On a regular basis I see or hear people proclaim that email is dead. Those people—they couldn’t be more wrong. Not only is email marketing still an incredibly effective communications tool—it consistently ranks with search as a top sales driver, too. Of course, if you’re not focused on generating leads and closing sales, you can probably disregard email, but otherwise, building your list and using it should be at the top of your integrated marketing to do list.
As with any campaign, email marketing is most effective with some planning and forethought. Even though you’re likely using email to sell or promote something, remember that email is still a personal channel. You don’t want to send out a poorly thought out or hastily created message or your only results will be unsubscribe requests.
Instead, regardless of your industry or audience, keep the following best practices in mind. And also–you’ll want to frequently test a variety of email variables and keep a close eye on your analytics to see what proves most effective for your particular audience (more on that in a minute).
Your Subject Line Matters
If you want your customers to actually open and read your email, one key is to personalize your subject lines. Sixty-four percent of people say they open an email because of the subject line. To boost your email’s efficacy even further, try personalizing your message with the recipient’s name and location.
Personal Signatures = More Opens
The aim of every email marketing campaign is to build relationships with your customers. And using a personal signature is a great way to make a more meaningful connection. Data shows that adding personalized signatures can lead to a 5x increase in open rates and nearly a 3.5x increase in click-through rates. Lesson learned? Sign every email in a personal way. Choose a signature that is indicative of the overall tone of your email. A signature that doesn’t match the essence of the email’s text can be perceived as being sarcastic or off-putting.
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Quality, Not Quantity
When it comes to email marketing, one of the most commonly asked questions relates to how many emails it’s appropriate to send. This largely depends on your messaging and purpose. A retailer, for example, will likely send more emails than another type of business. That being said, stats show that more emails don’t necessarily mean more click-throughs. Try experimenting with sending one, two or three emails a week, then check your analytics to see how your audience responded to the various frequencies. As with anything, when it comes to email, you should let your data drive your strategy. Another great tactic is to survey your audience to see how many messages they want to receive. That way you can keep your readers informed without overwhelming them or causing them to become desensitized to your messages.
Email Beats Social for Traffic
I’m the first to say that social media channels are a great way to share your content with your followers and fans, but don’t underestimate the power of email. Email still outranks social when it comes to generating traffic. And by equipping your emails with sharing functionality, you make it much easier for your audience to share your content with their networks, including their social media networks, thereby expanding the reach of your message.
This may sound surprising, but Mondays aren’t the best time to send emails to your customers. In fact, according to an analysis of 1.5 billion emails, emails sent on Saturday and Sunday generated the highest click-through rates. Thursday is also an optimal day to send an email. Again, use this data as a guide, but try experimenting with other days, too. Your stats will soon tell you which days are most effective for your email campaign, and you can leverage that information to help your messages have the most impact.
The Case for Automation
Automation isn’t always a good thing, but when it comes to email, running an automated campaign can help you see big results—and sometimes as much as a 200% conversion rate. Now that wouldn’t suck, would it? If you do opt for an automated campaign, make sure the language you use reflects the connection you want to build with your customer base. And although automated campaigns remain more effective over a longer period of time, alternate your content so that your campaign stays fresh and up-to-date.
These email marketing best practices provide an ideal starting point—but don’t feel like you need to implement every tip in every message. Start by taking a look at your existing campaign and consider where you can make some small changes to make your email content even more effective. And then test it.
I say it so much I know I sound like a broken record, but your data will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about how successful your email marketing campaigns are. You just have to care enough to pay attention. Be sure you do A/B testing on your campaigns and test things like frequency, days of the week, subject lines, design and content. Then tweak your messaging based on what your results show you. Your audience will tell what resonates with them by their action (or lack thereof) and fine-tuning your campaigns can lead to higher click through rates, better responses to your calls to action and, well, you might just sell more stuff.
Email marketers, I’d love for you to weigh in. What have I missed–any other best practices to add to the list?