Email Marketing Tactics

What’s stopping you? 12 Reasons Your Emails Aren’t Making It to the Inbox

Let’s say you have 100,000 names on your subscriber list and an email deliverability rate of 50%. What’s the value of all those many names on your list? Exactly. Half what is could be.

You’ll probably never achieve a 100% inbox penetration, but given the low cost an upside potential of emails, you should get your deliverability rate as high as can be and keep it that way.

1) You bought an email list.

Seriously? It’s 2017 and that’s not cool and thanks to services like BlackBox, your ESP will find out.

2) You didn’t ramp up your IP address slowly and carefully.

Or maybe you didn’t ramp up your new IP address at all? If you’ve switched ESPs or for some other reason you migrated to a new IP address, you should have taken steps to slowly, carefully and methodically start emailing your list, building a reputation as you go. If you didn’t, that’s going to work against your email deliverability for a long while.

3) You’re sending to people who didn’t opt in.

I mean, these people or your customers but they didn’t ask to receive your promotional email. This has always been a sticky subject. Now it’s a big deal because of the Canadian anti-spam law (CASL), which is much more strict in defining opt in compared to the CAN Spam law passed by the U.S. Read the rules. Follow them. And only send to people who really want to hear from you.

4) You’re acting like a spammer.

Sure, you might not think you’re acting like a spammer but someone somewhere does. There are all kinds of ways to act like a spammer. If you’re using all capital letters, dirty HTML, or words and phrases that trigger spam filters, you’re acting like a spammer. And spammers get blocked.

5) Your sender reputation sucks.

As with real life, your reputation precedes you. And the ISPs will use your reputation to keep your email out of their customers’ inboxes if they believe you to be a spammer or unwanted sender. You can find out your sender reputation here and then take steps to fix it.

6) You have a dusty email list.

As tedious as it might sound, list hygiene is an important part of your email deliverability so scrub your undeliverable emails. There are lots of companies that offer list verification, some good, some not so good. That’s why we created this simple email verification recommendation service to help you find the best companies with the best rates.

7) You’re in a shared IP pool with some bad company.

This is one of those email deliverability issues you can’t tackle alone. If you’re in a shared IP pool with email marketers who don’t follow best practices, their reputation mars yours. Talk to your ESP about this.

8) You’re boring.

Ho hum yaaaaawwwn…. Oh, sorry! Did you say something? If your email messages fail to excite, compel or engage, your subscribers are probably not bothering to open your emails—and that tells the ISPs that you’re spam, since you’re being ignored. Be so good they can’t ignore you. Services like Phrasee can help ensure your emails get opened.

9) You send too many emails too often.

Spam is in the eyes of the beholder, and you don’t get to say whether you’re spam or not. They do. Who’s they? The people on your email list. Most spam reports aren’t due to emails promoting land in Costa Rica or Nigerian princes in need. No, most spam reports are generated by people who just don’t want your email any longer. Period. When you send too many emails too often, you’re annoying, and people will report those emails as spam in order to stop getting them. Send better email or slow your roll.

10) You’re not listening to the ISPs.

Do you have an abuse@yourdomain.com email address? If not, set one up, so ISPs can easily contact you about issues. If you’re messing up, they’re not going to mess around trying to contact you. Make it easy for them to be proactive on your behalf.

11) You’re not authentic.

What kinds of authentication are you using to prove to the world that you are who you say you are? Commonly used types of authentication are SPF, DKIM and DMARC. If you’re not using any of these, it’s time to start. Authentication protects your sender reputation, publishes the mail servers that can send on your behalf, and offers a way to identify your email as really being from you.

12) You ignore your email reporting.

If you don’t know something’s broke, how are you supposed to fix it? Keep a constant eye on your email reporting, and you’ll spot the downward trend that tells you a problem is brewing. Or maybe there’s no trend, only trouble, and you suddenly can’t email anyone with a certain address because you’re now blocked by an ISP. Wouldn’t you rather know in real time when there’s a problem you need to fix? Then pay attention to your email reporting—on a regular basis.

OK, be honest now: Out of these 12 things, which ones are you guilty of? And when are you going to stop doing them? Because the sooner you stop, the sooner your emails will get into more inboxes. And that, my friend, gives every one of those names a lot more value…and potential for ROI.

