What can I do differently this year to increase my e-mail marketing response rates?

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Answer: We can’t say it enough: the biggest thing you can do is increase your relevancy. Have you looked at your e-mails lately? Sign up for your own program: Really.

When you get the e-mails, are they compelling? Did you get the kind of e-mail you were promised at sign-up or did other kinds of e-mail sneak in there? After four messages, are you still interested? Has anyone asked for feedback or to check out other e-mail offerings? Try making it mandatory that everyone in your group signs up anew for your own programs. Have a brainstorm based on your collective experiences to make improvements and correct any bad habits.

In addition to doing a self-audit, go back to the basics: test and segment.

Think you don’t have time to test everything? Just test subject lines. This is simple to do and can boost your response rates by anywhere from 2 points to 25 points. With that sort of upside, it’s silly not to do this with every mailing. For a new approach, test your best-performing search keywords in your subject lines.

Segmentation can be easy to manage if you pull out just one high-value segment and customize content to improve relevancy and boost response. Pull data along wide factors to make them easy to manage and track (and then keep segmenting to improve response further as you learn more about your subscribers). Separate prospects from customers. Send women something different than men. Tailor the headline and offer for business decision-makers and technical decision-makers. Give VIP customers a great deal. Aim to win back subscribers who’ve been ignoring your e-mails for six months or more.

Try these things to start, and you’ll see your response rates rise in no time.

Stephanie Miller is VP-strategic services at Return Path. Contact her at

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