Email marketing is one of the most effective ways for businesses to reach customers and prospects directly. It’s a proactive, outbound tactic as opposed to the more passive, inbound methods of social and search marketing.
When you send an email to an inbox, the recipient definitely will see it (if you’ve done the work to optimize deliverability). What they do after that depends on how good you are at encouraging engagement with that email.
A successful email marketing campaign requires the precise combination of several key ingredients:
- Deliverability: Learn how to whitelist an email to maintain a good sender reputation and a clean list to ensure your email will get where it’s going.
- Responsiveness: Make sure your email can be viewed in different browsers and on various platforms such as tablets, desktop computers, and phones.
- Targeting: Select and segment the list to choose the right demographics for your message.
- Personalization: Customise the email with the intended recipient’s name, job title, or other relevant data.
- Timing: Learn the best time to send an email by using A/B testing to find out when you get the highest engagement levels.
- Relevance: Use calls to action that drive to content that’s appropriate and engaging.
- Optimization: Analyze the results, fine-tune your approach, and measure return on investment.
With those factors in mind, let’s take a look at seven ways to improve email engagement for every marketing send.
1. Start With the Subject Line
Subject lines matter – a lot. In fact, 33% of email recipients engage with an email based on the subject line alone. To be successful, start by thinking about the subject lines that made you open an email in your own inbox. Best practices include asking a question, being specific, creating a sense of urgency, and keeping subject lines short, and using lower case. Using personalization in subject lines can increase the open rate by 22.2%.
Testing subject lines is an extremely important step. For example, you can find out whether a question (“What’s on sale this week?”) or a specific offer (“Save 50% this week only”) resonates better with a particular segment. Using A/B testing, in which you measure the performance of email A against email B, you can experiment with any aspect of an email that might have an impact on engagement, but subject lines are the most common subjects of email tests. In the case of a very large list, say hundreds of thousands of people, the two subject lines can be tested on a smaller percentage of the list, picking the one with the higher open rate and sending it to the remainder of the list.
2. Include Social Sharing Options
Emails that include social sharing buttons have a 158% higher clickthrough rate. Even if your readers are not interested in the offers you’ve included, they might forward the message to a friend or colleague. It is important to make that step as easy as possible. so be sure to include buttons that let people like and follow your brand on the major social networks. You can also publish email campaigns to social networks to extend their reach.
3. Segment Lists and Target Messages
To prevent annoying email recipients with irrelevant content and increase the likelihood of email engagement, segment your marketing lists into distinct groups based on demographics, firmographics, engagement, and behavior. Create groups of like-minded people so you can tailor offers to their specific qualifications. Marketers who segment their lists enjoy more transactions, more sales leads, and greater revenue. Once the list is segmented and you know who you are sending emails to, the next level is to consider what content they are looking for and use it for the offer. If the offer speaks to the recipient’s needs, it’s a no-brainer that the email will receive more clicks to take advantage of that offer.
4. Remove Distractions: Focus on the Call to Action
It’s important to consider the objective of any email sent. What one thing do we want the reader to do? If the goal is to get more Facebook fans, the copy of the email needs to be written around the objective, and that call to action should be obvious and easy to follow. A call-out box, such as an outlined or colored box with a link and a simple call to action, can increase email engagement rates – as can high-contrast buttons and eye-catching images.
The Amazingly Effective Email Marketing Automation Guide
5. Find the Best Frequency and Timing
Discover when a person is most likely to open their email by tracking previous opens, segmenting those opens, and applying geographical location data. This is a tactic that requires some common sense, experimentation, and metrics. The best frequency and timing depends on the target audience. If you are targeting business people, you may want to send emails during regular working hours. If emails are sent too early in the morning, they can get lost in the shuffle of a full inbox. If emails are sent too late in the afternoon, the recipient may see it as one more thing to review before quitting time and put off reading it until the morning. Maybe your audience only has time to check their emails either during lunch or after work. Try experimenting with time frames and run an A/B test.
