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Email Marketing Tips for 2015

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Key take outs:

  • The number one, most important thing to take away (if nothing else), is that a sense of urgency is still absolutely critical in your email marketing activity
  • Aim for 35 characters or less for your subject lines
  • Include “free” in the subject line and email content where possible
  • Don’t use the words “urgent” or “alert” in your subject line
  • Never stop testing
  • Download your free email marketing checklist at the bottom of this post (no strings attached!)
  • Many, many more great tips backed by real, performance data (so be sure you give this post a read!)

Annnd, if there is a tip that you do find genuinely helpful within this post, please feel free to ‘tip’ the author with a quick share on your preferred social network!

Ok, let’s get into it…

San Diego. Home of a very famous zoo, a very famous naval base and a very famous Anchorman quote.

But for direct marketers, San Diego was recently famous for something else – The DMAs: The Global Conference for Direct Marketers. I was lucky enough to attend the most recent DMAs in this magical city and am looking to impart some of the ‘knowledge nuggets’ I picked up from the event to any passionate marketers out there keen to listen!

So, without further ado, here are some of my key take outs and actionable insights from a session that really cut through the clutter titled:

What’s Working Now: Critical Tips for Your Email & Emerging Media

Presenter: Jay Schwedelson, President & CEO of Worldata

What I loved about Jay’s presentation is the multitude of awesome email/direct marketing tips and tricks all supported by not only data but case studies to back up his recommendations. This teamed with Jay’s refreshing presenting style and Seinfeld-esk vocal tone and mannerisms made for a very informative and memorable event.

Here are the main tips and tricks I took away from the session with regards to what’s working in email marketing right now:

  1. Include a sense of urgency in both the subject line and email

Email marketing tips

Jay emphasised that the number one, most important thing to take away (if nothing else), is that a sense of urgency is still absolutely critical in your email marketing activity.

Now before you start saying to yourself “What? I knew that already. C’mon Goldston, gimme some gold!”, let me jump into this one a bit further…

Yes, it’s true that a sense of urgency is critical in email and direct marketing; but just how critical?

Well, how does a 38% average increase in open rates (how many people open your email) for B2B emails and a 33% average increase for B2C emails sound? Good? You bet!

Look, for me I’ve always understood that urgency can help in direct marketing, but it’s nice to know where it sits in order of priorities. High!

And… if you’re one of the first 5 people to start including more urgency in your email subject lines and body creative within the next 7 days, I’ll send you some free steak knives*!

Hurry, time’s running out!

See what I did there?

*The steak knives are a lie.

To turn this insight into some more actionable tips, next time you’re doing an email blast, try testing out some of the following tactics:

  • Include a date/time in the subject e.g. 6pm, today, tomorrow, this week, next 7 days, November etc.
  • Put a limit on the date e.g. sale ends today, 2 hours only, last minute, early bird, 12 hrs left etc.
  • Many email clients are now allowing animated gifs. One tactic that is getting a huge amount of traction in the states at the moment is “dynamic countdown timers” within the email creative. These have shown to provide a 17% higher average click through from email to your website. I’ll take those figures any day of the week thank you!
    • Pro tip: You can go to litmus.com to test which email clients (the computer program used to access and manage a user’s email) your animated gif emails will and won’t work on. It should work on most of them these days though.
  • While “early bird” has always worked well in the B2B space, this one is starting to become a big winner in the B2C space as well.
  • “Flash sales” also do well across both B2B and B2C. This phase/email tactic produces an 18% click through rate (CTR) uplift for B2B emails and a 22% lift (on average in comparison to standard offers) for B2C emails. Boom!
  1. Optimise the subject length and subject wording. Get on it!

EDM tips

This one became a bit of a theme throughout the presentation as it was scary the amount of companies that had a subject line like:

Subject: “Shh It will only last a day… Massive winter sale!”

However, as a MASSIVE 60% of primary emails are received on mobile phones these days in America, users are only seeing a maximum of around 35 characters of these subject lines. So in essence, a subject line like the one above could show up on a phone like this:

Subject: Shh It will only last a day….

Not good. Not good at all. Avoid this.

Pro tip: Aim for 35 characters or less for your subject lines and 80 characters or less for your sub- headline.

Interesting little factoid on this one – apparently overall, emails that have a subject line between 4 – 35 characters have an 18% higher open rate on average. So, in summary, less is more.

