Email Marketing Pro: Email Marketing And Your Business
Whether you have a digital marketing agency managing all your accounts or an email marketing pro working for you, both will agree important and email marketing plan is.
What’s one of the most common things you’ll hear many digital marketers say when they talk about marketing?Have you checked your email lately? How many emails do you have? How many email accounts do you have (personal, professional, and one just for something else, maybe?) Check your email, count how many you’ve received today, and then think about how “dead” email really is.
Email Isn’t Dead
A Millenial Email marketing Pro might say it isn’t the “new thing” like SnapChat. Even Facebook is “old school” now. But a lot has changed since we all started signing up for email accounts 20+ years ago. Marketing with email has evolved into a specific system that gets your message across to the right reader and the right inbox with some work before you even draft your message.
Email is still a major component of marketing and creating a successful business. Life has changed significantly for most people, including the way they live, work and shop. Email marketing has to change along with it.
Companies who used traditional marketing found their customers by just getting in front of as many people as possible. It’s inefficient, causing you to spend more money on advertising in front of a wide swath of people who aren’t your customers and sifting through the leads that do come through. Your best advertising campaign is at best nominally effective.
Technology makes those leads even more expensive and your ad even less effective. Sending your emails to people who aren’t interested interrupts their day, and doesn’t create a good user experience.
The Inbound Alternative
Instead of essentially standing on a street corner and shouting out your message to all the passersby, invite these prospects and leads to interact with you. Inbound marketing is all about empowering your visitors, leads and customers with pertinent, useful and helpful content that offers and provides them with value, even for free.
Rather than yelling your message out to everyone and trying to be heard above the din, you’ll start a conversation to pull them in, without interrupting their day.
Remember that marketing emails that someone didn’t ask for or opt-in for are considered spam (and in some countries, can get you into legal trouble.) There is a human receiving your email, so make it count with useful, valuable content that’s worth their time. Email has a big role in marketing if it’s done in a human-centric manner.
Hubspot’s article on Email Marketing And Your Business (part of an entire Hubspot email marketing training course) explains the system for setting up and engaging your email marketing campaign. It’s all about getting the *right* people into your funnel and engaging with them along the way. No spam, no unwanted emails, no “hard-sell” copy that annoys people and turns them completely off your brand. Give them the choice to opt-in or keep going.
The four points:
- Attract—turn strangers into visitors using blogs, social media and optimizing your website
- Convert—send these new visitors to your call to action (CTA), contact forms and landing pages, giving them the choice to opt-in for your valuable content
- Close—build your CRM, engage them with emails and workflows, turning new leads into customers
- Delight—engage your new customers with surveys, social monitoring and other smart content. Don’t abandon them once they’ve bought from you, continue to engage them and make them happy.
Again, give your visitors the choice to opt-in with their contact information in exchange for your content. Once they’ve become happy promoters of your product, service or brand, they’ll begin talking to others (strangers) about you, and the entire process starts over with new visitors sent by your happy customers. Email is a large part of this process.
These are parts of email marketing that you need to be aware of:
- The rise of mobile devices
- The significance of segmentation
- The power of personalization
- The importance of data-driven analysis and optimization
Email has been around for more than 20 years, and people are more prone to ignoring it. But email has repeatedly been shown to be the best and most popular way to keep in touch with people who have changed the way they consume and absorb information.
According to email marketing pro, people read their emails on a mobile device much more often than their a computer. If they can’t read your email on a mobile device, they probably won’t. Since 54% of emails are read on a mobile device, they need to be optimized for mobile consumption to increase the chances that an email will actually be read by the recipient. Shouldn’t yours?
A study by UK telecom regulator OfCon4 showed that 81% of smartphone users say that email is the main reason they use their phone (besides making calls.) Why? They read email more than they make phone calls. So it’s vitally important to optimize your email so that it can be clearly read on a smartphone.
In order to have a higher conversion rate, you must send the right message to the right person at the right time. If your message doesn’t resonate with the recipient, you’ve wasted your time and theirs. It’s not that your message and copy was bad. The people you sent it to simply weren’t interested, because it wasn’t relevant to them.
As a permission-based form of advertising, you don’t waste your efforts broadcasting your message to everyone and anyone. Proper segmentation is a high-impact way to improve your email marketing. You wouldn’t send an email blast for a dog walking service to cat owners, would you? Put your message in front of the right people who want what you’re offering.
By building an effective email marketing pro strategy, your inbound marketing is focused on content that you send to interested users. Email offers a direct one-to-one relationship that social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) can’t offer you. If your main lead generation is on social media, and they change the rules—or worse, their algorithms as Google does occasionally—your exposure could evaporate overnight.
Again, you wouldn’t just randomly send ads for a dog walking service to a list of cat owners. Unless, of course, you knew that they were also dog owners. User would indicate that they were dog and cat owners when they signed up for your emails or otherwise opted in.
Personalization is more than just speaking to someone and using their name. Email’s one-to-one relationship allows you to customize every part of the email they receive, from the salutation to the headline, lead, body copy and closing, and everything in between. Everything can be customized, and it doesn’t have to look like a mass message that you’ve sent to anywhere from 1,000 to 1,000,000 other people.
A “behavioral email” is one that’s connected to a database and lists everything each user has done. This allows you to personalize your email even more.
The “science” part of your email marketing campaign. What’s working? What isn’t? Who’s paying attention? Data analytics will tell you the answers to all these questions. You can see what’s working, what isn’t, test things, identify the trends and use all of it to optimize your email marketing strategy.
What Do You Need?
Successful email marketing companies have these three things in common:
- Stakeholder buy-in and commitment—if your team isn’t on board with email marketing, it won’t work well. Without the belief that email marketing is viable, nobody will work on it. ROI doesn’t happen immediately, and it takes time for results to show up. Buy-in gets you the time you need to find out what works, what doesn’t and test new things. Persistence is important, because it’s a long-haul project. You can’t quit after a few months.
- Software—there is a plethora of email contact software available that can help you do all manner of things. Your email marketing pro should, at minimum, be able to:
- Connect to your contact database and track both the behavior and qualities of your contacts. These are vital to both segmentation and personalization.
- Analyze the success of each of your sends. At minimum, it should track the deliverability engagement and return on investment (ROI) of each individual email as well as the entire channel.
- Send automated emails to your contacts based on their activity. Basing your sends on their actions and behaviors can help you send the right emails at the right time. That’s why it’s important to have this function automated.
- Have landing pages and forms for generating new leads. Alternately, it should integrate with other lead-capturing software. Generating new leads is essential, since your database will decay over time.
- And an understanding of email’s role in their business.
The Contact Database
Your database should be up-to-date and well-maintained so that the inevitable decay doesn’t erode your marketing campaign. This will allow you to improve your email message’s effectiveness, personalize for a better targeted message, and keep your “deliverability score” high enough so that they keep reaching more inboxes.
Questions To Answer
You and your team should consider these questions and determine a solution for your campaigns:
- When is it right to send an email? When is it not?
- How often should we send emails?
- How many emails should a lead receive? How many should a customer receive?
Once you have the answers, you’ll be able to create a good user experience for your recipients, whether they’re leads or customers.
Any email marketing pro can tell you that marketing has evolved from broadcasting a message to anyone within earshot into a method of specific techniques to get your message into the right hands. Email marketing can be a part of inviting users into a conversation and interacting with them on the way to conversion. It takes some work on your part, and needs time and care to get started. But once you and your team begin the process and make it work for you, you’ll be able to reach the right kinds of leads and customers with less missed targets and more profitable conversions.
