June 17th, 2013
Are you itching to do more with email but tight purse strings are preventing you from doing so? If you’re a marketer trying to argue for an increased investment in email marketing solutions but you’re not getting it, we have some tips for you to help you make a more convincing argument.
First you have to understand the mindset of your audience. The C-suite tends to think of email as something highly commoditized because they don’t experience it as a marketer does. They send and receive emails via Outlook, and typically don’t realize the complexity behind email marketing, why it’s so hard, or why it demands a bigger budget. That’s why you have to speak their language and present your argument in terms they’ll understand.
Secondly, be sure you have the right mindset. Upper management might also be simply going along with marketers’ misperceptions about the value of email, placing it behind social media in importance, even though email is still the better sales tool. (If you’re not getting the budget you’re asking for, you might do a gut check to see what value you are giving email first.)
Third, make sure your argument involves more than ROI. Not that ROI is a bad number to know or argue for. Every year, DMA research proves email marketing continues to provide the highest ROI dollar for dollar when compared to other marketing channels. If you need upper management to invest more in email, that’s a great argument to start with.
However, if you make your argument about ROI only, you’re setting yourself up for a bigger challenge, and that bigger budget will be harder to obtain.
Two reasons to avoid a focus on ROI
The first reason to avoid a focus on ROI is you’re leaving out the positive effect email has on the bottom line that straight ROI can’t measure. If your customer heads to your brick-and-mortar store to buy instead, how will you measure that? How can you measure increased brand awareness? Or maybe that email had an impact, but the customer didn’t buy until six months later when your product was needed. How will you measure that?
The second reason is you have to talk about potential. If you can remove your focus from the ROI dollars and instead consider the dollars left on the table, you might have a much more compelling argument to present.
What dollars might you be leaving on the table, you ask? Any areas where you aren’t maximizing your use of technology are areas where your ROI could be higher.
- If you haven’t had the ability to drive relevant content, you’re leaving money on the table.
- If you’re not yet segmenting based on previous buying behavior, you’re leaving money on the table.
- If you haven’t yet implemented triggered and automated email marketing, you’re leaving money on the table.
- If you don’t have an abandoned cart strategy, you’re…. OK, you get the picture.
There are just a few examples of what you could be doing with your email marketing solutions. The point you need to get across to your boss is that increasing your budget will increase your capability to do the targeted, segmented, behavior-based marketing that will drive more ROI. There is a cost upfront, yes, that’s why you’re asking for more money. But these investments pay off over time because they only require the initial investment, then can scale. Plus these kinds of solutions almost “set it and forget it.” Compare that kind of one-time investment to asking to add a staff member: The former will only cost you money upfront. The latter will cost you money ongoing.
Are you in need of more dollars for email marketing solutions but can’t convince the C-suite? If you focus on ROI to sell your bigger budget needs, you’re selling yourself short. You can make a more compelling argument by showing the potential of the dollars currently left on the table and demonstrating how a technology investment now will pay off many times over.
June 10th, 2013
Test, test and test again…that’s a mantra you’ll hear a lot from this email marketing consultant, because it is only by testing that you can continually improve what works for your organization.
Why email best practices alone aren’t enough
Email marketing best practices have their place, but testing is the only way to know for sure what your own email marketing best practices must be, because there is no “one size fits all” in this industry. Mondays might be the best send day for one company, yet Friday is for you. Research might say shorter subject lines are best, but it could be your audience responds better to longer ones.
And we don’t have best practices for every component of an email anyway. How do you know whether a blue button will get you more click throughs than a green one? By testing!
Running A/B split tests is an easy way to slowly yet steadily improve your email program. When you making testing something part of every campaign, you’ll only get better…and earn a better ROI.
New ebook makes A/B testing easy
If you’re new to testing, or want to make sure you’re doing it right, check out the new ebook from MailUp. Titled, “Keep picking losers? Send winner emails with A/B testing,” it’s worth a look because chances are even your best email can still be optimized in some way.
