Lindsay Martin-Bilbrey, CMP
Lindsay is the CEO of Nifty Method Marketing & Events. A lively event professional armed with a very diverse background in the events industry and specializes in topics such as inbound and event marketing, attendee engagement, and so much more.
Email generates $38 for every $1 spent, which is an astounding 3,800% ROI, making it one of the most effective options available. However, the name of the email marketing game in 2020 for brands is reinvention.
Stop reacting to what the market threw at us (see a painful March and April 2020) and now proactively look into the end of Q3 and Q4, brands — corporate, nonprofit, or association — and embrace opportunities that will allow you to finish the year strong as our audience and sales teams settle into a new normal way.
Not sure which improvements your team should focus on? To help you out, we surveyed more than 1000 digital marketing experts and they shared with us 70 email marketing improvements they’d recommend most right now.
Set realistic expectations
Failure is only failure if you believe it is. Those big improvements you once saw for a shiny 2020? They may not be as common because you’ve covered most of the email optimization bases by now. Also, the world is on fire (in some places, quite literally). You're running marketing campaigns in the midst of global upheaval and economic uncertainty. YOY comparisons will likely not be as rewarding for certain categories.
If your expectations are that at some point, everybody’s going to click through your email, you need a goal adjustment. You need something more realistic.
Unfortunately, most blog posts don’t help with realistic goal-setting. Instead, they hype the “one quick fix” that generated millions of revenue…
Why? For page views. In reality, an optimization is never a quick fix, even if it’s a small adjustment made to a headline or button color. Instead, it’s the result of many things:
- A review of gaps in the marketing funnel.
- An analysis of qualitative and quantitative data.
- A replicable testing process.
What you’ll find when you click through to these blog posts is that optimizers only discovered a valuable fix after they dug into their data, after they interviewed customers, after they read through case studies — but the post doesn’t emphasize that. You have to connect all the dots.
And when you start looking at these posts through the lens of a skeptic, you’ll find smoke and mirrors everywhere. Posts you once thought were about the best button color are revealed for what they truly are: clickbait. Does a red button really convert higher than a green one, or does it only convert higher because it stands out more than a green button on a green background?
These are things that blog writers routinely underemphasize because it’s not as alluring as the alternative. Everybody wants a quick and easy fix — to think that red is a better button color than green instead of the truth: optimization is the result of a detailed and tedious process. And so the writers write it, and the readers believe it because they want to.
Don’t take the bait. Optimization takes patience. It takes process. It takes resources. Anybody who tells you otherwise isn’t telling you everything.
Be vigilant about list hygiene
Bad names and bounced names are not necessarily synonymous. However, database cleanliness is next to godliness.
Depending on which expert you talk with, there can be nearly 100 different things that can cause an email to bounce. Often these problems are more to do with technology than the actual end-recipient not being there anymore. Servers go down, list senders are blocked, mailboxes are temporarily full, people are simply on vacation, etc.
Which is why you never should cut a name off your list just because it bounced a few times. On the other hand, if you have too many bad addresses you are running the risk of being blocked as an email sender.
Fix typos or formatting problems in email addresses.
According to SendGrid, approximately 2% of undeliverable names are due to the name having been entered incorrectly in the first place or that have been corrupted somehow in your database.
Here are examples of common mistakes:
Bad email --- Corrected version
jane-doe#hotma.lcom --- email@example.com
email me at (firstname.lastname@example.org) --- email@example.com
"Smith, Meta" firstname.lastname@example.org --- email@example.com
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com --- firstname.lastname@example.org
alex (a) domain.com --- email@example.com
paulao.lc.om --- firstname.lastname@example.org
email@example.com --- firstname.lastname@example.org
aaron@prodigy net.com --- email@example.com
firstname.lastname@example.org --- email@example.com
firstname.lastname@example.org --- email@example.com
tim@a0..com --- firstname.lastname@example.org
alex@classic,msn//com --- email@example.com
jeff@o'neill.comcom --- firstname.lastname@example.org
jane;email@example.com --- firstname.lastname@example.org
email@example.com --- firstname.lastname@example.org
email@example.com --- firstname.lastname@example.org
(Please note: do *not* email any of the corrected addresses above. We do *not* have permission to use them in any way aside from posting them here for your education.)
Stay on top of email address changes
According to list hygiene provider Return Path, at least 30-35% of users change their primary email address per year often because they change jobs, switch ISPs, or close down old addresses to avoid email overload.
In fact, SendGrid's found that an incredible 83% of bad names on a typical list are due to address changes. Prevent your list from going bad as quickly as it has been by taking at least a few of these basic steps:
Ask new subscribers to double opt-in
The experts we interviewed agreed that this helps and does not discourage customers or send them running off to other sites. One huge benefit of using double opt-in is that you have a more engaged list. Because subscribers have to confirm, you know that the people on your list really wanted to sign up. That should make them more responsive to your emails, and more likely to open and click.
Confirmed subscribers are also less likely to report your emails as spam. Too many spam reports can really affect your sender reputation and hurt email deliverability.
This is something to avoid at all costs, as a poor sender reputation could stop your emails from reaching subscribers at all. According to Talos Intelligence, around 85% of global email volume is spam.
Make address recovery easier
If you haven't already been doing so in your information gathering on your audience,
in addition to an email, you should also collect their name, an alternate email address, a postal address, or a phone number. This info can help you track down a new email address when the old one goes bad. It also allows you to send out a nice package or thinking of you postcard during a global pandemic.
