The WhatCounts Blog
Everything you need to know about smart, personalized email marketing.
This Monday, I’ve rounded up five top-notch articles from the web about email marketing, in honor of the new drag-and-drop lifecycle UI on our Professional Platform, and to provide you with some always needed Monday motivation.
Check out these articles, and then check out our lifecycle UI to be really inspired. It’s a total game-changer.
The Holiday Prep That Email Marketers Should Be Doing Now | Marketing Land
Along with cold weather and cheer, the holiday season always brings an amazing opportunity for email. Many smart email marketers have already started planning their campaigns. Whether you’ve been planning, or are maybe a little late to the party, read this article to get the scoop on what you need to do now to set yourself up for success this season.
How Much Do Retail Marketers Personalize Websites and Emails | MarketingProfs
I believe there is a direct correlation between the personalization of an email and the success and performance of said email. Each day, email recipients are becoming increasingly selective in what messaging piques their interest.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way about personalization, so it never fails to surprise me when I come across a statistic like this one, found in a recent MarketingProfs article: “Nearly one-third (31%) of online retailers in the United States with annual marketing budgets exceeding $1 million do not personalize their websites in any way.” Hold-up. This stat astonished me – so I kept reading.
This post is chock-full of statistics that will show you what sort of personalization tactics are being utilized in the retail industry, what works best for the companies’ surveyed, and how your company can really take advantage of personalization to stand out.
Adaptive Content: The Omni-Channel Technique You Need to Implement | Content Marketing Institute
This article from Content Marketing Institute stood out to me as one of the most interesting I’ve read in recent memory. It is full of great ideas on the extremely interesting topic of integrating online and offline customer experiences, and, as the title suggests, adaptive content. I think it is worth a read by anyone in the marketing industry, but especially those in email marketing, where it is downright fun to think about all the possibilities in adaptive content and integrating an on-and- offline experience.
The Top 10 Ways To Re-Engage Dead Email Subscribers | KISSmetrics
How many unengaged subscribers are you sending to? According to this article, 60 percent of the average email list is made up of “dead” email subscribers. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Read this article to find ten strategies to put an end to disinterest, win back readers, and prevent future loss.
While you’re prepping your amazing holiday emails, don’t forget to prepare for the forces working against your carefully crafted campaigns: subscriber complaints and low engagement. Read this article for five tips to keep in mind.
Read an interesting email marketing article recently? Do share! Tweet at us or leave us a comment.
Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
The goal of any marketing email should be to reach the recipient’s inbox. The quest for the inbox is why WhatCounts provides a platform that’s optimized for delivery to most prominent email providers, why we offer a full suite of Delivery Services guided by industry experts, and why we’ve partnered with ReturnPath for access to their delivery tools and insight.
Each year, ReturnPath conducts its Inbox Placement Benchmark study, which samples nearly 500 million emails worldwide to identify trends in mail placement. Conducted between May 2013 and April 2014, the most recent study followed commercial mailers across 20 industries sending permission-based email around the world.
The 2014 results, released earlier this week, provided some expected results alongside a few that were a bit surprising. Here are a few of the notable findings and our thoughts on each:
1. Inbox placement…
…from May 2013 to April 2014 was 83 percent worldwide. Six percent of sent mail ended up in the Spam folder while 11 percent didn’t reach the recipient at all – most commonly caused by mail blocks.
2. In the US and UK, inbox placement…
…fared a bit higher at 87 percent overall, but other European senders saw a bit harder time reaching the inbox overall.
3. Among over 150 mailbox providers…
…Gmail provided the highest likelihood of a marketer’s email reaching the inbox. However, this only applied if the mail was delivered to the Promotions tab. Somewhat surprisingly, mail across a specific industry usually saw as good or better read rates for mail delivered to the Promotions tab compared to mail that landed in Primary.
ReturnPath asserts that mail reaching the Primary tab is held to higher standards for engagement and spam complaints, and as a result promotional mail that lands there is likely to be ignored among the recipient’s truly personal emails. This results in decreased engagement, making these messages more likely to end up in spam.
