EMAIL REMAINS ONE OF THE MOST EFFECTIVE CHANNELS AVAILABLE TO MARKETERS. HERE’S HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR RESULTS.
Despite the emergence of new marketing channels that promise to deliver stellar results, email marketing continues to shine in terms of effectiveness and return on investment. Email also enables you to segment your lists to customize your message, nurture prospects and customers no matter what stage of the buying process they’re in, and measure results fairly easily. To help you make the most of your campaigns, we asked Liz Willits, an email marketing expert, for advice.
Connecticut Innovations: Thanks for talking to us, Liz. Email is such an important channel for driving sales and engagement, but first, it has to reach its intended audience. What are your tips for improving email deliverability?
Liz Willits: Email deliverability is a complex topic, but there are three powerful ways to keep deliverability high. One: Only send emails to people who ask to receive them from you. Do not buy an email list! Two: Send emails your subscribers want and expect to receive from you. Three: Clean your email list to remove disengaged subscribers.
If you’re following these three best practices, you’ll likely avoid most deliverability issues.
CI: That makes sense. It’s a pretty rotten brand experience to get email you didn’t sign up for—or messages that aren’t on topic. What about open rates? What are a few proven ways to boost those? It’s not all about the subject line, right?
LW: Your subject line is important, but it’s just one of many factors that impacts open rates. Here are a few other best practices for boosting open rates:
- Improve your email deliverability. (See above.) If your email deliverability is poor, fewer people will see your email in their inboxes, and consequently, your open rates will be low.
- Send valuable content to your subscribers. Subscribers will stop opening your emails if they’re not valuable. To make sure this doesn’t happen, send educational, humorous or helpful content to subscribers on a regular basis.
- Clean your email list. No matter how great your email marketing strategy is, there will be people on your list who don’t open your emails or engage with them. After a while, you should remove them from your list, for three reasons. First, disengaged subscribers hurt your email deliverability. Second, email marketing platforms typically charge based on how many subscribers you have, so removing disengaged ones will cut your bill. And third, removing disengaged subscribers will increase your open rates by removing people who never open.
CI: Here’s something we struggle to explain to the rest of the team: What’s a good email open rate?
LW: Aim for at least 20 percent or higher, but keep in mind that email open rates vary with different types of emails. For example, with an automated email welcome series for new subscribers, you should aim for open rates of 35 percent or higher. To maintain good email deliverability, make sure you’re hitting at least a 20 percent open rate.
Keep in mind, though, that open rates are not entirely accurate, and here’s why: Email marketing platforms can’t actually track open rates, because ISPs, like Gmail and Yahoo!, don’t share their users’ open-rate data with email marketing platforms. To get around this, email marketing platforms insert a tiny, invisible image in every email. When this image loads, it’s tracked as an “open.” However, this tends to be a somewhat inaccurate method, because many people set their inbox preferences so that images don’t automatically load. In this case, they might open every email, but your email marketing platform won’t track it as an open.
CI: Good to know. Another thing I wanted to ask about is preview text. Can you tell our readers what it is and how you set it up?
LW: Sure. Preview text is the unbolded text that appears to the right of your subject line on desktop devices and below your subject line on mobile devices. It can add context to your subject line, and when used well, it can increase your open rates. Many email marketing platforms have a field where you can add preview text, but the steps to set up your preview text are different in each email marketing platform.
CI: Great. We’ll make sure to add it. Speaking of email marketing platforms, which do you recommend for startups with limited budgets?
LW: I recommend ConvertKit, AWeber or MailChimp. They’re all affordable and reliable platforms.
CI: Let’s wrap up with a tip about what not to do. What’s the biggest mistake marketers make with email marketing?
LW: The biggest mistake marketers make with email marketing is buying an email list. Not only is it rude to send emails to someone who didn’t ask for them, but it’s also a great way to permanently damage your email sender reputation and deliverability. And it’s illegal in many countries and some states. On top of that, it tends to be ineffective. Your open rates and click-through rates will likely be poor.
CI: We all know someone who has been guilty of buying lists—at least in the early days of using email as a marketing channel. Great advice, Liz. Thanks for your tips!
LW: Any time!