Every year the same question gets asked: "Is this the year that email finally kicks the can?"
Well, I'm here to today to tell you that no, email is not going anywhere. It's similar to a cockroach, in that it may never die. That being said, it's getting much more complex and, as marketers, we need to stay ahead of the trends to ensure we are leveraging this evergreen tool as efficiently as we should be.
Are you ready for these three mind-blowing steps to creating the best email of your life?
Step 1: Plan your email
Step 2: Create & Send your email
Step 3: Measure and monitor your email
Absolutely ground breaking, right? Well.. not exactly. The thing is, the steps we take haven't changed. But the way we execute those steps has drastically changed for one specific reason: sender reputation and deliverability.
It's All About Reputation
The biggest trend that is upon us in regards to email is deliverability and sender reputation. With the technological advancements being made, there are tiny little inbox defenders that are trained to stop any email that appears to be spam or unwanted by the receiver. This means that people's inboxes are becoming smart enough to know whether the recipient will want your email before it even reaches their inbox.
This is great for consumers who are inundated with email, but bad for marketers who are sending emails that will never even be seen.
I'm going to teach you how to out-smart those little email guard-dogs. The key is to make your contacts want to open your emails. If they want to open them, the inbox management systems will assume that other want to as well, increasing your deliverability.
Step 1: Plan Your Email
Before you even craft an email, there are some things you need to consider. Does the email you're about to write have a clear purpose? If not, you need to go immediately back to the drawing board. If you don't know the purpose of your email, how is the recipient supposed to?
Does your email content have a clear predetermined goal? What action do you want your readers to take after reading this email? If you don't even know, then why are you sending it?
This step is crucial to the success of your email and will build a healthy foundation necessary to construct a high-quality campaign. If you don't have these two concepts nailed down, don't go any further until you do.
Step 2: Create and Send Your Email
Make It Personal
Let's get one thing straight: Personalization is also not dead. There is still a place in consumers hearts that likes to see their name in the email preview or subject line.
Personalized emails deliver six times higher transaction rates, but 70 percent of brands fail to use them.
But, before you go personalizing everything in your emails, pace yourself. Don't be creepy. People don't want to see intimate details about themselves that you really shouldn't know popping up in their inbox.
You also want to triple check your personalization to be sure the default values will not be a red flag to your reader. If you don't have the data for the personalization, and your email appears as "Hello " the recipient will write you off almost immediately.
So, if you don't have the data to support your personalization, don't do it.
In addition to using personalization properties in your subject lines and preview text, you'll want to do your best to make the email appear as if it were written by a human, not a robot. Consumers are developing an acute sense for detecting canned email content, and may disregard your email immediately if they can smell any bit of automation or impersonal content.
If you want your email to look like it came from you, double check the formatting. If you have personalized text in a different font or a different size from the rest of your email, your reader will see, Sesame Street-style that one of these things is not like the other and know that one was written by a human and one was written by a robot.
In addition to the formatting and the personalization, the sender can also be a big indicator of spam for a self-trained detective. If you are still sending emails from firstname.lastname@example.org you need to stop sending emails immediately.
You may be thinking to yourself: "But wait, doesn't that mean that I will get replies?" *gasp* Yes, this is definitely possible. But take the time to think, isn't that a good thing? Sure, you'll get some bounce backs, but if you proactively plan you can filter those out of your inbox pretty easily.
A reply is the ultimate indicator that you've engaged a reader. They care enough about the content you're sharing with them to not only open the email, or click inside of it, but to actually engage with you. That's huge. But, if you're that worried about it, simply create a marketing email that you can use solely for sending out bulk email - But don't forget to check it.
Give Readers Options
There really is no one-size-fits-all solution to anything in marketing anymore. That's because, just like personalization, consumers want to know that you understand them and their specific needs before they purchase from you.
So, why would email be any different?
Throw away all of the "best practices" and start experimenting and giving your recipients options. Do they like big bold and colorful CTA buttons? Throw one in your email. Do they prefer to click on a more subtle link to a resource? Provide in-text CTAs. Maybe they don't trust you and wont click until the end of your message. Don't skip out on the end-of-email call-to-action.
Giving your recipients all of these options caters to more than one audience and allows your email goal the spotlight in each person's inbox that it deserves.
Devise a Killer Subject Line
First impressions are everything. I'll admit, I personally am a mass-delete email consumer. I have an email specifically dedicated to retailers and businesses just like you, but I also have slight OCD and cannot leave unopened emails in my inbox. So, where does that put me? Somewhere along the lines of an email serial killer. No email is safe, but some may be spared.
It all relies on their subject line.
Ok, a bit dramatic, but hear me out. At the end of the day, the aforementioned inbox has anywhere between 50-100 emails in it. Most of which I know I don't want to read, and I surely will not be opening each of them. So, I go through and select every email that does not catch my eye and delete them without even hesitating. Typically between one and two make it out alive, but more often than not I open them with high hopes only to delete them shortly after.
This is why it's so important that your subject lines be eye-catching, but also sets realistic expectations. Click-bait is the biggest disappointment on the internet, so don't be that guy. You could very well burn some bridges and get an automatic spam or unsubscribe with that tactic. Read your subject line out loud every single time before you send. You know the rule: measure twice, cut once.
