by: Adams Hudson
In Proverbs we are told that the wise learn from the mistakes of others. Using this method, I must be a fantastic teacher.
Mistakes are powerful lesson builders. Nowhere is this more evident than when you a) Measure everything, b) Are in the “Marketing for ROI” business, and c) Have two teenage children in your household. Was I ever that sultry? Anyway…
Email marketing inherently brings mistakes. That’s because it’s free and everyone who can push ‘send’ can use it. Usually the more difficult or costly the media cost, the greater the research and testing.
Yet the wise have certainly learned from the mistakes, testing multiple email methods to maximize results. The barrage of pointless emails, lengthy unfathomable benefits, or worse – the spamming of America – has caused readership to plummet.
Follow these methods to maximize your return on this powerful marketing tool. (And before you think I made these up, these are based on a 4 year study from Marketing Sherpa, the online marketing heavy-hitter think tank.)
- The “From” line:How many emails do you send with your company in the “From” area, thinking, “Hey, they know me and my company, so this is a good, trustable source?” WRONG. One of the primary strengths of email is being “personal”, so making the “from” box appear personal is the exact same advice behind “blind” or “shielded” Direct Mail envelopes. Personal emails get read first, many company ones are trashed instantly. Get in that first group.
- Remain consistently “known”:Often a company will send an email from the salesperson, then from the CSR, then from accounting, then back to the tech to confirm an appointment. BAD IDEA. Finally, the branders ‘win’ one, but we knew this one anyway. It is better to have either a) consistent spokesperson communicating in the ‘from’ line by name, OR b) “customer service”@, OR c) Something creative like, “TheDreamTeam@”. Now for one the silly branders have lost, which makes me somewhat giddy…
- Watch the “Subject Line” Branding Attempts:Have you been told by the “experts” that putting your company name in the subject line is a good branding idea? WRONG. Findings from the research team proved, “This single mistake sends response rates tumbling.” So, quit slamming them with your company name if you want your emails to be read. Now, another shot in the ‘branding’ vs. ‘direct response’ marketers mini-war.
- Subject Lines RULE Open Rates:This is huge. Consider that your Subject Line IS the headline for the email. If you’re sending ‘salesy’ stuff like, “Check this out” or “We have some great deals”, then consider yourself deleted. Fact: the highest paid group in all of marketing are Direct Response copywriters. Within that, are the elite “headline” writers whose fees can be in the thousands per hour. Yes, per hour. Their trade has ballooned by writing emails that get opened, which means “Subject Lines”. I save the emails I get with the best ‘Subject’ lines, and have for years, having amassed over 2,000, but have just under 200 that “work.”To create the best subject lines: Use curiosity, unfinished sentences, entertainment, intrigue, question, controversy. These consistently outpull the corporate ego schlock everyone else is sending.
- Subject Line Brevity:I got a subject line this week that said: “Come By Our Booth to See the New <NAME OF INSIPID PRODUCT>”. Really UnSmart. Due to the various pane previewers out there, most can’t even see more than about 30 characters. Keep Subject lines under 40 characters.
- Formatting Nightmares: We all get emails in two basic forms: HTML (graphics, formatting) and plain text (plain and legible). But which is better? Finally, an answer.Send in HTML but with very plain graphics. Why? Testing proved that high graphics – though nice to see – slowed emails, reduced opens, and appeared as ‘blanks’ more often. And thought Plain Text gets read more often, it does NOT share stats like HTML. Thus, the “hybrid” model. (If you send in MIME format, your emails will be sent in both formats, but you’re still cautioned against high graphic emails.)
- CommonLink Mistakes: Lazy marketers or unaware contractors often send links that are more than one line long, causing it to slip to the next line, rendering unopenable except by cutting and pasting. Response Killer. Avoid link-wrapping and long tracking links. Better yet, ‘name’ your links alluringly for more clicks.
- Prefix Disaster. Lots of email senders think its “old fashioned” to include the http:// because you don’t need it. Include the ‘http’ because larger providers won’t present your link as “live” without the URL. Give the full prefix or expect a far lower open rate.
- Readership List Death.Many business owners felt that “cheap” or “free” meant “smart” in their corporate communications. So many swapped out product announcements, home show appearances, and newsletters from hard mail or traditional “paid” media to email. The study showed two things happened, both bad.
First, email is to be short or linked to a longer subject like we do in our Sales&Markeitng Insider ezine. When the email was long, it was summarily discarded.
Second, since email is known to be cheap and fast, customers saw company information delivered this way as cheap, thus deletable. (How “warm” do you feel when you get an e-birthday card vs. a mailed one? Just checking.)
VERY IMPORTANT: Research proves that mailed vs. emailed gets higher open rates, better branding, better imaging, and most importantly – higher response rates. The study showed that postal mail got between 4 and 22 times more response from the same company, for same product, to same list. Pretty good test.
Hudson, Ink recommends sending short, content-rich emails to your broad “free” list, linking them to a longer article or product info within that email. Then supplement your email communication to your “paid” list (customers) with real mail. This way, you’re communicating both ways to the higher value list members.
Bottom Line: Do NOT forgo offline marketing unless you want to reduce your image and response.
We have seen response rates actually increase over the past 2 years with traditional “real” mail. (Same as the now-famous Wall Street Journal article on Direct Mail versus Email response, proving the exact same point.)
So if you’re going to use email – and you should – use it well.
So there you have it. I hope this article is the most profitable thing you read today. Keep this article, send it to a friend. You just saw how to make all the emails you send get opened more, read more, and pull better.