No Bullsh*t Advice From Email Experts
There’s no question that email is an extremely effective channel for building relationships and driving sales. But with email send volume steadily increasing in 2020 and through the holidays, there has never been more competition in the inbox, and with it, some tricky tactics to drive opens for one-off campaigns.
Email marketers today are expected to not only stand out single campaigns, but in a way that sets your email program up for consistent engagement across multiple campaigns. So how can we do this without the smoke and mirrors that run off subscribers?
To get noticed, we gathered top tips from email experts from Hubspot, Email on Acid, dotdigital, AWeber, eFocus Marketing, iContact, Holistic Email Marketing, Monkey Blocks, emailmonday, Dennis Dayman and our resident email geek Lauren Meyer to help you refine your email strategy so subscribers look forward to your message all year long.
Here’s what they had to say…
3 Fail-Proof Ways to Entice Engagement
Standing out in a crowded inbox is all about enticing engagement. Here are three fail-proof ways to entice engagement:
- Don’t send an email to just send an email
We’re in the heart of the busy season for email sending and just because all of your favorite brands have inundated your inbox recently, it doesn’t mean that you have to send something now.
Before you send an email there should be a reason beyond crossing it off your to-do list. Do you have a new piece of content that can help your customers? Great! If you are providing your recipients with a value beyond another email in their inbox, send away! If you are sending solely to wish your database a fruitful New Year, social is a better place for that message.
- Send to contacts that will get the most value out of your content
Although sending to “contacts-full.CSV” is the easiest way to report that you’ve sent an email to your entire database, it’s not going to be beneficial for your future inbox placement. Take time to make sure that you’re sending to properly opted-in and engaged contacts.
Additionally, only send to the contacts that are going to benefit from the email’s content. Are you rounding out 2020 by offering consultations to customers from Q1? Inform them! Sending to the right audiences will lead to better engagement rates and future inbox placement.
- Take advantage of your subject line and preview text
Once your email has arrived in the inbox, your subject line and preview text are going to need to stand out and earn the open. A trail of exclamation points might seem tempting, but this is an opportunity to use information that you already know about the recipient. Provide them with a personalized sneak peek into what they have received. You will see better engagement with “Hey Sarah, check out this 20% off coupon” than “Update from our company”. Take time to review your crowded inbox to see what stands out to you.
As with everything deliverability-focused, there is no secret recipe beyond best practices. Sending targeted content with an enticing subject line to an opted-in audience is the best way to stand out, encourage engagement, and protect your future deliverability.
Pay Attention to Your Subcriber’s Cues & Deliver
The recipe for a perfect email has been called the right message to the right person at the right time. But how do you do that? Especially in 2020, where email has truly become the Alpha in eCommerce.
One of the best ways to stand out in the inbox is through triggered campaigns. These emails are sent based on an action a subscriber takes, which feels more logical in the inbox and… gets MORE opens. Abandoned Cart and Welcome are some of the most commonly used trigger campaigns and are part of a best-in-class email program. But what else can you do?
When a subscriber views a particular page on your website, send them an email with reflective content and continue a conversation they started with their action.
For example, viewing a pricing page is a clue that they could be interested in purchasing your service. What can you send to that subscriber to pique their interest further? Do you have something that speaks to a decision-making role or that can assist that better? A competitor comparison or more information about the problem your service solves could be exactly what they need next.
Let’s face it, email subscribers want to know what’s in it for them, and our job as marketers is to provide them with that something.
That said, these campaigns are only as good as the data that feeds them. If data is a struggle for you, don’t be ashamed, SO many marketers face data woes.
You can set triggers off the subscriber’s interactions with previous campaigns. Did they open the email and click a link about a certain product? Send them more info about that product. But first, make sure they haven’t purchased it yet. Most ESPs have this data easily available for you in the platform, allowing you to create this trigger.
The best way to stand out in the inbox is to pay attention to the cues from your subscribers and deliver content that speaks to their interests.
Back to The Basics: Proven Ways to Get Noticed
It’s the question on every marketer’s mind this holiday season: how do you exactly stand out in the inbox? Well, if you’re a data-driven brand sending super-relevant emails, you should be able to stand out in the crowd. But that’s easier said than done. During the holiday season, the inbox becomes jam-packed as brands vie for their potential and existing customers’ attention.
