The 20/3 Rule For Email Marketing & Other Tips

  From paying more attention to your subject line to keeping your email short, learn 3 tips that will boost your email marketing results.


Hi, I’m Bryan Caplan, CEO of BJC Branding, and I’m here to give you three tips to help you make more effective email marketing campaigns.

1. Pique Interest with the Subject Line

Pay more attention to what you write in your subject line. Sixty-four percent of people say that they open the emails because of the subject line. Think of it as a movie title or a headline in a newspaper. It’s something that’s going to (1) grab the person’s attention, (2) pique their interest, and (3) make them want to read more. So just like a good movie title or a headline that makes you flip through the paper to Section D page 7, it’s the same kind of essence with a subject line.

So if they read a good subject line—and really you have about five to seven words to build one—then they’re going to want to open the email and act upon what you have in there. With the subject line, we’re looking at questions, you can make statements, you can use allusion or alliteration, you can use the literary technique of onomatopoeia, which is like “snap crackle pop.” There are plenty of different ways that you can use the subject lines to get people to open. One expert tip I’ll give you is that if you have the resources to add a video to your email and put the word “video” in your subject line, then you highly increase the likelihood of people opening your emails.

2. Keep It Simple and Short

In the grand scheme of things, we are battling against what I call digital ADD. With the proliferation of digital devices—phones, tablets, and all the toys that kids get, plus screen time—people are really battling to have a higher attention span. I actually just read a study that people have a shorter attention span than goldfish. So if we need to get through to people quickly, we need to keep it short. Constant Contact did a research study based on over two million campaigns that came through their system. What they found was that if you have 20 lines of text and three images in your campaign, you’re going to have the highest likelihood of click-through.

The 20/3 Rule plays in the psychology that people only want to see as much as they need—as much content and as much instruction as they need to make a decision. And we’re a very visually driven society now.

Each image should be linked to somewhere on your site, a registration form, a map to get directions to your location, or whatever the case is. We need to make sure those images are linked because it increases our likelihood of click-through by 200 percent. Of course, you may not always have 20 lines of text and three images, but that’s what you want to shoot for; it’s your Golden Rule.

3. Describe Your Images

No matter what email marketing platform you use, when you upload an image you want to make sure that you have the alt description filled in. The alt description is a bunch of words that describe what the image is. On average, images do not load in an email 67 percent of the time due to browser or email client security settings. So what you want to do to battle that is really add the alt description to each image you upload. So let’s say you have a button and you want people to register for your next event. If the image doesn’t load, they’re still going to see the alt-description that says, “Click here to register for our next event.”

About Bryan Caplan

Bryan Caplan helps businesses elevate their digital marketing. Award-winning CEO of BJC Branding and professional speaker, Bryan travels the country, presenting on a wide range of digital marketing topics.

Bryan has provided digital marketing strategy to well over 1,000 businesses since 2010 and is a guest lecturer at Suffolk University School of Business. He is also a contributing columnist to several publications including GoDaddy, BlueHost, Constant Contact, BusinessTown, and the Boston Business Journal.