In “Marketing in a Recession: Fight or Flight,” Rare Bird president/CEO Jim Cota wrote that “different economic conditions may require a different approach.” In his post, he explains that the natural tendency is for companies to tighten their budgets to save money in times like these, but that temptation should be resisted to create an advantage, both now and in the future:

Many of your competitors will cut their budgets. A less crowded advertising marketplace allows you to purchase more awareness for the same budget. If there is less “noise” in the market, you can increase your reach and engagement. By being present, you’ll demonstrate your company’s staying power and build customer trust.

By optimizing your marketing efforts to get more targeted results—test, measure, and refine—you can learn what works best and make your team’s efforts more efficient. Does your company have a defined email marketing strategy? If not, we’d be happy to talk with you about how Rare Bird can help.

Here are seven ways to make your marketing emails more effective:

Make Emails Mobile-Friendly

More than 80% of all emails are now opened on mobile devices—smartphones, yes, but also tablets and even watches and whatever cybernetic eye implants Skynet Google is probably developing. The emails should look good and read easily, and be designed with a clear purpose in mind. Are you willing to navigate through an email with formatting issues, especially when it’s an email you were not expecting to receive?

In our office, email guru Tom Gasta runs every email we send, for clients and our own marketing efforts, through a program that shows us what the email will look like when displayed on different phone models and operating systems. When everything is good, they all look the same. When it’s not, you can bet Tom will notice and flag it for further attention.

Email with a Purpose

Are you driving traffic to a specific product or service page on your website, offering a discount code, or simply making an important announcement? Don’t just send an email because you suddenly realize your company hasn’t sent one in a while. While it could be argued that such an email helps maintain brand awareness, you can do that while also creating a specific purpose for that email.

Even a simple announcement is an opportunity to showcase what makes your company unique and vibrant, as when we let our clients know our office would be closed during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day (see below).

Brevity is the Soul of Wit: Keep Subject Lines Short

Marketers debate the value of various aspects of the subject line. Should we use UPPERCASE for emphasis? What about using emoji or other symbols? Most people are visual learners, after all. But one aspect is almost universally agreed upon: Tighten the subject line as much as you can while still conveying the message and appealing to the audience.

That might seem easy enough, but not everyone can do it. Please don’t think that AI-generated content is the answer. I’m talking about winning hearts and minds (and generating clicks). A chatbot can assemble some sentences, but what about the nuances of rhetoric and appealing to deepest depths of human emotion? Maybe AI will get there eventually, but first it needs to have its heart broken a half-dozen times.

When Should You Send Marketing Emails?

When should we send this email? Sometimes, circumstances determine that for a company. There’s no point in sending a Black Friday email at seven p.m. on Black Friday, after all—unless you’re an online retail juggernaut with a list of hundreds of millions. But beyond that, choosing which day, and what time of day, to send an email is an important decision. Some recent studies suggest that Mondays and Fridays are not ideal, because the open rate for emails sent on those days is so much lower. As for why that is, explanations vary widely, but it surely involves some combination of the customer’s own work schedule and the preponderance of other companies emailing them on those days, too.

Tuesday through Thursday is best. As for what time, that really depends on the industry. If you’re looking for one day and time that might work best regardless of the details, then aim for Tuesday around lunchtime. If you have customers across the country, then 2 p.m. on Tuesday means the email will arrive within an hour or two of most people’s lunch breaks on both coasts.

Sales Aren’t Everything (Really) 

Between the long transition to the fourth iteration of Google Analytics and the rise of new privacy features and legal requirements that make it more difficult to track and identify specific users, marketers have had to accept the fact that they must find new and better ways to measure whether an email has effectively helped the company meet its marketing goals. 

Calculating the ROI for email marketing can be difficult, however, because not every email is intended to generate sales. Some offer customers the chance to sign up for a free trial or demo, or download gated content. Others might announce new features on the company’s website, or ask customers to leave a review. Engagement matters, even when certain clicks can’t be identified as the reason for specific sales.

Segment the Email List

Sending the same email to every subscriber on your email list is often appropriate. But segmenting the list into specific groups and then targeting each of those groups with unique messages will increase your email engagement numbers. That usually leads to higher conversion rates, too. 

In fact, the more personal you can make the emails, the better—especially if your company can zero in on critically nuanced aspects related to the sales cycle. For example, filtering customers by income level (or revenue, if your customers are businesses) and then by the total number of recent visits that customer or business has made to consider certain products or services on your website can make a targeted email much more effective. Whether your company is selling a necklace for a hundred dollars or cloud migration services for several million, segmenting the email list makes outreach efforts more meaningful.

Test and Test Again

Segmenting your email list also allows you to test different approaches to see what works—and what doesn’t—so that the overall strategy can be refined as needed. “That’s why testing is so crucial,” according to one industry account. “It will help you discover what motivates different segments of your customer base so you can structure campaigns that speak to those motivations. You can layer personalization data on top of these campaigns to make them even more relevant.”

We see examples of such testing in our inboxes every day when businesses try to re-engage customers who have left items in their cart or haven’t opened any emails recently. Most inactive customers won’t open yet another email attempt, either, but some of those who do might stay engaged. Perhaps it’s like physics: An object will not change its motion unless another force acts upon it. When retailers reach out in this way (subject line: Sam, We Miss You! 40% Off Just for You) and dangle a one-time discount code as an incentive, they are testing to see what they can learn about certain segments of their customer base.

It’s the Hail Mary of marketing emails, but sometimes a Hail Mary works

Take the Next Steps

If your company does not yet have a defined email marketing strategy, or if current market conditions are troubling your company’s leadership, reach out to us. We sent more than sixty million emails for clients last year. We can help.