The Ultimate 6-Step Guide To Mastering Email Marketing In 2020

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The Ultimate 6-Step Guide To Mastering Email Marketing In 2020

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on 1/30/14 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehension.

6 Steps to Master Email Marketing

  1. Streamline Your Subject Lines
  2. Avoid Spam Filters
  3. Use Calls-To-Action (CTA)
  4. Utilize Engagement and Re-engagement Emails
  5. Make Everything Mobile Friendly
  6. Personalize, Segment and Target!

Email marketing proves time and time again to be one of the most effective avenues in digital marketing. 

Sure, there are countless arguments on whether or not email marketing is dying, but rather than trying to convince you that it’s still “hip,” and more importantly, working – I’ll let results and statistics speak for themselves. 

After we dive into the data, I’ll walk you through the steps to master email marketing.

Email Marketing Data

The most recent averages from 2019 Email Benchmark Reports (with an analysis of over 30 billion emails between January 2019 and December 2019) reports the following general averages for emails sent across all industries.

  • Open rate: 17.8%
  • Click-through rate: 2.6%
  • Unsubscribing rate: 0.1%
  • Click-to-open rate: 14.3%
  • Bounce rate: 0.7%

B2B sales emails show a 19.3% open rate, which is slightly above the average.

Campaign Monitor reports that people are using the following devices to read their emails:

  • 50% of Emails are read on Mobile
  • 26.9% of Emails read on Desktop
  • 27% of Emails read on Webmail

The following statistic offers insight into the return on investment you can expect from email: For every $1 spent on email marketing, you can expect to get an average return of $42.

So, what does all of this data tell us? 

It shows that email is a valuable marketing and sales tactic. But only if you know how to master your email marketing efforts.

Come with me on this six-step journey to mastering email marketing in 2020. 

I’m assuming most people reading this article already have some experience in email marketing and most likely deal with several lists, so I’ll focus on engaging subscribers and re-engaging inactive ones.

What is email marketing?

Email marketing is a way to build a relationship with prospects and clients using strategic email messages to promote a product or a service.

6 Steps To Master Email Marketing 

1. Streamline Your Subject Lines

Before you dive into detailed email marketing strategies, you first have to get people to open your emails.

What’s the first thing that your customers see in your email engagements? Subject lines.  

With the focus on re-engaging clients who haven't followed through with received quotes, downloaded marketing materials, or have abandoned their carts, we want to look at what role subject lines play. 

Here are some telling statistics that can help inform your subject line strategy moving forward:

  • 47% of email recipients open an email based solely on the subject line.
  • According to Mobile Marketer, brands that use emojis in their subject lines get a 66% higher open-rate.
  • As many as 69% of survey respondents said they will report an email as spam based only on the subject line.
  • Emails with the word “Newsletter” in the subject line were opened 18.7% less.
  • The number of words in a subject line has an effect on open rates, too.
    • Subject lines with 0-5 words: 16% open rate
    • 6-10 words: 21%
    • 11-15 words: 14%
    • 16-20 words: 12%
    • 21-25 words: 9%
  • Put the word “free” in your subject line and your emails will get opened 10% more.
  • Using the word “alert” will get your emails opened a whopping 61.8% more often, while the word “tomorrow” raising the open rate 10%.

It’s your job to figure out what it is that your audience clicks on and why they click on it. 

2. Avoid Spam Filters

What is a spam filter?

A spam filter is an email categorizing tool that classifies incoming emails in an attempt to prevent digital “junk mail” from getting through to the inbox.

Spam filters work on a point system in which the filters watch for certain keyword phrases and other elements that will accrue points every time they’re found in your email campaigns. 

The higher the points, the more likely it is that the email will hit the spam box. 

This is where you have to be careful. While it’s important to know which subject lines perform the best, it won't matter if the email doesn't even hit their inbox. 

So, when you’re creating your subject lines, be aware of what triggers spam filters. If you don't, once your campaign reaches a certain number of points (spam score) all of your emails will go straight to the recipients’ junk folders. 

There isn't a set number of triggers, however, as all thresholds are dependent on different servers and their specific spam filters. 

Here are a few examples of the type of mistakes you can make that spam filters will flag, along with the average amount of points that you will accrue if you include this content, according to MailChimp:

  • A low ratio of text to image 
  • The message only has text/html MIME parts
  • The HTML has a low ratio of text to image area
  • HTML and text parts are different
  • The “subject” is all capitals
  • HTML images with 2400-2800 bytes of words

Some email marketing platforms will measure your score as you are creating your campaign, so you can keep a tight grasp on where you stand with spam. 

Here are a few other missteps MailChimp advises avoiding to make sure your spam score stays low.

  • Using the phrase "extra inches." It’ll increase your spam score.
  • Using “Dear NAME.” Using the introduction "Dear" will earn your email more spam points. Instead, use something less formal, such as "Howdy." 
  • Avoid using "Stop Further Distribution" at the bottom of your email. It sounds too corporate and formal, and using it will earn you spam points. 
  • Don’t use "You registered with a partner" in emails either. This phrase signals to spam filters that you didn’t get permission to send the recipient an email. And that’s a huge no-no.

3. Use Calls-To-Action (CTA)

What Is a call-to-action?

A call-to-action tells a website reader what action you want them to take. For example, “Buy now,” “Get started,” or “Click here.”