So, let’s simply go back to basics. Here are three proven ways to get noticed more amid the barrage of incoming emails this month:
- Subject line: Remember, you’re going to be competing with many other brands whose marketers are also going to focus on nailing the subject line. Attracting the reader’s eye depends on three things: personalization, a compelling proposition, and urgent language.
dotdigital customer Beer Hawk gets it right every time:
- Preheader text: Also known as the preview text, it follows your subject line and can add significant value. Make sure you always populate it with extra info – something that gives context to the subject line. Again, Beer Hawk hits the nail on the head:
- Great content: While no one will see your content unless they open, you don’t want to disappoint them once they do. Your content should stay true to the subject line and preview text, with a clear CTA that’s worthwhile clicking. Beer Hawk’s advent calendar campaign is peppered with value-add content to make the overall experience top-notch.
Send Great Emails. Consistently.
The best way to stand out in a crowded inbox is to send great emails consistently. Easier said than done, I know. But when a brand does it right, the results can be something for the history books.
An example of this within my own inbox is the Morning Brew newsletter. I don’t read it every single day, but I know what time it arrives and what kind of content I’ll receive. I also know that I’ll find something interesting, helpful or funny inside… every single time. And if it didn’t arrive in my inbox, I would be searching for it. This is why the team at Morning Brew was able to grow their subscriber base to 1.5 million within just 5 years.
A few tips for building subscriber loyalty within your own email program:
- Find out what makes your subscribers tick. For this, you’re going to have to do some investigatory work. Dig into your stats to understand what content subscribers seem to like the most, and least. Also don’t be afraid to ask them! In a recent study, 81% of people said they were willing to share personal information to get a more personalized online experience.
- Segment your campaigns. Because not every subscriber on your list will have the same appetite for your content, or be there for the same reason. Factor in things like when and how often recipients engage with your emails (and your brand) to ensure you aren’t going to lose them to over-mailing… or risk not mailing to them often enough.
- Provide value with every email you send. Value comes in all shapes and sizes, and there are many ways for you to provide your recipients with a great email experience. So once you’ve learned what your subscribers like, deliver it!
- Monitor and Adjust Accordingly. As always, monitor your email metrics closely to ensure you continue to deliver content that your audience finds value in. Because recipient engagement and inbox placement are not static things!
True success in email (and deliverability) requires you to excel at many things. But by building a loyal base of subscribers who’ve been trained to know that opening an email from you will benefit them every single time, you can be sure that they’ll continue to open in the future. Those other emails in your recipients’ inboxes won’t stand a chance.
Breaking Down 3 Ways to Stand Out
Standing out in the inbox comes down to 3 main things:
- How captivating your subject line is
- How readers feel about your brand and/or ‘from name’
- Whether your message was delivered to their inbox in the first place
Now let’s break down each one…
- 47% of people open emails based on the subject line alone. So, the only goal of your subject is to get subscribers to open your message. Your readers will not open a message from you if it’s not valuable to them. And they can only understand the value if it’s communicated clearly and concisely through the subject line. This is why subject lines that communicate limited-time offers, create a sense of FOMO, and get directly to the point tend to outperform subject lines that are witty, punny, or cute.
- Whether your ‘from name’ is your brand or a person at your company, subscribers need to feel positively about who is sending the email if they’re going to open it. Readers will skip your email altogether if they don’t have a positive relationship with your brand.
- Finally, your emails need to arrive in your readers’ inboxes in the first place if they are going to stand out! Optimize your email deliverability by following organic list growth practices, cleaning your email list regularly, and working with an ESP that prioritizes its customers’ deliverability.
Adapt Your Content & Your Strategy
Adapt your content to your audience – especially at this time of year. Peoples buying behaviours are very different in the run up to the holidays, so making adjustments to your normal strategy to accommodate this is important and something a lot of marketers miss in their planning.
- Adapt your content to the current situation: Make sure your content is up to date, for example, if your shipping times are different during this season, or because of covid, make sure this is amended and stipulated not only in your regular mailings but also your automated campaigns.
- Adapt your segmentation strategy to accommodate holiday buyers who only purchase during this season or the fact that many people will be purchasing gifts rather than for themselves. Your normal segmentation and content strategies may not work for this different behaviour; for example, people who only engage during the holidays may have been removed from sends under standard inactive email subscriber segmentation; how can you adjust this to better meet these customers’ needs and continue to send them email?
