Email has become one of the most popular ways to communicate — whether to family, friends, or someone from Craigslist inquiring about that old futon in your garage. Email is also a popular way for businesses to connect with prospects and clients. In a 2015 study done by MarketingSherpa comparing print, TV, email, text message and social media, an estimated 70% of people prefer that companies communicate via email.1 (Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that you will get a 70% open rate when you send an email!)
In partnership with Dimensional Fund Advisors, we recently surveyed more than 1,400 investors and found that when it came to email:

  • Clients ages 18 – 35 prefer emails, vs. a meeting or call, from their advisor, with a 39% majority2
  • Clients older than 35 prefer a visit or call from their advisor

Loring Ward has engaged in numerous tests over the past year to learn more about how to improve our email response rates. We would like to share some of these findings and how you can apply them in your own client communications.
Our goal was to increase the number of subscriptions and open/read rates for our email newsletters. We started by looking at the average number of subscribers during the previous year and how many opened the email and clicked on at least one of the links. Once we had that baseline of information, we looked for ways to improve. We focused on deliverability, or how likely that email is to make it to a recipient’s inbox instead of straight to spam.
Subject Line
What we found was that simply changing a subject line may increase your deliverability and open rates. A recent blog post by Hubspot highlighted some words that could send your email to the spam folder: “Big bucks,” “One hundred percent free,” “Hidden assets,” “Why pay more?” and “Save $” are just a few — though we know you’d never use anything at all along these lines.3
A quick, precise subject line increases your potential open rates and helps you avoid the spam folder. And remember, long subject lines may not be fully displayed on smart phones and tablets.
So what makes a good subject line? It depends upon the type of email you are sending. For an event email you may want to highlight the location. Other ideas include asking a question or giving a command: “Join Us in Phoenix…” or “How Hard is Your Money Working for You?” Creating and testing a few subject lines in your next email communication is worth a try. Put yourself in the reader’s place and ask yourself if the subject line would make you want to open it or delete it.
Be creative and thoughtful about your email subject lines to help you stand out and get noticed. If you need a little help try this headline generator or this headline analyzer. Although these sites focus on blog titles, you can use the tools to help with your email subject lines as well.
Another important consideration with email is when to send. Are there days and times that seem to get more opens and clicks? There is no clear-cut answer on this one. Studies have previously indicated that Tuesday through Thursday mornings were best, but as more people read their emails on mobile devices, people are opening emails at other times, including later at night.4 The best way to learn what is best for your clients is to experiment and then check the number of opens and clicks. (You can use your Email Marketing Tool to check open and click rates.)
Mobile Optimizing
We started noticing changes in our own email engagement once we mobile-optimized our newsletters. (Mobile optimizing ensures that visitors who access your site from mobile devices have an experience optimized for the device.) Open rates without a mobile optimized email were around 10% and with mobile optimization were around 36%.
A recent study done by Litmus in their 2016 State of Email Report shows the growth of people opening their emails on mobile devices from 2011 – 2015.5

Remember, it’s not always enough to get someone to just open your email — you want them to engage with you by clicking on a link to register or opening a file in the email. If 1,000 people open one of our emails but no one clicks on a link, we consider that 100% open rate an unsuccessful email. Email on Acid is a tool we use to give us more detailed analytics.
Email Marketing Services
How do you send your emails? You may be using CRM (Customer Relationship Management) in combination with an email marketing service, like Constant Contact, Mailchimp and Vertical Response. Here are some pros and cons6 of using these services:

  • Emails sent through a marketing service may keep you from being blacklisted to your clients
  • Email creation is simple and easy to preview
  • You have access to responsive design templates
  • Some services have support staff to help you design emails
  • Easy list management and ability to import lists
  • Ability to upload and host images
  • Reporting of opens, clicks, bounces and forwards


  • Not all emails will be mobile optimized
  • Data segmentation can be limited for targeting a specific group
  • Paying per email can get costly over time
  • Interface may not be easy to use or understand
  • Reporting is limited to only clicks, opens, bounce, forward but detail will be hard to export
  • Behavior is not recorded if they click on multiple emails over time

7 Steps to Remember for Email Success

  1. Establish a goal. What would you consider email success? For example, do you want to increase engagement and subscriptions, boost your online presence or bring clients to an event?
  2. Ask yourself what problem you are trying to solve. For example, we noticed a dip in our newsletter engagement so we changed our layout and made it mobile optimized. Engagement levels went up.
  3. Set priorities so you don’t end up trying to test too many things all at once. Start with the one thing that you think is most important. Once you get results, then you can test for something else.
  4. Make sure you record your tests and results.
  5. Always proofread your email before you hit SEND (it helps to read it out loud if you can). If possible, have someone else proofread it too — the more eyes the better! Be sure to enable your spelling/grammar check to avoid misspelled words (especially names), missing words and incorrect punctuation.
  6. Check to see if you need to include any attachment(s).
  7. Use a conversational tone of voice, as if you were having a face-to-face conversation.


1Marketing Research Chart: How do customers want to communicate?
2DFA Client Survey Study
3The Ultimate List of Email Spam Trigger Words by Karen Rubin
4The Surprisingly Best Time to Send Your Marketing Campaign
5The 2016 State of Email Report
6Email Marketing Service Reviews