What Lifecycle Marketing Means To Your Email Campaign
The term Lifecycle Marketing in this context does not refer to the user’s actual lifecycle, but to where they are in your process. This post will help you with the email marketing lifecycle and how to optimize each step in the process.
This focus is on your brand “evangelists,” who have already bought from you, had a great experience and are happy to buy again. An important aspect of targeted email marketing is identifying your audience and crafting your message so that it resonates with them.
It’s easy to classify everyone as “leads” and “customers,” but it’s not that simple. Not all of them are the same. Some leads are still in the “investigation” phase, and some are interested and ready to buy.
Your emails for these individuals will speak to them differently than the ones you send to your new and established customers.
Turning Leads Into Customers
Your lifecycle marketing goal is to attract people to your site and convert them into leads by getting their email addresses and contact information, with their permission. Once you do, you can begin to share valuable content with them, and guide them through the process to become a customer.
You can also get their contact information offline (at places like trade shows, or simply on the phone), as long as you have their permission.
Hurry Up And. . .Wait
One thing you’ll need for your email marketing campaign is patience. Most leads aren’t going to be ready to buy when they receive your first email to them. You may get some initial sales, but 73% of those targeted leads won’t be ready to buy on the first “touch.” Some will not be suitable leads for your business, and they’ll opt out. You won’t continue to market to them.
This is where email campaigns come in. Over time, you’ll continue to send leads additional content that will educate them about your company, and your product or service. You’ll also learn more about your leads, which ones are best suited for your company, and figure out which messages resonate the best with them.
You’ll begin to have a conversation with your leads and prospects, and learn from them:
- Pain points
- What resonates with them
- Which customers respond to which offers, and which generate the best customers
- Data that helps you create better content
Lifecycle marketing emails help you better engage with your customers, find out what they need and like, and gather this information to advance your sales process.
Lifecycle Marketing With Email
There are two best practices to keep in mind when sending your leads an email:
- Create your email’s content to coincide with the buyer’s journey. The “buyer’s journey” is simply where they are in the process of their research, with three steps:
- Awareness (that they have a problem and begin research to resolve it)
- Consideration (they understand their problem, researched it and have a firm grasp of it)
- Decision (understanding the different solutions and now searching for a provider vendor)
- Identify the “touch points” in your marketing/sales process. What are you asking them to do? Things like subscribing to your blog, filling out your contact form, downloading the “free report” (or other useful thing) and/or requesting an audit or consultations are the first steps in starting the conversation with each of your leads. Easy ways to start the conversation are:
- A thank-you email
- Confirmation request (“click here to activate your email”)
- Instructions or tips on the product they’ve purchased
- Follow-up email letting them know how often you can expect to hear from them
- A few links to popular content they can access immediately
But don’t make these emails long, drawn out narratives or frequent, regular email blasts. Remember—most people are looking at your email on a phone or tablet, so they need to skim and catch the information quickly. You don’t want to annoy them with an email they don’t have time to finish reading.
One (Email) Size Doesn’t Fit All
There are different types of content that appeal to different users in these various lifecycle marketing stages. An email that you send to your new leads will not be the same as the content you mail to established, interested leads or customers who have bought from you at least once. Use the collected data to craft specific, relevant messages that will resonate with each specific group of recipients. Your email program should also be able to keep the wrong messages from going to the wrong people.
Delight Your Customers
While emphasis on attracting new leads is important to your business’ growth, you’ll also need to spend some time retaining the customers you already have.
Just because they’ve already purchased something doesn’t mean that’s the end of it. You’ll still need to do some work to make sure they see the value of the product or service they’ve spent money on.
How do you take them from the “customer” stage to the “delighted evangelist” stage? Start by using these two best practices:
- Capture the right data. You are tracking your customers, aren’t you? Accurate customer data allows you to segment and personalize your emails.
- Create a map of the important parts of your customer’s lifecycle. One you’ve done that, figure out how to integrate email communication in the process.
Customer tracking—from what they’ve bought, how often, how much they’ve spent, etc.—is critical in keeping up with your customer’s needs and marketing to them. Using this data will help you create better content and more personalized emails to send. You won’t be sending them the same emails as you would a lead, and your email software should be able to help you prevent that from happening.
Divide And Conquer (Segmentation) Lifecycle Marketing
Once you’ve collected your data, it’s time to segment your customers. You can start segmenting them like this:
- New Customers
- Ongoing Customers
Some companies will segment them even further, and you can certainly do that too, if it’s appropriate for your business.
For the first group, you’ll concentrate on getting them on track with their purchase, and help them see the value of their purchase quickly and efficiently.
Subsequent emails can include a “thank you for your purchase” note, a confirmation email with the tracking number, or instructions for their purchase. If the purchase is something larger or more expensive, an appropriate email “touch” might also be an appointment confirmation or other relevant information.
Once they’ve realized the value of their purchase, it’s time to continue cultivating a relationship with them. Rather than seeing them as an income stream (which they’ll realize immediately), offer support or education to help them become successful with your product. They should always recognize the value of their purchase, and giving them help and support goes a long way in your company’s customer relations.
Next, pay attention to what they’re saying. Are their needs being met, or can you help with something else? Offering additional products that complement their shopping cart items, “favorite customer discounts” on repeat or similar purchases, or more email marketing based on your customer’s previous purchases with content such as case studies and testimonials.
Do be conscious of the timing and context of your emails. Sending out an email just because you can (or your coming up short this quarter) can still qualify as “spam” if it’s not wanted or relevant to your customers.
The Happy Campers
Finally, your “evangelists.”
They “like” every post on your Facebook page, re-tweet your posts on Twitter, and follow you on Pinterest, Instagram and/or LinkedIn. Evangelists are customers who are so happy with your company and product or service that they really do tell their friends and highly recommend you. These people are your best fans and are valuable to your marketing.
How do you turn customers into your evangelists? Ensure that their user experience is excellent, for starters. Email marketing is an easy, low-impact way to communicate with them. Offering exclusive discounts, referral or loyalty programs will spark interest in those who are already happy campers.
You can also use email to communicate directly with these evangelists in your lifecycle marketing process, and ask them if they would like to be a part of your brand’s messaging. These can take the form of online reviews, case studies, social communities (i.e., dedicated Facebook groups) or even case studies (where applicable.)
Email Isn’t Everything
While email is a valuable part of marketing, it’s just one part of your total marketing strategy. Don’t send out emails just for the sake of sending them. If you don’t have something important to impart, or aren’t saying anything that resonates with the specific audience, it’s still spam, and you may experience churn, or at least, unsubscribing.
Using your gathered data, tailor your message to the individual in the right part of their marketing lifecycle. This helps to ensure that your content is relevant to the user. Better, more relevant content makes sure your lead is more likely to be interested and engaged. Eventually, they will become not only a customer, but an evangelist who will be an advocate for your company and tell more people, bringing in more leads and furthering your company’s growth.
Contact Management And Customer Segmentation
Managing your contacts and understanding customer segmentation are VERY important to the long-term success of any email marketing campaign. Every email campaign for inbound marketing needs one important thing to get started: a list. If you don’t have a list of leads and prospects, who’s going to see your campaign?
But it’s more than just getting a group of names and email addresses together and sending your email to each and every one of them. You need to know more about your prospect and what he or she is interested in, needs, and is looking for.
Most importantly—once you’ve converted them into a customer (and hopefully an enthusiastic brand evangelist), you don’t want to send them the same things you sent them as a prospect. The email that converted them to a customer isn’t going to work with them now that they are a customer.