The ideal frequency of emails sent depends on the content and what the subscribers prefer, but if you’re unsure, some experimentation is required. Most businesses will want to start with a monthly newsletter and then possibly increase frequency from there. If you have a lot of content, making your newsletter too long, consider increasing the frequency and splitting up the content.
Many businesses rely on sales and promotional emails to stay in the black. In that case, weekly or even daily promotional emails are appropriate. Of course, frequent emails only work if that’s what the subscribers expected to receive when they signed up in the first place. Monitor the unsubscribe rates closely as well as the open rates.
6. Use Different Types of Emails to Increase Engagement
One size does not fit all when it comes to creating engagement emails. Here are just a few ways to mix up the types of messages you send.
- Use a special welcome email to create a good first impression on the email subscriber. Offering a gift or coupon to every new subscriber increases the engagement of the subscriber with the brand. According to Forrester Research, confirmation emails receive the highest open and read rates. So the next time a customer purchases a product, don’t send just a confirmation mail – add some promotions for complementary products. Share corporate membership plans, promote newsletters, address FAQs, and provide information on customer care and product return policies. Be aware, however, that various countries have different regulations around types of email. Commercial messages (such as making an offer) may have rules and restrictions that differ from those that are considered transactional. (Subscription confirmations, order status messages, and shipment updates are examples of transactional communications.) Be sure you comply with the rules in the countries you send to.
- Try trigger-based emails to make a big difference in email engagement rates. Triggered messages are sent out automatically, based on important or timely events that are related to the subscriber’s actions. Trigger-based messages can make subscribers feel valued – whether in the form of a welcome email, a reminder to repurchase a needed product, a message to let the subscriber know you miss their business or even a celebratory birthday email.
Using different types of emails with prospects increases the probability that the recipient will interact with the email – and with your brand.
7. Analyze the Results
Once you’ve done everything you can to increase engagement with your email, it’s important to look at the outcomes. Email metrics can help determine the effectiveness of communications and fine-tune them to improve their efficiency. The data you’ll want to collect starts with the basics:
- Total messages sent
- Total messages delivered
- Hard and soft bounces
- Open rate
- Clickthrough rate
So, what are these metrics, and what do they tell us? The sent and delivered numbers, along with the numbers of hard and soft bounces, can tell you how healthy your list is and how well your email deliverability management is doing.
The open rate measures recipients’ initial interest in the email. How well have you convinced recipients to open the email? After that, the text, layout, and images in the email can take over. The clickthrough rate tells both how interested recipients were in a particular topic, and how well we converted that initial interest into action.
To take this a step further, you’ll want to measure the response or conversion rate. The response rate is the number of desired responses or actions taken divided by the number of messages delivered. The response rate is arguably the best way to measure the effectiveness of an email campaign. After all, it doesn’t matter if readers open or click the email if they don’t ultimately do what you were hoping they would do.
The last critical item to track is the Unsubscribe rate, which is the number of unsubscribes divided by the number of messages delivered. Use the Unsubscribe rate to measure how well your email campaign holds the subscribers’ interest over the long run. If subscribers do not like what is being said, don’t find it interesting, or feel that we are sending them far too many emails, they’ll tell us by choosing to leave the email list.
Be diligent about tracking these engagement metrics for each email, and you’ll start to develop an understanding of what response you can expect, and learn to quickly identify if something is going wrong. Are your emails working? Are they worth the effort? With the right email metrics, you can find out for sure. And with all the information gathered, you can fix a failing campaign, or boost a good campaign into a great one.
A final note: Email is rapidly making the transition from the traditional desktop environment to mobile devices. This makes it potentially a more time-sensitive, personal communication channel. It also means you may need to consider making sure your email’s design looks good and that your text reads well on a mobile screen. Keep an eye on the metrics that show you how many of your emails are being opened and clicked on in mobile, and make changes to accommodate these readers if you need to.
Ready to move past the basics of email marketing and learn new techniques to optimize your email engagement? Download the “Amazingly Effective Email Marketing Automation Guide” to learn everything you need to know to plan, create, execute, and optimize more successful and more profitable email campaigns.