Another possible explanation is that Gmail users have become accustomed to checking their Promotions tab when they are ready to shop, meaning that mail routed to the Primary tab gets left out during the user’s email shopping spree.
4. Health & Beauty emails…
…had the highest inbox rate at 96 percent, while Internet & Technology organizations saw a paltry 43 percent of their mail reach the inbox. Industries that depend heavily on customer relationships – including Retail, Insurance, Non-profits, and Food/Beverage – all saw inbox placement rates at 90 percent or above. Fostering good customer relationships most often leads to loyal followers and consistent email engagement, which leads to increased inbox placement.
5. In one of the more surprising findings…
…inbox rates were consistent through the holiday season. Most in the industry would expect to see a dip in inbox rates thanks to the increased volume of emails from retailers and subscribers who can’t possibly engage with all the email they receive. Instead, the trends showed inbox rates for October-December 2013 were actually slightly higher than those for the preceding four months.
It’s likely this trend was actually helped by the increased volume of email, as the negative factors such as complaint rates saw their impact minimized. Additionally, the offers sent by marketers may have driven higher engagement rates to take advantage of better-than-usual sales.
Finally, ReturnPath also notes…
…the increase in mobile opens may have helped minimize complaint rates in a somewhat unusual way. The data indicates most of the mobile openers are using an iPhone or iPad to access mail, and the Apple Mail app on the iOS platform doesn’t provide an easy option to report a message as spam, unlike many desktop or web-based mail clients. As a result, users may simply ignore the email instead of marking it as spam and logging a complaint against the sender.
The key takeaway from these study results is that getting to the inbox remains a challenge for many marketers. If you’re not sure whether you’re getting to the inbox, are sure that you’re not, or just need help staying there, WhatCounts’ experienced delivery team provides a full complement of service offerings to help you succeed. If you’re interested in details or pricing, please contact email@example.com for further assistance.
Many marketers today are using video to spice up their marketing, educate customers, and talk about products and services. Combining these videos with email, the highest ROI-producing channel, can boost exposure of this your marketing messages.
But don’t let these blockades make you abandon the idea of including video in email. A few simple work-arounds allow you to share your rich video content with your subscriber base.
One successful method for including video in email is embedding an image suggesting video playback by overlaying a play button or other visual cue. Litmus does this quite often in sections of the emails it sends:
Another more frequently used solution is including an animated GIF that accurately depicts the motion of the video and serves as a teaser for a subscriber to view the video in its entirety. Animated GIFs have evolved to be longer, like this one from Scrubs and Beyond:
Note: Animated GIFs aren’t supported by some email clients, including Outlook.
While not truly embedded into the email itself, a video can be hosted by a third party such as YouTube or Vimeo, allowing you to share with those in your network who already engage with your content through that channel.
Another successful option is using the top-notch media-hosting features inside WhatCounts Professional platform to control where the user can click through to after watching the video. An additional benefit of using the platform to host your video instead of a third party is that you can see reporting about who clicked on the video and for how long they watched it.
The science of email testing: It’s a topic a lot of marketers struggle with for a variety of reasons: There’s no time to do it in an already hectic schedule, they don’t know how or what to test in their email campaigns, it’s just too hard to set up. The list goes on and on. But the benefits far outweigh the challenges: Create program-specific benchmarks, engage customers, and grow your bottom line.
In the last week or so, I’ve received a few questions from marketers about A/B testing their email programs. Here are my best answers to those queries.
Q: What percent do you consider a significant difference in testing open or click-through rate to determine success or not?
First, sample size is important: The more subscribers you test on, the more confidence you can have in your results. For a list that has 400k subscribers, look for at least a 10 percent lift in whatever metric you’re tracking. For example, if my email has a 15 percent open rate, a 10 percent lift would be a 16.5 percent open rate. Anything less than a 10 percent lift (or loss for that matter) falls in the realm of inconclusive.
