Every now and again, you might hear – or read – email marketing is dead. Well, with an ROI of 42:1, we just busted that myth.

Email remains not only the best but also the perfect way to connect with both prospects and customers. Why? It’s quite easy to personalise and it allows more traceability than any other communication channel. But, is your email marketing effective? 


“A small email list that wants exactly what you’re offering is better than a bigger one that is not committed.” – Ramsay Leimenstoll

You’ve probably read hundreds, if not thousands, of email marketing stats (these ones are worth a read!) – as well as countless case studies – supporting the fact that businesses can experience an enormous growth through email marketing. However, have you actually ‘tasted’ that success yourself? Every email marketer makes mistakes and some, like losing a customer or a sale, can cut deeper than others. But, there is a way to prevent such disasters from happening. Instead of marketers going through a ‘trial-and-error’ strategy, why not use some tried-and-tested email marketing growth hacks?

In this article, we’ll cover the following topics:

  1. Growth hacking – what is it and why do marketers need it?
  2. 14 email marketing growth hacks inc –
    1. Where to collect email addresses from
    2. When to share content
    3. Get your recipients to ‘Forward’
    4. How do you use social proof
    5. ‘Retargeting’, what’s that then

Let’s dive in.

We are firm believers that in order to apply a concept – any concept – in your marketing strategy, one must first understand it. As such, we will ‘dissect’ each word in the concept of growth hacking.

Growth is well… growth, bigger, better, harder, faster, more – like your sales graphs. Hacking (no, we’re not talking about the malicious practice of invading one’s digital device) is a marketer’s dedication to constantly searching for knowledge and strategies beyond the ordinary concepts. With these two parts analysed, we can now form the full definition of growth hacking – low-cost, creative techniques used by marketers to help their business acquire and retain customers.

Why is growth hacking needed? Email marketing is the best communication strategy for both B2B and B2C organisation (do you remember its ROI?) and when it meets growth hacking’s best prerequisite – low-cost, it creates an outstandingly effective symbiotic relationship focused solely on growing a business – from the email list through the market positioning to the holy grail – increasing sales.

Ah, did you know that Hotmail is acknowledged as the first growth hacker? The Hotmail team devised a strategy of sending emails to potential customers as an approach to accelerate their growth which had an intriguing line in it – “PS: I love you. Get your free email at Hotmail”. This piece of content served as an invitation for people to sign up for an account and the personal touch in it led to Hotmail’s growth from nothing to a company worth $400 million. It was quite the clever email marketing growth hack, wasn’t it?

Email Marketing Growth Hacks Every Marketer Needs

From higher conversion and open rates and healthier email lists through better reach and more email ending up in the recipients’ inbox instead of the spam folder to improving the effectiveness of our email campaigns, as email marketers, we are all constantly trying to reach new heights. But, how can we achieve all this on a small budget? 

Well, by taking advantage of our list of tried-and-tested email marketing growth hacks designed for businesses on a low-cost budget, of course.

1) Everywhere: that’s the place to collect email addresses

Building an email list can feel like a Herculean task. Not to mention that attracting new customers costs five times more than nurturing existing ones. However, with the proper tried-and-tested list building techniques, email marketers can achieve this task with ease.

When it comes to growing your email lists, why limit yourself only to signup forms on your website or blog? In today’s marketing world, there are all types of creative ways where marketers can utilise pop up forms and ask people to subscribe to their mailing list(s).

Your social media profiles – all of them – can be used to share your sign up form to attract new subscribers. Twitter’s Lead Gen Card, for example, is a pretty cool tool for better engaging with your audience and converting followers into customers/subscribers – for free.

Another way of collecting email addresses is at business meetings, seminars, exhibitions or any other business-related events. Just make sure when you’re exchanging business cards, people are giving you explicit consent to be on your mailing list.

2) Share relevant content even if – occasionally – it’s someone else’s

With recipients’ spending an average of 20 seconds on an email, your content must be relevant and encourage them to read your email through to the end, as well as, take action. However, as much as you might be giving them things for free or offering seductive discounts, would it be enough? Is there something else you could be doing to get them to cross that figurative finish line?

