Five ways to stand out in your target audience’s in-box

You slave for hours over an email, crafting an offer that will resonate with your readers, fine-tuning the fonts and the images, before finally taking a deep breath and hitting send.

There. It’s done for another month. Phew.

The next morning the first results are in and you eagerly open your booking system to see the flood of red filling the screen showing you the multiple bookings that came in following your email.

sad puppy

But there’s nothing. No bookings.

Maybe there was a problem sending the email? You check Mailchimp and the email you spent the whole morning creating is showing as ‘Sent’ but only 10% of people opened it.

10%?! That’s another drop since last month and another wasted morning that brought no new bookings and prompted seven people to unsubscribe.

What are you doing wrong?

If this sounds familiar, you’re in the right place. Email marketing is one of the most powerful forms of targeted marketing if done well, but with the average person receiving over 130 emails every day, you’re facing an uphill struggle to stand out and get noticed, so make one of the five changes listed below to boost the results you get from email marketing.

Craft an awesome subject line

This is the single most important part of your email – if this isn’t right, you fall at the first hurdle and the busy recipient of your email deletes it without even opening it.

hands in laptop

The absolute worst email subject ever has to be “January newsletter” – ugh, why would I open that? ‘Newsletters’ are dull, self-promotional and corporate. How is this email going to entertain, interest or inform?

Instead, put yourself in the shoes of your reader – what is going to catch their eye?

You need to give your readers a reason to click your email – perhaps there’s a limited time offer inside, or an article about how to solve a pressing problem they’re struggling with right now.

Hubspot has some great ideas on how to stand out in even the busiest inbox.

Be personal

Personalisation is one of the most powerful tools of email marketing – we’re hard-wired to hear our name in a crowded room or to spot it in an in-box full-to-burst.

stand out yellow tulip

On my birthday last year, one of my favourite clothing stores sent me an email with this in the subject line: “Happy Birthday, Lucy!”

Initial response: Alarm – “How did you know? Are they here right now? Can they see me eating Fruit Pastilles with my coffee?“

Followed by: Surprise – “Oh, you remembered!”

Before: Curiosity – “What did you get me?”

And yes, they got me a lovely £10 voucher to spend online or in-store. Thank you very much!

If instead the subject line was “£10 voucher enclosed”, I probably would have skimmed past it as it sounded spammy and unbelievable.

But personalising the subject line was highly effective – this approach can be extended to include all sorts of personalisation within the text of the email. Most email programmes such as Mailchimp, AWeber and ContantContact offer the ability to insert any field from your database into your email.

Include the month your guests came to stay with you, name the property they stayed in – anything that shows you care enough to know more about them than just their email address.

Be consistent

Sending an email every week (or month – depending on what you promised when they signed up) can be difficult when everyday life takes over and you get busy with other things.

It’s not always easy to find the time to stick to your sending schedule, but if anything’s going to increase your unsubscribe rate it’s intermittent sending so set a schedule and stick to it.


We’re like goldfish when it comes to email – we forget what we sign up for and why, so if we don’t hear from you in a while then you have a quiet Monday so decide to ping off an email, we’re far more likely to scowl at the unwelcome intrusion in the in-box and delete it without a second thought.

Compare this to a company that sends regular emails, packed with inspiring and interesting content, delivered on the same day each week (or month). Your email becomes part of the weekly routine – like doing the accounts on a Friday or ordering supplies on a Tuesday.

Be topical

At home we record a lot of stuff off the telly so we have a good supply of programmes to watch when there’s nothing on – sometimes when I watch something recorded on the box, the adverts completely throw me as they’re promoting barbecues and sun-cream when it’s 2 degrees outside and there’s frost on the car – then I remember we recorded it in July and have only just got round to watching it.

Those Summer ads aren’t quite so relevant now.

Knowing what’s happening in the lives of your audience means you can change your messages to meet their needs. National days and events such as Fathers’ Day, Easter and half-term are obvious marketing opportunities, but what about sporting events?

national chocolate week marketing

Could you tie in a weekend short break with a sporting event (“Escape the football with a break by the sea”)? Or perhaps you could add some seasonal dishes to the menu which tie in with October’s National Chocolate Week (

Put together a calendar of events throughout the year to keep your email content fresh and fun.

Reward your readers

You know how precious that space in someone’s in-box is, right? At any one time you’re not only competing for attention with up to 130 other emails, you’re also fighting to stand out against the noise of social media notifications, phone calls, texts and face-to-face conversations.

One sure fire way to stand out is to give your readers a reason never to miss one of your messages – time sensitive offers are a great way to increase open rates and interest, particularly if they’re targeted and varied.

Compare these two offers:

10% off a 14-night holiday with offer code JAN1610

FREE romantic hamper plus a three-course meal for two in the restaurant – included with all Valentine’s Day weekend bookings made within the next three hours

unopened present

The first offer is exciting for people who are about to book their holiday, but it’s quite a leap for those who aren’t ready to purchase, while the second offer is more impulsive with less commitment of time and money.

Your rewards can be big (win a holiday!) or small (free cream tea on arrival for the first five bookings). You could also reward segments of customers with targeted content – free holiday checklist available to download for those whose holidays start in the next four weeks.

Get creative with the offers and test to see which ones get the best response.

As a tool for converting leads into solid customers, email marketing is one of the best, but only if done right. Small changes in the subject line, content, links, articles and images can all make a big difference to the open rate and click-through rate.

One thing to try today:

There are loads of things you could do to start improving your email marketing today, but when there’s too much to do we often just freeze and do nothing, so try changing just one thing. Perhaps trial a new style of subject line in your next email and track whether it affects your average open rate, or plan an email around an event or national day coming soon.

happy dog

I’d love to hear what works for you – what emails do you welcome in your in-box and why? What are your experiences of using emarketing for your own business? Share in the comments below.

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