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How a marketing expert doubled email open rates by creating the “un-newsletter”

What we learned from Hammock

As marketers, we sometimes need to remind ourselves that less is more when it comes to email content (unlike, say, salted caramel brownies). We have so many ideas that we’d like to share with our subscribers that it’s tempting to cram as much into an email as we can. But how can we share content in a way that’s useful and won’t cause email fatigue?

This is the challenge that faced John Lavey, president and COO of Hammock. Aside from being an Emma customer since before she needed glasses, Hammock is a marketing agency focused on creating media that companies and organizations use to communicate directly with their customers or members. John used that expertise to look inward and improve Hammock’s own email marketing.

Creating the ‘un-newsletter’

Hammock’s existing subscriber email was content-heavy and included several links to articles and posts from the Hammock blog. However, John found that their recipients weren’t opening the email as much as he would like.

John Lavey, president and COO of Hammock

“We found that it was a little unwieldy for people,” said John. “And we recognized that even we were setting up filters for email newsletters and filing them away without reading them.” 

John realized they needed to change their email marketing to be more useful to their readers. And so, the Idea Email was born.

Hammock developed the Idea Email with their audience of busy marketers in mind. It offers one helpful marketing idea along with suggestions of how marketers can use it. The design is clean, and the copy is concise for easy reading on any device.

“We like to call it an 'un-newsletter.' We wanted to do something that was sincerely helpful, meaning very brief and relevant to our audience,” said John. “We also didn’t want to make it so much about ourselves, but to connect with the larger conversations out there in marketing.”

Following your own great advice

The shift to the Idea Email aligns with the marketing advice Hammock is giving their clients.

“We believe people come to a brand because they need help or want to accomplish something. So our thinking was to have our own marketing reflect that by providing something that’s helpful and generates conversation at a higher level.”

It’s worked. The open rate for the Idea Email is double that of their previous email marketing, and the content is resonating with their subscribers. Here is one great example.

“In addition to more people actually opening it, we get a lot more positive feedback about what we’re sending, so we feel like we must be doing something right,” said John.

Part of what they’re doing right (beyond the great strategy and content) is taking advantage of those Emma account features that encourage people to open, like customizing their preheader text and split testing their subject lines.

“The features are great. I like split testing the best, and the account interface and campaign editor are also really easy to use,” said John. “But for us, it goes beyond the individual features. It’s the overall experience and the help and support that we’re getting from Emma.”

The takeaways

Always provide value. Your customers subscribe to your email list because they believe you will give them something of value beyond just promoting your product. Discounts, exclusive content and sneak peeks are great ways to inspire customer loyalty, which inspires them to turn to you when it comes time to buy stuff.

Don’t be afraid to start over. If you’re keeping tabs on your email results, then you can tell if your audience is just not paying attention. Listen to your audience, scrap what’s not working and try out new ideas to better engage your customers.

Test, test, test. Split testing your subject lines is an easy way to see what copy is getting your subscribers to open. Beyond subject lines, test sending at different times of day, try different eye-catching images or use different language in your call to action to see what works best for your audience.