As much as marketers might be vigilant of, and a bit reluctant to, share someone else’s content, this marketing tactic will provide a much better chance of being effective and demonstrate a business’s genuine care for its subscribers/customers. Here are a few reasons why – 

a) the subscribers on your list want relevant, useful content and by sharing someone else’s you are giving that to them;
b) your goal is to show your subscribers’ needs are your top priority and this is the perfect way to prove it;
c) writing relevant, great content is not always easy and businesses might not always have the time; and,
d) sharing someone else’s content is a perfect way to build a harmonious relationship with them.

3) Use forwarding and referrals

Referral programs are basically using what you have (existing subscribers) in order to get more of what you want (new subscribers). 

Simply put, you are ‘bribing’ people so they refer friends, family and colleagues to your website where you ‘seduce’ them to sign up for your mailing list. Don’t worry though, you are not actually bribing them in the real sense of the word. It’s more of an exchange program.

People refer others to your website and as a show of gratitude, you give the referrer a discount, a free ebook or an extended trial of your service. However, there is a free approach where you don’t have to ‘bribe’ anybody: a forwarding option in your welcome email or newsletter. A referral program can do wonders for attracting new subscribers and turning them into paying customers later. Furthermore, segmenting these subscribers will help you narrow down where they came from, as well as, which marketing funnel they should be following – for either manual or triggered campaigns – based on where they were sourced and their subsequent behaviour.

4) Incorporate social proof in your email campaigns

How do you convert leads to customers – paying customers? Simple. You motivate them by providing social proof

Social proof is the concept that people will follow the actions of others under the assumption – and belief – that those actions are reflective of the correct behaviour. Simply put, if many people take the same action and behave the same way, then it must be the correct behaviour.

There are various ways email marketers can apply this email marketing growth hack into their strategy. For example, including press mentions, product/service reviews, testimonials and, why not, the number of people subscribed to your mailing list(s) into your email campaigns. 

By utilising social proof, marketers can show how valuable their products/services are to others and that they are worth purchasing. It also encourages even the most reluctant prospects to take action.

5) Receipts can be a game-changer

Are you a bit confused by this email marketing growth hack? Trust us, you are not the only one. So few businesses actually devote time to turning these messages into powerful marketing vehicles but… customers do love transactional emails. Even Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey called receipts “the next publishing medium”.

With that in mind, instead of having the same old boring, dull receipts, why not – 

a) make them look not only awesome but functional as well – with most of them looking bland it’ll certainly help you stand out;
b) incorporate a referral program encouraging customers to share their experience and, of course, give them something in return; and,
c) show them products/services related to their purchase.

Trust us, email receipts are the easiest way to the recipients’ inbox and yet, a lot of marketers underutilise this valuable form of email marketing. Don’t be like them and miss this huge opportunity.

6) Email retargeting is your golden ticket

The ever-evolving and improving digital marketing technology offers businesses numerous methods that they can use in order to approach potential clients who’ve already had an interaction with their brand. So, instead of trying to guess what customers want, why not take a look at the information you already have?

A lot of marketers utilise retargeting only via ads, however, your presence in the inbox is much more powerful than a few ads across other platforms. 

Each time a customer comes in contact with your product/service, you are presented with the opportunity to make a sale. Even if the person doesn’t initially make a purchase you are still in the game. Thus, don’t perceive them as a lost cause and simply move on. After all, according to stats, almost 60% of people’s purchase decision-making process is influenced by marketing emails; and, 80% of marketers say that email marketing increases customer retention.

We know ads can be powerful. But, behavioural emails are the thing that will differentiate you from the competition. Such emails are – 

a) opened but didn’t click – change future content to spark their interest beyond just opening your email campaign;
b) clicked but didn’t make a purchase – trigger discount follow up; or,
c) clicked but only read one article of a series – offer the second article in the series – ex. ‘[FirstName] you might be interested in…’.