The difference between B2B and B2C email marketing

As B2B marketers we tend to look at others for inspiration. To innovate we often take what other marketing organizations have done and built on those ideas to improve and make them more interesting. When it comes to using email marketing to develop leads, though, there is one tricky part of the equation. There are B2B emails and there are B2C emails and they are not identical twins.

In this post, we’ll look at the differences between B2B email marketing and B2C email marketing. You’ll want to pay attention because while some of the methodologies are the same the differences are important because the outreach strategy for one might not work for the other.

B2B Email Marketing

B2B opportunities tend to be large. There are exceptions on both sides of the fence. There are small purchases in B2B and large purchases in B2C, but in general, the large purchases lean toward the business-to-business world.

Because the purchases are larger there should be more marketing in B2B email marketing than sales. There are many different reasons why people subscribe, not all tied directly to sales but rest assured people don’t sign up just because they are in the mood to be sold to.

What does this mean?

By now, all B2B companies know that from the time a new prospect is initially reached, the emails should work to guide, educate and qualify the prospect – like a salesperson might do. Nobody ever bought a house based on one email. In B2B email marketing, you have to respect the buying stage that the prospect is in and that it will take many more contact moments before a sale is made.

The first email might include a high-level overview of the features and, client-focused, benefits, but it can largely be a follow up of your content incentives used for lead generation. Subsequent emails will often provide additional insight into the industry, and eventually, additional products and services offered by the company.

The entire process,  one that works in concert with your CRM system, web analytics, and sales team, is about presenting the problems that exist and taking the prospective client down the path of solving that issue. Remember, that being persistent is often what will drive success.

B2C Email Marketing

A common scenario is to see an email that puts the pressure on your to purchase. Email marketing and urgency go hand in hand in B2C email marketing. You’ll see a sale that is ending soon and you have to act now otherwise you’ll miss the promotion. Urgency is actually one of the areas where B2C and B2B are similar. B2Bs do try to get urgency attached to their offer too but at the risk of it being less believable than it is in the B2C arena.

Of course, that is a grand generalization, but B2C companies tend to be more aggressive in tone. B2C email marketing is the fact that many acquisition-focused campaigns are directly sales-focused. This means that the email is about getting to a sale, quickly. Purchase price tends to be on the small side for B2C products so the sales process is more impulsive and quick. Just have a look at the call-to-actions like “Buy now”, “Pre-order”, “Shop”, etc.

You might see an email that introduces a new product. The expectation is that you immediately become interested in the item and make the purchase. Email is an ideal medium for impulse buys. Sometimes even without showing you the actual product yet. It might work, but if you think of it is pretty bizarre.  Here is an example of that in an email from Neiman Marcus.

Nieman-Marcus Email
(Image courtesy of Notablist.com)

Although there are still there are some differences here in adoption rate for the B2C and B2B audiences, you can expect all of your emails nowadays to be read on mobile. Do we need to go mobile first? At least make sure your email all incorporate best practices for responsive email design.

Finally, B2C emails tend to not follow along welcome series, once the prospect becomes a customer or opts-in. It is usually not longer than one or two emails until the program flips back to “standard newsletter”- mode. This is in contrast to some advanced B2B email marketing campaigns who well know client cultivation.

Final Thoughts B2B vs. B2C Email Marketing

These differences in B2B and B2C email marketing are important to note. If you understand the differences you can really focus in on what will work best for your company.

On some occasions, you can use inspiration from one for the other. It might be a way to get a little edge on the competition.

Send Less Email? Yes. No. Maybe. It Depends.

Send Less Email? Yes. No. Maybe. It All Depends.

The other day I got an email promoting a guide on how sending less email could generate more revenue. The guide wasn’t much help, but it got me to thinking…

What I started thinking about is the question, should you send less email? And my answer is yes. If you are sending generic emails that aren’t targeted to your subscribers nor of interest to them, then yes, you should definitely send less email.

“But sending more email is how I generate more ROI!,” some email marketers will complain.

OK, I’ll give you that. Sending more email means you’re getting into more inboxes and increasing the likelihood of conversions. However, sending higher numbers of emails that are more about what you want to say and less about what your subscribers want to see will also generate:

  • Spam complaints
  • Unsubscribes
  • Ill will
  • Deliverability issues

Sending more email might increase sales, but it also might result in negative consequences.

