By Paul Ford, VP of Product & Marketing, SendGrid

Email is one of the most powerful tools for any business looking to reach their customers and engage with them. For SMEs looking to use it effectively, the overarching strategy should be to send the right message to the right person at the right time. In addition to this, there are several key tactics that businesses can implement to improve engagement and boost conversion.

Firstly, it’s important to have your audience at the top of your mind. Craft a message that speaks to your customers and brings them relevant information. Personalise your messages to authenticate your relationship with the customer by including their first name at the start of the email or even in the subject line, as well as sending links that are specifically relevant to them. According to Adestra’s subject line analysis report, businesses can see as much as a 20% uplift from personalising messages.

Subject lines
Another important factor to bear in mind is the subject line of the email. It’s quite simple – create a compelling subject line, which is pertinent and valuable to customers. Subject lines such as “David, 20% off your next trip” or “David, your next coffee is on us” are succinct and incite the recipient to click open. Another thing to bear in mind when composing the subject line is the length, especially with more and more people opening email on mobile devices. Most studies concur that emails with 6-11 word subject lines have the highest open rates.

Growing your list
For SMEs looking to build out their email marketing list, there are several steps you can take to organically grow your list. Avoid buying a list, as you will inadvertently end up hitting spam traps. In addition, create an opt-in page that only requires essential information to reduce friction in the sign-up process. It’s also helpful to provide customers with multiple opportunities to sign-up for your emails, such as in thank you messages sent automatically after a user completes a form on your site or makes an order. Once your new recipients are on board, it’s vital to have a stellar welcome email that validates the customer’s decision to subscribe.

According to ReturnPath’s 2013 Email Intelligence report, 22% of opt-in emails never make it to the inbox. Getting your email into the inbox is an oft-overlooked challenge for SMEs. If you’re not sending the right email to the right person, your IP address will hit spam filters and you will risk losing your sending reputation.

It’s a good idea to analyse open, bounce and click-through rates to assess the risk of sending unwanted mail. Segmenting and maintaining email lists through re-confirmation campaigns and online email preference portals will help you send wanted mail and boost your deliverability performance.

Transactional email
Aside from your marketing email, SMEs should also spend time fine tuning their transactional email strategy. Transactional email includes any automatically generated email, such as password resets, unsubscribes, confirmations and receipts. These transactional emails are known as “trigger emails”, as they typically exist as a result of an action taken by users. They are critical to your web application or website, and also play an important role in customer engagement and satisfaction, especially given that customers now expect receipts and confirmations immediately.

For any SME looking to improve the success of your email sending, be that marketing or transactional, make sure you analyse your sent mail to see where the issues with deliverability lie. Personalise the content you send to each customer and avoid sending unwanted emails. Finally and most importantly, make sure that you’re sending the right message to the right person at the right time in the right frequency for the best results and response.