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Blog / Marketing tips / Email Marketing Strategies for Better Results

Marketing tips

Email Marketing Strategies for Better Results

Email Marketing Strategies for Better Results
Marianna Zvaigzne

By Marianna Zvaigzne

8 min read

On average, a person receives about 90 work emails a day. A popular statistic that’s circling the web is 122, but that’s actually the number of emails sent and received. Yep, in the internet world, you don’t get what you give. You get more than you want.

And those are just the emails that matter. That doesn’t account for the Promotions and Social tabs in your Gmail account, and Spam is not even worth mentioning.

That’s why writing good, clickable marketing emails is so ridiculously, notoriously challenging. We’re trained to hate spam, we frown at blatant clickbait, we ignore all we find irrelevant. Every promo email opened is a pat on the copywriter’s back.

So, what can you do to improve your email marketing strategy and nail your next marketing campaigns? Read this blog post, for starters.

We’re going to be looking at the four pillars of creating successful email marketing campaigns:

  1. Segmentation
  2. Subject lines
  3. Clickable copy
  4. A/B testing

And we’re not making this up, this is tried & tested stuff that we implement when creating our own email marketing campaigns – you’ll see it yourself in the examples to come. So let’s get straight to it.

Smart email segmentation

As explained in a marketing statistics master post by Hubspot, more than 80% of companies use at least basic email segmentation. Why? Because an estimated 58% of revenue comes from segmented emails.

What’s segmentation, again? It’s when you target a group of people from your email list based on certain criteria such as demographics or website/email activity. Smart targeting = increased relevance = better results.

Research done at Mailchimp, one of the world’s top email marketing services, shows that email segmentation has “an overwhelmingly positive impact on your subscribers.” It improves your open and click rates, and decreases abuse and unsubscribe rates.

What’s more, according to Hubspot, 78% of consumers unsubscribe from emails because a brand has been a tad overzealous in their email marketing strategy. Conclusion: speak to your customers, don’t spam them.

Customers getting spam
Actual footage from a customer’s inbox

Email segmentation example

At one point we saw that blasting a single Printful promo to our expanding list of subscribers just didn’t cut it. The open rate of our last unsegmented emails was stuck around the 13% mark and the click rate – an unimpressive 0,3%.

And then we started segmenting.

Once you get a hang of segmentation, choosing segments comes naturally. For our bucket hat launch campaign, we split our list into two groups, users with hats in their stores and users without, and adjusted the subject lines and email headings accordingly:


Users with hats
Subject line: Say YES to the bucket hat trend ?


Users without hats
Subject line: Embrace the bucket hat trend ?

See the difference? The copy for the users with hats presents the bucket hat as a novelty to try out, but the copy for the other segment invites them to choose the bucket hat as a start their hat-making days. And the results?

Users with hats: open rate 28,0%, click rate 2,2%
Users without hats: open rate 14,4%, click rate 0,6%
Average: open rate: 21,2%, click rate: 1,4%

When you compare our segmented email with the unsegmented one, you can see the open rates up by 7,4% and the click rate – 1,1%. Not bad, considering the averages for the ecommerce industry – open: 16,6%, click: 2,7%.

It’s a win-win for sure. Customers get personalized content and we get better feedback. So we’re not just looking at the numbers and giving each other high fives, we’re checking if our message is getting across to our audience.

Subject lines that increase open rates

Your email subject line has to stand out from the rest. 

But, you know, in a good way

You’re going to do that by appealing to your customers’ emotions. In a rather superb blog on writing subject lines, Coschedule named the four emotions that get your customers clicking: urgency, curiosity, excitement, joy.

Let’s face it, we often look, click, and buy because of a quick, unnoticeable trigger. So pick your trigger and wrap it in some wording. Whatever you do:

  • Keep it short – nothing’s worse than a tl;dr subject line. Go for segment-focused keywords and simple phrasing  
  • Use emojis sparingly – a context-appropriate emoji can do wonders, but if there’s no need for it, stick to good old text
  • Write numbers with digits – they attract attention and save space
  • Use the imperative (we’ll get to that later) – the subject line is like a call-to-action button in your inbox, so get your customers to act
  • Say it clearly – shady behavior will get you labeled as a scam or spam
  • Be careful with humor – if there’s a chance your joke will fall flat, don’t risk it

Subject line examples

Let’s look at a couple of successful subject lines we’ve used for our blog promo emails. Both of these have an open rate of 30%:


1. The blog: How to make an extra $29K per year with your side project: the story of District of Clothing
The subject line:  How to earn $29K/year with your side project
The formula: Emoji + Digit + Keyword ($29K/year, side project) + Curiosity

2. The blog: Who’s who of apparel brands you can find on Printful
The subject line: Who’s who of apparel brands you can find on Printful
The formula: Clarity + Keyword (apparel brands, Printful) + Curiosity

As you can tell, successful subject lines can take many shapes and forms and the winning formula is hard to predict. Just remember that subject lines are context-sensitive, so well-targeted emails actually work really well with straight-forward subject lines:

The topic: Free shipping and new product colors in Europe
The subject line: A couple updates for Europe 

There’s no emotion, no formula. We just wanted to get the word out to our customers selling in Europe, so the email’s 27,1% open rate isn’t surprising.