Why some marketers need to email less often

But I don’t really believe marketers should send less email. I know from experience that sending more email really does work—when they are the right kind of emails!

When you look at the research, however, it does seem like we might as a whole be sending too many emails in the eyes of the consumers. One study has downright gloomy numbers, with 69% saying they unsubscribe because they are getting too many emails.

However, the problem isn’t that marketers send too many emails, per se. The problem is those marketers who send too many irrelevant emails—because consumers don’t want the irrelevant emails, or at least not so many of them.

According to one study on consumers views on email marketing:

  • 43% want less email from businesses
  • 24.2% want emails that are more informative
  • 23.9%  want more personalized emails

If you add those two bottom numbers together, you get almost the same percentage as the first number. That tells me that wanting less email yet wanting better email probably go hand in hand.

In fact, if you send email your subscribers want to get—targeted, relevant, personalized, timely—then that 43% number would probably go down. Why? Because what consumers are really saying when they say, “I want less email from businesses” is really, “I want better email from businesses.”

Send better email, not less email

As I said at the beginning, if you’re sending generic, one-size-fits-all emails that aren’t targeted, relevant or timely, then please: Send less email. You’re making everything harder for all of us. (Note the statistics cited above for proof!)

On the other hand, if you want to do a better job, to create and send emails your subscribers eagerly await, open and act upon, then send better email, not less. What’s better email? Email that’s of interest to each subscriber individually.

Better email is what happens when you segment, putting subscribers into like-minded groups based on basics such as gender and geography, then later based on specifics such as browsing behavior and purchase history.

Better email happens when you choose to put the subscriber first and send information that’s personalized (sound familiar?) to what you know about them based on the data you’re collecting.

Better email happens when you deliver dynamic content to ensure personalization.

Better email is also what happens when you pay attention and get proactive about your inactives.

Send better email, get better results

So now you have to choose: send fewer or send better. Since targeted types of emails perform better, I hope your obvious choice is the “send better” choice. Because they are emails consumers want to receive, they improve your:

  • Engagement
  • Deliverability
  • Open rates
  • Click-through rates
  • Conversion rates
  • And ROI!

Sounds like savvy marketing to me!

Bonus point: Giving consumers control can help

Does your brand have a preference center, or any other way for subscribers to tell you how frequently they want to hear from you? If not, think about it. An article in MarketingProfs.com says 40% of respondents would decide not to unsubscribe if only a brand would let them change the frequency of the emails they’re receiving. It lets the subscriber go from “too many” emails to “just enough”—rather than none at all, which is nothing but bad for business.

The danger of too few emails

Simply decreasing the number of emails you send is not the answer. You could email too infrequently as a result. When you’re not emailing often enough, you’re risking your brand, sender reputation and deliverability. So it’s not as if you can make up some number that is “the” best number of emails for you to send in a given period of time.

Choose instead to improve, but also test to find that sweet spot where your frequency is high yet your unsubscribe rate is low. But most importantly, choose to improve.

And really it keeps coming back to one simple fact: When subscribers get content they want to get, you can email them more often and not annoy them…at all.

Want to Rock Your Email Marketing in 2017? Skip the Sexy Stuff and Master These 4 Fundamentals First

Which new and innovative marketing tactics are you planning to introduce in 2017? You have plenty of ideas to choose from, like augmented reality and Instagram photo contests, to name just a few.

But—despite the draw of these sometimes spectacularly popular ideas (like the craziness of Pokémon Go in 2016)—email is still the most preferred brand communication channel for pretty much everyone of every age, including Baby Boomers (73%), Generation X (71%), Millennials (62%) and Generation Z (65%). Yes, even Millennials prefer email. Forget the Millennial myth. Millennials do use email, and it’s their preferred way to hear from businesses like yours.

Email still matters

This is no small point I’m making here: No matter how many fancy schmancy ways retailers try to market to customers, those customers by and large still prefer email over other channels as the means by which they want to hear from those retailers. Sure they might have a blast tracking down a Pikachu or snapping a picture of their dog with a beer, but that’s not about your communications with them.

It’s easy to be distracted by the new and shiny when they go viral and they’re all over social media, but the facts are that email still matters for any marketer trying to increase revenue. So make sure your email program is constantly improving in 2017.