Asking for more data will lower the number of sign-ups for your newsletter. The more fields someone has to fill out, the lower the rate. Unless you are gathering the data another way (such as through a shopping cart), consider making the additional
questions non-required page-two of your sign-up form. That way you still get the email address even if prospects do not feel like typing any more.
Make it easier to unsubscribe by creating an email subscription center
Don't make it on this list. Instead, create a preference center which allows customers to choose email content and frequency to their own liking. It also gives them a simple option to unsubscribe.
It may sound counterintuitive but preference centers are an important addition to your email marketing strategy. By making use of this tool, you can tailor your marketing to your customers’ needs.
Why should you do that? Isn’t it much easier and more effective on your part to just send the same message to all your subscribers? After all, you want them to know what your company is up to, when you have a new product, or when there’s a big sale coming.
Use personalization for customer retention
Over 75% of email revenue is generated by triggered, personalized campaigns rather than one-size-fits-all campaigns according to DMA.
That said, personalization is a must for customer retention. We all know it’s cheaper to keep an existing customer than to acquire a new one. Personalization nurtures your customers, keeping them engaged and interested by staying relevant and specific to their needs.
So how do you excel at personalization? You can deploy:
- Cart abandonment reminders featuring subscriber-relevant products
- Personalized copy that leverages customer data you’ve collected
- Location-specific images/offers that make emails feel hyper-relevant
Just remember: Personalization should be personal. Make sure your copy reads like it was written for a human, not just an inbox.
Adjust your content based on the data
You should always be collecting data and insight from subscribers but once you get it, start analyzing and making some changes. We use smart send through Hubspot's email tool which allows us to dynamically adjust content and send according to time zone, amongst other things.
The successful email marketer continually improves the user experience and that could mean doing things like:
- Making the content in your emails shorter and more direct
- Upgrading to a different email marketing platform to allow for better automation, segmentation, and dynamic content
- Personalizing the email with each subscriber’s first name
- Including more links back to your website and to trusted resources
- Asking open-ended questions to spark conversation
- Inserting custom graphics
- Inviting subscribers to interact with your business on social media
Of course, you should make sure your audience is interested in some of these changes before making them. Ultimately, it is really trial and error.
If you have multiple opt-ins on your site, one of the best things you can do is segment your list so you know which people are interested in certain topics so you can better serve them. Sending people relevant content will help you keep their interest.
Clean your email list
You should also invest in getting your list professionally cleaned on a regular basis. Return Path says that 75% of their clients run the services on a regular basis, at least quarterly, the other 25% run the services on an adhoc basis. Benefits of regularly cleaning your list include:
- Running your file through a list hygiene system to catch general syntax errors, invalid characters, invalid domain syntax, invalid username syntax, missing usernames, missing or multiple @ signs, etc. Some even try and fix the placement of periods.
- Removing bogus email names (email@example.com) and malicious names (firstname.lastname@example.org). Your list cleaning service should have a whole
list of these they can show you on request.
- Fixing domain names that have typos, and giving you a list of
names which are using domains that no longer exist so you can
contact those customers through another method to get a new email
if you wish.
- Running your list through some type of address updating service.
Since there is no single official USPS email address forwarding system (yet), the way that different services collect, append and sell revised names to you can differ widely. The option you pick not only affects price but also can raise serious privacy concerns:
- Some services email the user first to get specific new permission before handing over the changed address to you. Subscribers have to essentially re-opt and say to say "yes I want to be on that list." This is the highest level of privacy, and should certainly be used for prospects and lapsed customers lists, if not active buyers.
- Some services simply append the email address without checking with users to see if they have any opinion about getting mail from you or not. We do not recommend this to a privacy-sensitive company.
Remove cold subscribers
Be sure to clean out your list at least once every six months. Eliminate email addresses that tend to bounce back since that’s a sign they may no longer be active.
Also, reach out to cold subscribers before deleting them for good. A cold subscriber is generally someone who hasn’t opened any of your emails in a few months (our rule of thumb is the last eleven emails).
We like to reach out to cold subscribers and ask them if they still want to receive emails before deleting them for good. We do this just to make sure we're not deleting anyone who is still interested in hearing from us and could potentially be a client or resource in the future.
Create more email opt-in opportunities
Breathe some new life into your email list by creating more email opt-in opportunities on your site, such as a blog newsletter sign-up form. While this won’t necessarily help your emails get opened more frequently or influence downloads, it will improve the quality of your lists and, therefore, the open and click-through rates of the email campaigns you send will improve overall.
Ensuring your recipients have opted in to receive your emails isn’t only a best practice, it’s a critical step in maintaining a good business reputation with potential clients and with email service providers, too.
Begin sending a welcome series
The bonus to so many more people moving to digital interactions? Hopefully an increase in your email subscription list. Many brands still don't have that essential welcome experience that creates connection and warmth from the the first click. You've got the time now to craft that amazing welcome email series that puts you in control of how your subscribers are introduced to your brand.
Why do you need this? It creates trust and helps you establish a relationship with your customer. First impressions are crucial, and sometimes, a single welcome email isn't enough to set the stage.
Instead, you need a welcome series. But it doesn't have to be overwhelming! In fact we've created the emails for you.
Send a re-engagement email series
If a certain segment of your email list hasn’t engaged with you or your content for some time, a simple re-engagement email can warm up some leads that may have gone cold. Try sending a “haven’t heard from you in a while” email or a “here’s what you missed” email sharing some of your recent blog posts and new content offers.