Furthermore, pitching your lead generation messages to people who have already converted annoys them. Customer Segmentation helps you avoid that problem and get each of your targeted emails to the right audience.
Why Contacts And Lists Are Important
One of the first things you must have is a quality, clean and up-to date-database to market to. Without it, you either have nobody to email, or you’re spamming people with every email you send. Neither is a good marketing solution.
Your database should give you three major things:
- A good “picture” of your contact, including all the touchpoints they’ve had with your company
- Bring together Marketing and Sales, allowing marketers to easily segment, score and communicate with these leads. Your sales team should also have access and easily see and understand a how a contact has interfaced with your brand
- Integrate well with additional tools your company may be using (such as your CRM)
Remember that there is a human who will be receiving your email when you send it. People don’t like to be marketed to as faceless entities, they prefer to be spoken to as individuals.
Segment Your List
Segmenting allows you to not only find a specific group of people you want to talk to, but also tailor your message to their needs, wants and pain points. Additionally, it stops you from sending your email to someone who doesn’t really want it.
Customer Segmentation is simply the “slicing and dicing” of your database by any number of factors. You can segment by:
- Purchase interest
- Content Topic
- Interest level
And a lot more, including something that is relevant to your own company, such as purchase history.
You contact record is a one-stop-shop to finding everything you need to know about an individual who has any kind of relationship with your company. Each record should contain basic information as well as every touchpoint. You’ll continue to gather additional information as they move through the lifecycle from prospect to customer.
Each bit of information allows you to improve your marketing to them, personalize and contextualize, and help your marketing and sales team identify the best prospects for additional email marketing.
Building Your Customer Segmentation Strategy
Before you start anything, you must answer this important question:
Do You Have Permission From These Contacts To Email And Contact Them?
Purchasing a list from a broker isn’t really a good idea. When you send them something, you’re emailing people who didn’t give you their permission. And if you do, anything you send them is spam, no matter how well crafted and segmented it is. Why? They didn’t ask you for it.
Use these three best practices for customer segmentation:
- Make sure your database is accurate and updated
- Determine your customer segmentation strategy
- Segment your contacts using explicit and implicit data
- Explicit data is the data that is intentionally shared between a contact and a company. Anything they send to you through your contact form, response to a survey, landing page or through Facebook LinkedIn or other social media outlets.
- Implicit data is what you gather from the contact’s behavior—social media engagement, email engagement, purchase history, etc.
- Your email database should include both types of data. Using them together will help you better segment your lists so you can improve your campaign’s targeting.
The Buyer Persona
You have to have a product or service to sell. Who are you going to sell them to? Who is your target market?
Don’t say “everybody.” Not everyone will be interested, or be able to use it. Sure, maybe your mother will buy one, whatever it is. But beyond your mom and maybe a few of her friends, you’ll need more prospects and leads.
Figure out who they are by creating a buyer persona for each one of them, and creating a marketing strategy to them. A buyer persona is simply a fictional individual you create to represent your real-life customers, and help you better market to them.
For instance: if you have a newly designed and more comfortable baby car seat, you’ll want to market it primarily to new mothers, and show them why your car seat is a better value, solution, etc. Start by asking questions of the people you’re preparing to market to, and go from there. Questions that collect specific information, like:
- Is this your first child? How many children do you have?
- Is this your first car seat, or are you replacing an older one?
- Did you buy this for yourself, or was it a gift?
Ask them anything (within reason) that can help refine your buyer’s persona. Once you’ve created your ideal buyer, begin working on the buyer’s persona and start your marketing to that person.
Using the baby car seat example, you could have more than one ideal buyer persona—new fathers, grandparents, and related individuals—and you’ll have additional lists for your email campaign.
If you’re marketing to absolutely everyone, your campaign will reach more than your intended audience. But will be much less effective because it will always be “hit and miss,” with more “miss” than “hit.”
Here are some questions to help refine your buyer persona, as well as a template.
Successful Customer Segmentation Strategy—What It Takes
First, your lists—you’ll have separate lists for your subscribers, leads and customers. (You can also segment these lists further if you need to.) Dividing your database up like this identifies who you want to email, but sometimes, who you do not want to email. If you’re sending an exclusive offer to your customers, you’ll want to prevent that same email from going to leads and prospects.
Each persona will give you a clear idea of who you’re marketing to, and help you write better headlines, better copy and create the right call to action (CTA.)
Create an additional list based on tracking engagement with core offers. Engaging with your offers is a great indication of their interest and a good time to start a conversation with them. Anytime a lead downloads your free e-book or white paper, signs up for your webinar, visits your booth at a trade show or otherwise engages with your company, you have another segment.
Depending on how your company is organized, you may need to create additional lists. Consider what kind of specific information you may need to gather.
Your overall marketing plan may involve more than just email. A company blog, social media and a website are probably a big part of the rest of your campaigns. Consider creating an engagement-based list of people who have:
- Visited your blog in the last 30 days
- People who have read one specific article in that time frame
- Leads who have visiting your pricing page
- Leads who have opened your email in the last 30 days
- Leads who found you through a particular source, i.e., organic traffic via search engine, social media, etc.
This kind of customer segmentation works a couple of different ways.
- Create another list of those who have not engaged with your brand in any way. You can suppress emails to these individuals, and stop marketing to them, since they are not interacting and may not be interested, or be suitable leads.
- Do you have users who you haven’t heard from in a while? Consider creating a re-engagement list, and send them a unique offer, or create an open appeal for them to come back and re-engage with your company
Your databases will degrade over time, through churn, bounces and unsubscribers, so you should always be working on getting new leads and prospects.
To keep track of who’s coming and going, create a few lists that will help you oversee the strength of your databases. You’ll see immediately when something isn’t working. Things like buying behavior and content engagement are potential indicators that your campaign may need some re-tooling.
- Hard-bounced contacts (rejected by the mail server)
- Ineligible contacts
- Recipients who haven’t opened any of your emails in the previous 12-month period
These are part of the essential lists to build that can help your email marketing campaign become and stay successful.
Big Undertaking, Big Return
Email segmentation and contact management are very involved tasks, but they’re vital for successful inbound marketing. Not every marketer is committed to this much work, and their results, or lack thereof, may speak for themselves.
But when the DMA’s research shows that 77% of email marketing ROI in 2015 came from segmented, targeted and triggered marketing, it’s worth the time and effort you spend. With multiple ways to segment your list for a successful email marketing campaign, it’s time to get started.
Email Emarketing Essentials
Pay close attention to the email emarketing essentials if you think you’re ready to start your email marketing campaign. You’ve got great content, great design, it looks good, and you can’t wait to email everyone on your list.
Once you hit “send,” the email will land in dozens (or hundreds) of email inboxes worldwide. Everyone will be is happy to see it, open it, click on the link and engage, right?
Your email could be opened, ignored, bounced, or even treated like (or worse, marked as) spam. While there’s no magic formula for deliverability, there are things you can do to get your email into the inboxes of interested readers if you read these email emarketing essentials.
You Do Have Control
You may think that you can’t control what happens after you hit “send,” but that’s not entirely true. The prep work you do before you send a marketing email piece can greatly impact deliverability as well as opens, clicks and engagements.
If you’ve already done a send, and feel like something is off, use your previous metrics to figure out what happened, and improve your next campaign.
Who Are These People?
Think about it—who are you sending your emails to in the first place? Where did they come from? Do you have their permission to email them? Do they know you’re going to send emails? What does your ESP (email service provider) say when your emails bounce back? Has anyone reported your email as spam? All these factors have a direct impact on deliverability.