Master the fundamentals first

Be careful not to get sucked in by all the new, shiny, sexy, trendy stuff (cough cough beacons cough cough) while ignoring the fundamentals. Chasing the latest and greatest isn’t a bad thing. But it is an unnecessary thing if you haven’t mastered the basic building blocks of a strong email marketing program first.

So what should you really be focused on in 2017—before you start planning for a viral virtual marketing campaign or trying out some new technology that still has a low adoption rate? In my opinion, mindful of the fact that email still matters as much as it does, there are four fundamentals you should master before moving on to any other kind of digital marketing. Those four fundamentals are:

  1. Mobile
  2. Personalization
  3. Automation
  4. Testing

Fundamental 1: Mobile

Maybe you’re sick of hearing about mobile marketing by now. Maybe you’ve mastered it. Not all marketers have, however, and that’s going to work against those who haven’t. Although the numbers vary regarding the percentage of consumers checking email on a mobile device, those numbers are all high—and increasing.

What does it mean to master mobile? To deliver emails that render well, no matter the device they’re viewed on, and to offer landing pages that mobile friendly as well. If your email shows up on a smartphone and looks like crap, it will probably be deleted or at least ignored. And if your email looks good but a click-through leads to a clunky web experience, you’re probably going to lose that prospect at that point.

Lesson? Master mobile.

Fundamental 2: Personalization

If you don’t want to personalize your email marketing because you don’t think it’s worth the trouble, you’ve been outvoted: Consumers think it’s worth the trouble, and they expect it. According to a Mapp infographic,

  • 77% expect email marketing to be personalized based on information they’ve submitted about their profile;
  • 76% expect email marketing to be personalized based on past purchases;
  • and 62% expect email marketing to be personalized based on browsing behavior.

Privacy is no longer the concern it used to be because consumers are willing to give up some privacy in exchange for email marketing content that’s relevant and interesting to them.

You have multiple opportunities to gather data about customers. Do so, and use it. Segment your audiences. Personalize your content. Offer a preference center that lets your consumers have a say in the kind of emails they get and the frequency with which they get them.

Fundamental 3: Automation

Depending on your email service provider or inhouse solution, you’ll have varied options for automating your email, but you should take advantage of every one in order to reduce your workload and improve your efficiencies. Here are just a few ways you can use automation for better email marketing in 2017:

  • Send a welcome series to a new subscriber or customer.
  • Use triggered emails to send personalized emails based on a user’s behavior, such as a subscription, download or purchase.
  • Automate the personalizing of content.
  • Automate your email reporting.
  • Have a re-activation campaign in place that starts automatically after X months of inactivity.

If you’re not yet using automation and triggered emails, develop a strategy for doing so. Onboard new customers after a purchase or if you’re B2B marketer, develop a piece of content to offer that you can follow up with a drip campaign.

Fundamental 4: Testing

Although Jay Baer is talking about content marketing when he says it should be about “test, test, test not guess, guess, guess,” you can make the same argument for email marketing. Test always and test everything. Think beyond your subject lines to test everything that’s part of the three fundamentals described above. Test your mobile marketing.

Test for the kinds of personalization that perform better than others. Do you customers want personalized content? How about testing for frequency? Do you know your ideal cadence? Does it differ between one segment and the next, with one group wanting more emails and another wanting fewer? In one study, 41% of respondents said they prefer a weekly email and only 8% want a daily one. How will you know which your customers prefer if you don’t test?

You need to test in order to maximize gathering information for your personalization too. Just how much can you ask for on a signup page? Can you ask for gender, age and ZIP code? Or do people start dropping like flies when you add just one more field? Test and optimize those forms so you can optimize your personalization.

Test for the best ways to use automation. How many emails should you use in a triggered welcome series? Two, four, one? Test and find out.

There will always be something to test just as there will always be something to tempt you away from these fundamentals. And tempted you may be! As long as you have your mobile marketing, personalization, automation and testing rock solid, your email marketing will rock in 2017—and then you can go after the shiny new stuff and have a little fun!

The Holiday Email Marketing Balancing Act

The Holiday Email Marketing Balancing Act: Turning Email Volume Up and Down to Capitalize on the Giving Season

Turning Email Volume Up and Down to Capitalize on the Giving Season

Has your email inbox gotten more crowded since the holiday email marketing season has begun? Of course it has. Now email after email hits my inbox, most of them from brands I buy from, but definitely in a higher volume than usual.