The ebook covers:
- Why A/B testing? Discover what works best for you
- What should you test? Focus on email layout, design, and copy, but also day and time
- How to execute an A/B test: Choosing your email and mailing size
- How test results are black and white: Place your bet on the winning email
- Examples of small changes yielding big results
- And a checklist for you to use for your next A/B test
While creating this email testing ebook, the researchers at MailUp looked at several hundred A/B tests carried out by their customers over a 12-month period. They discovered that companies conducting A/B split testing saw an average increase of 18% in the open rate and 22% in the click through rate! Now that’s a reason to test!
As Nazzareno Gorni, the founder of MailUp, says: “A/B testing forces even experienced marketers to stay humble. Only those that are willing to test their assumptions will find the key to more successful marketing efforts.”
Download the ebook here.
June 5th, 2013
Are you failing at email? Many marketers are, according to the Econsultancy/Adestra Email Marketing Industry Census 2013. That study finds 61% of marketers rate their email marketing as poor or average, and only 4% rate their email marketing as excellent.
If almost two-thirds of marketers gave themselves poor grades for email marketing during a recent survey, imagine the grades their subscribers would give them! And only 4% are getting top marks, while only 35% grade themselves as good. What is going on here?
After reading through the findings, our conclusion is, marketers lack two important components for successful email marketing: time and strategy.
Consider some of the differences here between the marketers with good grades vs. those with poor grades:
Lack of time…
- 62% of marketers spend 2 or more hours on the design and content for one campaign
- But 18% spend more than 8 hours on one campaign
Is it a coincidence then that the same number of marketers give themselves a low grade on email performance?
And another low number:
- 27% spend zero time optimizing emails
Lack of strategy…
It’s not just a shortage of time that’s likely impacting the effectiveness of these email marketers, but a shortage of time too. Consider these survey results:
- 12% of marketers surveyed admit they spend no time on strategy
- 43% are aware that a lack of strategy might be part of their problem
- 71% have only basic strategy or no strategy at all for optimizing email for mobile marketing
What to do about it
It seems fairly obvious to us that having more time for email marketing—including time to work on strategy—would result in marketers giving themselves better grades on their email performance.
The good news is, the awareness is there. Marketers are recognizing that their email marketing could be better. And change begins with awareness. In this case, that is definitely change for the better.
Two solutions to what ails you
If you’re likely to give your own email marketing performance any kind of grade lower than a B+, take a look at the time allotted to each email as well as the strategy your organization is working from. It could be you need more time, yet it could be you need more strategy too.
While we can’t add hours to the day (as much as we’d like to), we can offer two solutions to consider for improving your email marketing grade by improving your strategy and buying more time:
Solution 1: Engage an email marketing consultant
The first thing you must do is put the strategy first. Yes, marketers are suffering from a lack of time too, but when a good strategy is in place, not as much time is needed for each campaign. Perhaps you need an email marketing consultant…not forever, but a for short time at least. An email marketing consultant can help you develop your strategy, meaning you’ll make better use of the time you do have to devote to each email campaign. An email marketing consultant knows strategy. Engaging a consultancy means tapping into an expertise beyond measure, and getting input that will pay back dividends. A consultant can also help to refine your processes and even your templates, streamlining all you do so that killer campaign takes less time to implement, freeing you up for more time on the next killer campaign.
Solution 2: Get buy-in from the top down
It could be you’d have more time and resources to devote to your company’s email marketing campaigns if management believed in the potential ROI. If you haven’t already been doing so, start tracking every bit of ROI, sharing, forwarding and brand awareness that you can. Start arming yourself with statistics too. For example, if you’re not yet using triggered emails, show the C-suite the numbers that demonstrate their effectiveness. Start building a case for a bigger budget. Then success will breed success as you can invest more, improve your email marketing performance grade, and then earn and even bigger budget. And when a good strategy is in place (see Solution #1), you’ll be able to do more with your time and resources.
If you’re like the majority of marketers surveyed and you’re email performance is far less than it could be, consider these two solutions to improve your email marketing grade. Because striving for an A means driving ROI.
May 20th, 2013
As email marketing consultants, we try to keep up with industry news, but occasionally the emails, blogs and newsletters pile up. Then we tend tackle that pile all at once rather than one article or post at a time. We don’t mind it, really, because it sometimes allows us to spot trends where we otherwise wouldn’t.
