Update January 2019
You know how frustrating it is when people don’t engage with your brand. You try to improve your campaigns, but not enough people are listening.
We’ve all been there. So, what do you do?
If you’re putting lackluster efforts into your email campaigns, or if you’re focusing your efforts into other forms of marketing, it may be time to take a step back and consider email marketing best practices.
How email marketing can help your brand
Marketers swear by email, and for good reason: Email marketing has the highest ROI of all marketing channels, especially if it’s done well. Yet, many of us go after what seems quick and easy, rather than pursuing a more thoughtful course of action.
Even major players will tell you that instant gratification isn’t always the best path for winning over your audience. According to Tara Chiarell, this can often end up costing you more time and money in the long run.
Thoughtful email marketing can help your brand, but how do you begin improving your email marketing campaigns? Where do you start?
In this post, our friends from Sleeknote share eight best practices for improving your email marketing campaigns, and how to implement them into your next strategy.
How to improve your email marketing campaigns:
- Use split testing
- Be a storyteller
- Use CTAs to introduce users to your funnel
- Incorporate welcome emails
- Send relevant content
- Segment your list
- Measure results
- Consider email frequency
1. Get more opens and clicks with split testing
Split testing is the best way to test your email marketing hypotheses and find the optimal solution for subject lines, content, calls-to-actions (CTAs), send time, and more.
And the best part?
You can always find new things to split test.
Naturally, the first step in email marketing is to get your emails opened. Otherwise, all your other efforts are wasted.
So, your subject line is a great place to start.
Your subject line should always aim to evoke emotion in your recipients. If you get people to feel something such as curiosity, excitement, joy, or even concern, they’re more likely to open your email.
You often see this with nonprofits, as impact is crucial in nonprofit messaging.
You can see how the Avaaz email above elicits concern and the need for quick action.
Test different tactics to see which works best for your specific audience.
In our experience, personal subject lines get higher open rates.
The easiest way to create a personal subject line is to add the recipient’s name.
These subject lines from Ebay and Netflix caught my attention because they included my name:
It makes the email seem like it was written specifically to me (even though we know it wasn’t), which helps build a stronger relationship with your recipients.
Next, you should test your content.
Many e-commerce businesses use the same template over and over again for their newsletters, which can save you loads of time, but you still need to test your content.
It’s easy to get lazy when creating email campaigns, and your email campaigns may end up looking the same every time.
While email templates can provide you with the right setting for your content, you still need to create new and unique copy each time suited for your specific audience.
Promotional emails are usually packed with product images and buttons that say “shop now”.
And these emails might work for some e-commerce businesses, but consider testing other types of content as well.
This could include soft CTAs, fewer images, fewer links, and more unique copy.
Writing a CTA such as “shop now” might scare potential customers who aren’t ready to buy yet, because they want to know more about the product before making a decision. Plus, “shop now” counts as a friction word or phrase, which is an email tactic email marketers should retire.
A softer CTA could be: “Check out our shop now” or “Learn more.”
No matter what type of CTA you go with, your email copy should convince people to click through while the CTA gives them the final push.
This brings me to the next item on this list: storytelling.
2. Tell stories for higher click-throughs
Storytelling is one of the oldest principles in direct response sales, and some might even argue that if you can’t tell a good story, you can’t sell your products.
We connect with each other every day through emotional stories, and applying the same practice to your email marketing can prove insanely helpful.
Here’s an example from BarkBox:
The product isn’t mentioned until the very end of the email, and the focus of this messaging? Getting recipients to feel gratitude toward their pet, making them more inclined to make a purchase.
Storytelling is an effective way to provoke feelings in your recipients and convince them to buy your product without actually pitching to them.
3. Sell your product without selling and boost revenue
Since storytelling is so important, try pairing stories with CTAs. These CTAs don’t necessarily have to take your subscribers directly to a purchase page.
Instead, they can introduce your subscriber to the sales funnel by linking to a blog or resource.
Your email footer is a great place to do this.
You can easily add a soft CTA for your content, giving subscribers an educational benefit, rather than a sales pitch.
Check out this example from Trello:
They use their footer to promote a content page listing their various events.
This soft CTA doesn’t require people to make a purchase or decision on the spot, but rather gives people another way to indirectly make a purchase.
When you use this type of CTA, don’t forget your main goal. You’ll need a strategy for converting these prospects into leads or customers.
