How to Use Emails to Encourage Click-Throughs

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Emails are cheap, easy to write, and help build long-term client and customer relationships. You can use emails for content marketing, lead generation, audience research, and so much more. Whatever you’re using email for, you need to always have a call to action in mind.

In marketing, that’s usually getting people to click on a link by sign-posting people to a specific resource, promoting a page, or just driving web traffic. So how can you ensure that your email hits the mark and actually gets people clicking? Here are some email marketing strategies that will help you maximise clicks and conversions. (First things first though — you have to avoid email spam filters and actually get into people’s inboxes). 

Get the basics right

What does a good email look like? If you are striving for clicks to a specific page or resource, you need to put clarity before anything else. Design emails with a clear purpose, and make sure that all your copy, visuals, and calls-to-action support that single aim.

  1. You want people to recognise your emails and connect them with your website and brand. Ensuring that your emails are consistent with your website and overall digital brand will minimise any disconnect. Consistency in branding helps create a seamless user-journey; remember, your emails are part of your overall UX (user experience).
  2. Review your email templates. It can be tempting to go overboard and over-engineer your emails, but email software MailChimp (who know a thing or two about emails), recommend a simple one column layout to drive user purpose and action (read more MailChimp advice here).
  3. Having too much going on in your email’s periphery will needlessly distract readers. Try to build momentum and excitement in an email by driving readers towards one central action, rather than adding in interesting ‘additional’ elements.
  4. How are you asking for clicks? Review your call to action. Are you being persuasive enough with your action words? Is your HTML button mobile responsive? Is your call to action visible on the preview screen? Don’t underestimate the importance of the mobile email experience — screens are small and your emails need to adapt to that. MailChimp make a good recommendation: see whether your call to action passes the squint test:

You need a call to action that’s so obvious that event a time-poor and busy manager can figure out what is required of them.

Sequencing builds the right tempo

Think carefully about how, and when, you are going to ask for clicks in your emails. Asking the reader to click on something at the wrong moment can be jarring, and won’t result in conversions. Try implementing a proper sequencing strategy where each email builds on the previous, developing a relationship that’s ripe for high-converting campaigns. Never ask people to click on a link too soon within an email either (unless the subject line has clearly set this up as an expectation).

  1. Emails will naturally get more insistent with time, so know when to up the ante. If your subscriber has ignored a few emails, or hasn’t engaged with them much, it’s time to pack more of a punch.
  2. Set out your emails in a narrative sequence that reflects the reader’s experience, rather than approaching each email as a separate entity. Match up your sequencing with your sales pipeline and CRM (Insightly is a good one for beginners) so that your emails always set the right tone. An email that’s out of sequence will stick out like a sore thumb, so update and refresh your data frequently.
  3. But being too predictable can also be a turn-off, especially with the more marketing-savvy consumer. Being too emotional can also backfire. Being cheeky works well for younger, digital brands, but probably won’t go down to well with corporate readers. It’s all about making sure that your email tone is fit for purpose and matches your audience.
  4. A sequence helps build confidence and curiosity in your company, so that by the time you are ready to ask for something, your readers are trusting and ready to go.

Create a knowledge gap

People are driven by curiosity and their need to know (and understand) things. Appeal to these instincts in your emails by creating knowledge gaps. Whether it’s in the promise of your subject line, or in the way that you construct your email, try to evoke curiosity so that the reader is left wanting more.

  1. Try using more catchy subject lines and headings in your email — being too descriptive is a turn-off. People don’t want to be told stuff, they want to feel like they’ve found something out for themselves.
  2. Social proof and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) can also be powerful drivers — we all want to think that we are part of the ‘in’ crowd. Insinuate that people are missing out on something that their peers or competitors already know. This tactic doesn’t mean gathering millions of glowing testimonials — sometimes simple is best. Here is an email from Canva:
Image of email from

Super simple, with no fancy bells or whistles (or even an HTML link button), this email plays on the simple question — how did Julia do it? A great example of social proof in action (and we don’t even mind that we don’t know who Julia is — we want to find out).

Say it again

People scan emails on the go and on their mobiles, so sometimes you have to get a little insistent. You don’t want to hit people over the head or anything, but sometimes you need to get a little insistent.

Include your call to action in the email a few times — you can have multiple buttons, in-content links, and even a final ‘P.S.’ with a link back to your site. As long as this is handled well in the context of the email copy, it should be OK for you to include numerous calls to action: it means you can maximise the number of conversions based on how far people scroll.

Say the same thing a few times, but say it in different ways, or up the emotional ante of your call to action as the reader scrolls and gets more involved with your narrative. The same principles of web reading apply here: remind yourself of the F-shape. Remember that directional cues aren’t limited to copy and visuals, you need to strategically use white space too.

Segmented lists, more clicks

Email list segmentation is a worthwhile exercise for any brand or business — a pruned list will always outperform a list that includes everyone and anyone.

  1. Send different emails to different email lists, ensuring maximum content relevancy. This is especially crucial if your company spans many industries. No manufacturer will click on an email that’s clearly aimed at consumers (and vice versa).
  2. Personalisation is a really big trust factor in email marketing, so make sure that you have personal details for your subscribers.
  3. It’s an idea to email dormant subscribers separately and ask them to opt in again, or update their preferences. This will stop your email list from becoming weighed down by readers who don’t engage or click.

Start a story

People love narratives, especially ones that have an emotional edge, or make them laugh. Being too safe with your email marketing can result in stagnation. Predictability is OK for certain relationships, but it can also lead to a marketing stalemate.

  1. Think back to 19th century serial novels that kept readers on tenterhooks, waiting for the next instalment to find out what happened to their hero and heroine. Do the same with your emails and see whether you can keep readers interested with a story. This tactic requires great copywriting skills and audience knowledge, but it can work really well if executed right. (Don’t make people wait weeks though — this tactic needs to be speeded up for the 21st century).
  2. Package up informational emails into knowledge bombs and wrap your roundups up into a narrative form. Focus on overarching content themes and stories, and try to ‘brand’ every email with a clear purpose
  3. Quirky visuals and clickbait copy can work really well in emails — it’s a medium that allows for more creativity (like social media). Emoji’s are helping some brands engage with their audiences, but they are not quite ubiquitous yet.

How to make a sale via email

Emails can also be used to make sales. Ecommerce brands are especially great at making a sale over email — from sales previews and lookbooks, to product launches and abandoned cart emails, email for ecommerce is a goldmine.

  1. Product based emails are best when they are largely visual, with a big call to action button sending the reader straight to the corresponding product page.
  2. Abandoned cart emails are an art unto themselves. Asking a customer to come back and finish a purchase is a delicate task — you need to induce them with fun copy and an easy email experience. If you are selling on WordPress, you have a wealth of email retargeting options, whereas stores created with Shopify have some pretty cool in-built email functions, including the ability to attach a custom voucher code. A voucher or further offer is a great customer incentive, but you might get them to buy just with the power of words and some well-placed product imagery.
  3. Sometimes informational content like product guides, reviews, or lookbooks make for a more natural and engaging email — remember, it’s not all about the hard sell with email.

Executing email campaigns that convert at a high rate is not an impossible task if you follow best practises, and keep an eye on your email metrics. What elements are subscribers enjoying the most? What do they find off-putting? When are clicks down? Why is that? The beauty of modern marketing is all the useful data that we get back from our customers, so use it to your advantage to encourage click-throughs. What’s your favourite email marketing tip?

Featured image by Roman Bozhko on Unsplash