Unfortunately, there isn't much I can give you in terms of "the perfect subject line" only because again, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each of your personas and recipients are different and the appropriate subject line could vary by industry.
Which brings me to my next very important point...
Segment and Target
Before you hit send on that awesome email, make sure you're going to send to the right people with the right message. A good rule of thumb is to utilize smart subject lines. This is crucial to making sure your universal message doesn't sound universal. Make it sound like this email is specifically for the president of the Fortune 500 company you're targeting or the CMO of the mid-sized technology company that you've been aiming to close.
Another way to target your emails is, if it's not universal, don't send it to everyone. Create lists that are going to be interested in the specific subjects you typically talk about and exclude the ones from the targeted topics. These concepts not only make your email statistics look better, but will also make those little inbox ninjas think your emails are higher quality, leading to a higher deliverability rate.
For some reason, us marketers decided (probably because we all looked at the same study) that Tuesday morning was the best time to send an email. Maybe that's true for some people, but unfortunately not for most. You know what days are good for sending emails? Friday through Monday (yes, including the weekend), and generally in the afternoon.
I know what you're thinking: "No way. Not possible."
I know, I know. It was hard for me to break my Tuesday morning scheduling habits. Before you knock it, try it. Compare engagement rates and see for yourself.
That being said, what time do you look at your inbox? I personally enjoy my mass-deletion rampage in the afternoon once my morning energy burst has died down and I'm starting to loose focus. As for my husband, he is a stay-in-bed and look at his phone kind of guy who will read emails and notifications in the wee hours of the morning.
That's bad news for us marketers. We have historically blasted everyone in our database with those Tuesday morning emails. Great for guerrilla marketing, bad for deliverability and open-rates.
So, how am I supposed to send an email at a different time for each person? If you have a handy tool like HubSpot, you can use SmartSend, which is a feature that will send emails to the recipient based on time zone. So instead of sending your email to a person at 1 a.m. in Hong Kong, you will send it to them at your chosen time in their time zone.
But, I can even do you one better. Want to send to each contact at the unique time that they have historically engaged with you? Sounds magical, I know. Magical AND possible. There are services like SeventhSense that will connect to your database, track your contact's activity and send to each person at a unique time to them. Mind. Blown.
Everyone of your email subscribers is a unique snowflake. And while you can't send unique and individual emails to each of them, you'll want to make them feel like they're getting special unique treatment with the steps outlined above
Step 3: Measure and Monitor Your Email
Ok great, your email is ready to go - you now know what and when you're sending. What do you do after you send it out? Forget that it even existed? Look at it when your monthly reporting comes around?
No, you want to look at the results of this email and understand what worked and what didn't so that you are able to update your process and learn from your mistakes. There are three things that your recipients can do if you send out a sub-par email: unsubscribe, not open it or mark it as spam.
Don't panic just yet. Worse things could happen. I know it hurts, and you're not ready to let go - but it's for the best. When people continue receiving your emails but they're genuinely not interested, you will decrease your deliverability. As we said in the beginning, this is the metric that your email marketing success hinges on. They are no longer lingering in your database as graymail.
"Wait, as what? What the heck is graymail?"
Basically, it's when someone receives email that they consented to receive, but don't really want. If you're sending graymail, your deliverability will suffer. Unsubscribes will reduce your chances of sending graymail.
So, they didn't open your email. Now you may want to start paying attention. If your open rate is gradually or drastically decreasing, you have some cause for concern. This will cause those pesky inbox defenders to assume you're sending graymail, and your deliverability will begin to decline.
Low open rates are the gateway to the most important metric of all: spam.
Marked as Spam
Ok, you can panic now. The recipient decided that you are officially spamming them, and the inbox management systems will assume you are spamming everyone else in your database. You need to see what has changed in your email to cause this hike in spam flagging and fix it immediately.
So maybe you don't notice anything? No one is unsubscribing, the open rates are descent and you're not being marked as spam. You're in the clear, right? Wrong. You could be experiencing a serious problem. You could be being completely blocked from inboxes with nothing but graymail.
There is Hope
Don't fear. There is hope for you yet. There are some very important ways to stay on top of your sender reputation and avoid the dreaded spam flagging.
If you have HubSpot, there is a new graymail feature that will exclude these contacts from your emails automatically. If not, you can do it manually by making a list of the contacts that are not engaging with your email - do not email them.
2017 Email Resolutions
There are new developments made every day to stay ahead of the intelligence that is controlling what content makes it to consumers' inboxes. Be smart about the emails you're sending and make sure you keep your recipient in mind.
So, if you're with me, let's make resolutions this year to be better at email and to harness the power that an awesome email holds. In 2017 I resolve to:
- Have purpose and goals in mind before sending emails;
- Stop sending emails with click-bait subject lines;
- Perfect my personalization skills;
- Laser-target my message for my audience; and
- Stop sending emails on Tuesdays.
Are there any tips you have found helpful in your email journey? Have you hit any roadblocks with the recommendations above? I'd love to hear them, drop me a line!