Email Campaigns Underperforming? Here’s Your Email Optimization Game Plan


It happened again.

Your email campaign—the one you worked so hard on—didn’t hit your benchmark goal.

It’s time to turn things around with email optimization. But where do you start?

I’ve laid out a step-by-step optimization process to help you increase your open rates, boost your clickthrough rates, and multiply your conversions. With more subscriber engagement, you can earn more revenue sooner than later.

Say goodbye to your underperforming email campaigns, and say hello to a tested process to get your business better results.

Are you ready to create your own email optimization game plan? You can use the following steps to get started today.

Step 1: Check Your Open Rates

You can’t persuade anyone to visit your website, sign up for your contest, or purchase your product if they don’t even read your message. In other words: unopened emails never convert.

To increase your open rates, start by split testing the following elements:

  • Your subject lines
  • Your sender name
  • Your delivery time

Optimizing Your Subject Lines

A good subject line is the difference between a lead learning about your product or never knowing about it at all. It’s the first thing that pops up in their inboxes, so it must intrigue people to take action. Check out this post to learn the best subject line formulas.

In Drip, you can add multiple subject line variations to your campaigns so you can learn what captures your audience’s attention. After you log into your account, click “Analytics” on the top header and then “Split Tests.” You can test as many subject lines as you like on all your campaign emails.

Optimize Your Sender Name

Businesses often overlook their sender name—they set it once and then forget about it. But if your emails aren’t getting opened, take another look. People don’t like to answer calls from unknown phone numbers, right? They’re also wary about opening emails from people they don’t know.

You want the sender’s name to be recognizable by your audience. You might want to use the business founder’s name for all communications, or you can use the content manager’s name when sending out weekly newsletters.

The next thing to consider is how you will present the selected name to your subscribers. Some businesses use the “First Name from Company” formula to build a sense of personal connection without confusing subscribers. If your company is led by a highly recognizable name (or if you are your brand), you might want to try only using that person’s name. No matter what you decide, Drip equips you with the tools to test all your variations.

Optimize Your Delivery Time

Your customers are juggling work, family, and leisure time. You want to send emails during the most convenient time for their schedule, not yours.

In Drip, you can test timing variations and even send the message at your subscriber’s local time.

Ready to begin your email optimization plan here? Watch this short how-to video from Drip co-founder Rob Walling on running a split test.

Step 2: Check Your Clickthrough Rates

Once your open rates rise, now you want to assess whether your subscribers are engaging with your content. The quickest way to tell is by looking at your clickthrough rates (CTR).

A low CTR often means you’re not connecting with your audience fully. They aren’t excited about clicking your links to read your most recent blog post or redeem your product discount code. To move your clickthrough rates upward, try experimenting with:  

  • Different email copy
  • Different imagery
  • Different calls to action
  • Mobile optimization

Different Email Copy

Email recipients want to feel like you’re talking specifically to them about their needs. If they aren’t clicking through, ask yourself if your email copy is clear, genuine, and tailored to your audience’s goals and circumstances.

But what if you serve several different audiences? You want to personalize.

For example, if you’re an online health coach, your potential customers probably range from people looking to drop a few pounds to others who want to bulk up. On your site, you give visitors the option to receive a free ebook of their choice, the “Lose 5 lbs in 2 Weeks Guide” or the “Bulk Up and Build Muscle Guide.”

In Drip, you can tag these site visitors automatically based on the ebook they request. Then, you can use Liquid to customize your email copy to send each email subscriber more relevant content. Here’s how that email might look…


Thanks for downloading the guide. We are so glad to have you in our health community.

{% if subscriber.tags contains “lose_weight_guide” %}So, you want to lose a few pounds before the summer? As an online health coach, I can help you shed those unwanted pounds in no time. You’ll look slim and trim for your summer vacation.{% endif %}

{% if subscriber.tags contains “bulk_up_guide” %} So, you want to bulk up before the summer? As an online health coach, I can help you gain muscle in no time. You’ll have a chiseled physique for your summer vacation.{% endif %}

Different Imagery

Text isn’t always the best way to get someone’s attention. You can also think about pictures, GIFs, and emojis.

