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Inboxing – The Definite Guide

It’s time to improve your email marketing ROI by mastering the art of inboxing.

To succeed as a digital marketer in today’s day and age, you must have the ability to grab the attention and interest of consumers.

That, in essence, is the definition of the job of a digital marketer.

One of the most important and impactful areas where marketers have the ability to grab attention and interest while also building trust is through email.

Email is as impactful today as it has ever been.

While there was a time in 2013 where many marketing experts said that email marketing was dying, that certainly has not been the case.

As Paul Jorgensen of Express Pigeon points out in his article about email marketing statistics:

“Companies today view email marketing as a better ROI than social media, content marketing, PPC, and more.”


Some estimates have said that email marketing has an ROI as high as 4,300%.

The problem, however, as Jorgensen also points out, is that only about 4% of marketers rate their email marketing efforts as excellent.

Clearly there is a bit of a problem there.

So, why are so many marketers struggling with email marketing even if it has proven to be such an effective method?

Well, the easy answer is that they have not mastered the art of inboxing.

This is the purpose of this guide; to show you what you need to do to improve your email marketing ROI by mastering the art of inboxing.

If you utilize the steps within this guide correctly, you will no doubt have the tools necessary to start making drastic improvements in your email marketing efforts.

Let’s get started:

Step #1 – Stop Spamming Consumers

Before even getting started with worrying about what you should be doing when it comes to inboxing, it is important that you first understand what you should NOT be doing.

And what you should NOT be doing is spamming consumers.

Spam, as defined by the Oxford dictionary, is:

 “Irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent on the internet to a large number of recipients.”

While this seems like a pretty direct and clear definition, many email marketers often do not even realize that they are continually sending spam to people on their email list.

According to Symantec, over 66% of emails sent today are considered to be spam.

While this number may not be surprising, it would be safe to say that around 0% of the senders of those emails feel that their inboxing habits are considered spam.

That is where the problem lies; senders are not able to grasp what is and is not spam to their recipients.

So, how do you ensure that your emails are not being considered spam by readers?

Well, the best way to do so is to work to make sure that all of the emails you send are relevant and appropriate to the individuals that they are being sent to.

There are dozens of resources available throughout the web for showing you how to do this.

As Marketing Sherpa contributor Jeri Dube mentions:

 “Delivering highly relevant content is critical to the success of your email efforts.”

She goes on to say that the key to relevancy is to:

 “Harness three key controllable elements – timing, segmentation, and content.”

By doing this, Dube says that you significantly increase the chances that your emails will reach an audience that is receptive and appreciative.

In addition to relevancy, how often you send your emails is another important factor in avoiding your inboxing efforts being seen as spam.

As the team at Mail Chimp recommends:

“Email inbox fatigue is a concern – you don’t want to overwhelm your subscribers. Instead of sending a ton of general campaigns to your whole list, use groups to send targeted emails to specific subscribers in your list.”

They go on to advocate for the use of list segmentation whenever possible, as this enables you to always be sending relevant content to the right people.

No matter what way you look at it, sending relevant emails is the key to avoid the sin of spamming consumers.

And if you do not stop spamming, it will not take long before you no longer have subscribers to spam.

Step #2 – Manage Your Email List Effectively With List Segmentation

For a lot of email marketers, managing an email list can be a difficult task.

While it may seem like all you have to do is provide a subscribe or opt-in option on your website, ending up with nothing more than a bunch of email addresses is not going to help you much.

Email addresses, as with just about anything in the inboxing world, is a quality over quantity game.

You need to have an understanding of the people that are subscribing to your lists.

But how in the world do you do this while still getting enough email addresses to ensure your email marketing is effective?

Well, list segmentation has been noted by many as being the best option.

According to a report from Lyris Inc.:

“39% of marketers who segmented their email lists experienced higher open rates while 24% experienced better deliverability and greater revenue.”


While those are strong numbers by themselves, that certainly does not tell the whole story about the importance of list segmentation.

Pamela Vaughn of HubSpot is a major advocate of list segmentation as she says that it can help you drastically improve your email reputation by consistently sending targeted emails and content.

In addition, she points out:

“Your email database is made up of contacts who are at varied stages of interaction with your business. This means your contacts are at different points in the sales cycle, and they require different types of information and communication depending on which point they’re at.”

The basic point that Vaughn is trying to make is that your readers are not all the same and each group needs different things from your business.

By segmenting your list, you allow your team to send targeted emails that will convert at much higher rates.

If you are wondering how you can go about segmenting your email list, Sujan Patel of Search Engine Journal put together a tremendously informative guide about How to Segment Your List.

Step #3 – Craft Compelling Subject Lines

According to the research team at Source Digit, there will be over 200 billion emails sent per day by the time we reach 2017.


200 billion! That is a lot of emails.

Unfortunately, for your business, that also means that you have to compete with an incredible number of other senders for the attention of readers.

But before a potential reader even opens your email, they have to be intrigued enough to do so.

Thus is the reason that the subject line is seen by many to be the most important aspect of inboxing.

Without strong subject lines, people will, plain and simple, not read your emails.

But most email marketing experts understand that writing a strong subject line is one of the most difficult aspects of succeeding in email marketing.

Fortunately, there are quite a few resources available throughout the web that can provide you with a better idea of how to do so.

Marketing Profs is one such resource. Their guide on How to Craft the Perfect Email Subject Line has garnered a great deal of attention from email marketers.

