How to make your emails stand out in a crowded inbox

September 10, 2014

During our most recent edition of the 8 Second Challenge webinar, yours truly (Events Manager Jamie Bradley) and VP of Sales Christopher Lester had a chat about how to make emails stand out in crowded inboxes despite people’s shrinking attention spans.

There were so many great questions during the Q&A that followed that we just couldn’t get to them all. So, we’ve compiled a few of our favorites and even provided some answers (we’re generous like that) here on the blog.

That's us. The average adult's attention span is only 8 seconds, so stop looking at this picture and get to reading!



You mentioned that 58% of people check email first thing in the morning, so 6 a.m. is a good time to send. But what is the best day to send? And how often should I be sending?

As nice as it would be to say that sending on the third Sunday of each month at exactly 7:17 a.m. is the email marketing holy grail, there is no time and frequency that works for everyone. Every audience is different and every organization has different email marketing goals, so we recommend that you test and test often.

Try sending on different days and at different times, and play with the frequency of your sends. And most importantly, always keep an eye on your response metrics, so you can see what gets the most results from your particular audience.

Also, don’t be shy about getting to know your subscribers. Periodically ask them to update their preferences so that you can get a better idea of when and how often they would like to hear from you. They’ll appreciate the extra little TLC you’re giving their brand experience.

I work with a nonprofit client that produces monthly emails with content for multiple audiences, and they are combining 3 existing newsletters into 1 because some of the info crosses over - is this the best way to continue communication?

While it’s tempting to save time by creating a one-size-fits-all newsletter, you end up making your subscribers work too hard to find the piece that’s relevant to them. Like the T-Rex we described in the webinar, it’s bulky, lumbering and ultimately has a very small reach. With today’s short attention spans, people will simply ignore, delete, or worse, unsubscribe.

Archaeologists have determined that Newslettersaurus was very popular, but it had little reach.


This is where segmentation comes in handy. By segmenting your audience into groups, it makes it easier to send each group a clean, simple email with content that’s directly relevant to them. It might take a little bit more time on the front end, but the results will be well worth it.

You talked about the importance of having short subject lines and including preheader text to stand out in mobile inboxes, but do you have some tips on what we should say in the preheader text to get people to open?

Since you’re keeping your subject lines short, preheader text is a great place to finish your thought or add some context to your subject line. Anything that teases the content of your email or provides a sense of urgency and incentive to open also works.

Don’t be afraid to have a little fun with it, too. Try adding a personalized message or an emoji in the preheader text to make your email stand out in the inbox.

I have a client that sends monthly newsletters, but I would love to get them going with an automated series. What is the best way to pitch an automated series to a client who might be reluctant to try it?

Decision-makers usually respond to data and results, so here are some stats that might help your client come around.

Automated welcome emails typically have four times the open rate and five times the click rate of bulk newsletters. And brands that send welcome emails see a 33% increase in long-term engagement from subscribers. They get big results because you’re reaching your subscribers at just the right time – when they’re excited and ready to hear from your brand (so don’t miss the opportunity).

Automated welcome emails are easy to set up and get big time results.


Automated emails are also a great way to say happy birthday, send a reminder or thank customers for a recent purchase. Plus, they save a ton of time. Set them up once, and they’ll do the work for you while you spend more time on your client’s other marketing goals. 

If an email is image heavy, but doesn’t include an obvious “Click here,” do people still click?

Nowadays people expect that clicking or tapping on an image will take them to more content or a separate landing page, but nothing beats a great call to action (CTA). In general, we recommend avoiding “click here” as the language for the CTA. For one, it’s not compelling and doesn’t create the sense that I have to get the content that’s on the other side of that link. Plus, everyone's checking email on their phones these days, so they aren’t clicking as much anymore as they’re tapping.

Instead, be more specific with your CTA language about what you’re actually asking your subscribers to do. For example, if you want people to download an informational guide, try something like “Get the guide.” I think you’ll find that you get much better results.

Also, we’ve learned from our own email marketing results that CTAs in the form of buttons perform better than text links. Since people usually scan emails rather than reading them word-for-word, a button helps your CTA stand out and begs to be clicked, err, tapped.

Have more questions? Let’s keep the discussion going in the comments!

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