Q: If I send a newsletter on the same day every week and want to test new days to send, should I expect a lower open rate because my new customers are expecting it on a certain day? If yes, when should I expect positive results?
For most A/B tests, you’ll probably see a higher open rate than usual right away…on a different day of the week than when you usually send. If you haven’t tested sending day in a long time, it’s likely your subscriber base has changed and they prefer to see emails on a different day. That being said, a marketer recently told me she completed a best-day-to-send test, and found her customers liked the regular send day best because they’d come to expect it then. Every email program is different, so subscriber reactions to day-of-the-week tests will be different.
If you don’t see positive results right away it’s quite likely that you are either:
- Already sending on the day that happens to be most convenient
- Have conditioned your subscribers to expect the email on a certain day
If you have your subscribers so conditioned they are looking for your weekly email, then you probably don’t want to mess with that.
Q: I remember back in the day, it was said a two-three percent response (click-through rate) was great. What should email marketers expect from their campaigns in general? Or does it vary greatly by industry?
It doesn’t just vary by industry, it varies by individual organization. Every company has a different subscriber list, and those subscribers will give you different response rates than even a similar company in your industry. There are so many variables at play that comparing your email metrics to another program is next to meaningless. Focus on surpassing your own bests and setting your own benchmarks, rather than comparing your metrics to benchmarks you might find in a whitepaper.
This isn’t quite in the realm of testing, but even within one company’s email program, simplistic benchmarks can conceal the full picture, especially when looking at rate. For example, when you prune inactive subscribers from your list (which you should be doing frequently) your rates will automatically increase even if you haven’t increased overall engagement. For this reason, I find it most helpful to focus on improving the metrics that aren’t going to fluctuate due to list hygiene: unique opens, total click-troughs and click-to-open rate.
Q: Have you ever encountered a chosen winner in an A/B split test ultimately having a lower open or click rate than the loser? What could be the cause of this?
This definitely happens. The cause is simple: Your subscribers don’t like it. It’s a simple case of marketers creating content and designs they love – trusting their intuitions – instead of understanding what their subscribers want. But that’s why you test! When your subject line, from name, design, or other testing variable loses, you’ve gained a little more information about your subscribers’ preferences.
A real life example occurred with a client recently. They tested a new header font in their email, and although the test version had a very slightly higher click-rate, it was not significant. They decided not to unleash a major change on their subscribers based on an inconclusive result.
Does a subject line containing only the name of your company result in more conversions? I would be concerned a subject line such as that may have an ambiguous meaning; people may click it thinking it contains one thing, and then be disappointed when the content is something else.
You’re right, it may be a little ambiguous; however, if a specific subject line hasn’t been getting the job done, it’s worth a test. Hopefully, you’re following best practices with your opt-in form and welcome email. Subscribers have opted in to receive your emails and they’re familiar with your company name.
This question is a great reminder that it’s important to always focus on user experience, and not ever mislead subscribers or set expectations you can’t meet.
For more testing strategies and to see innovative A/B tests, grab the recording of Take Your Email Marketing Back to School: The Science of Email Testing.
Digital Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
There are some things that make life better. Fridays and flowcharts are two of those things.
Everyone can use an opportunity to playfully judge his or her approach to email marketing. Go from point A to whatever your point B is and discover what to do next in your journey to email marketing success. Whether you’re just starting to figure out how to send emails or you’re a seasoned pro, there’s always more to learn and improve on when it comes to the world’s top ROI-producing channel.
If your last step on this flowchart was “Ask us!” that means shoot me or some of my email strategy friends an email.
They’re probably right. I’m obsessed with sending only the best messages to people, whether it’s a marketing email or just a regular old reply in my Gmail inbox. Email is the most powerful communications channel today. Send a good message, make a good impression. Send a bad message, make an arch-enemy.
With that in mind, I thought I’d share my five secrets to send a stellar email.
