This post was updated for accuracy November 14, 2017.
Every so often, it’s good to review old content and see if it can be updated or improved. Looking back at this post from January, I found I had quite a few additions to make!
Email marketing is an important part of any digital marketing strategy. According to the latest statistics, every dollar spent results in $38 back. Hard to argue with that, right? If you’re struggling with your email campaigns—perhaps not achieving the results you hoped for—you're in luck. I'm revising some of my old recommendations and adding in some new ones to help you make your emails more effective.
Getting great results doesn't happen automatically, but following these tips will ensure customers open your emails and engage with your business.
1. Select an Email Marketing Provider
There are good paid and free options for email providers, and while choosing one is the first step in implementing an email marketing plan, I really can’t tell you which one to use. You should check out several, like AWeber, Constant Contact, MailChimp, and MailGet, and decide what meets your needs and feels most comfortable to you. This article from Beginner’s Guide to WordPress gives you a very helpful overview of the best options currently available.
2. Clean Up Your Database
You probably already have a good collection of customer information gathered. If you haven’t checked it lately to verify its accuracy, you should—your database is only as good as the information in it. For instance, I recently went through my own to weed out inactive addresses and add certain business details so that I can look at a contact record and know exactly who it is without having to cross-reference with another list.
Data.com has an affordable tool to help you verify your existing business contacts’ information and buy additional contacts to further extend your mailings to relevant consumers.
On the other hand, if you all you want to do is validate your list of email addresses, there are a number of free and low-cost services that can help you out. To name just a few:
3. Encourage Opt-Ins
The deliverability of your emails will improve tremendously simply by having your subscribers opt in to receive them in the first place. A few methods to try:
4. Segment Your Campaigns
Don’t overlook the value of segmenting your email list. The more specific and relevant you can make a campaign to your customer, the better your open and click-through rates will be. Segmented email campaigns have an open rate that is 14.32% higher than non-segmented campaigns.
Location, industry, and lead source are common methods of segmentation. Depending on how detailed your customer database is, you can also segment by interest or previous purchases.
5. Add Personalization
Most, if not all, email marketing providers support the use of tokens or merge fields to enhance the personalization of your emails. While statistics can vary, it’s universally agreed that including the recipient’s name in the subject line increases open rates.
Across almost every industry studied, including the recipient’s name in the email subject line increased open rates [...] by as much as 42%. Other research echoed the success of using a recipient’s first name in the subject line, reporting that emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened. (source)
6. Make the Call-to-Action Clear and Above the Fold
Each email you send should have a purpose, a defined goal. Whether that’s to advertise a new product, inform of changes to your business, or simply to educate, make sure you include a clear message and call-to-action and place it where it will be most readily visible.
7. Keep It Balanced
Aesthetics are important, too. A big block of text is likely to send your reader straight to the delete key. Use headers, color, spacing, and images to create a clean, easy-to-read look that also places emphasis on the important parts of your email. The easier it is on the eye, the better your chances of holding the customer’s interest.
8. Subject Line
How much thought do you put into your email subjects? Would it surprise you to learn that 47% of email recipients decide whether or not to open an email based on subject line alone? There’s a multitude of factors to consider when crafting a subject line, so keep these recommendations in mind:
9. Test, then Send
Finally, before you send, you should test your email to make sure it looks the way you want it to. Sometimes I use emojis in my subject line that appear one way in my browser and a different way in my email client or on my phone. This is also a good opportunity to make sure your personalization tokens and merge fields are working correctly.
If you really want to be thorough, you can use Litmus to test how your email looks across different email clients.
10. Track Results
After every marketing email I send, I start watching the metrics provided by MailChimp. The number of bounces and what type (a full mailbox is nothing to worry about, but a hard bounce I want to be aware of), number of unsubscribes, open rate, and click-through rate should all be monitored. I also look to see who specifically opened a given email because it helps me understand which customers are interested in which products. If you keep track of these data, you’ll learn how to refine your list and improve list engagement.
This post was originally written January 12, 2017, and updated to reflect new information June 8, 2017. Statistical information on subject line open rates updates November 14, 2017.
Catherine has a degree in English literature and a passion for all things marketing. As Digital Specialist, her focus is on web design, search engine optimization, social media, online presence management, and project coordination.