This type of targeted email can peak the interest of potential leads, and with your marketing automation software you can track opens, click-through rates, which links received the most engagement and more. It only takes one prospect to engage to make it worth your time and effort.
Optimize your preview text
Preview text is the snippet of copy pulled from the body of your email and displayed below the sender name and subject line in a user’s inbox. Many companies forget to optimize this text. As a result, default preview text such as “View this email in web browser” or “Having trouble viewing this email?” appears. Not exactly compelling, is it?
This text can be optimized to make your emails more appealing at first glance. The number of characters displayed will differ depending on the email client your contact uses. Most display between 35–90 characters, although Apple Mail displays 140. Some don’t display preview text at all. Finding the sweet spot can be challenging. Not too short. Not too long.
As far as what to include in your preview text, think of it as a second headline or summary of what the recipient can expect once they open the email. Include relevant keywords and an appropriate sense of urgency, but don’t just repeat the subject line. Instead, get a little creative. You might even want to include a little humor or an intriguing question to increase the likelihood of engagement.
Use images thoughtfully
Images can be a double-edged sword in emails. On one hand, the use of images can help boost conversions and make your email more visually appealing. On the other hand, however, many email applications block images, meaning some of your audience may never see them. Some companies are even opting for plain text emails to replicate a more personal approach. If you do include images, however, consider the following:
Never go image only! Always include text in your emails, and if you put key information in an image, make sure it’s replicated in the text. Putting all the key information in an image and having it not appear is a common mistake.
Avoid high resolution photos. This increases the load time on mobile or for those with slower connection speeds, and just makes for a frustrating experience.
Adjust your email sending frequency
While there’s no set frequency to follow for optimal results, you don’t want to be on the extreme ends of the spectrum when sending emails.
Too many emails makes your emails predictable, annoying and easy to ignore. Even if they don’t unsubscribe, your contacts will likely delete them without thinking twice
Not sending enough emails makes you forgettable, however, and the results from your campaigns will be a shot in the dark and convey that you’re unfamiliar with your audience
Send emails frequently, but not too frequently to keep prospects attention. Send no more than a couple emails a week — even fewer, more targeted emails would be better — as opposed to an email every day (unless they sign up for your daily newsletter, of course)
Segment your lists
If you haven’t segmented your contact lists into more specific groups, it’s crucial that you take time to do so. Segmented campaigns get 101% more clicks than non-segmented campaigns, as well as 14% higher open rates!
There are many different ways to segment your email contact lists to be more effective, such as by demographics, company size, stage in the buyer’s journey, geographic region, past purchases and more.
For example, if you have a group of contacts who purchased a specific product in the last six months, you could segment those buyers and send them an email asking for feedback on their purchase. Then, include information that may be useful to them such as a related blog post, a video or complimentary products they might be interested in.
Also consider scrubbing your list of any contacts who completely ignore your emails, yet haven’t unsubscribed. Perhaps they don’t use that email account anymore and never deleted it, or your emails end up in a spam folder. Whatever the reason, if someone hasn’t opened one of your emails in a year, there’s very little chance they ever will.
A/B test different fonts, colors, CTAs, etc.
Does a specific keyword in the headline perform better than another? Will a larger headline font increase engagement? Or maybe a different color? Does the time I send my email make a difference in open rates? The only way to answer these and other questions is by performing A/B testing on your emails. A/B testing can send half your contact list one version and the other half a second, slightly altered version. It’s a great way to understand your audience’s preferences and can provide invaluable insights for future campaigns.
When conducting an A/B test, it’s tempting to create two completely different versions of an email... resist! If you change multiple elements of an email in your second version and it performs better, you’ll have no idea what it was about the email that resonated with your contacts. It’s important to choose one major element and change that to accurately reflect results.
Stop testing randomly
It’s true in life and email marketing optimization too: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Ask yourself, was your last attempt at optimization something you cooked up from nowhere? Was it a tactic that boosted revenue for somebody else? Here’s the problem with both those scenarios: You might be trying to fix something that’s working just fine compared to other parts of your funnel.
For example, a common focus of email marketing optimizations is subject lines. They’re easy to test, they’re fun to come up with compared to a lot of other optimizations, and they’re fun to read about. So they get a lot more attention than case studies on, say, targeting, inboxing, or onboarding sequences.
This may lead some email marketers to believe subject lines are more important than other parts of the process. And for some, they are. But what about you?
Your brand is unique. Its challenges are unique too. And these are both foundations of your testing strategy. To disregard them would mean ignoring the most important step of testing: discovering a reason to test.
Without a reason to test, you’re like a detective trying to solve a crime that you can’t confirm was committed. If somebody says “My house has been robbed,” the first step to solving the crime is to ensure the house was robbed before you go hunting for a suspect.
Similarly, when somebody says “We’ve got to test email subject lines,” your first question should be, “Why’ve we got to test email subject lines?” And if they can’t provide evidence that email subject lines are underperforming, then you shouldn’t focus your efforts on subject line testing at this point.
Optimization is about improvement. If you’re making improvements to your email marketing, you should be fixing what needs fixing first. Take care of glaring holes in your email marketing strategy. Review the data you have. Talk to your customers. If you keep hearing “I don’t click through because your subject lines are boring,” then you have a basis for testing subject lines. However, if you keep hearing “I don’t click through because I never opted into your email list,” then you shouldn’t be testing subject lines. You should be looking at the way you got these email addresses.
Round up the usual suspects and really examine what you're analyzing from a data perspective
It’s true, ideas for testing start in data, but data can be confusing. Let’s take open rates for example.
