How to structure a winning email.

Feb 08 2019 | PayPal editorial staff

Creating an exceptional digital experience for your small business would ideally include the whole gamut: website optimization, social media promotions, paid media advertising, and email marketing. Except that when time (and money) isn't in our favor, we're forced to choose – and, hands down, email marketing would take the crown.
With an average ROI of $38 per $1 spent on email marketing, email remains a significantly more effective way to acquire customers than social media – nearly 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined1. Plus, it's easy and inexpensive to create a campaign. So with the winning combo of being both effective and efficient, it makes for a smart channel investment for small businesses.
But before you go running off to create your email campaign, also keep in mind the average open rate across all industries is 20.81%2. That's a better engagement rate than all the other marketing channels, but it's still an 80% chance your email can fall to the wayside.
So how do you increase your odds? Try these tips below.

1. Write an attention-grabbing subject line.

There's only a small window of opportunity to grab your reader's attention, and it starts with your subject line, so try asking a question.
Instead of: There's still time to register for weekend classes.
Try: Waiting 'til the last minute to register for weekend classes?
Or, you can solicit curiosity ...
What new business book is a must-read for entrepreneurs? The answer is inside.
You can also source inspiration from your own inbox. See what jumps out at you and replicate its structure. But don't get disheartened if your open rate isn't ideal on the first try – it takes time and A/B testing to see what calls out most to your customers.

2. Get personal.

Personalization helps on two fronts: It increases customer engagement and it also prevents your subscribers from mistaking your email for malware or spam. Instead of using "Dear Sir" or "Dear Friend" or even just "Hi," address them by their name. You can even add a more personal touch by sending personalized messages, product recommendations, blog posts, videos, or articles related to your readers' interests. And don't forget to end the emails with your name – it adds another personal touch.

3. Make the content exclusive.

One metric you'll become familiar with is the unsubscribe rate. It measures how many email subscribers opt out of your email communications. We want that rate to be as low as possible, and, to do that, we need relevant, valuable content delivered consistently. But let's take it even one step further by making the content exclusive. If the content won't be available anywhere else except through your email communications, it'll give customers an extra incentive to stay subscribed. And that content can be anything from an ebook download to a special offer, like a free 15-minute consultation.

girl-clicking-on-phone4. Include a call to action (CTA).

What would you like your reader to do? Make a purchase? Download something from your website? If you don't have a call to action, your email is likely to get deleted without a single click-through, so be crystal clear about what you want your reader to do. And keep it to three or fewer calls to action. Otherwise, you risk overwhelming readers with too many options.

5. Set up automation.

Set automated emails or autoresponders to deliver content or reminders to your readers or customers. They can be created to deliver e-courses, a series of sales emails, follow-up information after a purchase, or a friendly reminder when a customer has abandoned their cart. This will create a continuous circle of engagement between you and your customers.

6. Be consistent.

Figuring out how often you should send an email campaign is just as important as knowing what kind of content to create for your audience. You want to keep your business top-of-mind, but you don't want to bombard your readers with too many emails. So start out with one email per week – as your business grows or the seasons change, so might your frequency, but try to remain consistent with your email calendar.

7. Get permission.

Get your permission boxed checked off. People who haven't given you express, verifiable consent to receive marketing communication from your business are more likely to report your emails as spam. Express, verifiable consent means that when you asked for permission, your question wasn't tied in with another offer. A checkbox that states, "I would like to receive marketing email from YOUR company" is express and clear.

8. Track and test.

How do you know if what you're doing is working, or if something needs a change? Tracking and periodically testing your email campaigns will help you answer those questions. Use A/B testing to test your subject lines, calls-to-action, design, content, or the time of week that you're sending your campaigns. Track the responses to determine which variations work better for your readers. Without testing, you run the risk of not fully optimizing your email campaign for your readers. Even with a small email list, tracking and testing your campaigns means you can still earn high engagement, click-throughs, and purchases from your readers.

The payoff.

Just like social media, launching a successful email campaign takes time, testing, and incremental improvement. But unlike social media, you own your email list, so you have control of your content and you're not at the whim of updates and algorithm changes. That's the power of email for your small business.

About PayPal for small businesses.

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The contents of this site are provided for informational purposes only. You should always obtain independent, professional accounting, financial, and legal advice before making any business decision.

1 Source: The New Rules of Email Marketing. Retrieved from
2 Excerpted from "Why marketers should keep sending you e-mails", January 2014, McKinsey & Company, Copyright (C) 2018 McKinsey & Company. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.

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