Pro tip: DON’T let your sub-headline/pre-header read as “This email contains images. To display images the in this email, click allow…” or something similar. Just don’t, ok?! Use this sub-heading to your advantage!

  1. Include “FREE” in the subject line and email content

Email subject line tips

So the word ‘free’ in emails has copped a bit of a bad rap over the last couple of years. It was huge in the early days of email marketing but then, email clients started automatically moving emails with ‘free’ in their subject lines to the junk/spam folder.

This persecution of ‘free’ lasted quite a few years. In response, email marketers started using lesser synonyms such as ‘complimentary’ to compensate and make it past these rudimentary filters that were causing them so much grief.

When we fast forward to today however, most of the spam filters are FAR more advanced than what they were even a couple of years ago. ‘Free’ is out of the naughty corner as spam filters now look more at the quality and reputation of the sender as opposed to just the subject line of emails.

I can see how the new avoidance habits formed by email marketers during the excommunicated years of ‘free’ would make them hesitant to start using this bonza term once again.

However it’s important to break these habits and understand that the copy rules and regulations are always being updated across each unique discipline. According to Jay, these days the word ‘free’ provides a 2 x higher average open rate than the word ‘complimentary’. Email marketers, it’s time to snap out of it and bring back the ‘free’!

Pro tip: Try www.senderscore.org to check the reputation of your domain.

  1. Don’t use the words ‘URGENT’ or ‘ALERT’ in your subject line

Email marketing writing tips

Really, who are you to decide what is and isn’t urgent for a user? I personally don’t even like people tagging an email to me as urgent. I’ll decide what is urgent, thank you very much!

In the case of email, yes you might believe that your super awesome, one day only, never to be repeated mattress sale is of the highest importance – but trust me, you are setting yourself up for failure when the reader’s idea of urgency does not match up with your own. Don’t use these terms. There are better, more accurate and consumer aligned words you can use anyway. Ok?

Ok, so those are four of the biggest tips. Now for a few quick fire tips from the session. Ready? Go!

  1. Including two different typefaces in emails reduces click through rate from within the email by 10%. Stick to a single, clear and easy to read font.

  1. Don’t send a B2B email in the last three days of a quarter – You could see an average 18% drop in response rate!

  1. If your offer is inconsistent between the subject and the content of the email (or throughout the email), you could see a 9% drop in click through rate. Don’t confuse your user. Keep things consistent.

  1. Round numbers generate 9% lower open rates on average.

This one drills into consumer psychology. Saying ‘only 34’ left will have a bigger impact than saying ‘only 30 left’. This is most likely due to a perception that the number is more accurate when it is not rounded.

  1. This one is a bit of a ‘no brainer’ but personalisation in subject lines – and within emails for that matter – is still awesome.

Look forward to a 19% increase in open rates for B2B emails and a 21% increase for B2C. Nice.

  1. Below is a cool list of words to include in subject lines and their prospective open rate percentage increases:

Email Open Rate Increase Graph

Pro tip: If you want to see how well your subject line might work before you send, try testing it first at www.subjectline.com.

  1. Exclusivity still works really well. Use it!

What works best in email marketing

Ok, this is a big one. In fact, exclusivity tactics come in second only to ‘free’ in terms of effectiveness in email marketing.

Why would you go with second best?

Well, sometimes, ‘free’ might not be right for your customers or for your offer. Free can also bring in less qualified, lower value customers when it comes time to purchase. In this case, I’d lean towards exclusivity if possible. For example, you could try: ‘exclusive’, ‘private access’, ‘select customers’, ‘email subscribers only’ etc.

  1. ‘Hooray’ for some reason or another is climbing up the rankings in terms of subject line inclusion effectiveness (in the USA). Try it and see how you go.

  1. The word ‘serious’ is also climbing up the charts.

  1. Email marketing IS mobile marketing.

Email marketing is mobile marketing

I’ve already mentioned it once in this article but it’s worth mentioning again; upwards of 60% of all emails are opened first on a mobile phone! It’s more critical than ever to ensure your email marketing is mobile/finger friendly!

