It’s been an interesting past few years for email marketing. From those who (loudly) declared email dead, to those who were ready to defend it with their dying breath, email has certainly opened up divisions between marketers. Still, the vast majority of us probably take a more reasoned position toward email campaigns: email isn’t dead, it’s just going to have to get smarter. Well-positioned emails still show high performance compared to other channels in the marketer’s tool belt. In particular, marketers (marketing in a traditional demand generation model) who want to drive sales through emails now have the double challenge of casting an ever-wider net while understanding the intricate workings of their audience—seeing both the forest and the trees.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that people get a lot of emails every day, but seeing the numbers broken down really shows how much noise is out there. For instance, Internet Live Stats counts about 2.5 billion emails sent every second. This means that if you want to stand out, you’re going to need more than a well-crafted message. First, you’ll need to find the widest reach possible with a well-built database. Second, you’ll need to get to get to know your database—and everything that makes this particular audience tick. Lastly, don’t be afraid to take advantage of engagement! Once you learn these three key steps, you’ll be able to send emails that sweep recipients off their feet—or at least get them to read past the subject line.

Cast a Wider Net—But Keep Your True Blue Subscribers Front-and-Center

A lot of percentages go into email communication: the percentage of opens, click-throughs, and—most importantly—what percent converts. Naturally, those numbers get smaller and smaller as you get closer to achieving ROI, so you need to make sure you’re sending to a large enough database that by the time you get to final conversion, you’re still seeing the results you want. And that means growing your email list to get those coveted percentages.

There are a lot of ways to build up your audience—it’s just a matter of determining the best methods for your business. You can use social media to ask for email subscribers, use a blog or other content to capture email addresses or use any of a plethora of lead capture platforms that integrate with your engagement platform, such as SumoMe or Justuno. The important thing is that you’re finding subscribers who are interested in your business and opt-in to receiving emails from you. In fact, if your list has gone stale, an opt-in campaign—together with clever messaging—can act like a fine-toothed comb for your database. Having an audience that chooses to opt-in means higher percentages across the board—with fewer unsubscribes and spam complaints!

The Best Things in Life Take Time to Develop; Your Database Is No Different

We tend to hear about the one or two stories where marketers were able to capture lightning in a bottle, but most marketing campaigns rely on careful testing and thoughtful adjustments. There’s even ample evidence that data science and progressive profiling will heavily play into email campaigns over the next few years, especially as home automation devices like Echo and Google Home start to capture more and more behavioral data.

Testing with different samples and subsets of your subscribers should become more important than ever, which means you’ll need to be patient and nurture your database in order to see the results you want. It also means that you’ll need to take care not to rely too heavily on hunches or assumptions if they’re not backed by A/B testing. For instance, just because someone’s purchases or their browsing history correlates to home buying doesn’t mean that they’re getting ready to sell. You can only truly learn the intricacies of this audience through your own communication with them.

This is your time to test the waters and see what types of content and calls-to-action (CTAs) work with your new audience. It’s often helpful to warm up your audience with content and bonus offers before asking for your conversion. Your audience should feel like they’re gaining value from your emails. If you can capture their attention with top-of-the-funnel material, you’ll gain their trust (and boost open and click-through percentages!).

Get to Know the Most Engaged Members of Your Audience

Every concert audience comes to a show armed with different expectations: from the avid fan who has all of the albums to the significant other who just got dragged along with their partner. Your database is no different: some members are just more into your content than others. But in order for your emails to accrue value, you must be able to identify and empathize with the needs of your email VIPs. Who’s opening your messages, downloading your content, or even contacting you directly?

Drilling down into these kinds of details offers a more well-formed definition of your ideal client, and it lets you target them with stronger CTAs. Once you’ve gotten them to subscribe and earned their trust with top-of-the-funnel content, they’ll finally be ready to convert—and you can watch this all unfold right from your engagement platform. When you see someone fall into this sweet spot, you can start segmenting them for more direct asks, which all translates to ROI for your company. That will certainly breathe life into your marketing campaigns!

Is email still performing for you? How are you ensuring that email keeps pace with your audience expectations? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.