Depending on your brand’s personality, switch up how you talk with your subscribers. You may want to express your excitement for a new sale with a cool meme or a funny GIF. Be creative and get people eager to click your links.

Rule of thumb: choose just one high-quality image per email, since too many images (or images that are larger than they need to be) can increase load time or even decrease deliverability. So your recipients are stuck waiting for the entire email to pop up, and in frustration, they might just skip reading it. If you’re seeing low clickthrough rates, make sure you don’t have too many images.

Different Calls to Action

Clickthrough rates also depend on how you actually ask people to click. Take a moment to make sure your links tell people what to do and where they’ll wind up.

You may be able to increase your clickthrough rate simply by adding different kinds of links. Try adding your target link to your image, a “button” or bottom-of-the-post CTA, and appropriate anchor text within the body of your email.

You can also use the same personalization technique I mentioned earlier in your CTAs.

Continuing with the online health coach scenario, let’s say you want to give two distinct audiences a 15% coupon on your upcoming coaching calls. You could include a call to action that says…

{% if subscriber.tags contains “lose_weight_guide” %}For a limited time only, you can receive a 15% discount when you sign up for a personal coaching call. I will give you personalized tips to shed those stubborn pounds.{% endif %}

{% if subscriber.tags contains “bulk_up_guide” %}For a limited time only, you can receive a 15% discount when you sign up for a personal coaching call. I will give you my secret tips to gaining muscle without the burden of lifting weights all the time.{% endif %}

Mobile Optimization

Email optimization expands to how your subscribers view your messages on mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets. The 2017 State of Email Report by Litmus reported that 54% of email is now opened on a mobile device.

That means your emails must have a mobile-friendly design. Basic emails that rely mostly on text (like Drip’s default email template) are a simple way to keep your emails mobile-responsive. If you do use a more design-heavy email template, just make sure it was built to be responsive.

You also need to consider writing shorter subject lines to fit smaller screens, creating short, scannable copy for subscribers to easily digest on the go, and displaying your call to action upfront without the subscriber having to scroll down.

Step 3: Check Your Unsubscribe Rate

While we think it’s perfectly okay for some subscribers to opt out, you may want to adjust your segmentation strategy if your unsubscribe rate reaches an all-time high.

If you’ve already followed Steps 1 and 2, you could be delivering the right message, but just to the wrong audience. If subscribers get too many irrelevant messages, they’ll likely unsubscribe.

For starters, ask yourself how you can niche down your audience to send more tailored messaging to specific segments. As an online health coach, it might not be enough to group everyone who wants to lose weight into one category. Maybe you can break that group into customers looking to shed pounds on a vegan diet and customers interested in the Paleo diet.

In Drip, you can build custom segments based on subscribers’ tags, actions, and even time zones. That way, you can send a personalized message to the right subscriber. In the example below, I’m selecting customers who’ve received the Lose 5 lbs in 2 Weeks Guide and expressed an interest in a vegan diet.

Drip lets you pull reports to monitor your unsubscribe rates. You can see your data from the account level or the campaign level, and you also can control the date range to see exactly which messages made subscribers opt out.

Check out this post for more ideas designed to slash your unsubscribe rate.

Step 4: Check Your Open-to-Sale Conversion Rate

You want to earn more sales from your emails, right? So it’s important to track the path from a subscriber opening your email to purchasing your product. You’ll learn not only who is buying your product but also which emails convert leads into customers.

Drip lets you automatically track conversions when a subscriber visits a specified URL. Then, you can review the stats in your dashboard.

Click here to see a tutorial on setting up conversion goals in Drip.