Ideally, each individual on your list should have given you permission by opting in. You, ideally, would also have communicated that you would be sending periodic emails, and they should have understood that.
If you’ve purchased a list, or been given a list by someone to use, there’s a good chance that’s at least part of the problem. A purchased or rented list is a list of people who probably haven’t given you permission to email them. They are probably only on that list because they opted in somewhere else for a company that sold their contact information to you and other people.
If you bought or rented some or all of your mailing list, there’s a good chance they’re not interested. Your well-written and well-designed emails are not only going unnoticed, because according to the email emarketing essentials they’re spam. Your ISP will notice as well as every ESP around, and they may block your emails completely, before anyone even sees them to unsubscribe or mark them as spam. That’s the last thing you want.
Content Is King (Or At Least, A Prince)
Another really important email emarketing essential is “What are you sending to your email lists?” You still need to create good copy and make your email look good. Your list also needs to be segmented so that you’re sending relevant, valuable content to everyone who gets your messages. But if you’re sending out one email to your entire list, chances are you aren’t engaging well with your audiences—because, after all, each list is one.
During any email campaign, you should expect a few bounces and maybe a few unsubscribes. But your metrics are the key to making your campaign successful. You’ll have two sets:
- Churns, bounces, list atrophy and other “losses.”
Both of these will show you your deliverability, and what you need to correct. Clicks mean that someone has opened your email, and decided to check you out. If your content and/or offer is good, and it’s relevant to them, you’ll also have engagement.
This is the opposite end of the spectrum, when you lose contacts. However, it’s not entirely a bad thing. Why would you continue to try and market to people who aren’t interested? Yet, many marketers continue to do so to keep an inflated number on their list—but that can backfire.
Churning occurs for one of three reasons:
- An individual opts-out or unsubscribes completely
- An email address bounces
- An individual marks your email as spam
An unsubscribe can mean that the user doesn’t find the content relevant anymore, or they never signed up in the first place. If it’s an unsubscribe, it’s time to figure out why. Did your content not meet their needs, or was your offer not quite good enough to make them act?
Are you seeing an increase in unsubscribes? Offer additional ways to connect (i.e., social media) if they are simply receiving too much email. You can also solicit feedback from unsubscribers, so that you can make better offers to them, or to the rest of your subscriber base.
Look for trends in your previous send metrics so you can fix what’s wrong before your next mailing.
While it seems unimportant, there are ways to figure out why your email was bounced. Once you do, you can work on recovery and increasing your chances of deliverability.
There are a number of bounce types, but the four most common are:
- Recipient bounces—a bad email, a.k.a., “user not found.” This email is one that was either good when it was used, or a bogus email that was never valid. When people sign up for mailing lists using their work emails, or shut down a personal email address, they may not update their profile, leaving you with a hard bounce. Some use bogus emails just for free content. Remove these emails from your list immediately.
- Content bounces—the mail server, software protecting the mail server or the spam protection took issue with your email for some of the reasons listed above, or there is something in your email that it doesn’t like.
- Reputation bounces—somewhere between your system and theirs is a “reputation” that the recipient’s email client doesn’t like. This includes your company domain, an IP address you’re sending from, or the ESP’s reputation that you’re sending from.
- Temporary failures—also called “soft bounces,” or something that the server doesn’t understand. It takes a “wait and see” approach and takes more time to check out your email. A large number of soft bounces may also indicate a content issue. They may eventually deliver, but you don’t have to do anything unless you see that they aren’t. Your ESP, as a rule, automatically handles these.
Decoding these bounces will tell you what happened. These number codes start with a 4 or a 5 that appear in the return email you get.
- Anything with a 4—temporary or “soft” bounces.
- 500 or 550—these codes indicate a recipient failure (“hard bounce.”) Remove these emails from your list, because they don’t work.
- 571 or 554—these are the “content bounces” discussed earlier, where the server doesn’t like something in the content. They’re also “reputation bounces,” and occasionally have a 471 code.
Once you get the relevant code, you can go about fixing the problem. Removing bouncers will pare your list down—but they weren’t getting your emails anyway.
Getting A Reputation
Over time, ESPs examine your emails and how they perform once they arrive. Emails are also checked for spam-like qualities. If your emails have any of these characteristics, they’ll likely be rejected or at least tossed into spam folders everywhere.
- “Short” links or a link the ESP didn’t like
- Something linked to in the email
- Misspelled words (especially a lot of them)
- Not enough content text in the email body, or images
- The company’s domain
- The IP address you’re sending from
- The ESP’s reputation that you’re sending from
- An unprofessional look about the email, or it looks like email or content previously marked as spam
Any one of these factors can cause your email to bounce, to be sent directly to the spam folder, or marked as spam by the recipient. However, once you clear them up, you can email the affected people again.
This is one of the most important problems to deal with. These are from actually people who went through the trouble to report your email as spam. These complaints can harm your deliverability and reputation. Now you’ll need to examine why you were marked as spam, and correct it.
Many of these complaints are permission based. That is, whether they gave you permission to email them in the first place. If a number of complaints come from one source, fix it immediately! If there are people who came from that source before you did, suppress them from future sends. You can also create a separate campaign for these people with clear reasoning and explicit details of why they’re receiving your emails and why it may be of value to them. If it doesn’t work, that’s a list for the “delete” file.
Graymail isn’t spam, but it might as well be. It’s an email that is delivered without a problem, but is never opened, read or clicked. No engagement. It’s just there in someone’s email box. They’ve given you permission to email, and they may have been reading your emails for a while. But eventually they stopped reading for whatever reason, and you’re sending them emails that have never even been touched.
If you find a number of these, the best thing to do is stop sending email to them. It may be time to trim your list, or do more segmenting. You can also suppress anyone who hasn’t engaged in the last year so that they don’t continually receive your emails to leave them languish unopened in inbox purgatory.
It Can Only Get Worse Until You Fix it
If you continually ignore spam complaints, bounces and other email issues, the problem will simply multiply. Without engagement, many ISPs will bounce your email (or move it to the spam folder) because nobody is clicking on it. Your emails may be received, but if your open/click/engagement rates are declining, they’re not being seen.
Once you’ve fixed your source/permission/expectation issues, pay attention to your successes, and stop sending email to uninterested parties. Trimming your list to people who open, click and engage will improve deliverability as well as engagement, and your emails will be seen by people who genuinely want to see them.
Focusing on the engaged readers will not only help your mailings, but also your scores with ISPs, inbox providers and spam filters, ensuring future deliverability.
The work you do on the front end for your email campaign can reduce the extra work you have to do on the back end. Ensuring that your list is valid and contains people who are interested in your emails goes a long way in making sure your emails are being seen by those who are glad to receive them. Just try and take these email emarketing essentials into consideration when creating a campaign.
Email Functions And Design
Most people don’t think about the email functions and design ideas that go into creating a successful high-converting email campaign. “Designing” an email is one of those things that will help improve your email’s messaging and performance. More than just something to make your email “pretty,” design helps you communicate your message quickly and easily.
Good design helps deliver your message and drive conversion with less friction. Design can also offer your recipients a consistent experience and lets you take advantage of branding recognition. Great content matters, but so does design. This is especially true where it really counts: when someone is reading your email on a mobile device.
With more than 54% of users reading email on their smartphones, design counts more than ever. Email needs to be consistent across all platforms, and look great while conveying your message.
