Most companies are doing some level of email marketing, but few are doing it really well. Myths, misguided expectations, and a lack of strategy are the main culprits. Here are some tips to reset your email marketing expectations and increase your open rate.
Redefine the Targets
We are often asked how to improve open rates. The answer is: send the right message to the right person. Too many organizations are caught up in how to “trick” prospects into opening emails. What subject line works best? HTML or plain text? Compelling images and heat maps?
The truth is, it doesn’t matter how many people open the email if they’re not ultimately converting, and converting results from good message alignment.
You should be able to answer these questions:
- How well have you clearly identified the right prospects?
- Have you scored them appropriately?
- Are they aligned to buyer personas?
This might sound like a lot of work and not nearly as efficient as just buying a list and blasting it. After all, haven’t the list companies done all of that vetting for you? Eh, not really. And they certainly haven’t aligned the targets on the list with your buyer personas so you can properly score the leads.
Addressing these questions, while time consuming, sets the stage for email marketing success. If you haven’t gone through a buyer persona exercise, stop right where you are and go back. Establishing the right buyer personas can mean the difference between a two percent and 20 percent open rate. Buyer personas map out the different targets you’re emailing and help you determine how they prefer to be communicated to. (Check out Software Advice’s article, “How to Use Customer Service to Refine Your Buyer Persona” for tips on creating personas.)
All marketing automation systems and most email marketing platforms incorporate lead scoring capability. Once you have your personas mapped out, establish a system for how leads will be communicated with once they enter your platform. Leads will receive emails based on their score, behaviors, and their inferred persona. If you don't currently use a lead scoring system, here's two videos Software Advice produced with VisionEdge Marketing President Laura Patterson that explain the process.
Reset the Schedule
Yes, you can have too much of a good thing. If your prospects aren’t opening the emails, this may be a good indication that you’re sending out too many. If you’ve tackled the buyer personas and set up lead scoring, you’ve undoubtedly discovered valuable insight that tells you how your prospects want to receive information.
Next, enlist a little A/B testing. Try scaling back email blasts to twice a month for a couple months in a row. Then scale back again to once a month. Then bump it up to once a week. Review and analyze the data after each of the intervals to determine what an ideal schedule should look like.
I know right now you’re thinking that spending six to nine months testing schedules equates to a lot of wasted time. Let me assure you, this is time well spent. During this “test” period you’re still getting the right information to the right people (because you’ve done the buyer personas), and you’re gaining valuable insight that will set up successful email marketing for the long term.
Evaluate the Content
Are your emails promotional or educational in nature? Are they giving away value? The final trick to getting recipients to open email isn’t a trick at all. It all comes down to the right content for the right individual.
So, you’ve established who these people are and how they like to consume information. Now your only job is to deliver the right kind of information to them. For starters, stop using emails to sell–start using them to teach. People love learning. It’s inherent in us and when you give it away for free customers will see the added value in your brand.
People don’t like being sold to, so save it for when they’re ready to buy. You’ll know when that time comes because their lead score will be hot. Once you get to this step you are finally ready to start A/B testing “in-asset” content, meaning the content of the email body or subject lines.
We want to ensure all of the building blocks are in place before jumping to this common exercise because it eliminates variables–the scientific method of marketing. When you do start this process, go about it sparingly. Don’t change ten things in the email. Change one, test several segments, and adjust accordingly. Rinse and repeat.
Finally, don't give everything away in the email; draw them back to your site. Give them a small taste of the information, enough to read above the fold, and then direct them to a landing page.
Email marketing can be a powerful tool. It doesn't just have to be something you check off a list. When done right, you'll notice more than just a higher open rate. You'll see higher lead acquisition and conversion rates as well.
Thumbnail image created by Jonathon Narvey.