How to Use E-Mail as a Marketing and Engagement Tool

If you’re like most people, you regularly communicate with others via e-mail. Some days I send out as many as 25, but I know that for other people, that number is what they hit on a slow day. What you may not have realized is that there are ways to expand each e-mail into an opportunity for branding yourself and maintaining an ongoing relationship with clients, making it more likely that they will do business with you in the future.

Your e-mail is your content, and each message should be formatted and targeted appropriately, just like each letter you write on behalf of a business is printed on its stationary. Each time that your recipient opens up mail from you, you have a captive audience, even if just for a few seconds. Take advantage of it.

But on the other hand, we are constantly bombarded by too much e-mail. Here are my top suggestions about how to make your e-mail stand out and encourage further engagement with you and your brand, with a focus on the often-neglected beginning and the end:

Subject Line

No one will receive your message if they don’t open up the e-mail! Sometimes an e-mail conversation that goes back and forth multiple times may stray from the point in the initial subject line. Feel free to change it and start a new thread. It’ll keep you focused, and it’ll be easier to look up that conversation later. Do NOT send e-mails without a subject line, with something generic like the day of the week, “Meeting”, “From ____”, etc.

Instead, try some of the following proven techniques:

  • Use the subject line to begin a sentence, and make readers open the e-mail in order to see the end
  • Indicate that you’re providing proprietary information (ex. My top 3 Secrets for E-mail Marketing, Exclusive Offer)
  • Ask a Question


As an example, every time I send out an e-mail, I automatically include a custom signature.

e-mail signature that encourages reader engagement

I’ve seen some e-mail programs that include a company logo and/or social media buttons rather than links, but in a lot of e-mail browsers, these just show up as ugly attachments to the e-mail, which is why I recommend just sticking to plain links, rather than any inserting any images in the signature.

When I’m running a special promotion, I sometimes include that above my name. I figure that each time I communicate with someone by e-mail, I have a chance to subtly remind them what I offer.

You should note that each account and program you send e-mail from may need to be set up differently. This is especially important to keep in mind if you regularly send e-mail from multiple accounts and devices. For example, messages sent from Outlook on your work computer will have a different signature than e-mails sent from your personal account on an iPad, unless you change the settings on each.

Free Tool

WiseStamp is a free application that generates custom color e-mail signatures which you can integrate with Firefox, Chrome, or Safari browsers as an add-on, or your GMail, Yahoo, Frontier, or Rockmelt e-mail programs. You can easily customize your signature with your logo and social network profiles. You can also enrich your signature with your latest tweet, quotes, and other dynamic content. If done properly, it can be an easy way to jazz up your e-mail, but you can also easily get carried away adding too much stuff and ending up with a less-than-professional result. (You probably don’t really want a Homer Simpson quote at the bottom of your e-mails, unless you help produce “The Simpsons”).

All of this is of course in addition to the fact that your e-mail address should be branded. I wrote a blog post about the necessity of custom e-mail addresses and how to set them up a few weeks ago.

Of course, if you really want to know what will work in your particular market and with your particular target audience, you’ll have to try a few things out and test for yourself!

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