There is an abundance of articles all over Twitter, LinkedIn and the trade pubs’ sites about how to improve your email program. Already today in fact you have probably seen something on big data, marketing automation, triggered messages, mobile first design and guides to rich segmentation strategies. All of these work, if you have the resources to implement them. But what if you don’t work at a company with a dedicated email marketing team, and instead are the email marketing team, as well as the conference marketing team, collateral development team, social media team, communications strategy team and order more toner for the printer team? Surely there must be ways to improve email’s effectiveness without first altering the time-space continuum to add 8 more hours to each day.
In fact, there are ways to spur your email to greater ROI using the resources you already have. Here are 5 of them:
1. Find more subscribers.
Sending to a larger audience is the single most important way to squeeze more productivity out of the time you are already putting into email, as the time it takes you to create and send an email is the same whether you are mailing to 1,000 subscribers or 100,000 subscribers. Make sure you are pulling in new subscribers from every touch point – highly visible locations on your most popular website pages (not just buried on a “Subscribe here” page), on your brand’s Facebook timeline, and at point-of-sale or in-person venues like trade shows or meetings. Review also every place you are already collecting customer feedback and information, such as conference registrations, surveys, membership registration pages and customer service requests. You are requesting email addresses in all of these anyway; are you including an opt-in box so people can join your list in the process? And equally as important, are you remembering to import them directly into your list if these forms aren’t fully integrated? (You would be astonished at how often brands ask for permission, receive it, and then forget to add many would-be subscribers.)
2. Improved inbox placement.
Inbox placement is different from deliverability. Your delivery rate is the percentage of emails that make it through the ISP’s or email administrator’s gateway and are passed on to the subscriber. But many of these messages never make it to the inbox because of local spam filters, rules which siphon off messages to different areas, and inbox management applications. Knowing that your messages are not hitting the inbox and therefore not read right away is an advantage you can use. To encourage your subscribers to keep your messages in the A-List and mark them for inbox placement, try time-sensitive offers in your emails and then use your social channels to let people know they are coming to the inbox only. Many b-to-b brands and associations also have significant telephone contact with customers and members. Use these opportunities to educate subscribers about inbox placement and let them know the benefits of whitelisting your brand to ensure your messages land front and center. (I’ve even seen some brands use dedicated telemarketing efforts for this purpose, to great effect.)
3. Include more links.
Making it easier for your subscribers to click will naturally drive more clicks. This is especially important with the rise in mobile readership, where the small screen limits the visible message. Make sure you have a contextually relevant link at the top and the bottom of each section, and link images as well if you use them. Note that this recommendation is not necessarily to include more topics to choose from, only to make it easier to find and click on a link by adding one or two more for each call-to-action.
4. A/B test your subject lines.
I realize this one does take a little extra effort, but the lift can be so profound that it’s worth it. Start with 2 (or more) segments of your list that are large enough to yield meaningful results on open and click rate. How large that is is a function of your engagement metrics, but a good starting point is 1,000 in each segment. Send your test messages to each segment and then wait for the results to roll in, in order to identify which test won. Conventional wisdom says that most results come in within the first three hours, though the advent of inbox management applications and tactics is stretching that time frame out a bit. If possible, wait a full 24 hours before analyzing the results and declaring a winner. Then send the rest of your list the message with the winning subject line. Minimally, a list or segment of about 5,000 names is needed to derive a benefit from A/B testing. The bigger the list, the more lift you’ll enjoy from that extra 1%, 3% or even 10% in opens.
5. Increase mailing frequency.
You hear a lot about inbox clutter, and I certainly talk about it a lot. While it is true that some brands overmail (or at least create the perception in their subscribers that they do, even if it is not yet borne out in their metrics), there are also a surprising number of brands that are not mailing enough. If your brand’s engagement metrics are consistently strong, stepping up your frequency may give your program a nice lift. You don’t know at what point the demand peaks until you scale up the supply, so go ahead and try.