If email open rates are low, you may immediately blame your subject lines. But coming to a hasty conclusion like that could result in a decision that saps your business’s resources later.
Before you start testing new subject lines to get prospects to open your email, it’s wise to round up the usual suspects responsible for low open rates. That includes:
- The source of the addresses in the list you’re emailing
- Potential issues with targeting or segmenting
- Where your emails are landing (since Gmail separated promotional emails from the inbox, many businesses have had issues inboxing)
- The content of your emails (did you promise one thing and deliver another?)
- How often you’re mailing
- Your emails’ level of personalization and relevance
These are just a handful of things other than subject lines that could be impacting open rates. And this process isn’t strictly limited to open rates. Click-through rate, conversion rate — every metric is impacted by a number of different campaign elements. Consider all culprits before you start fixing the wrong problem.
Don't bury the lede
Sending emails that contain offers is similar to creating ad campaigns. And just like advertisers do, many email marketers forget the ultimate goal of an email in the first place: to generate a lead or sale.
So what ends up happening is subject lines are perfected and email copy is written and rewritten, 25 different CTAs are tested, but there’s little thought put into the page that visitors are directed to once they click through.
Why could these campaign conversion rates be low? Some reasons that are evident on the post-click landing page:
Lots of distractions. It’s very easy to leave this page before converting. Above the fold there are numerous links in the navigation including the blog, the ‘About’ page, etc. Below the fold there are all the same links, and one additional for the sitemap.
Competing calls-to-action. In the navigation, you’ll see an “Apply Now” CTA, and below the form, you’ll see the conversion goal of the page: “Submit” to register for the for the CSR webinar. This is a post-click landing page with an identity crisis. There should be no more than one CTA per post-click landing page, as each will detract from the others.
The secondary CTA is actually more attention-grabbing than the primary CTA. “Submit” isn’t likely to get visitors interested in attending the roundtable, and it’s much harder to see as a light gray button against a white background.
There are more form fields than need be. I clicked through an email to get to this page, so the school already has my email address. Usually, the fewer the fields, the more likely a visitor is to convert.
The post-click landing page is where the conversion happens. So, you may have great open rates and lots of click-throughs, but if nobody takes action on your post-click landing page, the campaign’s a bust.
Post-click optimization — improving what happens after the click — is something that’s only recently become a focus of businesses. For email marketers, it’s a crucial part of campaign success.
If you’re not using a post-click landing page to gate your content, you’re not collecting your maximum potential leads.
Improve message match
One of the pillars of post-click optimization is message match. It’s about creating a foundation of trust on your post-click landing page by letting your prospects know they’re in the right place.
Do this by delivering on the post-click landing page what you promised in the email. That means:
- Use colors on your post-click landing page that were used in your email.
- Feature media on your post-click landing page that was used in your email.
- Match the headline of your email to the headline of your post-click landing page.
Ensure your logo is displayed on the post-click landing page as it was in the email.
If they click through your email and arrive on a page where these things aren’t present, they may believe they’ve been misled. And converting a prospect comes down to establishing trust. A different headline, logo, colors, or media could drive them to the “X” in the corner of their browser before they even have a chance to evaluate your offer.
Optimize your subject lines
You need to grab the reader’s attention. Your subject line is what your email recipients will see before they open your email. More importantly, your subject line is one of only a few pieces of information they’ll take into consideration when deciding whether or not to open your email in the first place. An optimized subject line will help you capture your audience’s attention and convince them to open your email to read more.
First, your subject line should be relevant to your audience. It should address your reader’s concerns. If I’m sending an email to a list of mid-level marketers and I know that one of their primary stressors is not having enough time in their days, I might use a subject line that says, “Ready to save time on your marketing?” I’m hoping that by phrasing my offer in terms of a value proposition that is relevant to my readers, they’ll be intrigued and want to find out how I can help them solve their problem.
Another tip for optimizing your subject lines is to personalize them. Include the recipient’s first name or the name of his company, for instance. I’m much more likely to open an email with the subject line “How HubSpot’s marketing can be more efficient” than one that says “How your company’s marketing can be more efficient” because it’s personalized to me.
Finally, when writing strong subject lines, use actionable language, like “join us,” “download,” “get your free,” etc. It's important to be explicit about what your offer is, strive for clarity over persuasion, and keep it brief when possible.
Send email from a real sender's name (a real human, not marketing@yourbrandhere)
You need to build trust with your readers. The name from which you’re sending your emails is the other component your recipients will see before opening your email, and factor into their decision of whether or not to open it. Optimizing your choice of sender name, and using that name consistently, will help build a sense of trust in that name and allow readers to recognize your emails more easily going forward.
Email marketing should be personalized -- send your emails from an actual person! I send all my emails from my actual name. A few of our clients include a small picture of the sender with their signature because it helps set a very personable, friendly tone and reinforces the idea that the email is coming from a real human, not an emotionless marketing machine.
You can also test different sender names in your emails to see which one does best. Maybe sending from the CEO of your company is most effective, or maybe your readers like to receive the email about your new ebook from the author of the ebook herself, along with the company name to help readers better identify an unknown author. Try out a few different variations and see what works best.
Don't batch and blast emails
You need to make your emails relevant. According to a MarketingSherpa study, 4 out of 10 email subscribers reported that they’ve marked emails as spam simply because they were irrelevant.
One of the best ways to make your emails seem more relevant to your readers is to show them that you know something about them -- that you know who they are, where they work, what their concerns are. Not in a creepy way, of course, but in a way that says “I understand what your problems are, and I can help you solve them.” You can do this with personalization.