And today’s trend that emerged as we tackled the pileup of email marketing news and insights? Content matters.
Between reading one pundit’s prediction that information-rich email newsletters are coming back, finding more statistics about the importance of From and Subject lines to overcome Spam, and stumbling across an ebook encouraging B2B marketers to use storytelling, today’s most noticeable trend is most definitely that content matters.
Design and imagery have their place
With all the sophisticated email marketing tools we have now, it’s easy to get caught up in email design…and it’s pretty easy to have an email design fail, what with the variety of email clients and mobile devices, not to mention the prevalence of marketers still using image-only emails.
It’s easy to get caught up in imagery too, especially given the popularity of Pinterest and the plethora of pictures that are shared on Facebook. As consumers, we find B2C emails in our inboxes often don’t make sense unless we enable images.
Pictures have their place in email marketing to be sure. But after watching email designs go so far from text to imagery, perhaps we’re seeing the pendulum swing back the other way, towards content.
The four kinds of content in your email
When we say content matters, we are talking about more than what your email marketing messages say. There’s more content than that in your emails, and this isn’t the kind of content you can “fix” with email marketing tools. These take time and testing to get right.
To consider the place (and value) of content in email marketing, let’s break this down into the kinds of content that make up an email:
- The From line
- The Subject line
- The preview pane
- The body text
The From line
Yes, the From line. We are considering that content because it is. If you think the From line really doesn’t matter, consider this email marketing stat: 43% of people that receive email will report messages as spam based solely on the From line.
Our take on that? You might want to give the From line some thought, or a lot of thought, and definitely test to see which From line works the best for you.
The Subject line
And now for the next little snippet you might not think of as content: the Subject line.
As with the From line, research shows the Subject line is a critical piece of content, both for keeping you from the Spam folder and for getting those emails opened. Check out these two statistics for proof:
- 69% of email recipients report email as Spam based solely on the Subject line
- 35% of email recipients open email based only on the Subject line
And remember, when it comes to Subject line best practices, you only truly know what works when you test to find out what works for you. You’ll find all kinds of tried-and-true Subject line advice out there, but it won’t necessarily apply to your business, your email marketing program or your audience. So test to be sure.
(See three more reasons why Subject lines matter.)
The Preview Pane“Again with the snippets,” you’re probably thinking. You might even be wondering how this too is content. Ah, but it is. It’s words that have to keep your recipient moving in the direction of actually opening your email. You started with your From line, then got them to your Subject line and now they’re at your Preview Pane. Will that content entice them to open your email?
Greg Zakowizc of Bronto argues we should consider doing away with headers in emails so we can get recipients to the content faster. When you remove the header (usually a graphic or image), you can get straight to the message (a.k.a. content). See his before and after photos here. And see if you don’t agree that the “after” versions with the content front and center are much more effective.
The body text
OK, finally then we get to the heart of the email, but only if we’ve won people over with the first three snippets of content: the From line, Subject line and Preview Pane.
Going into details about how to write compelling email marketing copy are beyond the space limitations of this post. And that’s not our message anyway. Our message is: Content matters, so pay attention to it. Even if you’re doing B2B email marketing, your email content should be engaging and interesting.
In fact, in the ebook The B2B Marketer’s Ultimate Guide to Storytelling, you’ll find this convincing quote about the importance of interesting content:
In his book “Tell to Win”, Peter Guber argues that humans simply aren’t moved to action by “data dumps” and wordy PowerPoint slides, rather by emotion, hence we need to tell stories.
How’s your email marketing content? Is it engaging and enjoyable to read? Does your content reflect real effort on your part? Does it read like content matters?
How do your four types of content stack up?
Are you seeing what we’re seeing? The return of content as significant in email marketing? If so, are you reviewing what your team is doing with that content, moving beyond relying on email marketing tools and really trying and testing to find the best content? Take a look at the four content pieces described above and make sure each piece is working its hardest for you and your ROI.
Because content matters…and so does your bottom line.
May 13th, 2013
From our perspective as email marketing consultants, the first and foremost among email marketing best practices might just be, “Assume nothing.” Second to that is probably, “Test everything.”
