Using various segmentation strategies is an effective way to provide your customers with relevant and valuable messages that they are more likely to respond to.

Segmenting your lists actually works. And, it’s easier to do than you think.

Email service providers, like SendGrid, provide email metrics and engagement analytics that can help you determine how to segment your email lists in order to provide personalized content to each of your recipients.

Consider the following email segmentation strategies to provide relevant information to your recipients and increase the open and click-through rates of your emails:

Segment by demographics No two recipients are the same, so your emails shouldn’t be, either! Segmenting your emails based on demographics is a proven strategy to deliver content that is relevant and beneficial to your customers, which will, in turn, improve their engagement with your emails. Location, age, gender, and occupation are just a few demographic categories by which you can segment your emails to send your recipients customized messages.

Segment by behavior Segmenting by past behavior is another effective method to provide personalized information to your customers at every stage of their lifecycle with your brand. For new customers, send welcome and informational emails that highlight your brand promise and offer exclusive sign-up discounts. For returning customers, offer loyalty rewards and ask for feedback on their past purchases.

A/B test your subject lines There is no silver bullet for email marketing: it’s all about trial and error. A/B testing two different messages to a segment of your audience is a great way to determine what drives open rates and what doesn’t. Test the length of your subject line, as well as the tone and voice to get a better idea of how you should be communicating with your recipients.

Send triggered drip campaigns When a customer takes a certain action, schedule email drip campaigns to nurture potential leads and keep your recipients involved with your brand. Drip campaigns are a set of pre-written messages that send to your recipients over a certain period of time. Deploy drip campaigns after someone subscribes to your email list, adds to their shopping cart, or registers for one of your events.

For more information on email segmentation strategies, check out our Essential Guide to Email Segmentation.

Now that you know how to craft irresistible subject lines, design dynamic email content, and segment your email lists, you are well on your way to increasing customer engagement with your emails.

With these tips in mind, continue to experiment with your designs and test what is most effective at keeping your customers coming back for more.

While it may seem daunting to attract attention in a crowded inbox, the principles of communicating with your recipients are simple. Send them messages that they actually want to receive, and they’ll be happy to click on your emails every day. 

Maybe the inbox isn’t such a scary place after all!

For more top email marketing engagement strategies, check out our 2019 A-Z Email Marketing Best Practices Guide.



Allison Jensen
Allison is the Content Marketing Intern at SendGrid. When she's not in the office, you can find her drinking iced coffee even in the winter, wearing fuzzy socks even in the summer, and binge-watching Game of Thrones all year round.