Best Practices For Email Functions and Design
Start with these:
- Pick a primary goal—what do you want the reader to do? Ideally, there should be just one goal in this email. Whether it’s downloading a white paper, subscribing to a blog or anything else, you should articulate this goal clearly and quickly. (Note: opens and clicks are not goals, just metrics.) Multiple choice of actions can confuse the reader, or stop them from taking any action at all. Unless you’re sending a newsletter, keep it at one goal and one click.
- Write and design the copy—this is your pitch, so offer them value here. Tell your reader why he or she should take this action and click through. Add formatting, white space, headlines and other design elements to make it easier to read and understand quickly.
- Avoid the “wall of text.” A large block of copy is a big turn-off to any reader on a mobile. It’s difficult to read, and looks like a book to them. Formatting breaks up your copy and makes it easier to digest in small bits.
- Create a consistent experience—your readers should be able to see the same thing no matter where they are reading your email. In theory, they should—but with more emails being read on smartphones, an email may or may not look the same across different mail apps. Design for the mobile screen, using less but more powerful wording, consistent in the email and on the landing page.
The Inverted Pyramid For Email
This modified version of the Pyramid explains designing and writing an email for any platform.
Structure the email in this fashion (including an image as needed) and keep the white space in and around your copy. Put the most important part of the content first, add some less-important info, then a CTA button to click. This short-and-sweet format helps keep the focus on your message, and leads them to the CTA without long, distracting copy that’s hard to read on mobile.
Use a minimum of a 14-point font that’s visible on both types of email clients. Finding the visible CTA button (minimum: 44 pixels square) at the bottom allows them to click on it right away. With short, strong copy for your CTA, you’re ready to go.
You can also ensure readability by using a mobile-friendly template with a single-column layout. Most email providers offer pre-approved templates that automatically re-size text for each platform. You can concentrate on your copy and not worry as much about your design.
Using images can be a great idea, or cause a lot of problems. With so many different email clients available, an email that looks perfect in Outlook may look completely different in the Gmail web page, or on mobile. Use these guidelines to design your email:
- Always provide an external link in your email, so that the reader can click to a web browser version if their email client mangles it.
- Keep your emails under 600 pixels to ensure that they “fit.” Anything over that may not work.
- Use a table-structured positioning of elements, which are universally accepted.
- Add alt text to your email. Some email clients automatically block images, so having alt text ensures that your message will get through.
- Make sure that your email message makes sense without any images.
- Don’t create your email as an image. If a client doesn’t allow images, your message will be lost and possibly tossed into the spam folder.
- Avoid using background images for the same reason.
Again, testing is always important before you send your email. Send yourself a test message, proofread it, and review it on a PC email client as well as a smartphone to ensure readability for the recipient. Once you’re satisfied that it will work on multiple email clients, you’re ready to send it out.
Email functions and design doesn’t have to be difficult. But it is important to your reader, your message and your brand. Spend a little extra time on the email design. See how the copy, image, CTA and other pieces fit together to offer value to the reader but doesn’t waste their time getting there. Ensure that the email and any images are properly structured, and you’ll increase your chances of your message being seen and opened.
Email Lead Developer
Finding and keeping good leads can be one of the most mystifying parts of marketing and sales and requires a nurturing relationship by an experienced email lead developer.
The term “marketing automation” does not mean creating one email and blasting it out to a purchased list of “guaranteed” prospect. That’s spam–don’t do that!
A full 72% of B2B buyers are not ready to make a purchase from a first email, and neither are most B2C leads, either. Lead generation isn’t the same as lead nurturing. An estimated 98% of MQLs (marketing qualified leads) never convert to closed business.
Email marketing can be an effective way to communicate with your leads, if it’s used correctly. But marketing automation isn’t something you “set and forget.” You still need to create useful, valuable content that your leads will find interesting, educate them and offer them value before you start sending out anything.
Think about it–would you buy a product from a salesperson after one random email, phone call or direct mail piece? Probably not. It’s like sending out one email that tells prospects to BUY TODAY! and you’re ready to magically make sales. It’s not going to work. These are leads that may not know:
- Who you are
- Your company’s name, or who your company is
- What kind of products or services your company sells
- What value your company can provide to them
- What you can do to address their pain points or solve their problems
Why should they even give your email a second thought?
Inbound Marketing is an excellent Lead Developer
The process of lead nurturing involves building trust and relationships through conversations with your prospects. You’ll educate them about your company through these conversations so you eventually earn their business when they’re ready to buy. Offering and providing relevant information at each stage of the buyer’s journey keeps them informed and engaged until conversion.
The first rule of email marketing is to make sure that anyone you send email to has given you permission to send it. Once that’s done, you can use email marketing to establish an ongoing relationship.
Using inbound instead of outbound marketing draws interested leads to you. From there, you’ll initiate the conversation that lets you inform, educate, engage and eventually convert. Leads who are nurtured with targeted content produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities, and 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% less cost.
Best Practices as an Email Lead Developer
- Decide how to use lead nurturing for your business. After you acquire leads online or offline (i.e., trade shows), you’ll use email to determine if it’s a good lead for your business, and if this lead is interested in your offer. If a lead is ready to buy, then your sales reps take over. If not, then the lead is “nurtured” by your marketing reps until they are ready to buy. These leads can be nurtured with relevant, appropriate information and content. If you determine that the lead isn’t interested, their plans have changed or they aren’t a solid, qualified lead, that’s the time to terminate communications completely.
- Learn to build a great individual workflow:
- Figure out who you would like to nurture
- Select your marketing goa
- Create and send relevant email content to them to help establish that goal
Once you’ve decided on who and what, it’s time to figure out what you’ll be sending them. How many emails is the right amount? A general rule to start with is 3 to 4 emails per workflow, and you can always add in or remove emails if you need to.
How often are you going to send emails to this group? Too few, and they’ll forget. Too many, and they may unsubscribe, especially if the content isn’t relevant. A longer or more complex sales cycle will probably require more emails, but don’t inundate your leads, either.
- Communicate with your leads based on their behavior (“Behavioral Email.”) Begin sending automated emails based on your lead’s interaction with your brand. This may be email, social media, on your website or another method, based on their “triggers.” It’s one of the most effective methods of engagement, rather than the traditional method of sending content or an offer to a group of potentially interested people. With behavioral email, you’ll:
- Track how people interact with your business online (seminars, surveys, signing up for blogs, etc.) Gather this information, store it in each contact’s CRM entry, and use it to start your conversation.
- Determine the important actions a user might take. Here, the user dictates the next step, and you’ll send email based on what the user does. At this point, your job is to figure out what user actions will trigger an email–follow up when a lead downloads your content, interacts on social media or just disappears.
- Start your conversation with the user based on that behavior. For instance, if a contact hasn’t visited your site in a period of time (say, 90 days) send a “we miss you” note with some recent content they may have missed. (This article explains 7 methods for lead nurturing.)
If you have a number of communication channels for your prospects (email, website, surveys, Facebook or other social media) to interact and communicate with you, you’ll also need a way to store this information (i.e., CRM or other database.) Each interaction is another opportunity to learn more about each prospect, what they need, want and are interested in finding. Connecting your automated email system to this resource allows you to further communicate with them with these triggers.
Now, your job is to figure out which of your lead’s actions are triggers. For instance, did they download a free whitepaper or subscribe to your blog? Send them a “thank you” or other related email. Visit a specific page on your website? Follow up with an email that offers “more related content.” Knowing how your contact database works and using it effectively helps you to keep in touch and nurture your leads better.