No assuming and lots of testing: Adhere to those two best practices and you’ll likely make better use of your email marketing budget and staff time, as well as enjoy a higher return on your investment.
The statistics you’re about to see are proof of our “don’t assume, do test” advice. Based on a mobile email open rate study by Knotice, these numbers below are a great illustration of the need to dig a little deeper and get the real story before you make fundamental changes to your email marketing strategy.
Are mobile email open rates really that high?
“Email Opens on Mobile Devices Close to Tipping Point,” the article headline claims…
If you only saw headlines claiming open rates on mobile devices were closing in on the 50% mark, you’d assume that your B2B email marketing better keep pace and be geared towards mobile users, right?
Slow down, because you might be wrong. Delving deeper into the statistics shows that the highest open rate, the one that gets all the headlines and press time, is B2C, with consumer services email getting a 50.3% open rate and hospitality 44.2%. Those are the only industries with open rates near (or over) the tipping point. That open rate doesn’t apply across the board, despite the media’s seeming claim that it does.
Other industries don’t fare as well when it comes to mobile email marketing. Seeing those numbers, what’s your guess for the rate of B2B opens? After all, most professionals carry a mobile phone or tablet, so it’s probably safe to assume that the rate must be pretty high since they’re checking their email on the go anyway.
But that assumption is proven wrong by this study. B2B marketing emails get only a measly 17.3% open rate. That’s less than 20%, even though professionals on the go regularly check email on their phones and mobile devices.
Here’s a better breakdown to really make the point about B2B email marketing:
- Only 14.56% of emails were opened on a phone
- And only 2.76% of emails were opened on a tablet
- While 82.68% of the B2B emails were opened on a desktop
Why this disparity? Why is the open rate so low for B2B while climbing rapidly for B2C?
A plausible reason for low B2B mobile email open rates
Although we haven’t seen a study that claims to explain the disparity, we’ll venture to make an educated guess: because work is work. Mobile professionals likely leave the work-related emails—including your B2B email marketing messages—for those times when they are seated at a laptop or PC. They might be on the road to a meeting or sitting through a business lunch checking their B2C emails, but the B2B emails seem to be the ones that wait for when they are back at work.
The only way to know your own mobile email marketing open rate for certain is to test, however, so don’t take these numbers as written in stone, but do take them as a caution against assuming all email marketing statistics apply across the board.
And then there’s the device…
Mobile devices are another factor to consider with mobile email marketing. What kind of mobile device does your audience favor? If it’s not an iPhone or a Droid, chances are mobile email marketing need not be a big part of your B2B strategy, at least not yet. The iPhone and iPad generated almost 33% of the open rates while the Droid OS garnered over 6.5%, making up 99.8% of all mobile email opens (for B2C emails, of course). Again, the headlines might claim really high open rates are in our near future, but that’s only for certain industries and only on certain devices.
We’re all in support of being mobile ready with your email marketing, even if you’re a B2B marketer. But we’re also supportive of dollars and time well spent. So make sure you know your potential return on investment before you invest too much in mobile.
Is your company doing B2B email marketing? Would you concur with these findings? What kind of mobile email open rates do you get? What devices does your audience favor?
See the full Knotice report for all the details about the open rates for B2B email marketing.
May 10th, 2013
Have you received a triggered email yet this week? It might be the confirmation of an order you placed, an event reminder, or a follow-up to a webinar you attended. Or perhaps you celebrated a birthday and a triggered email arrived with birthday wishes and a special offer on ice cream? (My inbox? I got an overdue notice from the library. Oops.)
Whatever the event—or trigger—chances are you have seen something automated show up in your inbox, and that something was the kind of personalized email we marketers should be focused on sending.
Consumers prefer personalized email. And who wouldn’t? In the barrage of emails that confronts so many of us day in and day out, the “just for me” email stands out and gets noticed. Marketers know this and many have been working towards personalized emails for years using preference centers and tight email integration with web analytics. However, there is a cost to gleaning this kind of data and not every business can overcome the technology or data challenges that can make personalized email marketing more of a fantasy than a fact.
However, it doesn’t have to be that hard. There’s yet another way to personalize your email marketing that doesn’t require a preference center or any additional data from your customer: automated emails triggered by events.
