We Surveyed 1200 People To Learn How To Increase Email Effectiveness

Don't let an email faux pas turn away your customers and colleagues. Columnist Kelsey Libert has tips to improve your digital communication.

Chat with MarTechBot


Email marketing engagement rates range from 1.5 percent to 4.79 percent, according to MailChimp. While the Media and Publishing industry boasts the highest click-through-rate (CTR) of 4.79 percent, Restaurants, Public Relations, and Daily Deals all have an industry CTRs below 2 percent. Add eroding open rates to the mix, and we quickly see why we need to revamp our email practices to stay relevant and effective.

But, declining open rates aren’t just an email marketing issue — this metric impacts anyone who sends an email. In fact, the average worker sends and receives 121 business-related emails per day, or 15 emails per each working hour. While we battle to filter out the noise in an overflowing inbox, we’re also challenged to decipher value from strangers within 100- to 200-word emails.

So, what can you do to increase the effectiveness of your emails? In an effort to improve our digital communication, Fractl and BuzzStream came together to develop a research-backed guide on the email best practices. We surveyed over 1,200 people and discovered how email communication preferences differ by generation and which practices are most widely accepted and dismissed. (You can get the full PDF here. Registration is required.)

The following are some takeaways that will help you improve your email marketing campaigns, your outreach emails, and your communications with clients and colleagues.

Pay Attention To Your Target Market’s Preferences

Whether you’re pitching influencers or sending an email marketing campaign, a the most significant determinant of your success is how your words are perceived. In fact, nearly 80 percent of respondents said email etiquette impacted their decision to engage with a stranger.


Takeaway: Less than 10 percent of people said email etiquette had no impact on their decision to engage with a stranger. Based on our research, email preferences differ by age and education, so pay close attention to your target market’s preferences when drafting your email.

Dot Your I’s And Cross Your T’s

While Dan Munz’s tweet might have been a joke, it resonated with hundreds of people and counting. Perhaps some of these retweets came from the 88 percent of respondents who had rewritten their emails to sound more intelligent.


While about 40 percent of the youngest demographic “Always” and “Usually” rewrites their emails, over 60 percent of the older demographic is still participating in this practice “Often” and “Sometimes.”


Takeaway: The majority of people are rewriting their emails to sound more intelligent, regardless of age. Intelligence can come in many forms, and can be as simple as using the correct grammar and spelling in your email. Add the Google Chrome extension Grammarly Spell Checker & Grammar Checker to dot your i’s and cross your t’s.

Understand How Generations Want To Be Perceived

Below, we see that less-educated individuals place greater stock on sounding intelligent in their emails, while those with graduate degrees place greater stock in sounding reliable. At the same time, the older demographics have a greater desire to be perceived as more authentic while younger demographics want to sound more educated.

With these findings, we could assume that young people with graduate degrees tend to be confident in their ability to sound educated, having just received a college degree. However, they still need to prove themselves as reliable individuals, since most young professionals don’t have a fully developed resume which demonstrates this characteristic.


Takeaway: Understanding how certain generations want to be perceived may help you understand what they value in an email as well. For example, older demographics want to be perceived as more authentic, and they may want the same from the emails you send them.

Cut To The Chase

When you’re fresh out of college, you tend to be more formal in your email communication due to your recent academic training. This might be why we see more people ages 18–24 attempting to rewrite their emails to sound more intelligent, and it’s why they might be more verbose to get their idea across.

In fact, 60 percent of people agree that brevity is most acceptable, whereas 48 percent think verbosity is mostly unacceptable.


Takeaway: Out in the real world, most older executives want people to cut to the chase with concise emails due to their high-priority objectives and waning hours.

Be Careful With Humor

While the majority of respondents found humor to be acceptable in email, respondents ages 45–64 found funny emails more acceptable than their younger cohorts, at 67.2 percent and 73.7 percent respectively.


Takeaway: Not everyone has the same sense of humor; consider studying your recipient’s social profiles to gauge his or her sense of humor, and be cautious when implementing this practice in a new relationship.

Use A Professional Tone

Spelling errors and grammatical errors were the most unacceptable email faux pas, raking in close to 80 percent of the responses. Next on the scale of unacceptance, hovering around 70 percent each, was the lack of a subject line, excessive punctuation, profanity, irregular fonts, and capitalized subject lines.

What was most acceptable in the scale of unacceptance? Only 30 percent of people found smiley faces to be unacceptable in an email.


Takeaway: Use a professional tone and clean formatting when sending emails, and stay away from spammy subject line practices (no subject line, all caps). Smiley faces can be used to pepper a conversation with a close industry contact, but most professionals suggest keeping emoticons out of your initial email.

Clean Up Your Email Footer

Have you noticed the plague of mile-long email signatures? What actually matters when it comes to your email signature? Over 80 percent of people noted that it was at least moderately important that email signatures include a person’s professional title (CEO, VP, etc.), while links to social networks, disclaimers, and chat handles ranked most unimportant.


Takeaway: The more links you add to an email, the more likely you are to trigger someone’s spam filter. If you’re guilty of linking to every social profile or chat handle you’ve ever started, it might be time to clean up your email footer. Also, lawyers say the email disclaimer is both increasingly common and fairly useless, so this is another area for you to reconsider.

How do you know what to write and what’s wrong? Share your email tips below!

Contributing authors are invited to create content for MarTech and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the martech community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Kelsey Libert
Kelsey Libert is a public speaker, Harvard Business Review columnist, and VP of Marketing at Frac.tl, a company that specializes in the science behind viral marketing.

Fuel for your marketing strategy.