1. No rushing allowed
If your marketing is anything like mine, you’re sending out one or two main emails a week. Those are important messages going to customers, prospects or both. Put time into them. I start creating our weekly newsletter a week before it goes out: Planning the content, reaching out to internal contributors, choosing images, and honing the copy to perfection. When I think it’s ready, I ask myself: Does this email appeal primarily to me or to my subscribers? If it’s the former, I change it to the latter.
Starting to put your marketing emails together early will allow you to create a timely, relevant message that will appeal to subscribers. It will also give you time to complete the other six steps.
2. Proofread it
Whether it’s a marketing email, a reply to a customer request, or an internal shout-out to the team, it pays to proofread. There are a variety of checklists available to help you weed out misspellings, grammatical issues and other errors (my hero is Grammar Girl). Find one and use it. Proofreading will help you avoid sending a sheepish correction email when you’ve messed up – and we’ve all unwillingly been there.
3. Have other people proofread it
Did you think you were done with checking for errors? Technically you are, but it’s time to enlist the help of friends and colleagues. You know as well as I do when you’re looking at copy too long, your eyes tend to glaze over. Other people will be able to pick out mistakes you missed. My sister and I routinely read each other drafts of work and personal correspondences; most of the time, we find glaring blunders the other missed.
For marketing emails, I employ a taskforce of colleagues from various departments to preview what I’ve put together. They often shoot back valuable insight and improvements – they’re the best!
4. Test it multiple times on multiple devices
Before I hit the send button on any marketing email, I make sure to look at a live test version. And although our platform has the capability to update links once an email is sent, I still click every single linked item in the test email. I re-read the copy, check to make sure included dates are correct, and hover over images to ensure alt text is present.
Thankfully, our wonderful design and campaign production services team produced a responsive design for our marketing emails. That means I can design the HTML, and it will convert to a different, mobile-friendly design when I view it on my iPhone. However, I always make sure to look at the design on my phone to make sure images and copy are showing up as they’re supposed to.
Taking the time to make sure everything displays properly and works right is just plain polite.
5. Ask for help
Repeat after me: You can’t do everything. If you’re anything like me, you want to figure out why that image won’t load or why your list disappeared or how to implement a cool new template all on your own. But if you can’t figure it out and that marketing email sends, subscribers may feel subconsciously slighted.
A significant part of email etiquette – and life – is knowing when you can’t do something and asking for help. My team can tell you I do it all the time. They are much smarter than I am in many areas, and leveraging their knowledge compliments them.
Many of these experiences I’ve had to learn the hard way, over a long time of sending. If these tips help just one person pause and commit to send better emails, I’ll consider my mission accomplished.
It’s that time again—we’ve been busy curating our favorite digital marketing articles from the past few weeks (amongst doing a few other things, like prepping for our awesome lifecycle UI workflow release), and we want to share them with you. Read on to increase your digital marketing knowledge.
How to Integrate Social Media Into Your Email Marketing Campaigns | Business2Community
You can go ahead and add social media and email marketing to your list of famous pairs—having one without the other leads to a less than stellar marketing strategy. But many of the benefits garnered from maintaining a robust social program are often overlooked by email marketers, who cling to the fact that email alone holds the highest ROI of any marketing channel. Some of these often ignored benefits are highlighted in this article on Bussiness2Community; including how social media can validate your data, help with segmentation, and with personalizing content for your email communication.
After a nice long holiday weekend last week, it was a great feeling to come back to work refreshed and rejuvenated. If your marketing campaigns need some revitalization, too, this article is for you. Read to find 4 noteworthy tips for how to keep things current with your email program. As a company who preaches all things email, we definitely approve of this list. Plus, the article includes a host of links to industry-leading sources of information that you can peruse after reading the article.
10 Things Every Marketer Should Know About A/B Testing | KISSmetrics
Here at WhatCounts, we love talking about A/B Testing. We even had a webinar on testing last Thursday, which you can catch up on via our website.
This article, written by Nicki Powers for KISSmetrics, explains how A/B testing will help you increase conversion rates on your website—a feat all marketers are consistently striving to achieve. What’s especially great about this article is that the ten tips introduced can also be applied to your email strategy.