Other marketers might struggle to create personalized emails because they are thwarted by technology or lack of data—or disparate data. However, triggered emails enable personalization despite these roadblocks. That’s because they are triggered by the subscriber.
Why personalize your email marketing?
Batch and blast email marketing is so 1990s but many marketers still do it because it’s a lot easier than being targeted. But being targeted is a lot more profitable. Just consider all the benefits you glean by personalizing your email marketing:
- Getting the right message to the right person at the right time
- Cutting through the clutter with targeted and relevant emails
- Improving email deliverability through increased engagement
- Delighting your customers
- Improving your response rate
- Strengthening brand affiliation and loyalty
And what does batch-and-blast get you? Only spam reports and unsubscribes and an ever-decreasing email deliverability rate, that’s all.
Triggered email is personalized email
Triggered email gets you the opposite. Studies show triggered emails generate 70.5% higher open rates and 101.8% higher click-through rates. Why? Because event triggered emails are the ultimate in targeted, relevant messaging.
We can’t know everything about every subscriber every time. If we could, we would enjoy astounding open and click-through rates…but we can’t. We can, however, use event triggered email to deliver emails in a timely fashion, and timing is one factor in relevancy. When an email arrives right after a purchase or based on an action on a website, it’s arriving when someone is receptive and ready to respond.
That’s why open and click-through rates are so dramatically higher. And that’s why triggered email should be something you’re looking to implement…soon. Talk to your email service provider to see what your options are and start thinking about any email integration needs that might arise as you develop an event triggered email strategy.
Caveat: Mind your devices
Triggered email offers an opportunity to personalize your email marketing without a heavy investment in time or technology. But don’t blow it by being PC-centric. Keep in mind that many subscribers will view your email on a phone or a tablet, and be sure your emails—and any landing pages—are optimized for these devices. Otherwise the benefits of your personalization will be lost.
If you’ve yet to venture down the triggered email path into the land of automation and personalization, and you’re looking for a guide to get your there, call on ClickMail. We are email integration experts who can help you get it done.
May 8th, 2013
Shopping for a new ESP and comparing email marketing solutions? If so, you have much to consider and possibly much to wow you, as you dig deep into feature sets and automated email capabilities. It’s work to be sure, to compare these ESPs, but also exciting to think about the possibilities for your email marketing program!
However, there’s a dry, boring side to all of this that you must consider too. Yes, the brochures are beautiful and the features fabulous, but you’ll need to look into the security and compliance aspects of each email service provider as well.
No one really wants to talk about security issues or legal ones…well, except for the IT folks and legal department. But without these pieces in place, all the features sets in the world are for naught if data is comprised or compliance not met.
With the constant threat of identity theft—using information like that contained within your customer databases—as well as the risk to your sender reputation if your list is hacked or stolen, an ESP’s ability to keep your data safe is paramount. In addition, your compliance as an email marketer also critical to protect consumer information—and your organization.
Make sure your data stays secure
People are increasingly concerned about the security of their data, with good reason. As a result, they are less likely to use a third-party tool or hand over personal information. Therefore, security should extend beyond the platform to cover access to the network as well as local access from the platform facility. Also, public companies must comply with regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX). If your organization also maintains healthcare related information or electronic transactions, the HIPAA Privacy Rule also applies. Before evaluating the security capabilities of any email service provider, be clear on the requirements of your organization and industry, in particular, the level of security wanted or mandated. Then do your email service provider comparison with these questions in hand:
- Is the email service provider SOX and HIPAA compliant, if applicable?
- Do they have network intrusion detection, such as firewalls, employee screening, monitored access, and/or security cameras?
- Does the ESP require background checks when hiring employees?
- Are they insured, licensed, and bonded?
- What types of audit trails are available?
- What types of security tools are in place at the email service provider?
- Do they provide monitoring and alerts?
- Has the company been through a Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements (SSAE) No. 16 (formerly SAS 70) audit? If so, what were the results? If not, why not?