- Think about how you can be most helpful during this time – what do your subscribers need. Yes they want to know about your products and offerings, but how can you deliver that in a way that is most helpful to them? For example, ask them who they still have gifts left to buy for so that you can help them with suggestions, or use their website browse and email engagement data to help decide what content should be served up to them to personalise your messages, for example.
Want to learn more? Read my full blog on Only Influencers here about preparing for holiday email marketing success.
Win the Hearts & Minds of Your Subscribers in this New Normal
Are you able to stay productive and produce content in this current environment? I have distractions while working from home, my dogs, my kids, and the ever appearing Amazon delivery person! The problem is that we are all distracted in one way or another. Think about it. If you are distracted and stressed, so are your email subscribers.
More than ever, we need to win the hearts and minds of our email subscribers and unlock our email marketing potential in this new normal. Let’s talk about three ways to help you stand out in the inbox.
If you are winging it with your email subject lines, this is what your subscriber sees, or does not see. Remember, we are all distracted right now, so sticking to a few key principles will help your emails stand out:
- Keep them short, add personalization and emjoi
- Split test different versions of your subject lines
- Use pre-header text as an extension of your subject line
- Use action words like “Act now!”, “Save!”, or “Last Chance!”
Our job is to get qualified leads that convert to a sale. Most marketers use the “spray and pray” method of sending emails hoping for a conversion. Without a clear strategy in mind, many of their emails are ignored. Setting yourself up for success includes:
- Be interesting and informative, rather than being salesy. Jab Jab Right Hook.
- Send a welcome email right away to help start a relationship and set expectations
- Use automation to send a sequence of email can help you remain relevant and top of mind.
Research has shown that you need to touch prospects at least 8 times before they buy, In some situations, many marketers give up after one or two attempts.
You have three seconds or less to grab your subscribers attention. Use these tips to help your subscribers engage with your emails more:
- Clutter = distraction. Use white or negative space in your templates and have a variety of templates.
- Test your content such as subject lines, copy, and images.
- If your business allows, add compelling short stories to your emails.
- Make them relevant and allow the audience to feel like they can relate.
- Use images and link to videos that are interesting and entertaining.
- Use different colors and fonts to keep the content interesting.
People want something to relate to, they want to be focused. Your job is to be visible in the inbox, to send relevant content that is entertaining. Move your subscribers from being distracted to being a raving fan. Send more email, but more importantly, send more relevant emails that gain attention.
3 Steps to Acheive Email Conversions, Let’s Start With the OPEN
With more volume being sent, and more brands being online than ever before, standing out in the inbox is crucial to your success.
There are three steps to achieving a conversion in email marketing:
- Convert the recipient to OPEN the email
- Convert the recipient to click through the email to the landing page
- Convert them on the landing page
Steps 2 and 3 won’t happen without Step 1 having been successful. So, what to do? Humans are complex creatures and there is no single silver bullet for this I’m afraid. But I do have a few tips for you.
- Test what subject lines motivate your subscribers to, not only open the email, but also what makes them convert. Some subject lines may only convert them to achieve Step 1, not Steps 2 and 3. Don’t disregard these results – they’re still informing you about your audience.
- Be aware that many factors go into the micro-decision of whether they open the email or not, including From Name and how they feel about your brand, the offer itself, phrasing and order of words, motivations used, and other minutiae.
For example, try testing front-loading the offer at the beginning of the subject line, so it can be seen even of the subject line is truncated. Or, try (and when I say try, I mean test) front-loading a verb at the beginning of the subject line. Verbs are action words, and our eyes are drawn to them.
- Try (again, test) to find out as much about your customers as possible, the more you understand what makes them tick and motivates them to perform an action, the better your results will be.
For example, you could test (Ok – I’m being blunt with it now) whether a directive statement leading with a verb i.e. “Claim your seat…” vs curiosity works. You may discover that different life stages are likely to react differently, for example, a directive statement may work better with a loyal customer, whereas curiosity may work better with those who are new to your brand or who haven’t as yet purchased.
Brand Your Subject Lines
Be a brand.
Sounds simple, but so many companies don’t really bother.
So what do I mean?
Get your tone of voice into your emails. Make them exciting and noticeable with the wording and phrasing you use. Everyone is tired of seeing subject lines that just list a few products or announce a promotion.
