Email is still as relevant today as it was 20 years ago, and while more and more bad emails are ending up in a spam folder, great emails are still finding their way to customers.
As various digital channels gain prevalence (e.g., social media), it's easy to downgrade email marketing's importance and effectiveness. Declining open and click-through rates don't help email's cause. However, the root cause of a poorly executed email campaign is not email marketing itself, but bad implementation.
For example, many companies are quick to blame the technology (email marketing software) or the channel (email). Still, when you scratch beneath the surface, you find that contacts are bombarded with the same irrelevant messaging that invariably results in terrible open and click-through rates. These types of emails produce bad results today, as they did 20 years ago. And to add the final nail in the coffin, numerous startups and mature businesses don't segment their contact list.
The good news is, email marketing software has made it remarkably easy and inexpensive to create an email campaign. The bad news is, they also made it very easy to send spam and ineffective emails.
Having seen both ends of the scale (successful and disastrous email campaigns), we've noticed patterns that separate one from the other. More importantly, we will show you which best-practices to use in your email marketing to drastically improve your email campaigns' effectiveness.
1. Trim Your Contact List
Adding more and more contacts to a mailing list gives you a sense of growth. After all, the needle is moving in the right direction, and more and more people are interested in your company/product/service, right?
The problem with this view is that you tend to put too much stock in your list size. While important, your email list's size is not even in the top 3 most important metrics.
For example, an email list with 500 contacts that regularly gets a 40% open rate is much more desirable than a 10,000 contact list with a 2% open rate, even though the end result is the same (200 open emails).
An open rate of 40% indicates that you are reaching people that are genuinely interested in what you have to say. A 2% open rate is spam. In other words, 98% of your audience does not care about what you have to say.
If 98% of people rejected you in any other business situation, you would try something different. However, in the email marketing world, many businesses keep sending the same message to the same people, even when the data is telling them that no one is listening. Why is this the case? Because sending a mass email is easy.
Your email list's quality (not quantity) is one of the most important aspects of email marketing; therefore, trim down your list!
With most email marketing software, you can quickly identify email contacts that have never opened your email or have not done so in years. These contacts are clearly not interested in your product/service, so do them (and yourself) a favor and remove them from your email list.
Note: most email lists include fake email accounts that can skew metrics; hence, trimming your contact/email list is essential.
2. Segment Your Contacts/Subscribers
Not segmenting an email list is just lazy. This passive approach always returns mediocre results because an email has to be relevant to be successful, and it's impossible to create a relevant email if you only have one segment (group).
At a minimum, try to split your email subscribers into a few segments. The good news is, email marketing software like MailChimp has a pre-built segmentation feature. In other words, the software can automatically segment your subscriber list by engagement, behavior, or demographics.
- Engagement - Active Subscriber vs. Inactive Subscriber
- Behavior - Potential Customer vs. First-Time Customer vs. Repeat Customer
- Demographics - Male vs. Female
If you currently use one extensive email list, segmenting your list will undoubtedly improve your open and click-through rates, because it will make your emails more relevant.
For example, some of your contacts will be at the beginning of the buying cycle (e.g., awareness - recently discovered your business/brand); hence, they may not be ready to buy. On the other hand, some contacts will be toward the end of the cycle (e.g., decision) and are ready to purchase.
As you can imagine, the type of email you should send to someone that only recently discovered your brand/business is very different from someone that has consumed your emails for months and is now ready to buy.
So take the time to segment and personalize every email campaign you send, because email campaigns with relevant content will always increase your engagement rate and sales.
3. Fix Your CTAs (Call-To-Actions)
CTA's sole objective is to get your email contact to take the next step. For example, read more, buy a product, contact your representative, and so on.
The importance of CTAs should be evident - if you implement them well, you will get more website visitors, more sales, and more inquiries. If you don't, then you will get fewer visitors, fewer sales, and fewer inquires.
The good news is, CTA optimization is a multi-million dollar industry, with no shortage of online tools to help you improve their effectiveness. For example, most sophisticated email campaigns use A/B Testing.
If you are not familiar with the term, A/B testing is a randomized experiment using two (or more) versions to see which performs better. For example, you may try two different versions of the "buy" button to see which performs better.
With A/B Testing, you are using real data and not intuition to improve your CTAs and the conversion rate. By continuously experimenting (i.e., using different A/B tests), you are continually making your email campaigns better/more effective.
4. Pay Close Attention To Data
When it comes to email metrics, there are 3 numbers you ought to pay close attention to - conversation rate, click-through rate, and bounce rate.
- Conversion rate: the percentage of users who complete the desired action. For example: made a purchase, completed a contact form, subscribed, etc. This is by far the most important metrics you can measure.
- Click-through rate: the ratio of users who click on a link. CTR is by far the most popular metrics to measure the success of email marketing campaigns.
- Bounce rate: the percentage of emails that cannot be delivered
Related: 3 Key Metrics for Email Marketing
After you start tracking data you need to:
- Set a benchmark. What is your current conversation rate, click-through rate, and bounce rate?
- Do some research. How do you compare to your industry's average? This type of information is easily accessible online
- Optimize your emails until you beat your industry average
- Recognize that optimization (improving your email numbers) is a never-ending endeavor
Data is only useful if you do something with it.
Email is not going away any time soon. More importantly, your current and future customers will continue to use it for many years to come; therefore, invest time and resources into email marketing.
At a minimum, implement the four best-practices we covered in this post, and not only will your audience/customers/email subscribers thank you, but it will also help you grow your business.
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