Behavioral email is more personalized than a blanket email sent to everyone. Triggered by an action taken by the user, and connected to your contact database, they allow you to better interact with your lead, and increase your chances of conversion.
Done correctly, an email lead developer can effectively market your brand to leads and prospects. Rather than randomly sending out emails to anyone who drops by, you’ll converse and interact with them to educate them about what your company does, and how you can solve their problems. By offering them value through your emails, they’ll know who you are and why they should open your emails. Do the work, and these leads and prospects will become informed enough to know whether or not they want to convert.
Email Testing and Optimization
If you’re not doing email testing and optimizations before you send them to your lists, you’re in the majority of other businesses.
Over 83% of marketers do little or no optimization on their email marketing campaigns. That means that the remaining 17% of marketers are working hard before they click “send” to ensure that their emails arrive in their recipient’s inboxes. As a result, those marketers have higher rates of opens, clicks, engagement and conversions.
With the same kind of work, you can see the same kinds of increases. But you have to do the work first.
Optimization means improving every aspect of your email to ensure delivery, opens, clicks and engagements. If your email isn’t working as well as you’d hoped, it’s time to examine what’s going on, and how to fix the problem.
As a marketer, you’ll focus on three points:
- Understand key behaviors and interactions through email that identifies opportunities
- Identify the “friction points” in your email marketing and your database so you can fix them
- Reviewing your email marketing objectively so you can experiment with solutions to deal with new challenges
Improving your emails before you send them as well as after can help increase your open and click-through rates by as much as 50%.
There are four basic steps to email testing and optimization:
- Segmenting your email list
- Identifying the opportunities in your sales funnel
- Creating experiments
- Prioritizing your experiments
Why would you want to “test”? Perhaps you know how to design, create and write emails, but you may not create something that actually gets opened, read, clicked and converted. Testing allows you to see what works, what doesn’t, and offers you the opportunity to keep trying new things. Even though you’ve gone over and over your emails, if it doesn’t bring in leads, contacts and ultimately, conversions, it’s not working.
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) forces you to concentrate not on the percentage of opens and clicks, but the rates that indicate nothing happened. For instance, you may think that your 25% click-through rate is a good return, but that means 75% aren’t clicking your emails. At this point, it’s time to do some analysis and figure out how to improve your click-through rate.
Remember, too, that most database lists decay at about 23% per year. Many marketers see the solution as generating more leads and growing the list. That’s a good idea, of course, but you should also spend time working on engaging your current leads and customers more. What additional relevant offers can you make to them, and keep them around?
But you also need to think about the users who are leaving you. Constant Contact’s survey asking users why they opted out or marked an email as spam discovered that 69% said “too many emails,” and 56% said “irrelevant content” was the reason. Email optimization can solve these problems for you. Let’s look at each step.
At a minimum, your list should be segmented into customers and leads. But also use other segments that are appropriate for your business. Business personas come into play here, too, as you “divide and conquer” your target market into the ideal customers that you’re selling to. Depending on your business, you might segment by age, gender, nationality, or other company- or industry-specific factors that define your customer.
For instance, if you’re an online pet food and supplies vendor, you’ll want to make sure your “cat people” are separate from your “dog people.” You don’t want to send emails for bird food and supplies to either one of those groups. What would they do with something like that?
If it happens once, and it’s a mistake, that’s one thing. But if you regularly send out bird or fish emails to the cat and dog people, they’re eventually going to stop reading your emails or unsubscribe altogether. Make sure your cat people get relevant emails, as well as the dog people. This is why segmentation is so important.
Emails that are not opened and read indicate unengagement. These addresses should be suppressed going forward.
A/B Email Testing
After dividing your list, you’ll send your current email to one half, and an updated email with one change in it to the second. Of course, before you send, you’ll want to make sure it’s going to the right person, at the right time, with a clear CTA, and make sure the recipient trusts you enough to follow the CTA.
Identify Available Opportunities In Your Sales Funnel
Take time to examine the CRO in your data, find the weak links in your marketing funnel, and why and where that funnel narrows. You’ll use the information you gather to create powerful improvements, prioritize them and create a testing solution.
With email, you’ll use your A/B testing on parts of the email that you can test, such as the number of emails sent, day and/or time of the week, subject line and preview text. Then there are the parts that affect open rates, such as body copy, layout, images, CTA and signature.
This is where your analytics come into play. Examine each of these aspects, and see if there is a pattern that tells you why a click rate is lower than it should be, or why it’s higher. Does one subject line perform better than another? Is the open rate better for mobile or non-mobile readers? Does a particular template or subject wording work better than the rest? Keep track of all these things going forward.
The Holes In The Boat
As your prospects are going through your funnel, you’ll start to notice how many are dropping off on the way to conversion. You know from experience that not every prospect is going to convert. But when your conversions are a miniscule number compared to the number of emails on your list, there are holes in the “boat” that your prospects are riding in. What’s causing them to jump off?
Your goal is to not only identify the “friction points,” or the things that stop someone from proceeding, but identify “fluid points,” or things that keep them moving along the funnel. You not only figure out what you’re doing wrong, but what you’re doing right, so you can keep doing it.
Once you figure out what’s causing these leaks that these leads and prospects are falling through, you’ll work to fix them. You should be able to find at least a few clues, and develop a theory.
- Your emails may be sent at an inconvenient time for the readers to open and read them. (You can read more about that in this article.)
- You’ve sent emails to people who primarily read them from a mobile device, and your message isn’t mobile-friendly.
- Your subject line doesn’t entice the reader enough to open the email to read.
- Your subject line contains emojis, exclamation points or words that set off a recipient’s spam filter (i.e., “FREE!!”) Use a tool like IsNotSpam to check and see if your email will behave like spam once it gets to an inbox.
- Your email ends up in the “Promotions” tab for your Gmail users instead of their Primary tab, where they will more likely see it. Your email should be more personalized, less “business” and “sales-y.” Remove most or all of your images, and have only one link. Use Limtus’s tool for Gmail testing before you send to make sure your email will end up where you want it to. This is especially useful if you have a large number of Gmail addresses.
- You’re sending too many emails. Reduce the number of emails you send, down to one a month or even one a quarter, and see if your open rate improves.
Consider these three things: Potential, Importance and Ease. Which one would have the biggest impact on your marketing funnel? Which would be the easiest? What form of email would you test–your regular e-newsletter, or a single-event email? Consider which one would make a big impact, small impact, or an impact on your email marketing somewhere in between. Once you’ve put together your framework, it’s time to start testing.
Note that testing isn’t something you run once and get all the data you need. A regularly sent email (such as your e-newsletter or an update on an offer) would be better for testing. It should be sent out regularly to get a clear picture of what you need to change or keep. Ideally, a business quarter would be a good length of time to do A/B testing, regularly changing just one element.
Kissmetrics’ A/B Significance Testing tool offers a quick check on how well your testing rated. Keep track of your results until you have enough sampling to determine if your testing worked. Again, you’ll need to run testing more than once or twice to get a good idea of what you need to change, and where. One or two samplings won’t give you enough data to work with.
While optimization is great on its own, email testing your current best-performing templates with different delivery variables or against a different version will help you find a better way to send emails. Don’t just look at your email and think about “what’s wrong with this,” or change an image. Use your data to figure out the best way to proceed.
With a little analysis and configuring, you’ll see what works, what doesn’t, and what works better to increase conversions.
Email Marketing Analytics
Monitoring your email marketing analytics is important, especially when you spend so much time designing and implementing an email marketing campaign that requires a lot of work before you even send your first message.
