The season of email is here. Thanks to eager and tenacious retailers, there will be more email sends, opens and clicks in November and December than any other time of year. With all that inbox influx, it’s more challenging for organizations—not just retailers but nonprofits and B2B businesses as well—to get their emails read, let alone clicked and acted on.
As with all marketing, there is no magical solution that will produce 100% open rates and CTRs. But there are steps you can take to make your email marketing more effective. Today, we’ll look at few proven tactics to amp up your email efforts.
The Big Picture: Challenges and Opportunities of Email Marketing
A recent blog posts from ExactTarget looked at a plethora of email marketing statistics. We honed in on a handful of those stats to paint a clearer picture of the value, power and potential of email as a top marketing tool:
95% of all online consumers use email
91% of consumers check their email at least once a day
416 commercial messages a month is the average number individuals receive
64% of decision-makers read emails on mobile devices
$44.25 is the average return on email marketing investment for every $1 spent
33% of email recipients open emails based on subject line alone
Six Important Focus Areas to Master the Art of Email Marketing
Effective email marketing is an art. It takes strategy, skill and focus. There are many different elements of an email that must work in balance to create a compelling marketing message. And when they all click together, your audience will click as well. From the top, here are some proven tips to help you achieve email marketing zen:
The days of mass marketing are over. Don’t try to bring them back with your emails. It will take more time, effort and investment, but segmenting your email list using demographic and/or behavioral data can have a big impact on your results.
Segment your single email list into different groups based on key data points like location, previous purchases or donations, age, areas of interest, etc., and create personalized email content, images and messaging for each defined audience.
The subject line is the most important creative aspect of your email—or at least the one that will have the biggest impact on your open rates (and you can’t get a click without an open).
As a general rule of thumb, shorter is better for subject lines. On mobile devices and certain applications, people can only see so many characters of the subject line before clicking on it—so you want to give your subject the best chance to be viewed in full.
But length takes a backseat to making sure your subject line is strong, clear and compelling. Strategies like using numbers (4 Must-See Holiday Deals Just For You) and or asking a question that may be on the minds of audience members (How Will You Make a Difference This Holiday Season?) have consistently proven effective.
A recent email study by MailChimp also produced this finding: The use of the email recipient’s full name (first and last) in the subject line had a significant impact on open rates. The study also found the use of words like “urgent” and “important” in the subject line resulted in higher-than-average open rates (but be careful not to overuse this tactic).
Using images in your emails can be an effective tactic for a couple reasons: (1) they make your email look more engaging and polished, and (2) they reinforce your message. But you have to use email images both sparsely and strategically (you don’t want to make your emails too bulky or get them flagged as spam).
Forget about generic stock images. They will not help you get clicks. Images are most effective when they are based on the personalization in your email. For example, if you are segmenting by location—include a location-related image. If you are delivering different offers to your audience segments, show the different products or services offered.
Make sure any email images you include speak to individual and reinforce your message. Otherwise, don’t bother including them.
CALL TO ACTION
Too many marketing emails try to do too much. A single, strong call to action is all you want. And you need to stay focused on that call to action throughout your email content. The receiver should know exactly what you want them to do and how they can do it.
Don’t dilute your call to action with extraneous information. If you’re a nonprofit and you want donors to make a holiday contribution, explain the need and tell them how they can help. Don’t go off track talking about other things the organization did this year. Keep your content simple and straightforward, and your focus on your call to action razor sharp.
And don’t just use words. Make your call to action stand out with color, large fonts or images. Use your image to reinforce your call to action. Or include a big button telling people exactly what you want them to do (Donate Now, Get This Great Deal, Sign Our Petition).
When a person clicks on your email that means you have them. They’re hooked. They’re in. They’re ready to sign up. But you have to stick the landing.
The worst possible mistake you can make with your email marketing is sending an email with a bad link. This has probably happened to you: You click on an email link only to get an error page. It’s a HUGE lost opportunity because your email was good enough to inspire someone to take that huge step forward but you eliminated any chance of success.
This happens all the time. Don’t let it happen to you. Make sure you always test your links repeatedly before officially sending your email. Just as important, make sure you have a landing page set up that makes finishing the process that began in the email quick and easy.
Your landing page language and appearance should go hand in hand with your email. The call to action should be reinforced, and taking that action on this page should be as simple as possible. Don’t overload people with forms and fields (especially when you already have captured their email). Like a great story, make sure you have a strong ending.
Do you check your email on your smartphone or tablet? So do a lot of people nowadays. A recent post on the Litmus Blog reported that 48% of all emails are opened on mobile.
DO NOT forget about mobile viewers. Make sure your email looks just as engaging and compelling on a mobile device as it does on a laptop. Start with your subject line. Test different subject line lengths and view them on your phone to see what fits and looks best.
Use a single column format for your email. When you have emails with a sidebar or other layouts, they will look squashed on mobile screens. That will greatly decrease the likelihood they will be read. Even if they intend to, people rarely go back and read an already-opened email on a desktop or laptop.
Email content always looks a lot longer on the confined space of a mobile screen. Make sure your paragraphs are not too long (2-3 short sentences each), so it never looks like an endless ocean of text covering a smartphone screen.
Make sure your images are clear and decipherable on mobile. Single, close-up images are probably your best bet so consumers can instantly tell what they are and how they relate. Make sure your call to action is also clear and easily activated on a mobile device.
Hone Your Craft: Continually Test and Tweak for Email Success
Test the different tactics above, and continually make tweaks and adjustments until you’re getting the best results possible. Remember, this is an ongoing process. You’re never going to crack the perfect formula that will work for every email every time. But the good news is you can always find ways to improve email performance—and in the process you’ll discover methods you can employ to great effect with different email campaigns in the future.
Good luck out there, email marketers. May your opens be many and your clicks be plentiful!