  • Tests have shown that if you don’t have at least 15 pixels of padding around the buttons in your emails, allowing more room to click a button, you might expect a 33% drop in overall conversions for B2C and 37% lower overall conversions for B2B. Woah! Get your padding sorted people. If people can’t click your buttons, they probably won’t convert.
  • Nobody ever said ‘that button is too big’. Keep this in mind.
  • It doesn’t stop at the email though. It should probably go without saying, but it’s just as important to ensure your landing page is mobile optimised as well. Otherwise, you’re likely to see up to 39% lower conversion rates.
  • Landing page forms that take longer than 45 seconds to fill out have a 42% lower overall conversion rate.
    • Pro Tip: A good way to quickly check this is to simply time how long it takes someone who is not familiar with your form to fill it out. If it takes too long, put form optimisation at the top of your to-do list; it could be a great quick win for you!
    • Pro Tip: Don’t forget to be absolutely brutal in removing all of the fields you don’t really need right then and there.
  1. Remove the navigation bar from your landing pages.

Optimise email landing pages

A landing page is the web page that your users will arrive at if they click on a link in your email. This tip is another big one and is usually one of the first recommendations I make to anyone wanting landing page optimisation. Your landing page should have a single, specific goal. Anything that detracts from that goal will create leakage. Why? Because, believe it or not, people are actually (sub-consciously) looking for an escape when they hit your page.

A navigation bar gives your prospects the chance to steer away from what your primary landing page goal was and then get lost in your website. You will lose the connection that was initially made between your subject line, the email copy and the landing page and, ultimately, you’ll likely lose customers as a result.

So I repeat, if possible, remove the navigation from any dedicated landing pages you set up for your direct response campaigns.

Pro tip: Did you know that removing a navigation bar from a landing page can increase overall conversion rates by up to 52%. Booya!

  1. Choose the words on your buttons wisely. ‘Click here’ often works best but don’t forget to test!

Button Text Click Rates

  1. Create consistency between your email and your landing page.

Email and landing page consistency

Consumers are a fickle bunch. Truly, we all are. If we see an image or offer in an email and that same image or offer is represented too differently on the landing page, the dissonance it creates can often be enough to make us bounce from the landing page quicker than Tigger on Red bull!

We only have a few seconds to gain the prospects trust once they click through from an email so, not only does the landing page need to be optimised for all platforms, but the imagery and offer need to be extremely consistent and integrated with the initial email communication. In short, don’t change up your major images or your offer wording on your landing page. If you keep things consistent, you’ll likely see an 18% increase in conversions.

  1. Make sure your content is digestible.

Did you know that having over 75 words in a single email paragraph can lead to a massive 34% lower click through rate? Even words with too many syllables can kill your response rates. Keep it simple guys and gals!

  1. Don’t kill your landing pages after your offer expires.

What to do after an EDM campaign

Ok, huge stat coming up here. Take note:

“The lifetime value of consumers who click on offers AFTER they expire is 122% HIGHER than those who clicked on it right away.”

“The lifetime value of consumers who click on offers AFTER they expire is 122% HIGHER than those who clicked on it right away.”

Yep. That wasn’t an accident. I wrote it twice. Wow! That’s a big insight. The reason for this is most likely the fact that the people who click on an offer much later have chosen to come back to the email as they viewed it as important and worthwhile.

If these extremely valuable customers are coming to your website after an offer expires, don’t greet them with big fat stop sign (in the form of a 404) page; instead, acknowledge the offer has expired, acknowledge them and their value to you, and provide a different offer that they will likely be interested in.

  1. Don’t, I repeat, DON’T include social sharing options in your email communications

Email marketing: What not to do

Like the navigation bar example above, this simply dilutes the objective of the email. It’s not likely people will share your offer anyway (unless it is incredible). I totally agree with Jay on this one. If you want your offer to be shared, put these options on your ‘thank-you’ pages. People will be more likely to share it after they’ve invested in it anyway.

  1. Triggered email campaigns are working well. Look into this if you want to take your customer engagement to the next level.

On this one, just note that you need to really get your timing right on triggered emails. Apparently, triggered emails that come through three hours after an initial website action was completed have lower performance. However, you’ll just need to continually test these timings in order to find out what’s right for your business and, more importantly, your customers.

  1. ‘Free Shipping’ and ‘Gift With Purchase’ are working well. Test these if you can.

Final Thoughts

Woah! That’s a lot of ideas to take in all at once. I think the key thing to remember is how important it is to never stop testing. Email is still an incredibly valuable marketing channel – IF it’s done correctly. Jay has highlighted some really great quick wins regarding what is working right now in email marketing, but this is by no means the definitive list. Try new things that will have your customers looking forward to your emails and keep focusing on building this trust with your current and potential customers.

In the meantime, as promised, please find the download link below to our free email marketing testing checklist! 

Download Your Free Email Marketing Checklist Here

Enjoy and do let us know how you go!

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