You might feel overwhelmed when you’re in the middle of it. But once you’ve finished the pre-emptive work and put it into motion, you’ll feel better and start to see some results.
Don’t get lost in the “it’s working” or “it’s not working” mindset. You’ll need to track your results and understand exactly what’s going on with your email campaign. If you’re doing well, or doing badly,your email marketing analytics data will show you what you’re doing right or doing wrong. But the good news is that it’s much easier than before to track your email campaigns and results, and take corrective action where it’s needed.
Your marketing campaign isn’t going to work well if it’s based on hopes and dreams. Data is the best option to finding your target market, delivering your brand message, interacting with users and eventually, converting them. Use your collected metrics to personalize your emails, refine your message, create better content that resonates with your audience and build trust with your recipients. Over time, you’ll see sustainable long-term growth for your company.
Email Marketing Analytics: Opens, Clicks And Engagements
While most marketers focus on these metrics, they don’t tell the whole story.
When someone opens your email, you may not know. Assuming you actually got into their inbox, the email must look interesting enough to open in the first place. The open may not register if the images didn’t download, so your metric may not be accurate. You may see a low number, when in fact, the actual open rate is much higher. Some users may open the email, but never click on the CTA.
Clicks mean that not only did someone open your email, they clicked on your CTA link. This is a little more accurate, since they had to open the email in order to click.
The last metric is conversion–how many people not only clicked on your CTA link, but actually did what you asked them to do. This is a better analysis of how well your email campaign did, and how far into your sales funnel these leads went.
The best metrics to track are:
- Individual email metrics: how many emails you attempted to send after telling your email system to suppress a certain group or number after you completed your segmentations.
- Email channel metrics: the collective number from all of your email sends, measuring the performance of your emails that communicate with your contacts. You can determine:
- How well your campaigns are working
- How well your email is helping leads move through your sales funnel
- How you can use email to drive traffic to your offers
- How it impacts your business
- If your database numbers are going up or down.
You’ll be able to see how well your campaigns are doing and how well they’re working for your business.
- Email health metrics: what happens when you click “send?” Deliverability, inactivity (including the dreaded “greymail,” the email people actually receive but never open), bounce rate, unsubscribes and spam notifications will all tell you who to eliminate or suppress to improve your success rate. Why market to people who will probably never read it?
These email marketing analytics metrics will give you a better sense of what your campaign is really bringing in, so you can determine your next steps.
Consider including these metrics, too:
- Clickthrough rate
- Conversion rate
- Bounce rate
- List growth rate
- Email sharing/forwarding rate (are you encouraging your readers to share?)
- Overall ROI
List decay is another metric you’ll need to keep an eye on. As a rule, your list degrades at about 23% per year, and for various reasons. Your bounce rate will show you who’s changed emails and didn’t update their account, or left their job and didn’t tell you. Your unsubscribes will tell you who isn’t interested anymore. And there may even be some spam complaints involved. Left unchecked, without growth, your list may decay into almost nothing. So you need to continually generate new leads to replace these “drop-offs.”
Having a better understanding of the contacts in your database will help you better engage with them. You may not be able to retrieve some of your lost leads, but you can work toward keeping the ones you have while generating new ones.
Email Marketing Analytics
So, what do you look at when an email campaign isn’t doing as well as you’d hoped? Some things to examine:
- The subject line: this is the first thing people see when your email arrives. Is it interesting? Does it grab the reader? If it doesn’t catch their attention and offer them value, they’ll pass it up. Short, and “non-salesy” subject lines that are on point can help your open rates. If it works, great. If not, experiment with it, one thing at a time.
- Subscriber expectations: Readers may be receiving too much email from you, or you’ve fallen into the dreaded “graymail” category. Maybe it’s time to change the way you email your list.
Consider these issues and possible solutions:
- Options: offer your readers a selection of the types of email they’d like to receive, so that they’re not getting every single email you send out. Offer the opportunity to receive certain types of emails, (i.e., promotions, product updates, content, etc.) a monthly newsletter, or any combination. Let them tell you what they want to read. You’ll keep subscribers, you’ll have more data for segmentation and you can better target emails and offers to them.
- Tell them why they get your emails: this is how you end up with graymail. If they’ve purchased from you, or subscribed previously, mention this: “You are receiving this email because you. . . .” Many may not know how they started getting your emails, so let them know.
- Did you purchase your list? These people didn’t opt-in, and they’re not opening it.
- Did they not realize they were being subscribed? See if, or how, these people are engaging with your email.
- Fatigue: you are sending way too many emails! Back off a little, send fewer emails to your list, and see if your open rates increase.
- Contact non-engagement: create a list of these readers who haven’t opened your emails in the last 90 days, and send them a “re-engagement” email. Offer them something very interesting that will catch their attention, with content, personalization and language geared toward re-engagement.
- Your offer isn’t relevant: this is where segmentation really matters. Was the email sent to the right person? How about the content–was it relevant? Was this an email intended for leads, but sent to current customers? These are the kind of things you should examine closely to make sure you’re not sending your emails to the wrong groups of people.
- Deliverability: is your list current? Have you purged out the bounces? Is there something that’s keeping your emails out of someone’s hands? Are you flagging the email server with something that indicates it might be spam? Address these issues before your next send.
If you’re seeing good open numbers but low click rates, here are some other things to review:
- Your CTA: make sure your CTA is easy to see, clear and stands out. Otherwise, your readers will pass it up. Is it obvious what you’re asking them to do? If not, it’s time for a refresh to make a clear, precise CTA.
- Too many things going on: if you have multiple CTAs in your email, you are offering too many choices, and the reader isn’t sure what they’re supposed to be doing. Add only one CTA to your email, and make it clear what you’re asking of the reader.
- Not optimized for mobile: with more than 50% of emails opened and read on a mobile device, your email should be mobile-ready as a matter of course. If it’s not readable on their phone or tablet, chances are, they won’t bother with it. Mobile-optimized templates solve that problem.
- Non-matching subject line and content: these two items should always be synced. An open rate means nothing if your reader opens it up and doesn’t find any value inside. There’s no engagement, and you’ll likely lose that contact. Don’t write an attractive subject line for an email that doesn’t offer them value. If the value of the content isn’t attractive enough for a reader to open and engage with, reconsider it.
- Non-matching email and landing page: same situation, different location. Don’t send a great email that goes to a bad, or different, landing page, and isn’t aligned. The same is true if you have a bad landing page. Make sure that your landing page offers the same value as your email says it does. If your landing page has a high bounce rate, you need to revise it–quickly.
The landing page for your offer should contain the following elements:
- A clear, persuasive headline
- Discernable accentuation of the offer’s value
- No links to the menu or for navigation
- Length of the form matches the offer’s value
As powerful as email marketing is, “cross your fingers and pray” should not be your best strategy for any campaign. Research and testing on the front end give you somewhere to start, while email marketing analytics give you results to review and use to continue and/or improve your results. If something isn’t working, you can change it, and the data will give you somewhere to start.
High Performing Email Marketing Best Practices
These High performing email marketing best practices will help you take any email marketing campaign to the next level, improving not only open-rates but other important metrics and conversion rates. Now that you’ve worked on your database, and created and segmented your lists, you’ll need to make sure your emails are worth reading. It’s more than just finding your target audience. Give them a reason to open and read your well-crafted email that’s offering them something they will find valuable.
Whether it’s a free white paper or e-book, a webinar that helps them, or a special deal, make it worth their time to read what you have to say.