7) Use powerful call-to-actions

In every email marketing strategy, call-to-actions (CTAs) are what delivers the actual results as it takes the recipients beyond just your email campaign and leads them further along the conversion path – being it a purchase, a subscription to your newsletter or simply further reading. 

The design of a CTA – from placement to colour and text – might seem like a minor consideration, but according to… well, science, designing the perfect email CTA buttons can have a huge impact on your conversion rates.

Wondering what the qualities of a perfect CTA are? Well… 

1) compelling text – don’t’ say the same thing as everyone else. Create unique, enticing text for your CTA that will make the user take the action you want them to; and,

2) standing out – barely visible CTAs or ones with long text aren’t really useful to your end goal. Instead, use bold formats and colours that will create a sense of urgency driving the recipient to actual action.

8) Take advantage of email automation

Wouldn’t it be awesome if every new customer/subscriber gets a personal email from the CEO or an account manager or a customer service rep instead of a generalised message lacking the personal touch most people appreciate?

Let’s say you are a small business owner working on a limited budget and doing a lot of tasks yourself. How can you ensure the growth of your business when you’re being pulled in so many directions? Easy – email automation.

This is the one email marketing growth hack that will deliver the biggest results. There are many different advantages of adopting an email automation process (if you haven’t already). 

First and foremost, this marketing technique allows organisations to improve the customer experience since it sends behaviour-triggered emails and ensures you are creating a personalised experience for your customers – every single time. A few other advantages are saving money on staff by reducing the need for employees to go through repetitive tasks, recovering lost revenue, predicting and shaping customer behaviour as well as increasing customer lifetime value.

With email automation, companies will be able to maintain and scale their business profitably and successfully at very little cost. Just remember that not all marketing strategies are created equally. Therefore, email automation is just one piece of a greater puzzle which needs constant care in order to flourish.

9) Allow recipients to ‘reply’ – ask them for a response

Even after reading your email and being almost convinced to take action, some people might require a tiny bit of further information before they become a customer/subscriber. Thus, you need to not only make sure that recipients can respond to your emails by also having a real inbox where replies are gathered and, most of all, monitored. You don’t want to be a business that lets people assume you don’t care about them by not replying to their feedback, do you? Nothing says I love you more than a noreply@companyname.com email address, don’t be impersonal.

This is a simple but quite overlooked email marketing hack. Why is it important? Because by gathering feedback from subscribers/customers you can provide further social proof of the value your business can bring to them. So, move away from embedding forms in your emails (which a lot of email clients don’t support fully – or at all) and encourage replies. It’s a much easier process and it shows the subscribers their opinion matters and someone is listening. 

10) Reduce your email lists dead weight

Riddle us this – would you rather have 30,000 subscribers on your email list with only 10,000 of them engaged or would you rather have 10,000 and all of them engaged?

We know you want to build an email list as big as possible and how important email lists are to your business. But, if most of the people on your mailing lists are inactive and your attempts to re-engage them have failed, there is no reason for you to keep that ‘dead weight’. No matter how hard you worked to gather those subscribers, email list decay is a natural occurrence. 

With this in mind, if you see that your subscribers haven’t opened or engaged with your email campaigns in a while be considerate and notify them – with one last email – that you do not want to clutter their inbox and will opt them out from your email list within a specific timeframe – for example, 2 days. However, don’t write them off completely. Offer them the option to stay or customise their email preferences.

This email marketing hack is really effective as it’ll not only increase the long-term value of your active subscribers but also, reduce the risk of your emails ending up in the spam folder because recipient servers will see a huge uplift in your engagement rates as a percentage of those sent, trust us, this is really important for great delivery.

11) Optimise for the small screen

Even before fully opening their eyes with a coffee mug in hand, most recipients will notice a badly-formatted email with no optimisation for the small screen. Stats point out that 42.3% of recipients delete emails if they are not optimised for mobile devices with 32.2% reading the email on their desktop later and only 11.3% will read it despite the lack of mobile-optimisation.