If your open-to-sale conversion rate falls below your standards, check whether you’re:

  • Linking to a specific landing page
  • Using a consistent message between the email and landing page
  • Giving context about the offer
  • Testing the landing page

Link to a Specific Landing Page

Sending your subscribers to just your website isn’t helpful for generating sales. Without a specific direction, people will get lost and exit your site.

You want every email recipient to visit a specific page. What’s even better is directing your subscribers to a landing page with a unique call to action.

If you’re telling your audience to get their $75 coupon for your Healthy Eating Retreat, you might create a landing page like the one below.

This eliminates any confusion for the potential buyer and gets them closer to purchasing your product.

Use a Consistent Message Between Your Email and Landing Page

Mixed messaging may be another reason for your low open-to-sale conversion rate.

If you’re talking about coupons in your email but send subscribers to a webinar landing page, they might not understand what to do with the coupon.

A good rule of thumb is to create your landing page first. Decide what you want to offer and how you will present the information to your audience. Once the landing page is complete, then you can use that copy as a guide to create your email.

So, in the example directly above, I’m giving subscribers a $75 coupon to a Healthy Eating Retreat. The email may look like this…

Give Enough Context for Your Offer

There’s something that tends to happen when you’ve been prepping for a campaign for weeks: you get so close to your offer that the details and benefits start to seem obvious. When you go to write your email copy, you might leave out information that subscribers need to make a decision.

If you’re introducing something new, a bit of storytelling can help your prospects understand your offer better. Giving people something they can relate to brings your email to life and transforms your message from a sales pitch into an opportunity.

Below is an example from our friends over at Drift. Recently, they sent an email announcing their first annual conference. You’ll notice how they give context about how plans for the conference began and then tell you about the ticket price.

Much more effective than if they had just started by saying “HYPERGROWTH is on sale now,” right?

Test the Landing Page

Beyond your email copy, you also want to optimize the landing page you tell subscribers to visit. A high-converting landing page can determine if you clinch the sale or not.

From design to content, there are many landing page elements to consider when assessing the performance of your page. To learn exactly how to improve your page, check out this step-by-step guide to landing page optimization from Leadpages.

Step 5: Check Your Offer

If all of the above doesn’t improve your email campaign outcomes, start investigating your offer. The offer should solve your subscriber’s problems and leave them with positive results. You also may need to differentiate your offer from your competitors.

In this final step of email optimization, you want to ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Does your offer work successfully in other channels?
  2. If so, does your timing and segmentation strategy need adjustment?

If Your Offer Isn’t Succeeding on Other Channels

To evaluate the success of your offer, examine your sales on your other channels. Are you gaining traction from organic traffic, maybe social media?

If your offer isn’t gaining sales from your other channels, you may need to revisit your customer research plan. You want to confirm that your audience has a desire or interest in your particular offer.

You can conduct one-on-one interviews with potential leads, or ask your target audience about their problems with a short survey. Check out this Leadpages article for more ideas on the kind of customer research that can get you more customers.

If Your Offer Is Succeeding on Other Channels

When you’re gaining sales from other channels but not email, you may need to adjust when you send your offer and who you send your offer to.

First, think about your recipients’ position in your sales funnel. For instance, you might be presenting your offer too soon in the sales cycle, when leads aren’t ready to buy.

If you’re worried this is the case, try identifying your most valuable subscribers with lead scoring. Drip lets you create your own unique scoring system based on your contacts’ behaviors and set a threshold for determining someone’s a true lead, rather than just a prospect.  (Learn more about customizing your lead scoring in this Knowledge Base article.)

Then, you can choose to send your next big-ticket offer campaign only to subscribers who meet your minimum lead score. Meanwhile, contacts with a less established relationship to your company get more time to soak up the other kinds of value you offer.

Optimize Your Email Campaigns for Better Results

When an email campaign falls flat, it’s easy to just give up. But I know you’re dedicated to learning how to improve. With the help of email optimization and automation, you can follow specific steps to find what works for your business.

So keep pushing forward.

How do you optimize your email campaigns? Tell us in the comments below!