Don’t Just Send Anything
It’s not enough to send out a random email, and rely on opens and clicks. Email marketing has an ROI of 4,300%! But there is work involved to get to that return. It’s not about just sending out emails. More than clicks and opens, it’s about growth. There are no returns without work.
Your email must be not only valuable to the company, but valuable to your reader. Just because your company “normally sends out email every month” doesn’t mean you should just send anything. Without value, your emails will not be read, will probably be deleted, and eventually, unsubscribed.
Email Marketing Best Practices
These three email marketing best practices will help you create your best email and get more conversions.
- Determine a primary goal for your email.
- Optimize your email for opens.
- Compel your reader to take action.
The Primary Goal
Start by determining a good primary goal for your email, and optimize it for opens. You want to compel your reader to take an action once they do open it.
But you can’t write a good email if you don’t know why you are sending it to them. Again, don’t send an email just because you can. Answering each of these questions will help you create a high-performing email. It won’t take long, and the answers will give you a clear path to start writing.
Start by figuring out the answers to:
- Who—is your audience? Make sure what you have to offer is relevant to the individuals receiving your email, or your email will be ignored.
- What—do you want them to do? Clicks and opens are metrics, not your primary goals. They aren’t the reason you send them, so make sure you have a clear, quantifiable goal, such as subscribing to your blog, downloading content (free report, white paper), registering for a webinar, etc.
- When—is the appropriate time to send an email? There isn’t a specific, one-size-fits-all formula, but testing can help you figure out what works for your company. Make sure there is a clear purpose for sending the email before you do.
- Where—is your audience going to read it? Will they be using their PC, a tablet, or the most common method, their smartphone? Chose a template that’s responsive with a big font that’s easy to read on each device. Include a big button for the CTA (minimum 44 px square, no smaller) that’s easy to tap on each one.
- Why—is your company sending this message? Does the reader benefit, or is it strictly a promotion, just for the company’s benefit? If so, then the email should be given a little more thought before sending it.
- How—will you know if you’ve met your goals? Open/clicks don’t tell the whole story. What about Facebook likes, mentions on Twitter, customer service contacts, web traffic and other related channels? These can give you more insight into how your email affected your customer behaviors.
Optimize Your Email For Opens
Think about it—most people read their email on a smartphone. They’re not interested in reading anything that’s vague, complicated or in-depth. So you’ll need to catch and keep their attention quickly before they pass it up.
When your email arrives in an inbox, these are the first things your reader will see, particularly on a mobile device:
- Subject line
- Email address
- Preview text
Let’s take a closer look at each of these components.
- Shorter is better. Your subject line should be no more than six to ten words. Open rates go down with subject lines over 60 characters.
- Avoid “salesy” language. Spam filters will block most messages with words like “free,” “bonus” and other trigger words and move them out of an inbox. But many readers don’t pay attention to them either, so they can still end up in the trash folder.
- Keep your copy simple. A subject line with simple copy should be a relevant statement or a question that piques the reader’s attention.
- Appropriate personalization. Email marketing, particularly inbound, is about starting a conversation. Including the reader’s name, location, or other segmented data makes the email sound more like a conversation than a sales pitch.
- Don’t be afraid to mix things up and try something new. Consistently using the same thing over and over will become boring, and your open rate may decline. Test out new styles and types of appropriate subject lines to keep it interesting and prevent that decline.
What email address will the recipient see when they first look at your email? It may seem unimportant, but it isn’t.
- Don’t use a free web mail account—use a company email.
- Use an email that shows the purpose of the send, such as billing@, support@, newsletter@, customerservice@, etc.
- The customer’s lifecycle should designate who the email will be sent by. New leads should receive emails from the company itself, because they won’t likely know anyone yet. But if you’re sending something to established customers, it should be from an account manager or something similar.
- Don’t use a “no-reply” email address to send your emails. You’ll make it harder for the reader to respond.
This is a bit of copy pulled out of the entire email. The preview text gives the reader a sampling of what’s in the email. It’s displayed under the email address and subject line, and is especially important for people reading on mobile.
You can use the preview text to offer more from the subject line, provide the CTA, personalize a message, or show the value of the text and offer inside the email. Whatever you use, it should always give them a reason to open the email and read it.
Compel The Reader To Take Action
Your call to action (CTA) tells them what to do. Make it clear what they need to do, and what will happen (click on the link, button, etc.) Emphasize what will happen when they do.
An important email marketing best practices tip recommends having only one CTA, and the language should be clear. Instead of saying, “click here,” try something like “improve your B2B sales starting here.” You can add your link into a number of places in the email (images, hypertext), but it should be only one action, and one link for the CTA, and take the reader to your landing page or other out-of-inbox place.
Since many of your readers are on mobile, make sure your CTA click box is no smaller than 44 px square. Any smaller, and they might not be able to click.
They’ve Opened It—Now What?
Just getting someone to open your email isn’t the goal. You want them to read it and know immediately why they received it. This isn’t the time for long-form copy—your email needs to be written for quick and easy reading.
Don’t forget these important email marketing best practices:
- Scannability—write your copy so that the reader can make one pass and understand what it’s about nearly instantly. Use short paragraphs, bullet points, headlines and bolding to format your copy so that it’s easy to get the point and see the value before they move on.
- Use the correct tone—make sure that this will resonate with your buyer persona, and every word is relevant.
- Personalize—this is where your segmenting can really come in handy. Using a recipient’s name, location, behaviors the user took, interest, any content the user has downloaded, or anything else relevant makes your email more like a conversation.
- Proofread, and proofread again—if you’ve ever sent out an email with something like an embarrassing typo, you already know. Send yourself a test message, and read it out loud before you send it for real.
Beyond proofreading, you’ll want to make sure this email looks the way you want it to.
- Test Message—send a test message to yourself and check it both on your phone and on your PC to make sure it looks good, you can read it, and it says exactly what you want it to.
- Check the images—will your email look good without the images? Is the message understandable without them? Does the CTA work? You can proofread your ALT text here, too.
- Is there a plain text version?—some spam filters will block your email if you don’t. This will also help mobile readers read your email better.
- Check the links—make sure they all work, and that they take the reader to the correct landing page (or whatever page you want them to see.) Remember to check your tracking codes for any web analytics tools you’re using, too.
- Check your unsubscribe link—ensure that it works and that your email is CAN-SPAM compliant.
- Use different apps to check readability—use programs like Gmail, Outlook, iOS (iPhone/iPad) and Android mail tools to see how they appear in each of them. Emails look different in each application, and some may be unreadable.
You can do this testing in your browser, but there are separate tools available that can test for you as well. Whichever you use, just make sure you test before you send it.
What Your Email Looks Like
You’ll get a pretty good idea of what your users will see when they get your email from your testing phase. Your email, your curiosity-inspiring subject line and a text preview will be visible, depending on how they open it, and with which program.
Your subject line should be simple but attractive. The best are either a simple statement related to the relevant information inside, or ask a relevant question alluding to the answer inside.
Once opened, the user sees everything they need to know quickly, and knows what to do next.
This is a subject of much debate among marketers—should you or shouldn’t you? It depends.
- In the B2C market, pictures show the product or service. This market wants to see everything about the product or service, the benefits, and what it has to offer. But click-through rates tend to drop as the number of images increases.
- In the B2B market, one picture, or none, is usually enough to give the reader information along with the copy. Any more than that is distracting.
Inbound email marketing can offer some of the best ROI, or it can fall flat. Careful attention to both the copy and formatting can make sure your email is delivered to the recipient. Segmentation helps you get the right message to the right person, and avoid spamming anyone.