That’s not unusual, as you know. Marketers send more email during the holidays. Last year, email volume increased 23% over the previous year. And it will likely do the same thing this year, because research shows and experience supports that sending more email equals more revenue.

But here’s the thing: Even if the increase in frequency you’re doing is optimized, your customers are also on the receiving end of everyone else’s increase in frequency too. So to maximize your revenue and good will consider these simple tactics this season.

Send more of the right kind of email
You’re not doing anything wrong by sending more email, but you do risk generating some ill will because you become part of that cumulative onslaught. With that in mind, here’s an idea: To make sure you’re maximizing your effect (and ROI) during the holiday email influx, maybe you should decrease the number of other emails you usually send.

Turn down the one…
“What?”,  you’re probably thinking. “Send less email??” Yes, less email, but I don’t mean your holiday campaigns. I mean your non-holiday drip campaigns, triggered emails that are unrelated to buying.

…and turn up the other
Then turn up the volume on your holiday email marketing. Send more one-off bespoke campaigns, or do something simple like resending campaigns to non-openers using different subjects lines. Also send more behavior-based or transaction-based triggers like cart abandonment and browse abandonment emails, as well as “you might also like” cross-selling and up-selling emails. Rather than send more of all kinds of email, focus on sending more of the emails that are appropriate to this busy buying time of year.

Taking this approach is also an opportunity to stand out: Given that email is so valuable this time of year, it might be a good time to take some of your programs off auto-pilot and opt for creative campaigns that stand out in the inbox instead.

An email marketing self-improvement plan (you can actually stick with).

email marketing self-improvement plan

January will soon be here and with it the New Year’s Resolutions. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, these resolutions are part of the fabric of our lives these days, and they do have the potential to motivate…even if we don’t make a serious change as a result of making resolutions.

However, if you’re feeling like your career could use a boost, a resolution to improve might be just the ticket. Maybe work has become drudgery, or you think you’re doing repetitive motions with the same email marketing methods day after day or month after month. Or perhaps you know you’re falling behind the curve and you want to get ahead of it once again. Even if none of these apply, self-improvement is always a good goal to pursue, but especially in an industry that changes as quickly as ours does.

To make that self-improvement easy to pursue, I’ve put together a plan for you for 2017, as your step-by-step guide to getting better at email—and your job—every day, week and month of the year.

Daily: Make time to read
Spend 15-20 minutes a day reading about email marketing. Find one or two email marketing blogs or newsletters that you get a lot out of, and commit to keeping up with them. I know this part is hard. I sit down to my computer and get so wrapped up in the work to be done, the emails to be answered, and the calls to be returned that I don’t always stick to my plan to educate myself daily. Strive to make it a habit, however, and you will learn and improve, little by little, every single day. If you’re not sure where to start, you can always count on MarketingProfs.com to provide great content, and email geeks such as ChadJordie, and Loren regularly offer great information.

Weekly: Participate in a LinkedIn group
Join an email-focused LinkedIn group—and participate in it, or at least be sure to pay attention to the conversations. My personal bias/favorite is Email Gurus but there are several others to choose from. If you’re really committed, you’ll pay attention daily, but if that’s too much, subscribe to the weekly email digest to see what has happened and been discussed…and to chime in if appropriate.

Monthly: Read a marketing book
You’re not going to find a new email marketing book published each month, but just as email marketing is made up of many parts, so should your education be. Books on persuasion, copywriting, design principles, social media, buying behavior and the like should all be on your list. If you’re not sure what’s new and recommended, check out this list at Forbes.com. Also consider the classics such as just about anything by Seth Godin, “Selling the Invisible” by Harry Beckwith, and “How To Win At B2B Email Marketing” by Adam Holden-Bache or  any of the books on this list of 10 classics.

Semi-annually: Do your competitive research
This might be some of the best self-education you’ll do! Set up a fake email address, subscribe to their emails, and start taking notes use or pay for services like Notablist or eDataSource. But if you’re more budget minded you can find all kinds of tips for doing a competitive analysis by Googling the topic, but don’t get too wrapped up in the approach. The main thing is to just do it—and learn from it.

Annually: Attend a major email marketing conference
If you’re lucky enough to live in big city with active marketing groups putting on regular events, take advantage of those. Whether or not you have that opportunity for ongoing education, however, do try to attend one big conference per year. You’ll get a big huge dose of new knowledge, but you’ll also get re-invigorated as you network with peers, share stories and gain a fresh perspective. (And hey, a little time away from the office can re-energize us too!)

