Email marketing is a beautiful thing.
It’s timely, targeted, valuable, measurable, relevant, and has the highest return on investment of any other marketing channel ($40.56 for every $1 spent, according to the DMA). When it comes to this revenue-producing, highly effective medium, it’s important to note that all email programs are different, and what works for you may not work for your competitors, partners, friends, etc.
So, while there are many standard best practices, tactics, and strategies to suggest to marketers, it’s important to always be testing to see if that specific recommendation will work for you and your audience. But, there are a few noteworthy things that all email marketers should keep mind when it comes to building a successful program.
5 Things All Email Marketers Need to Know
1. Buying lists = bad; Growing your list organically = good
To most seasoned, savvy email marketers, this is a no-brainer. Unfortunately, there are many email marketers who either have no idea how badly purchasing a list can harm their business, or they simply choose to ignore this advice. To get positive results from your email efforts, it takes a strong, engaged audience. The only results you’ll see when purchasing a list (and essentially spamming everyone on it) is getting blacklisted by the ISPs, fired by your email service provider, and harming your business’s reputation. We can’t say this enough: do not purchase email addresses. Grow your list organically. Doing this over time may take longer than purchasing a list of 30,000 names, but it will produce more opens, clicks, and conversions, and makes it more likely for your subscribers to keep coming back for more. Trust us on this. Still not convinced? Read “When is it Okay to Buy an Email List?”
Get 57 ways to grow your list now (a free WhatCounts eBook).
2. Quality over Quantity
Do you believe that one of our clients dropped 84% of subscribers from their list, yet saw an increase in engagement and sales? Believe it. It took them from almost 58,000 subscribers to just under 10,000. Shocking numbers, right? Actually, no. Their list is more engaged, their open rate has increased, and conversions (sales) have been steady and ongoing.
Everyone knows why sales are important, but I bet some of you are wondering why engagement matters so much. The ISPs (Internet Service Providers, think: Yahoo!, Gmail, AOL) determine whether your email gets through to the inbox, and they’re now looking at engagement when doing so. They want to make sure your subscribers are clicking through, sharing, and simply interacting with your emails; the way they determine this is by looking at your metrics (this is why it’s important to get rid of the dead weight). How many people on your list are opening, clicking through, and sharing? Run a re-engagement campaign, offer preference centers and frequency options, and segment your list. Quality over quantity is more important than ever.
3. Expectations can make all the difference
Setting expectations with your subscribers up front can make quite the difference when it comes to getting your emails opened and acted upon. Think about it: if you only ask for someone’s email address on your opt-in form, they have no idea what they’re in for. If you warn people up front (explain how often you send emails, what the content will be, etc.), they are much more likely to subscribe, open your emails, and look forward to future messages from you. Here are a few guidelines when it comes to setting expectations:
- Content. Explain the type of content you send. Is it a newsletter? Do you provide deals and discounts? Let potential recipients know what they’re signing up for.
- Frequency. Tell subscribers how often you will send them email (include this information on your opt-in form and in your subscriber preferences center). Better yet, let them choose the frequency at which they can hear from you. At WhatCounts we provide a weekly newsletter, but subscribers can sign up for a monthly summary if they’d prefer that instead.
- Look & Feel. You can even show people what your emails will look like so that it will be easily recognizable to them. Also, tell them what from address and from name you use so that they can whitelist that address and recognize the from name when you send.
The key to setting expectations is actually following through with them. Make good on your promises, and your subscribers will love you all the more for it.
4. Clicks > Opens
When analyzing your campaign metrics, pay closer attention to clicks than opens. In many cases, an “open” is only recorded when images are displayed. For subscribers who always have images turned off, they may see your email (namely text and alt tags), and they may click through, but it might never be recorded as an open. This is why many in the industry call an “open” rate a “render” rate. Also, you know that handy dandy preview pane in Outlook? Many of us use that to view emails – and can act on those emails – but never actually double-click to open the full email. So, while a 30% open rate is better than a 3% open rate, pay closer attention to the click-through rate.
5. Relationship is King
Anyone could argue that content or permission (the list goes on) is king, but I’m going to make the bold statement in this particular post that in email marketing, relationship is king. If you’re trusted by your subscribers and provide valuable information, they will look forward to receiving your emails and are more likely to open, click through, share, and convert on your emails. If I receive a sketchy-looking email (unrecognizable from name, “spammy”-looking, etc.) from a company I don’t really know, I am highly unlike to convert on that email. However, if a brand I trust, like Social Fresh, offers content that looks valuable to me, I am much more likely to act on their call-to-action and convert. I see their name in my inbox and open the email knowing that I want to read their content, no matter what the subject line is. While all email marketing programs are different, here are a few tips for building a relationship through email marketing:
- Provide valuable content. Write for the subscriber, not you. Solve a problem for them, make their life easier.
- Listen. Monitor your reply-to address, ask for feedback, and respond to both. Carry this over into your social media marketing by “being there” on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
- Incorporate branding. Use your company name in your from name and subject line. Make your email design familiar to subscribers and be consistent.
- Follow through with expectations. Remember those expectations we talked about earlier? Follow through with any you set in the beginning (see #3 above), and honor subscribers’ privacy, too.
While there are many things that all email marketers need to know, these five insights apply to most and will help you build a successful email marketing program. What are your top tips for email marketing? Share in the comments below!
Senior Services Account Manager, WhatCounts