E-mail is a distribution channel that’s been around even before Internet itself came into existence. It’s extremely useful for communicators to both create and maintain a mutually profitable relationship with influencers. But it can also be used to directly contact a full online community, enabling us to distribute our brand’s contents to each and every one of them. In order to produce positive result, we’d better keep in mind some essential rules grouped into 3 broad categories:
- Who our e-mail is going to
- What the proper design and content for this specific e-mail is
- How to measure and analyze the results generated
So, let’s move ahead and look more closely at each of these critical issues:
Who is our e-mail going to
Whenever possible, you must avoid using external databases
There are a wide range of databases that are “For sale” and could always be used for sending out massive e-mails. Nonetheless the usage of such databases tend to lead to a major disaster because the information being provided by these databases has not been updated since Elvis died (or in some cases have generic addresses such as firstname.lastname@example.org). So as the users don’t even remember how or when they subscribed to this database, when they get your e-mail they have no idea why your brand has sent it nor could they care less. Hence, our clear recommendation is, long before starting any e-mail marketing action, your first step should be to create your own database using those who are subscribed to your newsletter. Take into account that in order to enhance the quality of your database, we recommend that your users re-confirm that they really do wish to be a part (this approach is called Double Opt-in).
Segment your base
Personalizing your message is crucial to ensure that your e-mails will accomplish the desired results. While preparing your own database, firstly you should be thinking about which lists or cells can be used to carry out a proper segmentation. For instance, for some brands, demographic data may be seen as being highly meaningful while with others the key point may be user interests (whether they downloaded previously) or even based upon the interactions with your brand (if he opens your e-mails, if he has attended an event your firm had organized, etc.).
Let me give you one more piece of advice about e-mail segmentation: if you are planning to work on an e-mail that involves quite a bit of designing time, bear in mind that the average rate of e-mail openings tends to be around 20% and the CTR for opening is about 5% (depending on the market, so these figures are just relative in respect to what we will be seeing later on in this blog.). So, use these ball park ratios to calculate whether it’s worth the money to send out your e-mail massively or not. For example, if, once you have properly segmented your database, you end up with let’s say 100 contacts and knowing that only 20 will actually open it and then out of these 20 people there will eventually only be 1 who clicks on it, there is the basis for your analysis. Of course, the greater the degree of personalization, you should be able to forecast better results yet we strongly suggest you analyze this type of data before planning your campaign.
Bonus: If you want to go deeper into this issue, Hubspot explains how to carry out a database segmentation.
Segment and carry out specific e-mails sendings for those influencers who are the most critical for your sector
If we are talking about launching or distributing content, we must realize that working hand-in-hand with influencers may significantly improve our final result. Don’t include your influencers in your massive e-mails but rather you should be doing exactly the opposite, developing personalized e-mails with some of the following options:
- Invite them to participate in your contents
- Let them know a highly relevant content and more importantly content that is highly relevant specifically for them as perhaps they had written about this issue previously.
Remember that with this first e-mail you most likely will not accomplish your overall distribution goal. So, your aim here should be to start creating a relationship with this influencer.
Personalize your e-mail content
Content massification within the scope of your e-mail is the surest path to failure. Nobody wants to waste their precious time reading meaningless messages and, on the other hand we all really appreciate getting communications that have been written with us in mind. The minimum you have to do is include the person’s name who will receive your e-mail or, if you have the information available, adapt the content to that person’s demographic data (for instance, his geographic location). To be able to apply this sort of segmentation we have to analyze what type of segmentation we are looking for within our data base. We may have to label or set up a list of all of those users who have read a certain type of content to be able to later on properly prepare a successful communication.
Never let your users see those e-mails that are being sent to other people
One of the Golden Rules for sending out e-mails, but one that is often overlooked by some brands, is to block out the “to” and “copied” e-mail recipients within their e-mail. First of all, not doing that actually breaks every data protection law in the book as well as showing how little the sender really cares about who is going to receive, how nothing has been personalized and, at the end of the day, how they are underscoring a total lack of being professional. A huge mistake that must be avoided at all costs!
What is the proper design and content for this specific e-mail
Create attractive e-mails, but don’t go overboard
View your e-mail as being a “different element” not as being an extension of your website and obviously quite different than what you would design on a piece of paper. In the first place, you must avoid sending out e-mails that have one single image -please recall that in most cases the e-mail services will automatically block this type of e-mail and so you are running the risk of it being seen as being absolutely empty. So use images that are more than one column wide, various blocks are ok but don’t go too far in your design as the excessive usage of numerous colors not only makes it hard to read your e-mail but also tends to be a red flag to e-mail services that are on the watch out for possible spam and may falsely identify and reject your own email as being unwanted.
