Marketing & Business, Technology
piece written on the 16th February 2014 by  

In the last year I’ve read more articles about the success of newsletters than almost any other inbound marketing channel. As much as we like to believe that older practises are now not as effective, email marketing is certainly still a booming engagement tool. The biggest problem with email marketing though is that people are quick to assume it’s as simple as opening a MailChimp account, picking a template, writing some copy, importing email addresses and clicking send. Unfortunately it’s not as simple as that and with most people doing that, no wonder confidence in the medium has dropped. The guys who test properly and┬ápersevere are the ones who are coming out on top.

I’m involved in a number of projects that require newsletters to be delivered to customers, potential customers and people of interest across a wide range of different market verticals and this has taught me a number of neat tricks that have assisted me with increasing the click through rate (CTR). These tips and tricks don’t come easily, identifying them is only possible once you’ve spent months trying and testing, but today I’m going to speed that up for you by sharing some of the things I’ve learnt.

Here are 4 nifty tips that I use on a regular basis to increase the CTRs:


I subscribe to a fair number of newsletters myself and more often than not I end up opening the newsletter and quickly deleting it afterwards simply because there are just too many competing headlines. Time is precious, inboxes are full and people are in general lazy – In order to catch the attention of your readers you need to simplify matters by including less calls to action. When you write up your newsletter, take a pen and paper and write down the top 3 things you’d like a user to do once they’ve opened the newsletter. You got that? Ok, now take your newsletter and delete everything expect those top 3 things. What you’ve got now is 3 calls to action versus possibly 10 – this increases the odds of getting a click by a long mile.

As an example, eCommerce stores love to send out newsletters with all sorts of specials, best sellers, featured products and so forth – it’s just too much information for the average user. Instead, if you run an eCommerce store and there’s a specific product you’re trying to sell, just include that product. Use a great photograph, include the price and make sure that there’s a very clear call to action. You don’t need to then mention 4 top sellers, 2 club membership perks and so forth, stick to the real purpose and give the reader less options.

Furthermore, these days most people are reading their email on-the-go via a mobile device, this makes action capturing even harder! People don’t want to have to think or make decisions, do that for them – give them just 1 or 2 options and you’ll see the CTR increase.

As a real-life example, let’s look at NetFlorist’s newsletter for Valentine’s Day. This newsletter is so massive, there are so many options but all they’re trying to do is punt the last 48 hours before Valentine’s day. As far as I’m concerned, all they needed to put in the newsletter was the area highlighted in red:


Note: This is assuming they weren’t sending the newsletter out to people who have accounts that were actively looking at multiple Valentine’s products but didn’t make a purchase, but even so, with 2 days left I wouldn’t give readers choice paralysis.


I drum on about date and time probably more than I should, but I do so because I’ve seen the power of sending something at the right time. If you’re sending out a newsletter in the morning with something related to a party on the weekend or a product special, there’s a good chance the newsletter will get deleted – in the mornings people aren’t looking for ways to spend money or to plan for parties, they’re looking for ways to get work out of the way so that they can then look at parties and the likes. In the same regard, don’t send out your newsletter featuring an incredible product towards the 20th of the month because people don’t have money, wait for closer to the 26th and send it out when people have been paid, or wait until just after debit order day where someone might be tempted to spend because they either have a little left over after the debit orders or are susceptible to comfort spending.

One step further to this is that if you have an International company that services and/or sells to people across the world, look at where your subscribers are based and send out emails in batches to ensure that each country receives an email at the correct time for them. Early evening here in South Africa is very different to the time in the US for example.


This is a bit more of a trick compared to the previous 2 tips. Ever think about sending newsletters at different times of the day or with different content based on the users email address? You might raise an eyebrow, but let me walk you through it:

The majority of people who have @gmail @yahoo @hotmail, etc. accounts are normally using these accounts as personal accounts, it’s the @companyname @placeofwork that are used as work addresses, at least a lot of the time. Think about that for a second, if you use averages around this you can send out your newsletters knowing that the newsletter is arriving in an inbox that is being accessed by a person who is either in work mode or casual mode. Someone at work checking email is very different to someone who is at home checking email. I know personally that when I receive an email on my work account that isn’t work related such as a newsletter from ASOS about a closing special, 95% of the time I’ll leave that email until after work to read rather than reading it during office hours (or I’ll simply delete it).

This is one of those tips that you give a try, you measure the performance, make comparisons and then decide if it’s benefited you.


Another incredible way to drastically increase your CTR is to segment your mailing list into similar groups based on interactions on your website. When you have an eCommerce website, there is a table in the database that includes all the users who have created an account or bought something on your website. If you take this one step further, this table will be linked to a purchases table in order for the system to know who has bought what – imagine aggregating this information in such a way that you could personalise your newsletters to frequent shoppers and personalise your newsletter to those who are yet to purchase. An email going out to both of these customer groups needs to be completely different if you want to achieve better CTRs.

Customers who have made more than 3 purchases are more than likely going to purchase again so these are people you want to treat in a special way because they’re loyal customers. People who are yet to purchase might need some temptation, offer them a discount to move them along into the sales funnel. People who purchase a specific type of product could be targeted – think of someone who shops at Woolworths online and has made 3 purchases over the space of a few months and each purchase has been a tie. There’s a really great chance that this person would be interested in a special about ties – group all of these people together and blast a really customised newsletter to them rather than a generic one about a scarf, shirt and jacket which they’ve technically shown no interest in!

There are a huge number of options available for this sort of usage segmentation, but what I can tell you is that the idea isn’t to have 50 different specific groups, try look for similarities and assemble 2 or 3 groups to start with. Hire someone who can dissect your Google Analytics data and see how it correlates to the groups you’ve created around usage data, once again creating the possibility for a much higher CTR.

I’ve implemented these strategies before and I’ve seen fantastic results. It’s a little more work, but for a higher CTR it’s worth it!