Personalization goes beyond addressing the email to the person’s first name. Leverage the demographic and behavioral data you have about your readers by including it in your emails. You can use their company name, their location, their role at their company, the pages they’ve viewed on your site, items they’ve previously purchased, and so much more. Be creative! Mass marketing isn’t effective anymore. Find ways to show your readers that you’re customizing your message to them.
Make email copy useful to your reader
You need to make your emails concise and compelling. This is often the component that marketers focus on the most when trying to optimize their emails. How can I make it sound good? How can I make my offer more convincing? It’s important to get your language, tone, and layout right in order to increase the likelihood that your readers will click through to take advantage of your offer.
First and foremost, you need to make sure that your body copy clearly conveys what your offer is and why it’s valuable. (Come on, marketers, you all know this one!) Tie it back to your value proposition. When writing good copy, you want to use brief, compelling language. In an email send for an crisis communications workshop around covid event cancellations, we began an email series we sent out in mid-March 2020 with: "9 out of 10 event professionals don't have an event crisis communication plan that outlines cancelling their event due to force majeure."
…Eventprofs wanted to hear more. They immediately answered, yes, that's me. How do we overcome this? What do I need to do about this?
Make your copy brief, compelling, and interesting. Tell a story, use statistics to emphasize a point, and don’t be afraid to use strong language.
It's also critical you use short paragraphs and bullet points to break up the text visually, so as not to overwhelm your readers. No one has time to read an essay these days, and if your email looks even the slightest bit visually dense, readers will have already lost interest. Keep it light.
Refresh and test your calls to action
You want your readers to click through and convert. Your call-to-action is arguably the most important component of your emails, because the ultimate goal of your email is to get your readers to click on it and take an action. Heck, the entire reason you’re optimizing your emails is to get more of your readers to click on that call-to-action in order to send them to your landing page, where they can then convert into a lead.
In other words, this is where the transition from a click to a conversion happens.
To start, you should first select a primary, focused call-to-action for your email. Boil it down to the one primary action you want your readers to take.
Then, create your call-to-action. Whether it’s a button or a link, you want to make sure your call-to-action is prominent and visually distinctive. This should be the clear focus of your email, so make it stand out and catch the viewer’s eye. It’s also good practice to keep your calls-to-action “above the fold,” so they’re visible without the reader having to scroll down.
You’ll also want to optimize the language you use in your calls-to-action. You should use copy that is clear and action-oriented (“download,” “register”), urgent (“now,” “today”), and friendly (“join us,” “get your”).
Finally, a great way to optimize your calls-to-action is actually to include multiple links and buttons throughout your email that all direct to the same landing page. This simply offers your readers more opportunities to click through and convert, making it more likely that more of them will do so.
Make it easier to share your emails
You want to encourage your readers to share your content. By making it easy for your email readers to share your offers with their networks, you’re not only expanding your audience and your reach, but you’re also broadening your opportunity to generate new leads. After all, if you’re sending emails to the folks who are already leads in your database, they’re not going to be new leads in your system if they convert. But if they share your content with people who are not in your database, and they convert, you’ve got yourself some new leads.
Include social sharing links in all of your emails! And don’t be afraid to give your readers options -- everyone has their own favorite social network. Include links for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+. You can also include an email forward link, which is another great way to encourage your readers to share your content to help you generate new leads.
Another tip for optimizing these social sharing links is to customize them with your own copy. No need to use the auto-populated tweet copy -- you can write it yourself! It’s also a good idea to optimize the meta description of your landing pages, since that copy is what Facebook and LinkedIn will display when people share links to those pages.
Whatever you do, make it easy for your readers to share your content, and obvious that they should!
Review all of your emails to ensure that they include an easy to find (and easy to use) unsubscribe link
Well, first of all, it’s actually illegal not to include an unsubscribe link in your email sends. Legal matters aside, you also want your readers to want to hear from you. If they’re not interested in getting your emails, don’t force them to be on your list. Give them an unsubscribe option. This will actually make your open rates and click-through rates more accurate as well, since you’re only looking at the people who want to be on your list in the first place.
Make it easy enough to find your unsubscribe link. This doesn’t mean it has to be as prominent as your call-to-action (ahem, it shouldn’t be nearly as prominent), but don’t hide it, either. If I’m looking to unsubscribe from your emails and I can’t find that button, I might just mark your email as spam, and that’s way worse for you because that will actually damage your sender reputation. See what I’m getting at here? Also, because someone might troll you on social.
Another great marketing tactic is to fill your unsubscribe page with personality. Make it fun, funny, compelling, and try to entice your reader to stay on your list -- or at least engage with you through social channels or some other means. This way you reduce the likelihood that they’ll leave your list, even though you’ve given them that option.
Review your templates to ensure your emails are easy to view and take action on mobile
Raise your hand if you’ve ever opened an email on your phone and the text has been too big or too small or too long, and scrolling was just impossible …
Exactly. You don’t want your readers to have to deal with that when they look at your emails, do you? You want your emails to display nicely across all devices.
Design your emails to adapt to whatever device your readers are on. Use mobile-optimized templates for building your emails, and optimize for the best mobile user experience possible. That way you don’t miss a chance to convert a lead just because they’re on one type of device instead of another.
Review with your team (and all stakeholders who acquire and supply names and emails to your database) that you don't purchase contact lists.