The only way to figure out what works is via testing. See which option drives the highest engagement: a hard or soft CTA.
4. Write effective welcome emails to build stronger relationships
Welcome emails are a crucial part of your email campaigns because they set the tone for your relationship with your customers.
Your welcome emails should always be sent immediately after signup, when your business is fresh on the user’s mind.
Your welcome email should be personal and include the name of the recipient. You may even consider avoiding no-reply emails, so customers can get in touch with you right away.
Next, your welcome email should tell recipients what to expect from your emails moving forward.
Let them know what content they’ll be receiving, how often you’ll email them, and how to get in touch with you.
And more importantly, you need to meet these expectations.
This is how Ann Handley welcomes her subscribers (find out why her newsletter is great here):
Notice how this newsletter provides expectations, sets the tone, and offers soft CTAs in the footer.
Your welcome email is also a perfect platform to get valuable subscriber insights.
Ask people why they signed up, or why they made a purchase. These insights are extremely useful when optimizing.
Plus, you can use welcome emails as opportunities to get new prospects into your funnel.
5. Avoid Gmail’s Promotions tab and get your emails opened and read
A few years back, Gmail started using tabs to sort promotional emails from regular emails in their users’ inboxes.
Emails filtered to the promotions tab are easier to ignore, which is why we want them back under the Primary tab.
When filtering emails, Gmail looks at the content of your email such as the number of links, images, whether you use “spammy” words like free, MLM, low risk, urgent, winner, and they look at previous engagement with your emails.
As previously mentioned, you can test the number of links and images you use to see if it’s necessary to include them all.
Also, getting responses is a great way to tell Gmail that yes, people really do want to read your emails.
Once again, you can simply ask your subscribers or customers for feedback. And make feedback simple. They should be able to respond to your email or even interact directly with the messaging through a survey or poll.
The best place to do this in your welcome email, where you’ve already set expectations.
If you don’t want to ask for feedback, you can add a simple sentence telling people to add your email to their address book, ensuring they’ll receive your newsletter every time.
6. Segment your list and drive maximum engagement
If you want to ensure you’re only sending relevant content, segmentation is key.
Once a user has signed up or purchased a product, you can ask them to choose their preferences by asking what their interests are and what kind of content they’d like to receive moving forward.
Segmented email campaigns drive a 760% increase in revenue, so what’s not to like?
If, for instance, you run an e-commerce store with sports equipment, you might ask subscribers what kind of sports they enjoy.
Then, you could create personalized email campaigns based on various segments such as tennis, football, and skiing.
There are different ways to ask subscribers this information.
Learning information for email segmentation:
- Ask about preferences in your welcome email
- Have subscribers complete a user profile
- Send a new email to existing subscribers asking them to update their preferences
- Segment based on previous purchases
This is how Pat Flynn asks for subscriber interests:
This email might be a bit long, but it shows exactly how you can ask your subscribers for more information with a single click.
7. Measure the success of your email campaigns effectively to increase performance
When we measure the success of our email campaigns, we tend to focus on the open and click rates for each email.
But there are better ways to measure your email campaign performance.
For instance: open reach and click reach.
Here’s an example: You could check the total number of people who have opened and clicked your emails in, say, the last 30 days.
Then, you could create segments based on inactive and active subscribers and tailor your campaigns based on that data.
While open rates and click rates only measure the effectiveness of one campaign, open reach and click reach measure the long-term effectiveness of all your campaigns.
Another effective way of measuring long-term engagement is through your click-to-open rate (CTOR). Your CTOR is the percentage of subscribers who click through after opening your email.
This metric can be used across different campaigns to determine the effectiveness of your CTA and your content.
8. Consider how frequently you’re sending emails
Engaged subscribers may enjoy getting consistent emails, but no one wants to be overwhelmed. Statistics show most people unsubscribe from lists because the brands send too many emails too frequently.
Test your list to see who is engaging and who isn’t. After all, engagement is key for good deliverability.
In order to gauge how often subscribers will read your emails, consider adding a section in your email’s footer allowing subscribers to choose how often they want to receive emails.
This will help you help them, as well as ensure your subscribers are as engaged as possible.
There’s never just one simple solution when it comes to email marketing.
It’s about experimenting with different tactics and figuring out what works best for your business.
Use these email marketing best practices to find out what works for your brand. Improve your email marketing campaigns by optimizing your email marketing efforts.