Some of the tips that they provide for doing so include:

  • Keep Your Subject Line Brief. Most readers are going to be quickly scanning their inbox while deciding which emails to open. For this reason, it is important that you keep your subject line short and sweet as this can significantly impact open rates, especially on mobile devices.
  • Don’t Waste Words. When you are keeping your subject line short, you cannot afford to use words that waste space. Your goal should be to ensure that each and every word adds value and contributes to getting readers to open the email.
  • Add Urgency with a Call-to-Action. Most consumers receive hundreds of emails every day. And, at the end of the day, all of those emails will still be there if they don’t open them right away. With this mindset in mind, what reason do they have to open your email right now? That is your job; to give them a reason for opening it right now.
  • Avoid Deception. Even if your main goal is to get potential readers to open your email, you may do more harm than good if you end up succeeding through deception. With the importance of building trust, it is vital that you make sure your subject line is telling readers exactly what your email is about.

The team at Litmus builds on these tips with their Subject Line Infographic that lays out many of the statistics surrounding crafting a strong subject line.



No matter how you end up going about putting together your subject lines, make sure that you emphasize this aspect of inboxing as much as anything else.

Step #4 – Build Your Email Reputation

For some email marketers, their inboxing efforts are doomed from the start due to having a poor email reputation.

If email marketing is a main priority of your business, not focusing on the development of a strong email reputation will make it very difficult to succeed.

Not only does a poor inboxing reputation earn you the scorn of many potential readers, but it also may prevent your emails from ever being seen by anyone.

But how do you go about improving and building upon this reputation?

Well, as Jeffrey Bertoen of Copernica, points out, it is important to first understand how this is measured.

Some of these factors include:

  • Frequency of Emails. Consistency is important here, but not to the point where you are constantly sending a huge number of emails. Focusing on a timeline that is timely and consistent is one of the best ways to build your email reputation.
  • Spam Complaints. As has already been mentioned, avoiding spam complaints should be one of your main priorities. Providing an unsubscribe option in each of your emails is a great way to avoid this.
  • Bounce Percentage. If your emails are being sent to addresses that are no longer active, it can cause your bounce percentage to be high and therefore reduce your reputation. This is why it is important to manage your mailing lists effectively and maintain healthy, up-to-date lists at all times.

Focusing on improving these three aspects should help you to continually improve upon and build your email reputation.

It is also a good idea to, if possible, sign up for your email provider’s feedback loop programs that enable you to automatically receive any complaints about your emails.

With this information, you can take the necessary steps to rectify the situation with the recipient while also preventing the issue in the future.

Step #5 – Make Sure Your Message Has a Goal

While it may seem like your email message itself would be the most important aspect of effective inboxing, that simply is not the case.

If you are not able to effectively complete the steps listed before this one, your message will more than likely not be read anyhow.

But once everything else is in line, your message becomes the next focus.

One of the biggest problems that many email marketers face when crafting a message is that they do not first identify a goal for their email.

Every single email that is crafted and sent should have a clear goal in mind.

But what should this goal be? Well, that depends on what you are looking to do with your business.

The CEO of MECLABS, Fred McGlaughlin, advocates that the sole objective of every email should be to get a click. McGlaughlin went on to point out how silly it is for emails to attempt to get readers to purchase a product or service when landing pages are proven to do it so much better.

As he says:

“Selling your product twice in an email and then the landing page disrupts the thought sequence and mitigates conversion.”

When applying this principle with his own emails, McGlaughlin states that sending readers to a landing page instead of selling directly from the email resulted in an 85% improvement in recipient response.

But this tactic of having a clear objective and goal in mind does not just fit for when you are attempting to sell something.

It also fits for getting readers to visit your website and enables them to continually move through your sales cycle.

Neil Patel of Quicksprout is another major advocate of having a goal for each message you send.

His emails are sent with the goal of getting readers to visit his blog and explore his other content.

To do this, he writes a short message that includes the first few sentences of the content piece that he is promoting.

Readers have to click on a link to his website in order to read more.

From there, he works to develop trust to the point where they will eventually utilize the services that Quicksprout offers.

No matter what you end up identifying as the goal of your message, the important thing is that you have a goal and frame your email message in a way that aligns with that objective.

Step #6 – Don’t Forget About Mobile

While the success of email marketing itself has not changed much recently, the areas in which it is most successful certainly have.

Between mobile and desktop email, mobile has maintained a significantly lead when it comes to open rates.

In fact, a report from Sign-Up.to said that current 2016 figures for mobile email open rates are at a staggering 54.59%.

That is more than double the average open rate on a desktop computer.

With stats like that, it is imperative that you are making sure that your emails are optimized to be viewed clearly on mobile devices.

If you don’t, there is a good chance that you will be losing out on quite a bit of potential revenue.

The Final Word

At the end of the day, inboxing is like a lot of other things in marketing; the objective is to develop trust with consumers to the point where they will feel comfortable making a purchase.

Utilizing the tips laid out in this guide should help you to do just that.

Good luck and happy inboxing!

Lastly, let me know your thoughts and what other tips for inboxing that have worked for you. Leave a comment below and I look forward to hearing from you.

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About Sean Donahoe

Sean is one of the most recognized industry leaders in business and marketing. As a popular speaker, author, consultant he has helped over 50,000 students world wide find success in their businesses and has consulted with Fortune 500 companies and businesses of every size grow and thrive...


  1. Love it !
    As a continuous user of IMSC Rapid Mailer for myself and my clients, it’s vitally important to have not only a stable email delivery platform, good insights on how to deliver with best ROIs is greatly appreciated.
    Keep it up, Sean, and please keep Rapid Mailer updated (as you have been) at the same time!
    All the Best !

  2. Thanks Sean, awesome content as always. Some really good advice here, there’s a few things here that I’ll be implementing straight away.

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