An entrance exam for collegiate marketing degrees really should include the person’s ability to handle rejection, because they are in for a lot of it over their careers. Marketing is about creating an idea based on information, putting it out there to create response, analyzing the results and then trying again with the new information they gathered. Rejection after rejection after rejection, we strive on.
So before you look at your statistics for your recent email campaigns and think no one loves you and that you may as well close up shop, lets have a little heart-to-heart on what your email expectations are and some ways you can improve your strategy.
Let’s talk numbers (Eeek!)
There are a lot of things that go into getting action from your emails, but a large portion of the battle is getting them to open your email in the first place. Most programs will actually classify an email as ‘opened’ if the email images are downloaded. So that way if they are simply being skipped over in the preview pane of an email program, it doesn’t skew the open rate results.
The open rate is simply the number of emails opened divided by the number of emails delivered to give you a percentage. There are loads of averages touted by various companies, but it tends to hover between 15 and 40% depending on what industry you’re in and what you’re offering.
While deliverability doesn’t directly affect this percentage, it does affect the number of physical people that actually open the email since it gets to more people as your deliverability goes up. But that’s for another blog at another time so I’ll stay focused for the moment!
So, what sorts of things affect your open rates? Loads of variables exist, but those within your power to control include the following:
- Email Database Health
- Email Frequency
- Subject lines
The Health of Your Database
A healthy email database isn’t necessarily about the size or quantity of contacts (although this is nice!), but the level of engagement you can derive from the list. An engaged audience is one that will open, interact and demonstrate interest in the communications coming from your business. Sounds like a dream, right?
Well, it’s not impossible! You just need to be building your database correctly and being respectful of your contacts wants. Here are some tips to nurture your email database to as healthy as possible:
- Only include contacts that have requested to receive emails from your business.
- Be specific about what kinds of emails you intend to send.
- Only send emails that you told them about and ask them to opt into any additional email lists. For example, if they signed up for a newsletter and you also want to send them promotions, they should opt into that list separately.
- Include multiple levels of engagement in every email piece. For example, a link to a cool video, a link to book an appointment on your website, a link to join your Facebook community, etc.
- Include periodic reasons for engagement such as a sweepstakes to keep them looking for your emails.
Directly related to your email database health, but worth talking about separately, is email frequency. This is one of the number one boo-boo’s that most marketers make because they have so many things to talk about, but forget that consumers only care about what’s relevant to them. You need to make sure you aren’t bombarding your clients with emails, otherwise you’ll get them in the habit of doing the automatic deletions or just a simple skip-over.
Keep your email frequency to 8-10 per list and 12 maximum overall per year, with the exception of campaigns that are connected to frequency such as a monthly e-newsletter. If you send a lot of promotional emails, though, I’d even caution sending it monthly. Maybe consider a quarterly newsletter so the volume stays below the obnoxious level.
A lot of clients always ask me why this number is so low compared to a lot of big brands that are always harassing our inboxes. And to this I first have to say, “Good question.” Secondly, it’s because they have millions of contacts and they’ve highly segmented these contacts into loads of different lists based on their engagement in email. Someone that has a tendency to react to special deals and prices, will get more emails with smaller amounts of text simply trying to get them to buy small amounts at low prices very often.
They try this tactic first, and when someone wants to opt out of the emails due to frequency issues, they offer a downsizing option to reduce the frequency and give them content less often.
The key thing here is that they are using the engagement statistics to create sub-lists and market according to their email behavior. For the rest of us that don’t have an entire team dedicated to monitoring email trends at that granular level, it’s safe to stick to 8-10 per list with the cap of 12/year.
Compelling Subject Lines
Now to the fun stuff – you need to know how to use your subject lines to get interest in your emails. There are some rules of thumb to follow when creating your subject lines:
- Don’t sell in your subject line.
- Be specific about the content of the email.
- Keep it under 40 characters.
- Use personalization.
These are some basic things to think about when writing your subject lines, but if you forget everything else in your marketing life, remember this: they don’t care about you; they only care about themselves. Therefore, you should be writing subject lines that reflect the individual as much as possible. How in the heck do you do this when you are sending an email to thousands of people?! You, of course, send targeted email campaigns when possible rather than overall eblasts. Again, another blog another time, but in the meantime, keep your subject lines as relevant as possible.
Finally, it’s proven that the subject lines that more closely relate to the content in the email have the highest open rates. People don’t like being tricked into opening an email and finding it’s not what they expected. This will alienate your email contacts and decrease their tendency to open future emails. Downward spiral, please commence….
Recent studies have shown that the majority of engagement in emails happen within the first 24 hours, so you have to be pretty persuasive to get that open from them. If you aren’t where you want to be right away, don’t worry – just keep working at nurturing that email database and creating emails that your clients are looking for. Remember, these emails are for them, not you.
See you next week!