Why Your Email Marketing Needs to Get Personal | MarketingProfs
It is easy to observe that personalization is becoming the modern-day standard for interaction of all styles. This article goes over some mind-blowing statistics about how many companies aren’t making use of personalization, and how this void in their communication is sincerely hurting their business. This is a good read on why it is critical to be sending relevant, personalized emails.
Prep For Email Segmentation To Reap These 3 Benefits | Marketing Land
So, you’ve earned yourself some bragging rights for your vast subscriber list, but how much do you really know about them? As many email marketers come to find, extensive data is the key to being successful with your subscribers—and this applies for all list sizes.
Today, marketers need to know how to effectively target subscribers, and you accomplish this by collecting all the information you can get your hands on. In order to get this information, you’ll want to start gathering data at the beginning. This article will walk you through three solid reasons (in case you weren’t already sold) on why you need to be gathering data from square one.
Fill us in on your favorite digital marketing articles from the past few weeks by commenting below or tweeting at us!
Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
By now, most marketers have realized that email is one of the best channels to impact potential customers, current customers, and even lost customers. In fact, email marketing has consistently ranked as the best channel in terms of return on investment. Additionally, I’m sure most professionals can attest to checking their email multiple times a day, so we know if done properly, email can make a definite impact.
But these facts are not kept under lock-and-key. Email is not a secret weapon that only the savviest marketers know about. Instead, email is increasingly becoming a mainstay in practically everyone’s marketing mix. Because of this, standing out in the inbox amongst the onslaught of other emails is crucial, not to mention difficult.
One method which has seen a great deal of success, not to mention a down-right positive response from customers, is directly personalized emails.
Personalized emails have confirmed themselves to be successful. In fact, personalization can deliver up to 6x higher transaction rates; proving that they have a well-deserved place in your email marketing mix. One type of personalization that is worth testing on your audience is sending emails from a personal email address, opposed to the brand address. For example, instead of sending an email with the personalization confined to the first name of the recipient, up the ante by sending it from the name and email address of a sales or marketing professional at your company.
Here is an example from our partner, Movable Ink.
Let’s walk through the fundamentals that must be considered when crafting, scheduling and sending this specific type of personalized message.
Just because you are sending an email from a personal email address, does not mean you’re free to ignore compliance standards. If you are sending commercial or transactional messages to a group, you need to include a clearly marked opt-out/unsubscribe link. You also need to include your physical mailing address to notify recipients where you are located. Finally, you will also want to ensure the email address you are sending from has been approved by the manager of that account. It is important that this email address is valid and that there is someone on the other side that will receive any responses to the email, and be able to answer in a timely fashion. To that note, it is ideal to send from a familiar address that readers will recognize; this is a benefit to you, as subscribers will be much more likely to open your email.
Typically, the thought behind sending from a personal email address is that you want the email to appear as if it was actually written and sent from that person, and not from an automation tool. Achieve this by keeping your message simple and clean—essentially appearing as a plain text email. You want to make the recipient feel that this is a natural conversation with another person. Keep images at a minimum—in fact, it is preferable to exclude images all together for this approach.
When designing your email, you will want to consider how to include the physical mailing address and opt-out link to where it is not hidden, but is discreet, so it does not take away from the essence of your email. An option could be to pop this information right into the persons email signature.
The best way to determine how often to send this type of email is (surprise!) to perform some testing and see what responds—how often is too much and what is just right. Although sending group emails from a personal send address is likely to earn you some extra high open rates, you most likely do not want to employ this format on a regular basis—it may lose some of its luster if it is your most common style of email.
Instead of going all in, test out the waters on noteworthy scenarios, such as an event your company is hosting, or a really useful whitepaper. See what happens when you send a personalized email three times in a row for one event, and then scale back to once out of three times for the next event.
