Traditional retargeted ads will get you an average click-through of about 0.7%. With that, let’s be honest here: If you’re not leveraging email capture forms to identify and engage that anonymous web traffic, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.
Well-executed email capture forms are the cornerstone of any website and one of the biggest opportunities to feed your lead nurturing funnel. Passing up this opportunity to engage in a conversation with your web visitors is like leaving your business phone off the hook. They’ve expressed interest in your brand, so let’s pick up the phone and have a conversation with them.
Now, you might think all capture forms are created equally but there are a few best practices we should cover to set you up for success:
Capture only what you need
As marketers, we are known for hoarding data. Yet, in the case of your capture forms, less is actually more. Every single field you add to your form will increase your bounce rate. Your signup form should only have the absolutely critical fields you need to send an email. Make it as easy as possible for visitors to subscribe and build your relationship from there. As their trust in your brand grows, you will be able to ask for more personal information and build your data profile of them over time.
What’s in it for them?
Today’s consumers are both informed and selfish. They know that their email address is currency and will only give it to you in exchange for something valuable to them. Your value proposition needs to convince them that what you’re offering is worth far more than coughing up access to their inbox. This could be an exclusive discount, or a free report filled with information they’re interested in. Showing the value of your relationship right up front not only increases the volume of form submissions you’ll receive but sets the right expectations with your subscribers from the start.
Respect their privacy
Don’t hide the form
The email capture form is useless if web visitors can’t find it. Stashing it away in the footer is a sure-fire way to guarantee low engagement. For the highest impact the form should be above the fold and capture your visitor’s attention right away. You’ll want to test placement to find what works for you but keep in mind, it needs to be visible and simple.
“Subscribe” is overused
Your capture form CTA is an opportunity to be fun and engaging. Action-oriented text that speaks in the first person is a great way to drive engagement. For example, “Send my newsletter now” or “Get my 10% off” puts the ownership in the subscriber’s hands without sounding generic.
Example emails – they actually work
Using a placeholder email address in your signup form will increase your visitor’s likelihood to click in the box and submit their email address. You can use anything from email@example.com to firstname.lastname@example.org to pull the user’s eyes in.
To wrap it up:
We can all agree; first impressions are important. The brands that have mastered the ability to turn their customer base into devoted advocates would never let a customer walk through the door of their bricks-and-mortar store without offering them a personal welcome because they know how important that first impression is. So why would a customer visiting your digital store be any different?
Following best practices with your signup forms will help you leave a great impression that both lays the foundation for a lasting relationship and ultimately generates more subscribers.
One of the not-really-secret benefits of email marketing is the ability to test just about any component or data point you desire. With so many possibilities at our fingerprints, the majority of email marketers (okay, companies sending email) don’t test. And those who do test tend to have better-performing email marketing programs (we hope).
Email marketing is part art, part science. In scientific experiments, there is always a “control group,” a portion of the testing audience where no change occurs. This is to test the effectiveness of the new process, medicine, product, what have you, against what would happen if nothing changed.
Establishing your initial benchmarks is like creating your control group for testing. As a starting point, for email marketing you would establish benchmarks for:
Spam complaint rates
Here’s an example:
You send a newsletter twice a month to your entire mailing list—no segmentation. The template is the same. The type of content you include is the same. You’ve “always been doing it this way.”
Take an audit of your send data from the last 12 months. Your first benchmarks would essentially be seen as averages. For this example, you determine that your:
Average Open Rate = 12.6%
Average Clickthrough Rate = 4.6%
Average Click-to-Open Rate = 38%
Average Conversion Rate = 3.5%
Average Complaint Rate = 0.2%
Average Bounce Rate = 1.9%
Average Unsubscribe Rate = 0.3%
These are your benchmarks. Now, when it comes time to think about testing, these are the metrics you’re measuring against.
What to Test?
The short answer? Whatever you want. The longer short answer: Start small and go with a test you think will move the needle.
A/B testing is a great way to go. The “A” portion of the test will your normal send and the “B” portion will receive the test version—with a piece that’s changed. Start testing with a single element at a time. Variables you can test include:
Calls to action—copy, color, and size
Use of images
Two general rules I have are:
To increase open rates, test subject lines and From Names.
To clickthrough rates, test CTAs, headlines, and offer copy
The Importance of Statistical Significance
It’s almost as hard to type as it is for me to say, but test enough of your audience to ensure statistical significance. If you have a mailing list of 500,000 subscribers, and you’re only testing with 500 subscribers, that test group isn’t nearly big enough for your insights to be backed by data.
