Let’s face it: email as a marketing communications channel is way past its golden age. It’s not dead (yet), but its role has changed as a marketing tool. And when your average consumer receives 416 commercial emails per month, how can a company deliver a newsletter that doesn’t get lost in the tsunami of spam? I’m not going to pretend to know your business better than you, holding your hand and telling you how to do it, but instead I listed the four key actions every company has to do in order to stand out from the spam.

1. First things first: the permission

Don’t try to fool yourself (or your boss) that the hundred thousand email addresses you bought from a semi-shady third-party provider would substitute for a newsletter email list. Instead, actively – but not intrusively – ask and encourage your site’s visitors to subscribe to your emailing list, i.e. to give their permission for you to reach out via email. It wouldn’t hurt if you promoted your newsletter subscription on social media channels too.

Permission based approach is an important first step to distinguish your emails from spam. It indicates that your recipients have at least some level of interest in you or your content, and you don’t have togrowthhacking worry about breaking any laws.

For a great example how to be polite and transparent with newsletter permissions, check Apped‘s second newsletter here. It doesn’t get much better than that!

2. Segment and personalize

Creating an opt-in emailing list isn’t yet segmenting. Generally speaking, the more you have subscribers, the more ways you’ll have to segment them – assuming you analyze the appropriate data in your website. Accurate and specific segments allow you to increase the amount of personalization you can provide., raising the likelihood of your subscribers engaging with the content.

It is worth to note that not all personalization automatically translates to relevancy: if a customer bought a pink umbrella earlier, she might not be interested in your email offer for another one in the middle of a snowy winter. So context is just as important as content.

3. Test and optimize

Just like with web optimization, A/B testing emails is all about learning through an iterative process. It is unlikely that you instantly nail the perfect mixture of corporate credibility and Buzzfeed-like shock factor to your email headlines or content (side note: I’m probably going to publish “how to write powerful headlines” guide soon, so stay tuned). Test what works (and what doesn’t) for your audiences, and then let that knowledge guide the evolvement of your approach to the channel.

4. Measure the right things & have realistic goals

This might sound simple, but too many companies haven’t done their homework in regard to this. And no wonder, since when it comes to email communications, everyone seems to talk only about opening rates. But what most companies don’t realize is that on a global scale, every fifth email never reaches the recipient. Around 7 % lands straight into their spam folders, while the rest, ~12 %, simply goes missing in the cyberspace. Although these numbers vary quite a bit by each region, it’s still definitely a number to recognize.

As for the metrics themselves, instead of delivery rate you should look at inbox placement rate (if available), and instead of opening rate (avg. 15-20 %) you should put more efforts on improving your CTR (avg. 3-4 %) – after all isn’t that why you sent the emails in the first place? In order not to get a tunnel vision regarding email metrics, it’s good to also keep an eye on the “negative numbers”. Deleted before reading rate and unsubscribing rate are both very powerful indicators if something’s not right with your email communications.

All analysis and tracking are meaningless, unless you have pre-specified goals for the numbers. It might be hard if you’re just starting, but it’s best to stick to basics and make sure you’ve gotten these first four steps right, and then start modestly (but determinedly) to improve your campaigns.


Image courtesy of elbresse.de, CC BY-SA 4.0

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