Effective email copy

The customer’s opened your email.

Now what?

If they’ve clicked the call-to-action button in your email (make sure you have one!), it means you’ve done one of the following:

  • Hit the nail on the head with the targeting and sent your customer a relevant email
  • Slightly missed the mark with your targeting, but your copy was persuasive enough to get your customers to click anyway

Which one should you go for, then? A mix of both. Make the copy of your email both informative and captivating:

  • Construct your text around keywords that capture the message of your email. Depending on your email template, you can even put them in bold
  • Speak in your brand voice. Are you formal? Casual? Punny? Sarcastic?
  • Choose the right tone for the message. If your goal is to clear up confusion or fix a mistake, go easy on the puns and jokes
  • Don’t get wordy, scrolling is for blogs. Keep the sentences and paragraphs short

A note on grammar in emails

Often you’ll find people talking about how you should use power words and action verbs in your copy. Instead of making incomplete lists of vague expressions and examples, let’s put this in time-honored grammar terms:

  • Decide when to use the active voice or the passive. This plays with the focus of the sentence. In the active voice, the focus is on the doer. In the passive, the focus is on the action.

For persuasive, customer-oriented copy, active voice is preferred – make the sentences about the doer: Here’s what you can do (active) vs. Here’s what can be done (passive).

  • Speaking of you’s, sprinkle in second person pronouns (you, your, yours) that directly address your audience and help them relate to your text: Click here to order a shirt vs. Click here to order your shirt.
  • Use verbs in the imperative, the grammatical mood for giving commands and requests. CTA buttons like Read more, Click here, Sign up, Subscribe to my channel are all examples. Spot the difference: My latest designs are available here vs. Follow the link to check out my latest designs.  

Email copy examples

Now for a couple of Printful emails that didn’t get a 30% open rate, but that click rate, though!


1. The blog: 21 inspiring quotes to help you kick butt in ecommerce
The subject line:  21 quotes to help you kick butt in ecommerce
The click rate: 7,1%
The copy:


2. The blog: 20 quick 15-min tasks to benefit and grow your store

The subject line: 20 quick tasks to help your store grow
The click rate: 8,1%
The copy:



Go over the copy in the two emails. You’ll notice they’re short, relatable, reader-oriented and with just enough bait to get the customer hooked to click the button. That’s right – don’t give away too much, you need that click.

Email A/B testing

Setting up a decent marketing campaign takes work. Thankfully there are ways to help you get faster results.

For emails (and more), A/B testing is one of the best. It’s when you compare two versions of an email to see which performs better.

Most email marketing services have an automated A/B testing feature. You choose the bits you want to test, define the size of the test group from your email segment, and your email marketing provider then performs the A/B test. The winning campaign is automatically sent to the rest of the segment, and you can analyze the results afterwards.

So, what to test? Depends on the metric you’re interested in. If it’s open rates, test the subject line. If it’s the click rate – you’ll want to test the copy or the CTA button.

Here are some examples of what you can test with subject lines:

  • Length
  • Symbols: digits, emojis, punctuation marks, etc.  
  • Sentence types: questions vs. statements
  • Emotions: urgency vs. joy
  • Tone: straightforward vs. humorous

And what to test with copy:

  • Headings: length, structure, tone, etc.
  • Body: reader-oriented vs. passive
  • Images: size, color, content (mockup vs. lifestyle shot), etc.

But don’t experiment with too much at the same time. If your email variants differ to the point of being two entirely separate emails, you’ll get confusing results and it’ll be hard to figure out what lies behind the winning combination.

And as always, data is useless if you don’t analyze it. Make a spreadsheet of your experiments, write down what works, what doesn’t, and build on it.

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The key to writing marketing emails

Writing successful marketing emails is a bit Goldilocks-esque. Some of your work will be rather tepid, other attempts will be a bit over the top. However, the promise of getting it just right is there, you just have to keep trying, testing, and analyzing.

Always think about your target audience when writing content, and let your instincts help you along the way.

And pay attention to your personal inbox. Which emails do you open and why? Why do some of them annoy or upset you? The answer to these whys might be the key to your next great email.

The Printful Team
(Just kidding)

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By Marianna Zvaigzne on Jul. 13, 2017

Marianna Zvaigzne

Marianna Zvaigzne is the Head of Brand Language at Printful. With the help of her team, she’s pinning down what it means to “sound like Printful” and keeps Printful copywriters on their toes with animated editing sessions and writing workshops.

Marianna Zvaigzne is the Head of Brand Language at Printful. With the help of her team, she’s pinning down what it means to “sound like Printful” and keeps Printful copywriters on their toes with animated editing sessions and writing workshops.