With most people checking their emails on a mobile device, optimising your emails for the small screen is a ‘must-do’. The best way to implement this imperative email marketing approach is by creating a responsive, stackable content which is as easily viewed on mobile devices as it is on the desktop. The best professional ESPs – like EmailOut – support responsive email design so the only thing marketers need to worry about is which design they’d like best (EmailOut has a variety of free templates) and what content to include, our app will do the rest.

12) Your subject line is like a movie trailer – think it through carefully

Since your subject line is the first element your email recipients see, as well as THE KPI of your open rate, crafting the perfect email subject line is crucial. 

Let’s say you’ve crafted the perfect email campaign but you’re conflicted between two subject lines that fit the content perfectly – what do you do? You A/B test (a.k.a. split test) them, of course. For example, you might have read that email subject lines with emojis get 29% more opens than those that don’t and you want to test if that’s true for your campaigns. This gives you a clear variable to measure in your split testing. It means you can interpret the results and use your findings to improve future emails. 

Despite what people say, they do judge emails by their subject line. In fact, 47% of marketers state they test different email subject lines in order to optimise their emails’ performance. At the end of the day, if your emails aren’t getting opened, they’re definitely not getting seen. Hence, if you’ve got great content to share you’ve got to prove it in your email subject line. 

13) The power of the email footer

As an email marketer, have you ever thought about the potential power of your email campaigns’ footer? We believe that no copy should be wasted copy. As such, why would most marketers neglect the opportunity presented by such a simple thing as a footer? It’s a perfect place to reiterate your call-to-action. 

So, instead of hiding your campaign’s footer in a tiny font, make it distinctive. Include links to your website to generate free traffic, add further contact information so recipients can reach out more easily or include social media buttons to boost your follower-base. This email marketing growth hack might seem like a waste of time but you’d be wrong to waste it. Remember we told you Hotmail was considered the first growth hacker? Well, their “P.S. I love you” footer (with a link to their homepage) was exactly what transformed the company from a nobody to a million-dollar business in just 18 months. Impressive, isn’t it?

14) Test once, twice, thrice and keep going 

In order to figure out which two versions of your email campaign will work better – without having to commit to either of them – you should use split testing, also known as A/B testing.

A small portion of the total email list will receive the two set up versions of your email campaign. Half of these initial recipients will see Version A, and half will see Version B.

The email marketing technology you’re using to run your split test then swiftly tracks important performance indicators like open rates and click-throughs from this initial batch, and figures out whether Version A or Version B is seeing the most success. The rest of your email lists will then receive the winner of the two based on the results.

The awesome thing about this wonderful email marketing growth hack is that with trying out both versions simultaneously marketers can take out all the risk of getting it wrong. It means you can try a completely new and experimental idea alongside a tried-and-tested one. All without the creeping terror that it’s all going to blow up in your face and get you fired.

Final Thoughts

Email marketing trends are constantly changing. The landscape is constantly evolving. However, one thing that remains absolute is how powerful email marketing is when done properly. 

Thus, to avoid missing out on the advantage of being ahead of the competition, these tried-and-tested email marketing growth hacks are exactly what you need to keep your business ahead of the game.

The most vital of email marketing growth hacks is to never back down – never quit. In order to gain trust and prove your value to customers, you need to be in the game for the long haul – and then you’ll find your troops will buy and recommend and review over and over again. It’s not easy and it takes a fair while to establish your place in the industry. But once you’ve done it – with the help of your awesome email marketing growth hacks of course – you’ll be that much closer to the finish line and start seeing the impact of optimising your processes and closing in the gaps in your email marketing strategy. 

Highly recommended further reading – 

1) Email Retargeting vs Email Remarketing
2) Design The Best CTAs For Your Emails
3) Permission-Based Email Marketing
4) How To Develop An Impactful Onboarding Sequence?
5) Email Segmentation Secrets
6) Email Design Best Practices
7) Inactive Email Subscribers
8) Avoid Messing Up Your Email A/B Testing

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