Stay on top of compliance issues
Your data is one of your company’s most valuable assets. If your organization requires you to manage customer data in a certain way, legal considerations matter. You will need to make sure your emails are CAN-SPAM compliant, but there are other regulations you might need to comply with as well, such as the Canadian anti-spam law (FISA), the California Online Privacy Protection Act (OPPA), and others. Talk with your legal department to make sure you know which regulations apply, then talk to the email service provider you’re considering to get answers to these questions:
- All top tier email service providers have requirements for emails sent out through their platforms. Will your emails meet those requirements?
- Will the email service provider help you determine what kind of content is legally acceptable in transactional emails?
- Is the ESP able to help you comply with the new, more stringent regulations, such as the Canadian anti-spam law?
- Is the ESP proactive in determining which new regulations apply? Are they taking action to be compliant and to be sure their customers are as well?
Both data security and legal compliance should be high priorities when doing an email service provider comparison. Using these questions listed above should help you make an informed decision. For more help with your email service provider comparison, use our free online ESP comparison tool or download our 2013 guide to choosing an ESP.
April 30th, 2013
Today is the last day of the month of April, and the last day to save $200 on your ticket to what promises to be the best testing conference of the year, covering both A/B and multivariate testing.
Brought to you by WhichTestWon, The Live Event offers marketers the most advanced yet useful information, information designed to help you maximize and constantly improve your conversion rate optimization (CRO). At this event, you’ll find real-life examples in 17 case studies, plus get a chance to create your own testing plan for your site during 11 on-site workshops. Hungry to learn still more? Then take the time to learn a little more as you network with your fellow marketers.
So plan that trip to Austin for The Live Event May 8th, 9th and 10th, and save $200 on your registration when you sign up today.
April 22nd, 2013
When looking for a new ESP, be sure to include usability on your list of criteria. What good will a new email service provider do you if your staff can’t navigate the interface?
An ESP platform’s power is only as good as your organization’s ability and willingness to use it. If your staff finds it difficult to use, they will not use it effectively, they may avoid using its full set of features, and they could even make serious errors. On the other hand, if they find it easy to use, they will take advantage of all its powerful functionality to produce the best campaigns imaginable. When evaluating usability, consider ease of navigation, reporting, account configurations, approval process, task automation, and profile settings.
The key to find the email service provider with the usability that works for your organization is to first know what works for your organization.
- Who needs to use it? You might be in the marketing department planning to use the platform for email marketing specifically, but it could be another department will also be using the platform. For example, accounting might use it for billing notices, HR might use it for employee communications, or the public relations team might use it for media announcements. First figure out who will use the new email service provider. Don’t assume it’s whoever was using the existing ESP.
- How often will they use it? Next up is getting a handle on the frequency with which people throughout the organization will be using the email service provider’s platform. Some people (like your email marketing team) might be using the platform every day (and therefore stay familiar with it) while other people will only use it on occasion and might not get as familiar with—or stay as familiar with—your team. Take ad hoc usage into account when evaluating usability.
- Do different departments within your organization have different requirements? For example, does marketing want customized templates but accounting has special reporting requirements? Make sure you know everyone’s expectations of the new email service provider.
- How savvy are they? Also take into account the range of skill sets of the various teams who might be using the email service provider’s platform. If your entire organization is pretty tech savvy and navigating new interfaces won’t be an issue, usability will be less of one too. However, if you have a range of abilities throughout your organization, you might want an ESP that can offer different levels of access.
- What do you want to be able to do? And now we get to the fun part. You’re switching email service providers for a reason. It might be poor customer service (a common reason) or it could be you’ve outgrown your current ESP’s functionality. Whatever the reason, now is when you get to make your wish list of capabilities and functionalities. Do you want segmentation tools? How about dynamic content? Do you want email integration with your web analytics or CRM? Make your list, then make sure you understand the usability of each of these tools.
Once you’ve determined everyone’s needs and capabilities, you’re ready to consider—and evaluate—the usability of an email service provider’s platform. Create a list of questions to ask yourself as you consider each possible ESP. Below are some questions drawn from our 2013 guide to choosing a new ESP to get you started:
- How well does the interface work on an individual level?
- Is there a drag-and-drop visual GUI?
- Is list segmentation easily configurable via drag-and-drop GUIs?
- How about automated messaging? Is that easily set up?