In times of coronavirus, when face to face events are cancelled and tradeshow leads haven't dried up but are in considerable flux, it can very tempting to purchase a list just that once to inject new blood into your campaigns. Especially if you're in an industry where your contact list (oh hospitality, we love you and you'll be back!!) is barely limping along due to furloughs and layoffs.
Don't do it. Trust us, we get it. But don't. It leads to unhappiness for everyone.
Email campaigns depend on a healthy open rate, and if you're contacting people whose information you bought -- rather than earned from a previous interaction -- you'll quickly see your emails' performance drop.
The GDPR also requires each European recipient's consent before you reach out to them, and purchased email lists usually do not come with that consent.
Review and ensure that your emails avoid using 'No-Reply' in the sender's email address.
Have you heard of CAN-SPAM? This longstanding piece of legislation is a popular and important guideline for all email marketers in the U.S. -- and still many companies are trying to comply with it. One major rule in CAN-SPAM is to never use the words "no reply," or a similar phrase, as your email sender's name (for example, "email@example.com").
"No reply" in an email message prevents recipients from responding and even opting out of further emails, which CAN-SPAN protects their right to do at any time. Instead, have even your automated emails come from a first name (for example, firstname.lastname@example.org). Your customers are much more likely to open emails if they know they were written by a human being.
Review and ensure your emails stick to fewer than three typefaces.
The less clutter you have in your email, the more conversions you'll experience. Don't junk up your email with more than two, or a maximum of three, fonts or typefaces.
Review and ensure that you're optimizing the email's preview text.
You've seen this link in the marketing emails you receive, and don't get me wrong, it's a helpful warning. But keeping it in the preview text of your email could be a death sentence for the email's open rate, which averages 22 percent across industries, according to a report from GetResponse. In this case, you're basically telling recipients, "this email might not work."
Email newsletter with "can't see images?" listed in preview text, not a marketing best practice
By default, preview text pulls in the first several words of the email body and displays it next to the subject line before the person opens it. The problem is custom email templates often stick conditional statements like "can't see images?" or "not displaying correctly?" along the top banner, allowing it to slip right into the preview when it goes out.
Review and ensure all emails include an email signature.
Even if your newsletter is technically being sent to your contacts on behalf of the company, rather than an individual, the email should include the signature of a specific person.
People are naturally more inclined to read and listen to emails if they know it came from a human being, not just a collective marketing team. And your email signature is your ticket to their attention.
Review evergreen copy and ensure that you're keeping the main message and call-to-action above the fold.
If your main call-to-action (CTA) falls below the fold, as many as 70% of recipients won't see it. Also, any CTA should be repeated at least three times throughout the email in various places and formats.
Review and ensure you're personalize the email greeting.
How often do you read emails that begin, "Dear Member"?
You might segment your email audiences by the type of customer they are (member, subscriber, user, etc.), but it shouldn't be the first thing recipients see in your company messages. Personalizing the greeting of your emails with your contacts' first names grabs the attention of each reader right away.
Don't worry, personalizing an email's greeting line with 50 recipients' names doesn't mean you'll have to manually write and send 50 different emails from now on. Many email marketing tools today allow you to configure the greeting of your email campaign so that it automatically sends with the name of the people on your contact list -- so everyone is getting a personal version of the same message.
Review and ensure all email templates are 500-650 pixels wide.
If your email template is wider than 650 pixels, you're asking users to scroll horizontally to read your entire message. This is even more cumbersome for a recipient who's reading your email on his or her mobile device. Your email pixel width is a critical component of its lead-capturing ability.
Test out marketing software that allows for A/B test different subject lines and calls to action if your current platform doesn't
If you can't seem to increase your email's open and click-through rates, a couple of things might be wrong: You're not emailing the right people (are you buying your contact list? See the first tip at the top of this blog post), or the content of your email needs to be improved. To start, focus on the latter, and conduct an A/B test.
A/B tests, or "split tests," can be used to improve almost any of your digital marketing content. In an email, this test effectively "splits" your recipients into two groups: Group A receives the normal newsletter, while Group B receives the newsletter with a specific variation. This variation tests to see if your audience would be more or less likely to take an action if your newsletter was different.
For example, you might change the color of your CTA from red to green to see if your email's click-through rate increases. If it does, the test indicates that you should change your emails' CTA color to green from now on.
Review and put your logo in the center or upper-lefthand side of the email if you aren't already
Eye-tracking studies have found that people instinctively look for logos in the upper left-hand side of emails -- often because it's consistent with the placement of a logo on most websites. However, it's also acceptable to put your logo in the center to align it with the email content beneath it.
Whether your logo is centered or on the lefthand side, branding the header of your email reminds your recipients that it came from you and it's part of a series.
Review and update the types of incentives you're using to increase open rates.
When you include an incentive in your subject line, you can increase open rates by as much as 50%. "Free shipping when you spend $25 or more" and "Receive a free iPod with demo" are examples of good, incentive-focused subject lines.
However, be careful not to overwhelm your readers with savings- or product-related emails. Customer loyalty starts with casual industry insights -- only then can you talk business.
Review and ensure you've allowed recipients to subscribe to your newsletter.
You might be thinking, "wait, if they received the email to begin with, shouldn't they have already subscribed?"
Usually, yes, and therefore adding a "Subscribe" button to your email doesn't help those who've already agreed to receive your emails. But great content is shareable content, and if your current subscribers are forwarding your emails to their friends and colleagues, you'll want to help them subscribe, too.
Add a small but visible CTA that allows an email viewer to subscribe to the newsletter if they received this email from someone else. But remember, because your newsletter should already be driving another action, such as downloading an ebook or becoming a community member, make sure this "Subscribe" button doesn't distract or confuse users, weakening your main campaign goal in the process.