Here are some conferences to consider:

That short list is literally just the tip of the iceberg, and it could be the timing, the travel or the cost won’t work for you. Don’t despair! Choose something else that does work, even if it’s not as big in scale. For more possibilities, see this comprehensive list pulled together by MarketingTerms. It’s not email specific, but it’s a good place to look for conferences during a certain time of year or in a certain location. Also be sure to check the DMA’s calendar for all kinds of different marketing events.

This list looks doable, right? So do it. Make 2017 a year to go from so-so to stellar in your email marketing career by tapping into all of the many resources you have available for self-improvement.

10 Email Testing Pitfalls + 15 Pro Tips

Email Marketing Pitfalls

Email is a numbers game, and we have all kinds of numbers we can measure. But when it comes right down to what really matters, money is the most important metric. And the more of it you earn, the better your ROI, right? The challenge is, knowing how to make more of it. And that’s why we test.

However, testing is kind of like flossing your teeth. You know you should do it, but you oftentimes only do a poor job or skip it altogether…until your semi-annual trip to the dentist looms large on your calendar. Then you’re flossing daily, but you can’t really undo all the neglect from the days, weeks or months you skipped.

The takeaway here is that flossing should be a regular habit—and testing should too. And like flossing, testing should be done to maximize results. Unlike flossing, there isn’t one set way to test to get one predetermined result. We’ve performed thousands of tests in our 18 years in this business. We still don’t know what will work, because it all varies greatly depending user-base and company, and best practices are only temporary at best.

However, we have gleaned quite a list of testing do’s and don’ts over the years, and we present them here, both the common pitfalls to avoid and tips for better testing.

Above all, remember that testing only seems hard. It’s not.

10 common email testing pitfalls

Below are the mistakes we commonly see marketers making—marketers who are well intentioned and want to test, but who are also getting in their own way when they do so. We highly recommend you avoid these:

  1. Waiting for IT or others to help make the testing happen. This is the slow death of a successful promotional email.
  2. Doing multivariate testing rather than a simple A/B split test. Multivariate seems awesome but hard to decipher. Instead, use A/B split testing to find your diamond, and then perhaps multivariate testing to polish it.
  3. Using unequal data sets. Be they quantity or records and time periods.
  4. Focusing in inconsequential details, otherwise known as not seeing the forest for the trees. When marketers test for logos, footer text, and little things like that, they are losing the opportunity to test for what really matters, like offers.
  5. Testing the wrong thing. Like opens rather than conversions. Opens are easy but unreliable, even dangerous.
  6. Investing too many resources into a single test. This only leads to wasted time and effort, and time is critical in email.
  7. Testing too often.
  8. One-time vs. ongoing. Avoid the set-it-and-forget-it mentality. Create a culture of testing instead.
  9. Lack of segmentation: These are the marketers testing for the lowest common denominator. These tests won’t take you far.
  10. Not validating the results. Take into account difference times and regularly monitor gain.

15 Ways to Take Email Testing to the Next Level

These aren’t best practices, per se, rather ways to do testing better.

  1. Create a culture of testing: Be relentless. In this case, fast and steady wins the race.
  2. Be agile and streamline processes. Find ways to be fast and use fewer resources.
  3. Align goals with effort: What are your goals? Lifetime value? Quarterly revenue? Customer loyalty? Be clear on the goals of your program and be clear on the goals of individual emails and campaigns too.
  4. Start big: Test apples vs. oranges, not red apples vs. green apples. For example, test offers and subject lines before CTAs and body copy.
  5. Find your champion via A/B split testing.
  6. Then iterate your champion.
  7. Validate: Retest your champion twice annually.
  8. Focus on If those are unavailable, then the open-to-click ratio. If that’s not possible, look at opens and clicks.
  9. A/B test one element every X days. Then move to test next most important element.
  10. Name things appropriately, with the goal in mind, because it makes a difference in how you approach the testing and what you look for in results. For example, your Welcome email should perhaps be renamed your Upsell email.
  11. Test your “forgotten” pages, such as your thank you page, confirmation page, etc. If you’re not testing these, at least evaluate them.
  12. Optimize the post-click experience: This is the fastest way to boost ROI.
  13. Put some skin in the game: Use team incentives, like a Starbucks gift card.
  14. Invest 25%-50% of your production time into testing.
  15. Monitoring is critical, so do it. Organize and schedule reports. Use the tools available to you.