Concentrate on mobiles while designing your e-mails
Mobile device usage is still increasing as 44% of the users who are opening their e-mails are now using mobiles (a sharp jump from 2011 when that figure was a mere 12%). This switch means that there are many tasks that used to be done solely on PC ‘s that are now being migrated to mobile devices and one of the clearest examples is reading e-mails. Take into account that many of the elements that are being designed on your PC and may look great while being designed there will be completely distorted when they are being viewed on a tiny mobile screen. Whenever you can, you should be using responsive (adaptable) templates that ensure that all of your elements will be seen properly regardless of the device that the user may be using. If you do not have this option, you may always test and double check your e-mail and see how it will be viewed (including texts, images buttons, etc) on the various mobile devices. You should always avoid having too much text in any e-mail.
Use your e-mail to catch people’s eye, not as a means of passing out information
Each e-mail user sends out an average of 112 e-mails per day and so the way that he consumes this type of format depends on the issue being addressed, his interest in the content, but also in the amount of information that this specific e-mails contains. So avoid lengthy e-mails that are text-heavy and always try to keep the typography below 14 pixels so it may be easily read. The e-mails that you prepare for distributing your content should meet this requirement, be distributed and never contain everything you want to tell people.
Bonus: Don’t forget to include a “Call to Action” button.
Always tests your e-mails before sending them out
Even though you may think your e-mail is error-free and has been perfectly designed by your e-mail editor, HTML’s may be misleading and viewed differently by your users when they see them on their own PC’s (and even more so if they are using mobile devices). This is one of the main reasons that you always have to test them. There are many times that we create e-mail content and later on create the issue itself (or the other way around) and there are times that when we run the test we realize there is a disconnect between the content and the issue being addressed (another reason why you had better test your emails before sending them out). Finally don’t forget that placing an ALT label on your e-mails is very simple indeed (labels gain greater importance when e-mail services start blocking images). Be aware this type of errors or things that you may overlook or that may have just slipped your mind will be detected by running your e-mail test.
As a general rule, every time we modify an e-mail, I run a test on it before sending it out. Never be over-confident. One simple mistake gives a terrible long-lasting image to a huge number of people who are receiving your e-mail with errors in it.
Bonus: Check the original text in your e-mail. In many e-mail services, they normally have a preview of the content that appears below the subject line that is the main text that e-mail service is able to read (it sometimes read the ALT’s corresponding to the first images it runs into)
Use Social Media as an additional distributing channel
The ever-growing usage of mobile devices has led to our ways of interacting with contents working in different fashion as well. Reading a content in an e-mail that may be easily shared on such social media as Twitter or Facebook is becoming more and more critical as well as being able to store articles to be read later on a PC. So whenever possible try to integrate this type of buttons into your e-mails so as to facilitate your contents being easily distributed.
Don’t hide your “Unroll” button
We all are fully aware that nobody wants to see their number of e-mail subscribers drop. Nonetheless, having unhappy subscribers receive your e-mails is never going to help you at all. So not hiding that button will allow a user to easily unroll if he is unhappy about receiving your messages and in that way you will keep those who are really interested in staying on and receiving your content. Anyway it is easier all the time for a user to unroll from any sort of communication than it is to subscribe. For example the Gmail button allows users to easily unsubscribe and Unroll.me provides help as well.
How to measure and analyze the results generated for our email marketing
Measure which are the best timeframes for sending your e-mails
Each brand has its own audience: while B2B brands have a wider audience from Monday to Friday there are other B2C brands, transportation firms for instance, where their users tend to have greater interaction with the brand on the weekends. This affects their e-mails and thus you should identify what are your best days and best time of day for sending out your contents. Don’t simply bank on your intuition to guide you here, use hard data, send them out on those days and within that timeframe and identify which one gives you the best results in respect to openings and I suggest you count the clicks as well.
Use the A/B test system to identify what Works best with your own specific audience
The A/B test is the action that shows varying content to 2 user segments. Once we have their scores we will then be able to identify what works and what doesn’t. As long as you have a relevant database that enables you to reach the proper conclusions, the first wave of A/B tests will let you see which format or content (or even the subject itself) will work best. If your emailing tool does not have this system yet there are ways to solve that problem. Simply divide the database in the following manner (Group A: 15% of the base, Group B: 15% of the base, Group C: 70% of the base, this may vary according to the size of your database). Next send out 2 batches, one to Group A and other to Group B using the point you want to test and define to separate the two groups. Lastly, analyze the results obtained (this will depend on what you are trying to define: openings, clicks…) and then send the winning version to Group C and see the final well-honed results.
Bonus: if you wish to learn more about A/B e-mail testing, please read this full guidelines.
Send out second e-mails when the results have been less than expected
Although all of your actions in accordance with what we have been seeing earlier may have been done correctly, you have to simply accept the fact that a large percentage of your users will fail to read your e-mails, or even to open them, and surely not access your well-developed content. So don’t hesitate to send out a second e-mail to those users who have not opened your e-mails (you might wish to use a different subject, for instance) or to those folks who have opened your e-mail but no have not clicked on it, an e-mail with the same message yet with different content.
These are but a few of the rules you ought to follow to develop a winning e-mailing strategy. The results depend on how concerned you are about delivering relevant and high quality content to your users as well as how well you are able to measure your results and constantly be improving your own processes.