- Are there preloaded templates? Is there a WYSIWYG editor?
- Does the platform enable automation of complex tasks, such as generating mobile versions from an HTML template?
- Does it allow for a workflow that fits with your organization?
- Does the platform allow for role-based or department-based access?
Add to this as needed until you have a list of questions that will help you adequately evaluate each ESP’s usability, and remember to evaluate all of the various tools within the platform that you might be using.
Don’t skimp on usability. You’ll only create more headaches for yourself later on as your team scrambles to make the platform work and other departments end up needed troubleshooting and handholding. Worse yet, you could end up with a platform no one wants to use! And find yourself shopping for a new ESP all over again far too soon.
April 15th, 2013
Subject lines, why do we neglect you so? You are the number 2 reason someone decides to open an email from us marketers. You’re important but oh so overlooked as we busily focus on offers and lists and timing of our campaigns.
Are you guilty of skipping over the subject line? Many marketers are. This critical part of your email marketing is often the last to be tackled, and the most likely to be rushed. And that’s a big mistake because subject lines can have a big impact on your results.
If subject line best practices aren’t getting the attention they deserve around your office, here are three good reasons to take another look at your approach…and get optimizing.
Reason 1: Automated inboxes
George Bilbrey spells out what marketers need to know about the inbox within the inbox in a recent Email Insider article. His article on the automated inbox reiterates the importance of engagement and campaign timing for making it into that priority inbox, and states that subject line optimization will become even more critical for those emails that don’t make into the inbox within the inbox.
That’s because presumably consumers will pay the most attention to the emails in their priority inboxes, and the least to any others. Some marketers will find themselves happily ensconced in those priority inboxes because they’ve done the work necessary to be relevant and engaging enough that the subscriber’s activity indicates to the email client that yes, emails from this sender are important and belong in the higher value inbox.
For those marketers who don’t make it into the inbox within the inbox, competition for attention in the “rest of” inbox will be that much stiffer as the priority inbox takes, well, priority.
If that’s where you’ll find your brand–and chances are good that is where you’ll find your brand–your subject lines must work that much harder to get noticed and reacted to.
Reason 2: Mobile marketing
Even if you aren’t worried about subject line best practices for the sake of competing in the world of priority inboxes, you’d better be for the sake of competing on mobile. With over half of Americans checking email on a mobile device, the time to optimize for mobile has come. And that means optimizing your subject lines for email too.
For the sake of brevity on a tiny screen, some experts advise you limit your subject line to less than 15 characters with the most intriguing words first. To do that, just drop the formalities, introductions or warmups. For example, instead of “For 2 days only, save 15%” where only the “For 2 days only” might show, try switching the words so the first words in the subject line are the offer: “Save 15% for 2 days only.” You’d have your offer upfront and enough of an intrigue with the “2” to increase opens.
Reason 3: Open rates
Further proof of the importance of subject lines even beyond priority inboxes and mobile devices comes from a Listrak study that first off proves email remains an extremely effective marketing channel, with 97 percent of Americans getting emails from retailers and 83% of those Americans opening them. Dig deeper into the study and you’ll see subject lines play a key role in these open rates. The study says 53% of the people who open the emails from retailers do so because the subject line showcases a special offer and 47% because the subject line says the email is an order confirmation. Would you like to improve your open rate? Improve your subject lines.
The only way to know is to test
Will a first name in a subject line improve opens? Should my subject line be longer? Which performs better as a subject line, a percentage-based offer or a dollar-based one? The only one who knows the answer to these types of questions is…your subscriber! And that’s why you test, to determine the subject line your subscribers will react to best. Will using a first name improve your open rate? Do an A/B test and see. Does a shorter subject line perform better than a longer one? Find out.
Testing is the only way to optimize your subject lines because it’s the only way to know which kind of subject line performs better for your brand.
To do a simple A/B split test, divide your list into two groups. One is A and one is B. Now change only one thing about the emails between them. Write two different subject lines with only one variable between them. Then send out your emails to both groups at the same time (to avoid the time variable). Compare your results and make your deductions. (You can learn more about doing A/B split tests here.)
Are you seeing subject lines in a different light now?