Testing doesn’t have to be rocket science, and really should be quite simple to do yet profitable too, when you make it a habit, and do it regularly and well.


Art by Justin M. Buoni // Just Justin Art

Words by Gerald Marshall // Email Industries


 

How to Create a Fantastic Email Call-to-Action

narwhal-email

Marketers know the call to action plays a critical role in email marketing success. In a recent Ascend2 study, 65% of respondents said a meaningful call to action was THE most effective way to increase click-through rates.

Improving a call to action (CTA) can be a complex thing, however, especially on smart phones and other mobile devices where a CTA can easily get lost in the crowd of a cluttered email, or be too hard to click on within a small screen.

These are not insurmountable issues, however. Rather, it’s quite easy to create more compelling calls to action by, well, taking action. To help you take action on your calls to action, below we offer our tried-and-true tactics for creating calls to action that compel. Always remember, though: You need to test, test and test again to be sure you find the right mix for maximizing your CTRs and ROIs.

Use only one call to action, and in more than one place

With email marketing—and especially mobile-first email marketing—short messages usually perform better, and that usually means keep your message focused on one point—and your call to action too. Resist the urge to use more than one kind of call to action in your email. You can use different treatments and wording. But only have one end goal in mind for your email and focus your calls to action on that.

For example, you might have your CTA as a big orange button (BOB) but you might also have it as hyperlinked text as part of a sentence too, with different wording. It’s okay to have up to three different places where people can click, but make sure all three have the same goal and go to the same place. What you don’t want is three options with three different landing pages.

Start with a verb

Consider what the wording “call to action” really means: It’s a call to do something, like a call to arms. I think we sometimes forget the compelling aspect of just what the CTA is supposed to do because we are so used to it as a phrase or an acronym. But really, we are quite literally calling on people to act, not sit there. And that, also quite literally, requires a verb.

Lucky for you, verbs are almost infinite in number, so you’ll be able to find the verb that delivers the best results for you. Some of our no-brainer, obvious favorite verbs for CTAs include:

  • Buy now
  • Order now
  • Discover …
  • Start…
  • Watch…
  • Be…
  • Save…
  • Call…
  • Join…

You absolutely positively have to test to discover the calls to action that will work best for your audiences, so we can’t tell you the best verb to use, only to use a verb.

Use the word “your”

If you were to add the word “your” to some of the example above, you’d be on your way to a compelling call to action, because you’d be speaking directly to that recipient.

Use a big and colorful button

We are talking about best practices for calls to action across screens, but primarily mobile devices, since that’s where most opens happen. Only pick up your smart phone that’s sitting next to you right now while you’re reading this and test drive some of the CTA buttons in the emails you get. How many of them are a) big enough to be easily noticed and b) big enough to be easily clicked? Make sure your CTA button can be clicked by fat fingers but easily noticed by busy eyes too. Test to find a color that pops and attracts.

Use a P.S.

Back in the days before email marketing reigned supreme and people still counted on sales letters as marketing tools, the P.S. was a big deal because people would scan a letter and really only focus on what jumped out at them, which included the P.S. You can still take advantage of this tendency for the human eye to look for something that stands out (as opposed to blocks of text). Place a P.S. with hyperlinked text below your CTA button, and see what happens. It can’t hurt! And it just might catch those super scrollers who take a quick swipe through an email and then move on.

What NOT to do with your call to action

There’s a flipside to everything, right? While there are ways to better your call to action, there are also ways to worsen it, including:

  • A lack of clarity—No wishy washy wording aloud!
  • Using articles such as “the”—They only add clutter.
  • Image-only CTAs—Are you sure you want to risk an image only CTA, knowing images are sometimes disabled and not every recipient will see it?
  • CTAs that are too small—We’re talking tiny screens and fat fingers. Make sure your call to action is actually actionable.

As mentioned above, you have to constantly test each of these best practices to discover those that will generate the best results for you in your mobile email marketing. But discover you must, in order to create compelling calls to action that will generate the click throughs and conversions you seek!


