There’s a lot of advice out there about email marketing, from myths and best practices to guidance from gurus and case studies with stats that will blow your mind. But is it all trustworthy?
If you’ve become frustrated with your company’s email marketing results, you may be relying too much on outdated, inaccurate, or anecdotal evidence. Here’s the truth about email marketing best practices and some honest advice about what matters most …
It seems like common sense that subscribers on your contact list will get turned off when you send too many emails too often. On the other hand, there are some online marketing experts who say you should email as often as possible until you notice a negative impact on your business.
There is research indicating email frequency is the top reason people unsubscribe from a list. Plus, eConsultancy cites a study from MailChimp, which found engagement drops as email frequency rises. That means emails tend to get less click-throughs the more often they are sent.
Yet, some would argue that if every email makes your company money, you should keep the frequency of your sends high. Alchemy Worx found that both its B2B and B2C clients increased sales when they doubled email frequency.
Determining the frequency of your emails depends on your audience and what type of business you’re running.
Smart email marketers should consider their target audience’s buying cycle as well as their path-to-purchase. An ecommerce store selling smaller items like fashion accessories, vitamins, or beauty products could get away with more frequent emails than a company selling large-ticket items like cars, vacations, or home renovations.
Customers who recently made major purchases may not need to hear from you with great frequency. This is just one excellent reason to segment your list.
Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to email your contacts regularly, but make sure you have something important and relevant to say. Email the right message to specific people at an appropriate time.
BEST DAY AND TIME TO SEND
Is there a certain day of the week that’s best for sending marketing emails? Does a certain time of day lead to better open and click-through rates?
You’ll find many articles naming Tuesday as the best day of the week to send emails. The logic behind the advice is that people are buried in emails on Monday as they start the week, and on Friday, they’re getting into weekend mode.
Perhaps this advice made sense at some point, but it’s now considered somewhat of a myth. In fact, some even call Tuesday the worst day to send email. This could be because so many email marketers are blasting out promotions on that day. So, email inboxes are now flooded on Tuesdays.
Morning used to be considered the best time to send emails because people were sitting at their desks, checking email at the start of the day. However, we’re now living in an “always connected culture.” Smartphones allow people to carry their email inboxes around in their pockets, which means they could be checking messages at any time, and it’s yet another reason to make sure both your email and website are mobile friendly.
Some email marketers have actually found they get the best results on weekends, possibly because there’s less email overload on Saturdays and Sundays, but you won’t find many online marketing experts recommending that tactic.
MailChimp says most people open their emails in the afternoon with 2 pm to 5 pm being the most active time in email, but Experian says to send emails between midnight and 4 am. As you can see … email marketing advice can often be contradictory. Check out what 10 different studies have to say and you’ll see our point.
Bottom line: You should be testing and adjusting your send times based on how your audience responds. There may even be a certain date or time that works best based on your industry.
LONG EMAILS VS. SHORT EMAILS
Should your emails be packed with content including long form copy and multiple images, or are short and sweet emails more effective?
The common assumption is that people are busy, and we’re viewing emails on mobile devices with smaller screens. So, email marketers need to grab attention and communicate a persuasive message quickly. That means using as few words as possible, right?
Maybe not …
Some companies find their long-format emails are the best at converting contacts into customers. They send lengthy sales letters via email that are crafted with direct response copywriting.
What you’re trying to communicate (or sell) to your contacts matters a lot when determining the right length. A single, well-designed graphic with concise copy might be perfect for one email, but a longer letter with no images at all might be better in another situation.
Bottom line: Emails can be too long or too short, too boring or too busy. Your goal is to send emails that are just right … Goldilocks style. Experiment to find out what your audience responds to at different points in their path to purchase.
That includes the design of the email. Does your audience click on eye-catching graphics, or do they find text-only emails to be more authentic?
LONG OR SHORT SUBJECT LINES?
Subject lines play a major role in convincing your contacts to open the email in the first place. Crafting a good subject line is a lot like writing a compelling headline.
It makes sense then that a good subject line might make a specific promise, enticing the reader to open the email. Yet, other marketing experts suggest you should use short and snappy subject lines, keeping in mind that email clients limit the number of characters displayed.
When he was running for president, one of Barack Obama’s most successful campaign emails had a subject line that just read “Hey.” As you can see in the graphic below, the campaign used that tactic multiple times along with other short subject lines. A strategy like this made the candidate come across as casual and friendly to his supporters.
Email subject lines are one of the easiest things to split test. Try out different ideas, send them to a sample of your audience, then send the most successful subject line to your full list. Be aware, you’re not really testing the length, you’re testing the effectiveness of the subject line overall.
Subject lines aren’t the only things that influence open rates either. Research shows the sender name (who the email appears to be from) plays a role, too. Seeing a sender that’s an actual person’s name as opposed to a company name (or info@ and noreply@) may boost trust and authenticity, leading to more opens.
Bottom line: Size does matter, but not as much as you might think. An effective subject line is one that gets an open regardless of things like length, personalization, or emoji symbols.
UNCOMFORTABLE WITH UNSUBSCRIBES?
It certainly feels bad when people unsubscribe from your email communications, and it’s hard not to take it personally, but it’s not a reason to freak out.
- Unsubscribes save you energy: The people who leave your list are often those that take up your time complaining and will never make a purchase anyway.
- Unsubscribes remove dead weight: Unengaged contacts drag your numbers down. You’ll get better open and click-through rates without these people on your list.
- Unsubscribes save you money: Email marketing software plans often charge by the size of your list. Why pay for contacts that don’t want to hear from you?
Have you ever experienced this? You subscribe to an email newsletter, but then you don’t read it for months. One day, you get an email notifying you that you’re being removed from the list unless you really want to keep receiving the emails.
Proactive email marketers often perform list cleanup and get rid of the dead weight contacts who are too lazy to unsubscribe on their own.
If a high percentage of people are consistently unsubscribing, it could mean that your content and offers aren’t relevant to your list. However, there are positives to having people unsubscribe, too. You want to reach people who look forward to hearing from you. Let the other people go and be glad they’re gone!
Bottom line: You should keep an eye on your unsubscribe rate, but you shouldn’t obsess over it. Unsubscribes aren’t neccesarily bad.
EMAIL MARKETING – WHAT MATTERS MOST?
Like many things in life … email marketing is never cut and dry.
While telling you “it depends” sure seems like a cop out, it’s also reality. However, that doesn’t mean there is no such thing as the best way to approach email marketing. Each company is different, and every company has a unique audience that responds in different ways. So the “best way” can change in any given situation.
The most important thing you can do with your email marketing efforts is provide value. Your audience will be much more likely to open, click, and consider your offers when your emails actually mean something to them.
This can be accomplished by providing a balance of promotional content along with content that’s informational, educational, or entertaining. Your contacts have given you permission to enter their email inbox, now it’s your job to convince them that decision was worth it.
That’s the first step towards successful email campaigns. But, you can also take it much further. With marketing automation, you can have your emails working for you 24/7. You should be segmenting your contact lists so you can deliver more targeted messages to different personas within your audience. You need to test and analyze the results of your emails to learn more about your audience and how to reach them.