Also, test your ideas more than once, particularly if you mail frequently. There are so many variables that go into why subscribers engage with emails that, to bring in sports metaphors, hitting a home run once is possible, but potentially not sustainable. If you hit a double, and your new technique constantly “hits doubles,” then you’re onto something. Avoid falling for the shiny objects—the flukes.
More Quick Tips:
Consider testing entirely different emails. If you’re running out of ideas, test two different types of content.
Decide on one metric you want to test against for each test. For example, if you’re testing subject lines, you’ll want to test for open rates. If you’re testing offer copy, you may measure against clickthroughs or even as far as conversions.
One final note: Don’t be afraid to fail. Some tests will fail. People don’t like change. The changes you choose could hurt performance—and this fact is one of the reasons why many email marketers don’t test.
If you’re looking for testing ideas or need some expert help in executing your testing strategies, let’s talk! Contact us for your free consultation now.
If Harry Potter had reached platform 9 or 10 instead of platform 9 ¾, would he have been able to catch the Hogwarts Express? In other terms, if your email campaign does not reach the right email addresses, you miss “catching the right train” to effective engagement and conversions.
List hygiene is a simplistic way of saying that you should be constantly watching for and keeping the right email addresses on your list at all times. If you are planning a targeted, personalized email campaign, list hygiene is a crucial first step. Without it, it doesn’t matter how good your strategy is, how ingenious your creative is—if it doesn’t go to the right “platform,” it won’t make a lick of difference.
How important is list hygiene?
List hygiene ensures better delivery.
Better delivery means better overall deliverability (meaning inbox placement)
Better deliverability means more people seeing your messages.
More people seeing your message means better chances (we hope) for opens, clicks, conversions, and ultimately, revenue.
It all starts with your list. So, let’s look at how you can maintain good list hygiene:
Get Rid of Hard Bounces
Bad email addresses are just that: bad. People change jobs, change email addresses, mistype their own email addresses, or frankly, give you fake addresses to collect on something of use. Continuing to mail to bad email addresses does you no good.
(Note: Many email service providers will remove bad email addresses for you. But, in the event they don’t, you should stay on top of it.)
There are two main types of bounces you need to be aware of:
Now, there are two types of bounces that you ought to know:
Hard bounce: A non-existent email or domain name could lead to a send bounce. This is segmented as a hard bounce.
Soft bounce: A temporary delivery issue such as offline server or a full inbox could lead to a bounce. This is registered as a soft bounce.
Hard bounces need to be dealt with as soon as possible. Soft bounces should be handled if an address continues to soft bounce after several sends. Your frequency will determine how quickly you deal with soft bounces—namely if you mail monthly, you may wait longer than if you mail daily.
Segment Your Actives and Inactives
Removing bad email addresses is step 1. Segmentation by engagement is step 2. If you notice you’re having some delivery issues or drops in opens and clicks, start by segmenting your active subscribers and your inactive subscribers. A great starting definition would be:
Active subscribers – Any subscriber who has opened or clicked at least one email from you in the previous 90 days.
Inactive subscribers – Any subscriber who has not met the above threshold.
From there, you mail your groups separately for a while and watch the opens of both groups. If you need to, only mail the active group for a while and “rest” your inactive groups.
Re-Engage Your Inactive Groups
With your active/inactive segmentation done, send special campaigns to your inactive group. These campaigns should have different content from your regular mailers—content that will hopefully pique their interest and bring them back into the fold.
It could be special incentives or even a blunt “are you still interested” message. You can automate these emails as well, so as soon as someone qualifies as “inactive,” they would start receiving the special messages.
If these messages don’t move the needle and create fresh engagement, you may consider either putting the non-engaged group into a suppression list or unsubscribing them from your program altogether. Which method you choose is up to you and your business model.
Clean Up the Mess Periodically
Clean your list at least once every three to six months. This could mean using third-party vendors to clean your list, taking advantage of your email service providers’ cleaning options, or other options. But a periodic look is necessary.
Note: Check your list for role accounts—any email addresses that start with support@, info@, office@, sales@, etc. These accounts can be harbingers of spam complaints and other delivery issues.
Move to Confirmed Opt-In
If you find you’re seeing more and more bad email addresses end up on your list, it may be time to move from a single opt-in process to a confirmed opt-in process. Sending an email confirmation is a great way to ensure that only good addresses make it onto your list. And anyone who doesn’t click on the confirmation link is removed from your list as well.
That said, don’t make this decision lightly. You could miss out on potentially a large percentage of your new subscribers. Only go this route if you are having delivery problems, other privacy concerns, or a business model case for it.
Your email list is not static. Just like everything else in life, there is an ebb and a flow to how a list is built and maintained. Regular list cleaning and hygiene efforts will pay dividends now and on down the line.