Check out the snapshot below from my newsletter inbox, with sender names removed. I can tell you who 2 of those emails are from because of the subject line, and both are from the same sender.
The reason I know is they use the same format, and it’s now recognizable in my inbox. But the rest are all generic. You don’t have too much space, so creativity might be a bit restricted, but there’s no tone of voice to any of those emails.
Use the same emoji each email, create a format for the subject line, which is memorable, or use certain words and phrases associated with your brand. That bottom email in the image is Holiday Pirates, but it’s the first time I’ve noticed them incorporate that into the subject line.
You Have to Earn Attention to Get Attention
Everybody can be in the inbox spotlight for a day, have a fun subject line or design. The equivalent of an email marketer’s “5 minutes of fame.”
And to be real, some extra engagement tricks now and then are no problem. It’s fine to make your email tease.
Rule 1. Never sleaze. No fake scarcity, fake Re: etc.
Rule 2. Know that milder tricks to get the open, turns into a huge turn off for long time subscribers. So only moderately.
Crafting an email strategy that will keep you long term top-of-mind, is a real challenge.
A term to use for this is Attention Marketing.
My first association is marketing by giving attention. The idea behind it is… what to do to EARN sustained & higher attention and convert that into a relationship and conversions. Claim a (preferred) spot and keep top-of-mind with your email base.
I love the route of quality content – keep consistently putting out top content. Realize that your email subscribers might have been with you for a while, so tune your messages to your customer phase in their lifecycle.
Only thing is…. factual quality (correct and comprehensive, truly latest news, etc.) by itself isn’t tantalizing. It might even bore your audience’s brains out (B2B I am looking at you here!).
We are looking for the spider-tingle, that shot of dopamine reward for opening. If you can put that in your mails, it turns into a “I need to open this one!” There are several ways to go around that, and it has to fit your brand. Putting in a surprise factor, staying out of a rut is a way to liven it up. In other words, refresh your email marketing.
For instance, vary your Offer, Email Types and Content. The added benefit of a refreshment tactic is that you will be able to try and discover what works for your audience.
You might wonder… but what about consistency? Some other email marketer told me: stay consistent. If I keep changing my content etc., is that consistent? How are people going to grow fond of my mails if they are different all the time? Got you covered there – my little hopping-one-leg-to-the-other penguin: There are multiple ways to change your email content.
You can even include your variance in a topic inside your email and bake it into your master template. The worst, most literal example I could think of to explain what I mean… Introduce a segment in your mail: “What captured our attention this week:” do that, and you might capture the attention of your audience in the same way. 😉
Timing is Everything
Email Thought Leader
When it comes to making an email stand out, most talk about content and personality within the email, making it interesting, mobile-friendly, purposeful, etc.
However, one element of successfully standing out doesn’t get enough attention: Timing. As they say, timing is everything, which resonates even more, today when it comes to our cluttered email boxes.
This year, email use is on the rise with our remoteness, and is one thing to be mindful of is when you schedule your emails. Scheduling ideas can be broken up into two areas: the first, knowing when your recipient off-peak hours and days are.
Some might be in your timezone neighborhood, but others could be on the other side of the world, even on a different day. Be cautious of sending emails to people whose time zone could be in the middle of the night for them.
If you’re sending messages at the wrong time, they will likely be buried, with all the senders sending at the wrong time. When they get up, the more timely emails will be addressed quicker, and those they don’t see or don’t care for will likely be deleted or marked to read later.
The other key element of timing is knowing what days work best for your type of email content. It’s known that emails on Mondays are the worst, as we are busy catching up from the week prior and getting ready for the week ahead. Most emails are not relevant in our overloaded selves.
So, check to see when your clicks are occurring. Paying attention to clicks will tell you if your email is a nice welcomed distraction after everyone tried to get their emails into the inbox at the same time.
Parent Cue – “If all your friends jumped off a bridge”… ever hear that from your parents? Then why send it at the same time as all others.
Be different, look for those best times to send clues just sitting in your data waiting to be discovered. Sure, this could be a day you’d never think of ever sending on, but if it’s for holiday buying reasons, then think ahead and get them the week before the big sale, because we all know that readership can be finicky for a lot of reasons, even in 2020.
More No Bullsh*t Advice From Email Experts Coming Soon
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