Update and review your subject lines.
A good subject line should contain between 30 and 50 characters (including spaces). Email accounts and mobile devices often cut off any subject lines that go beyond this length. Your email subject line should also create a sense of urgency, while giving readers some indication of what to expect once they open the email.
Update and review your auto-responders for opt-ins.
Be prepared for your readers to forget they opted in. Set up an auto-responder that reminds people they opted in to your email database. The auto-responder should be sent out one day, five days, and 10 days after the person registers.
Each auto-responder email should also include additional content or bonus material to reward the reader for opting into the newsletter -- or your readers might not feel they have enough incentive to actually opt in.
Review and ensure emails tie to landing pages.
Your landing page should match the email in terms of headline, copy, and content. The look and feel of your landing page should also match the email -- consistency goes a long way toward a customer's trust in the content they're receiving.
Just make sure you're using tracking tools to see which emails and landing pages performed the best so you can keep sending what's working.
Ask a friend if that email really says what you think it says
Send a copy of the email to a friend or business associate. Can they quickly tell what your call-to-action is? If so, you're golden. If not, keep working.
Review your evergreen and upcoming content ensuring your email is on-brand
When your email recipients open your message, they should know the email was sent from your brand … meaning your email should be branded to the point that they don’t need to look at who’s sending the message to know it’s from your business.
To keep your email on-brand, consider using the following tactics:
- Use a tone in your email content that complements your other branding and marketing materials (like your website and social media).
- Incorporate the same colors and fonts that you use in your other branding and marketing materials.
- Include your logo, a link to your website, links to your social media accounts, and calls-to-action (CTAs) relevant to your products or services. This is a great way to increase brand awareness and boost conversions.
Review your email templates and think about how you're using the layout to enhance your email’s user experience.
Nobody wants to read a cluttered, unorganized email. Your email will appear too overwhelming and time-consuming to deal with, and you’ll increase your chances of abandonment.
Instead, organize your layout with user experience (UX) in mind — meaning, leave white space and strategically place your written and visual content in the email so it’s organized and easy to navigate. This will also improve your email’s professional, thoughtful feel, which ensures readers are able to find the information they want and need to enjoy their interactions with your business’s email content.
Don’t be afraid to use emojis. 🧡
At first, emojis may seem like an unnecessary or unprofessional addition to an email. While this may be a fair assumption, it’s actually untrue. In fact, when you add emojis to your email subject line and/ or email copy, you can increase your open and click-through rates.
Pro tip: Be cautious and ensure everyone is on board with the types of emojis being used. When using emojis for marketing purposes, make sure you know the meaning and connotation of the specific one(s) you incorporate. 😃
Review your email templates and ensure you're using responsive design.
A responsive design means your email changes format to fit the screen it’s being viewed on, whether it's on a desktop, laptop, or mobile device. Recipients will be able to read your emails with ease no matter where or how they’re viewing them. Responsive design enhances user experience and improves email subscriber retention.
Add email automation if you aren't already saving that kind of time
Email marketing automation is useful because it eliminates small but time consuming tasks, such as preparing email lists, sending generic messages, or scheduling events manually. This allows marketers and salespeople more time to work on more productive projects or bigger deals.
If you want to get more out of your contacts database, this post will give you some ideas for automated email workflows you can set up to engage and activate all different types of contacts in your database.
Add a topic workflow email automation
What triggers this email marketing sequence: Page Views or Content Offer Downloads
Create a workflow for each of the industry-related topics you create content about. So if, hypothetically, you're a dragon breeder whose main content topics include dragon diets, dragon gear, and dragon boarding, you could bucket your content marketing offers (e.g. ebooks, webinars, kits, etc.) and blog posts by these topics, create an email workflow for each topic, and trigger the appropriate workflow when one of your contacts views a page or downloads an offer centered around that topic.
So if a contact downloaded your ebook called 10 Tips for a Balanced Dragon Diet, your "dragon diet" workflow would be triggered, sending that contact other helpful content, like blog posts about unicorn dietary tips.
Add a New Customer Welcome/Training Workflow
What triggers this email marketing sequence: Change in the User Lifecycle Stage
Consider setting up a series of welcome emails when a contact converts into a paying customer, which you can trigger when a contact's lifecycle stage gets updated to "customer."
Not only is this a great way to kick off your new customer relationship on a positive note, but it can also keep your customers engaged after they buy. And if your product or service requires a little training on your customers' part, use this workflow as an opportunity to introduce helpful training materials on an incremental basis.
Add an Engaged Contact/Evangelist Workflow
What triggers this email marketing sequence: Visits, Clicks, or Form Submissions
Create a dynamic list that automatically updates to include contacts who are really engaged with you. To create this list, use trigger criteria such as a high threshold of visits to your website, clicks on your emails or social media posts, or form submissions. Then create an email workflow to leverage this list as a way to encourage evangelism of your top content in social media.
Because these contacts are highly engaged with you already, they're more apt to share your top content. You can also consider adding list criteria to pull in contacts with a certain number of Twitter followers so you can leverage the power of those social media influencers in your database.
Add a Lead Nurturing Workflow
What triggers this email marketing sequence: Multiple Top-of-the-Funnel Conversion Events
If a contact has downloaded several of your top-of-the-funnel marketing offers like ebooks and webinars, it might be a good sign they're ready for a little bit more. Set up workflows that help to advance these contacts further down the funnel.