It’s important to tell your website visitors what action you want them to take. That’s the job of a Call to Action, or CTA.

Best practices can be dependent on the specific business or industry that you’re in, but there are some general “rules” for getting the most out of your CTAs. 

The best tips and practices for CTAs are:

  • Location. This is industry-specific; however, a recent study done by Neil Patel on his clients showed that there is an average of a 17% increase in conversions for CTAs that are placed on the bottom of site copy rather than the top or middle. People want to hear about what they’re getting before they take action.
  • Design. Google recently did a study on one of their calls to action by testing 50 different shades of blue until they found the blue that had the highest conversion rate. Again, design will be an aspect of your specific industry, but great design aspects such as color, button copy, hovering effects, etc., have an average of increasing conversions from 20-30%

4. Utilize Engagement and Re-engagement Emails

B2C businesses experience an average 69% abandoned-cart rate

Implementing strong re-engagement marketing campaigns may be the key factor that makes or breaks your existing and returning customer relationships. 

Let’s look at two examples. The first one is of a strong re-engagement email, and the second is a weak re-engagement email.

A. Urban Outfitters: Strong Re-Engagement

The following email is from Urban Outfitters. It's their attempt to re-engage customers who had not taken any action as a result of receiving prior emails.

It’s clever, funny, and definitely attracts attention. A customer receiving this email will give a second thought to unsubscribing.

strong re-engagement email

B. Cycle Surgery: Poor Re-Engagement

Cycle Surgery is a large bicycle corporation from the UK. This is an email they sent out to try and gather abandoned cart users by trying to leverage a conversion. 

This was done with a poorly written and displayed “transactional” email. 


There are quite a few things wrong with this email – which explains the horrible conversion rates that they have on re-engagement (Less than 3%). 

Here are just a few mistakes in this email:

  1. The subject line to this email was “Your Cycle Surgery Shopping Basket.” There’s no personality, excitement, or engaging positive tone used in this subject line. And it’s in-between the floor and ceiling thresholds of “below 2 words” and “above 14 words,” as explained above. In all reality, this subject line suggests that they are desperate for a sale. Also, keep in mind that the percentages are generally low for subject lines with direct brand mentioning.
  2. The balance of the image/text ratio in this email is horribly positioned and greatly imbalanced.
  3. The email is impersonal and also insinuates that whoever the recipient is “can't make up their mind.” This is a well-masked condescending accusation, which is a huge no-no!
  4. There aren't any implemented features like return policies, related items, accessories, free shipping, etc.

5. Make Everything Mobile Friendly

We know that 50% of emails are being opened on mobile devices, so it’s a no-brainer that responsive design is a big deal.

Another tactic to make your emails mobile-friendly is to add “click-to-call” buttons. 

When offering products and services, using click to call is an effective tool for streamlined communication with little navigation. 

Vivint SmartHome has a great example of how to utilize click-to-call:  


All rules apply to click-to-call regarding design, responsiveness, etc., but if this is done right, it can be quite effective. 

According to a study by Marchex, consumers will spend approximately $1.12 trillion through click-to-call this year.

6. Personalize, Segment and Target!

To enhance the effect of one-to-one communication in your email marketing, it’s vital that you use personalization. 

Personalized emails (with the recipient's first name) can pull down six times higher sales conversion rates and two-and-a-half times higher click-through rates. 

Email Monday did a global marketing survey in which marketers found that segmenting email campaigns gave them a 760% increase in email revenue.

Episerver recommends that you segment your email lists by marketing persona. This allows targeted content to enhance the personalized messages. 

Side Note: 

Many of the sources (and our team at Flight Media), highly recommend you send re-engagement emails as a human and not a company. 

Salesforce even recommends adding a picture in the sign off of a real member of your team when you send re-engagement emails to comfort the customer and build trust.

Let's dig a little deeper. Personalizing and segmenting may seem like fun and games, but what’s happening to the individuals who are clicking through your CTAs? Where are they landing? 

If your answer to that question isn't "a landing page," then maybe it’s time to make a greater effort toward converting. When it comes to email campaigns, the most important aspect of a landing page is relevance. 

Many marketers make the mistake of providing calls-to-action and links to irrelevant landing pages. And as a result, that user doesn’t convert.

Hubspot recommends giving free content to provide value in exchange for information, such as:

  • eBooks.
  • White Papers.
  • Case Studies.
  • eCourses.
  • Podcasts.
  • Videos, etc.

If you have a customer that has abandoned their cart or not converted quite yet, sending them an email (following all above guidelines) that offers them a relevant and free information source, can increase your conversion rate and sales.

Final Thoughts on Email Marketing

If you’ve made it this far in the article, I’ll assume you’re a marketer who’s interested in mastering email marketing efforts. 

It’s good to keep in mind that there is a huge difference between data and insight. While this article provided TONS of data from relevant and credible sources, it may not all apply to your specific situation. 

While you can take this information and use it to make practical decisions, take the time to develop your own data from your email marketing experiences. From there you’ll be able to develop strategies based on how your list responds to your marketing. 

Now THAT’S mastering email marketing!  

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Maja Jaredic

Maja is passionate marketer, pursuing excellence in all that she does for clients. She speaks 4 languages and spends her free time at the beach, traveling, or discovering new beer and coffee.