Why is email marketing so powerful? Can it be improved?
According to a recent study from Pew Research, email is the most important tool for work, 61% of those surveyed consider email “very important’ to doing their job, compared to just 4% who said the same for social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
According to a report from Epsilon, in Q3 2014 in North America, open rates were up 6.5% year-over-year (though click rates were slightly down) thanks to mobile device usage.
Mobile seems to be having an even greater impact on open rates in the UK. eMarketer points to Return Path research from December finding that 62% of emails were opened on mobile devices compared to 21% on desktop. In the U.S. it was 48% from mobile compared to 25% from desktop.
So the challenge for email marketers comes down to making sure we give ourselves the best shot at getting a solid open rate when we send our messages out.
Here are some tips taken from WebProNews:
Start with the subject line.
Forbes suggests keeping the subject line to 50 characters or less, instilling a sense of urgency, and focusing on the benefit to readers, as well as using numbers (5 Tips to…), personalizing the “from” Field, and of course avoiding spam triggers.
Naturally, you’ll also want to look at which of your emails are already getting the best open rates and analyze accordingly.
Be sure you are serving your subscriber:
“To win the battle of the inbox, emails need to stand out and be welcomed — open rates will tell you who’s winning,” says email marketing service provider StreamSend. “Step back and judge if you are providing information that is genuinely valued. Sometimes even the best marketers are guilty of drinking their own Kool-Aid; don’t be one of them. Serve the customers.”
One word could make the difference.
Sometimes, the addition, subtraction, or change of a single word can make a huge difference. According to BrainShark, simply using the word “video” in a subject line boosts open rates 19% (not to mention click-through rates by 65%).
Focus on proper list management:
Make sure you are tracking your open rates, using personalization, creating enticing subject lines, and providing content that is valuable to your specific market.
First impressions matter:
CakeMail’s Mireille Tessier makes a great point about considering the first sentence in the email: “The email’s first sentence, also known as the pre-header text, appears often even before the email is opened. It’s a good way to extend those confining 25 characters in the subject line with complimentary information. Make sure the first sentence of your email says more than, ‘Click here to unsubscribe.’ If the first item in your newsletter is an image, the ALT of the image will be used as the first sentence. It’s a stealthy way to have great pre-header text that disappears like magic.”
“Customers who have given you their email contact information want to feel like they are getting something of value in return for sharing their information,” she says. “Chances are, 10% off of a dinner or a free dessert is not going to get people off the couch to take action. Create consistent offers and content that are specialized and only for your email database members. Discounts of 20 percent or more, invitations to free events or demonstrations, webinars, free business tool kits (whitepaper, downloadable forms, etc.), case studies and free trial offers tend to have the biggest response rates.”
Make it personal:
Personalization is a major component of a successful email campaign. You have to do things that will make your message stand out from the rest of those appearing in users’ inboxes. Location is one, possibly under-utilized aspect of personalization. Location also happens to go hand-in-hand with mobile.
One approach is to combine location with real-time events.
“Real-time email marketing campaigns based on consumers’ current locations and major geographic events have 2.5 times more open rates and double the amount of unique clicks than traditional email campaigns,” claims Jason Warnock, VP of market intelligence and deliverability for Yesmail Interactive.
Timing, in general, is a big thing that often goes overlooked. You need to consider when your audience is most likely to be reading email, and try to time delivery accordingly. Often, early in the day is the best bet, though it does depend on the audience. Still, even well-timed messages can slip through the cracks.
Neal Taparia co-CEO and co-founder of Imagine Easy Solutions recently contributed an article to Forbes based on the concept that email should be about unique reach, not just open rates. He suggests sending follow-up emails to those who didn’t open the first email. The thinking here is that this will help you reach those who may have actually been interested in the message, but just didn’t get a chance to open it the first time.
“Have you ever seen an interesting email in your inbox and thought to yourself, ‘I’ll read that later’? You leave it unread with every intention of eventually opening up that email,” he wrote. “Then later that day at 7:47 PM, after dinner, you catch up on email from friends, and start reading the various newsletters that have sprung up in the top of your inbox. Did you ever get to that email? Despite the fact that you made a mental note that you wanted to read it, chances are you didn’t. You got distracted by all the other emails that landed in your inbox. You were probably also distracted by your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn feeds, and very important group chats on WhatsApp.”
This is certainly a common scenario, though as he acknowledges, you do run the risk of annoying subscribers with follow-up emails. Still, the strategy appears to have worked for his company. They increased overall reach by 54.7%.
“To put it in perspective, all the hours of investment dedicated to this content piece and email became 54.7% more effective,” Taparia wrote. “We were able to nurture 54.7% more leads. More importantly, we increased our sales potential by 54.7%. We did this just by investing another 50 minutes in sending out a second email to those who didn’t open up the first.”
In the example he discussed, they sent the first email to 2,723 people, got 579 opens and 224 call-to-action clicks for an 8.2% click-through rate. The second email (again, sent only to those who didn’t open the first one), got 309 opens and 114 clicks. Unique opens between both emails were 32.6%.
Taparia noted they were concerned about annoying people who had seen the original email and deleted it, and that to address this, they send a second email a week later with minor changes. The unsubscribe rate has apparently stayed in line with the norm, though he does suggest trying to get a sense, based on your own list, of when a follow-up email is one too many.
There is no magic button:
As much as we like to think there is an exact science to this, there’s really not. If there were, there wouldn’t be a need for advice on the subject. Everyone would just have all of their emails opened. There are so many variables and factors to consider that you really have to pay close attention to your own audience and how they engage with your campaigns. The best thing you can do is develop a more detached/analytical eye, and continue to test and tweak. That assumes you have the content to warrant the opens in the first place.
The good news for email marketers is that email as a medium is as relevant as ever. It’s 2015, and much of the industry chatter is about how everyone is starting email newsletters. Opens are on the way up as mobile is now the norm, and that means there is plenty of opportunity to get your emails read and engaged with. There may be new challenges (Google Inbox, anyone?), but that’s always been part of the game, and it always will be. The bottom line is that this is a pretty good time to be in email marketing.