When crafting your subject line, it makes sense to ditch the marketing speak. Personally, when an email is coming from a “person,” but the subject line is blatantly promotional, I immediately catch what’s going on and am much less likely to open the email. For emails coming from a personal address, the draw is often in the simplicity and personal nature of the email, not necessarily an attention grabbing subject line (which would be a must for a most other email sends).
So, next time you are looking for a successful method to make an impact in the inbox, test out sending from a person over the brand, and see how it performs.
Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Do you ever wish there was an easy way to view your email designs on every screen size available?
It’s no secret: of course you do.
Mobile viewership of email is skyrocketing, going head-to-head with desktops. The problem isn’t that we don’t know hand-held devices are here to rule the world. It just seems as if there are countless versions of screen sizes to design for, including giant phones and mini tablets.
Your first response should be to narrow down the results of the most popular devices used to view your emails. You can usually find this in the reporting section of your email service provider. Work on responsive designs, or at the very least mobile-friendly layouts, that works best with those screens.
Now it’s time to preview your emails on those devices, and you don’t have to make a trip to Best Buy to do it.
The best-kept secret for previewing emails on multiple devices is actually a simple feature in the Google Chrome browser. Gasp!
It’s not fancy, but it gets the job done. The process is simple:
- Open the .html file with your email’s HTML content in Chrome. One way to do this is by selecting the “view in browser” link.
- Right click and choose Inspect Element from the dropdown menu.
- Hit the ESC key on your keyboard.
- Click on the Emulate tab.
- From the dropdown, choose the device screen size in which you want to see your email.
Important: Refresh the screen before you choose a new screen size to emulate. Otherwise, you’ll be SOL.
Done! Your email will appear as it does on the chosen device, including any responsive design you’ve built into it.
And if you want your emails to be responsive, (and super engaging), but you’re not sure how to get started, just hit us up. We’ve got your back.
If you’ve ever moved, you know it takes a long time to unpack and get everything in order. Lots of stuff gets lost in the shuffle between the old place and the new. You almost always find one of those lost items a few months after the move, dust it off, and find a new place for it.
A website redesign is a lot like a move. You pick up all of the existing content on your website and throw it into a whole new space, where the old styles, formats, forms and other whatnot may not fit. Landing pages accidentally get left behind. Important features of your website disappear and you have to dig through your “boxes” of content and code to find them. It can take a long time to get your website up-and-running the way it was before the redesign.
Speaking from experience, this kind of thing happened to us when we redesigned our website earlier this year. And about a month ago, we rediscovered a long-missed feature: the popup email opt-in form.
We’d used the popup feature on and off on our old site. There’s a lot of controversy about the effectiveness of popups, also known as light boxes. There’s no doubt people find them annoying, seeing as they do that “popping up” action when subscribers hit websites. What many marketers believe is that the annoyingness leads to negative actions, such as someone leaving their site.
When we reinstated our popup, we wanted to see if these doubting Thomases were right, or if the irritating aspects of the hovering opt-in would get people to take a positive action, such as follow the call-to-action and say yes to receive our email newsletter.
The first step was to design a popup that matched our website redesign, give a value proposition (We Love Email!), and include a call-to-action: Sign up. Next, we released it into the wild to see what it would do. We checked back in a little over a month’s time to see how it was fairing.
The results? We’d received a little over 1,300 new subscribers since the addition of the popup to the website. In the year before the popup went live on our website, we received just 2,058 new subscribers via the website.
Talk about finding hidden gold in the leftover website “moving boxes”!
So do popups work for email subscriptions? Definitely. Are they still annoying? They can be, but there are ways to make them less so. For example, we adjusted the settings on our popup so visitors only see it a maximum of three times.
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From the Blog
Learn digital marketing tips, tricks and strategies from some of our top blog posts:
The ABCs of Email Testing: Learn about top strategies for testing your emails.
5 Easy Tips to Make Your Subject Lines Stand Out: Get noticed in the inbox with these subject line tips.
The One Thing You Should Never, Ever Do: Keep your email marketing program healthy by following this one, easy-to-do tip.