When we talk about marketing technology, the conversation often drifts towards the shiny, new tools, topics, and platforms that get most of the headlines.
There’s no question that behavioral retargeting, social media influencers, cloud-based sales optimization, and the like are altering the marketing landscape, but there’s a much older tool that, surprisingly, still isn’t being exploited to its full potential.
That’s right, the humble, half-century-old email is one of the most affordable, accessible, and effective weapons in the marketing arsenal. Too often it’s either underutilized or used in a manner that decreases its effectiveness.
Email is such a great option because of its incredible reach. Globally, over two and a half billion people have an email account. 233 million Americans, nearly three-quarters of the entire population, use email. And, unlike some newer martech, email is well established, so the barrier to adoption is virtually nil.
Email is also consistently found to have the single highest return on investment of any marketing technology. For every $1 spent, email marketing returns an average of $38. That’s double the ROI of search engine marketing or display advertising.
It’s great for growing business in other ways as well. A report by McKinsey found that email is forty times more effective at customer acquisition than popular social media channels Facebook and Twitter.
But, for all it’s benefits, an unopened email isn’t very likely to engage your customers, build leads, or generate sales. So, here are 10 tips to make that next email campaign unmissable:
1. Resend Unopened Emails
Most marketing emails go unopened the first time they are sent. The average open rate hovers around a mere 22-25%. Sometimes it’s because the user simply wasn’t interested, but other times the message, for a variety of reasons, never even got to their inbox.
It could be the address was incorrect or changed, a spam filter might have caught it, or the recipient’s email client might be incorrectly configured. But, whatever prevented them from opening your email the first time, might not the second or third.
2. Update Your Lists
A second or third resend is a smart practice, but if the same email goes unread after a third attempt, many email servers (including Gmail and Yahoo Mail) may automatically begin rerouting further attempts to a spam folder. It’s worth considering removing that recipient from your list, at least temporarily.
Review your lists periodically and cull outdated or habitually inactive addresses. Checking for simple typos is also considered a basic but very important part of maintaining good list hygiene.
3. Analyze Bounces
Your bounce rate refers to the percentage of sent messages that could not be delivered. Most email servers will provide some information regarding the type of bounce that occurred. Soft bounces result from temporary problems like a full inbox or a server that needs updating. Always resend soft bounced messages.
Hard bounces indicate a permanent issue like an invalid address. There is no point in resending these messages, and doing so can even have negative consequences because internet service providers (ISP) record hard bounces and penalize and block senders of repeated bounced emails.
4. Communicate Urgency
It’s a tenet of copywriting for marketing that a good headline is short and to the point, but creates an internal tension that demands the reader look further. The same is true of a good email subject line. Brevity is particularly important here. Six to ten words subject lines are considered optimal for open rates.
There is a common concern today given the flood of information constantly coming at us that everyone else is seeing something we’re not. The fear of missing out (or FOMO) is a powerful tool for encouraging readers to open your email.
But, make sure your message has the goods! There’s a fine line between a mysterious, enticing lead-in and misleading clickbait. If your subject implies something is shocking, fascinating, or very much worth knowing in your email, it had better be there, or you’ll lose your audience fast.
5. Time Properly
There are all manner of guides recommending when to send an email to improve open rates. 10:30 AM to 5 PM is commonly given as a time period when people most often read their email. But, the truth of the matter is that your particular audience has its own unique predilections and patterns of behavior when it comes to email.
Testing delivery times is the only way to really know when the best moment for sending your message is. Try different time slots over the course of a week or month and then go back and analyze the results. You just might find that your audience is more likely to open emails sent much earlier or later than you assumed.
6. Optimize for Mobile
Email may have been born on desktops, but ever since the BlackBerry and its tiny keyboard hit the scene in the early 2000s, sending and receiving email on the go has been commonplace. In fact, open rates for mobile are actually over ten-percent higher than on desktop.
Plus, because more and more of all internet traffic is going mobile, a greater percentage of emails in general are opened and read on tablets and smartphones. The same tools and guidelines that go into building responsive web pages that look great and adapt to all manner of screen types and sizes should inform your email design. But, because an email is a more concise and single-purpose vehicle for your messaging, avoid many of the bells and whistles of web design. Aim for small, single-column layouts, and avoid overlapping elements or giant font sizes.
Your email campaigns, are no different than any other marketing initiative, they should be targeted and customized whenever practical. Some common divisions to break your list up into include previous purchasers, new customers, heavy users, and of course the usual demographic distinctions like age, gender, income, and geography.
A millennial from a big city in the northeast that has previously transacted with you has very different expectations than a baby boomer from a midwest suburb that is still on the fence. Your email communications should reflect those differences.
Going one step further than segmentation, you can up your open rate with true personalization. Emails with the recipient’s first name in the subject line have a 20-percent higher open rate than those without it.
9. Avoid Spam Filters
There was a time when users had very few tools to help them filter the influx of email coming their way, but today’s tech giants have implemented incredibly sophisticated and effective spam filters that weed out messages believed to be undesired.
One great way to get around spam filters is to employ a double opt-in system that requires recipients to verify that they want to receive emails from you. Sending email after email to someone who doesn’t want them won’t win you any fans and will negatively impact overall open rates. Likewise, provide a clear and simple means for recipients to unsubscribe.
Another important tip for avoiding the dreaded junk folder is to remove words that are known spam triggers. The companies than run email servers don’t publicize these triggers and are constantly updating and changing them, but certain terms are known to be problematic such as: “cancel at any time,” “free money,” “no credit check,” and “supplies are limited.”
10. Monitor Feedback
Most email clients today provide tools for users to report a message as spam even if you provide them with an unsubscribe link. Because some unscrupulous emailers hide or obfuscate their unsubscribe method, many users automatically hit the spam button rather than searching for it.
Just like heavy bounce rates can hurt your reputation with ISPs, so can heavy spam reporting. Monitor for users that routinely report your messages as spam and remove them from your lists.
Getting your recipients to open your email is just the beginning. Next, you’ll want them to actually read it and respond to your call to action. Stay tuned for a follow-up article discussing the art of maximizing click-through-rates.