Art by Justin M. Buoni // Just Justin Art

Words by Gerald Marshall // Email Industries


 

Crafting Killer Email Subject Lines

Killer Email Subject Lines

Below you’ll find our collection of subject line writing wisdom, based on helping clients transition to effective mobile-first email marketing.

Be forewarned, however, that these are best practices based on our overall experiences and your results may differ. When it comes to mobile email marketing, that testing is even more important given the small screens and short attention spans of your subscribers.

Keep your subject lines short and sweet

  • In our experience, we have found that 28 to 36 characters deliver the best click rates.
  • And we have found that 6 to 10 words deliver the best open rates.
  • Medium length does not perform well, as far as we can tell.
  • Long subject lines sometimes work, but this can only be determined by testing.
  • In addition to keeping your subject lines short and sweet, you need to frontload your subject line since there’s a chance your subscriber will only see a couple of words at first. Put words with the most impact at the beginning, like verbs.
  • And always be running A/B split tests on your subject lines. It’s such an easy thing to test, and your subject line is such a critical step in getting an email opened and acted upon…if you have enough data…why wouldn’t you test every time?

Be visually different to stand out in the inbox

Have you noticed an increase in special characters in your inbox? From smiley faces to arrows to hearts. However, you don’t have to get that fancy to stand out. Even traditional characters such as pipes and parentheses and em dashes can work to catch someone’s eye as they’re doing a quick scan of their smartphone.

But do look into the special characters too. There is increasing support for emojis in subject lines, and quite frankly, we’re surprised we don’t see more of them. Granted, the use of such gimmicks needs to be brand appropriate, and of course you need to test everything, but if this is some uncharted territory that might work for you, try it!

Speaking of testing…

If you’re not sure what to test in your mobile subject lines, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Try being ultra-specific, stating your exact offer: “Save 30% on Your Annual Subscription”
  • Numbers almost always work, so definitely try those: “Master meetings in 3 steps”
  • Put your call to action in your subject line, like: “Upgrade Today”
  • Use a fear factor: “Claim your URL before…”
  • Use scarcity: “First 100 trial users get this..”
  • Ask a question “Prepared for your Trial Expiration?”
  • Awaken their curiosity: “Why selling $10,000 is easier than $250”
  • Be timely: “[Upcoming Calendar of Event]”
  • Create a sense of urgency: “24 Hours Left”, “Last Chance”

Proceed with caution!

Some habits die hard, even in email marketing. Below are some things marketers used to do that simply don’t work any more (if they ever really did), especially in mobile email marketing:

  • First Name personalization: This is just seen as gimmicky and spammy now. Subscribers would much rather get content that’s targeted to them in a very specific way than be addressed by name and served up generic content.
  • Adding FW: and RE: These might be the epitome of spam. Seriously. Check your spam folder and count how many times you see these.
  • Too many of the same type of special offers: Don’t keep touting the same deal in every subject line of every email you send.
  • Reliance on open rates: This is not how you measure the effectiveness of your subject lines, because a high open-rate does not always equal a high click-through rate or conversion.

The best and worst words to use in subject lines

We can’t give you the Holy Grail of subject lines, but we can tell you what we’ve learned works (and doesn’t work) in email marketing when it comes to mobile. As always, test and test and test again to be sure, but in general, we’ve seen good results from these words…

  • Upgrade
  • Just
  • Go
  • Better
  • Deserve
  • Your

…and poor results from these:

  • Miss
  • Deals
  • Out
  • Year
  • Learn
  • Register

Finally, how to do a subject line review

Once you’ve followed the best practices outlined above, take a good hard look at the subject lines you’re using and see if you can’t improve them even more based on the answers you give to these questions:

  • Is it useful or valuable?
  • Does it promise a reward?
  • Is it front loaded with the best words?
  • Can you make it more specific?
  • Does it trigger a strong emotion?
  • Does it contain something very familiar to the reader so that he immediately nods upon reading it?
  • Would the subject line be stronger if you add an action to it?
  • Could you can add an element of intrigue without misleading?

Mobile email marketing ain’t going away and the subject line will only continue to increase in importance when it comes to garnering the attention of busy people looking at tiny screens. Sure, it’s only a few words, but don’t ever downplay the importance of those few words in getting your email noticed and opened.


Art by Justin M. Buoni // Just Justin Art

Words by Gerald Marshall // Email Industries