If the contact is a lead, try sending them emails containing more middle-of-the-funnel content that might upgrade them to a marketing qualified lead (MQL) or an opportunity in your sales process. This workflow could include content and web pages you've identified from an attribution report analysis as influential in converting leads into customers -- perhaps content like customer success stories/case studies, free trial offers, or product demos.
Add an Internal Sales Rep Notification Workflow
What triggers this email marketing sequence: Bottom-of-the-Funnel Page Views/Conversion Events
On any given website, there are certain page visits and conversion events that indicate product interest more so than others. First, identify these pages and conversion events using an attribution reporting tool like HubSpot or Google Analytics. You’ll notice that, more often than not, the pages you unearth will be your pricing page, your product pages, etc. -- pages contacts view when they're truly evaluating your products or services.
Use workflows here to trigger an internal email notification to your sales rep informing them of these high-value activities. Using personalization, give the rep all the information they need about the lead in question, including relevant mid- and bottom-of-the-funnel content that they can send to the lead in their outreach email. This allows you to connect sales reps with the best possible leads at the right time.
Add an Event Workflow
What triggers this email marketing sequence:Registration or Attendance
Jumping into the world of hosting virtual or hybrid events? Or maybe starting small with a webinar? Use email workflows to automate your communication to event registrants and attendees before, during, and after the event.
For example, create a workflow that delivers important information registrants should know leading up to the event, such as hotel accommodations and agenda information for live events, or webinar log-in information for online events. When the event ends, set up a workflow that gives attendees online access to session slides and continues to nurture them with additional content or promotion for future events.
Add an Abandoned Shopping Cart Workflow
What triggers this email marketing sequence: Shopping Cart Abandonment
If you're an e-commerce business, you'll likely benefit from an abandoned shopping cart workflow. The concept here is simple: When someone adds an item to their online shopping cart but leaves your site without completing the purchase, you can trigger an email workflow that reminds them of their forgotten purchase and motivates them to complete the transaction by offering a special discount code or some other incentive to buy.
Add an Upsell Workflow
What triggers this email marketing sequence: Past Purchases
Communication with your customers shouldn't stop after they make a purchase. This is especially true if you sell a variety of different products and/or services. Use workflows as an opportunity to upgrade or upsell your existing customers, or sell them complementary products and services depending on what they've already purchased.
Create dynamically updating lists of contacts who purchase a certain product -- or combination of products -- and create workflows aimed at recommending other products/services or encouraging upsells or add-ons.
Add a Customer Happiness Workflow
What triggers this email marketing sequence: High or Low NPS Scores
If you administer regular Net Promoter surveys of your customer base, you can use customers' Net Promoter Scores as a property to trigger workflows.
Simply determine what your ideal customer happiness score is, and use that as the threshold for your dynamic list of happy customers. Then trigger a workflow for customers with "happy" scores and reward them with exclusive content, offers, or discounts.
Trigger a different workflow for your "unhappy" customers that includes content/offers aimed at helping to improve their happiness. We'll give you a few bonus points if you segment those unhappy customers by the reasons they're unhappy, and send them even more targeted workflows aimed at addressing the issues that are making them so grumpy.
Add a Customer Success/Engagement Workflow
What triggers this email marketing sequence: Success Metrics or Product Usage
If you keep track of customer success metrics, you have a prime workflow opportunity on your hands. For example, if you're trying to build up your arsenal of customer case studies, you could automatically trigger an email that asks customers if they'd be interesting in being featured as a success story once certain customer success metrics were met.
Furthermore, if you keep track of customers' product adoption or feature usage, you could trigger a workflow for users who are exhibiting low product engagement, providing resources that educate and train them on how to use the product features they're not taking advantage of.
Add an Upcoming Purchase Reminder Workflow
What triggers this email marketing sequence: Purchases Made on a Cycle
Does your contacts database include customers who typically purchase on a cycle? Enter those people into a workflow that gets triggered when they make a purchase.
For instance, let's say you sell recurring subscription products like Amazon's Subscribe and Save, and a customer purchases a six-month supply of toilet paper. Enroll that customer into a workflow that sends them an automated email five months later as a reminder that their six-month supply is about to run out, and it might be time to order a new batch of toilet paper.
Add a Customer Service or Ticket Workflow
What triggers this email marketing sequence: A customer or prospect contacts customer service via email or an online form.
Sometimes, your customers or prospects might have trouble using your free or paid service or product. When this happens, fielding a bunch of customer service emails and messages can take tons of valuable time from your schedule.
One way to avoid this it to create a workflow that categorizes that makes customer concerns into tickets that can be categorized, labeled and assigned to customer service reps on your team. These tickets can also help you keep tack of ongoing problems as well as when issues with a customer or prospect are resolved.
Add a Deal-Based Workflows
What triggers this email marketing sequence: When someone e-signs a quote or contract.
Sealing the deal is obviously key to successful sales. Automating small aspects of this process, like emails someone might get after signing a contract or quote page with you, can allow you to spend more time nurturing the client over the phone, during demos, or through other messages.
With a deal-based workflow, you can trigger confirmation emails when a prospect becomes a client or qualified lead by signing a quote or contract. With systems like HubSpot, you can also set the workflow to change the contact's status to show where they are in the sales lifecycle.
Bringing it all together
A lot of marketers tend to get overwhelmed when it comes to email marketing optimization, but the truth is that it really doesn’t have to be that hard! As long as you know what elements to pay attention to and how to optimize them, you’ll be on track to increase your clickthrough rates and conversion rates in no time.