Scott has been living and breathing email marketing since 2007. With both agency and client-side end-user experience, Scott brings a unique perspective to email marketing that combines best practices with real-world-tested strategy and tactics.
Father’s Day Email Inspirations to Perk Up Your Strategy
Email marketers rely heavily on holiday email campaigns to help them drive greater revenue and build better brand visibility. Father’s Day, done right, can fetch big bucks for marketers—and it’s just around the corner.
Are you ready? If you’re still looking for ideas, here are some inspirations for you as you develop and finalize your Father’s Day email marketing strategy:
An interesting animated GIF that catches subscriber attention.
Personalized Picks that drive relevance and further engagement.
Includes whitelisting instructions and social sharing buttons
The Text:Image ratio is well maintained.
What may not work
No preheader text and unsubscribe link.
The first CTA can be easily missed.
The footer shows 2016 as the copyright year. It may throw off those folks who pay attention to those minute details.
The offer highlighted in the hero image can work well in bringing more conversions.
The brand has used interesting copy even in the Unsubscribe link.
What may not work
It’s heavy on images. The Text to image ratio is highly skewed.
The CTAs are not as well-defined as they could be.
While scrolling isn’t a sin anymore, this email may be too long and be trying to fit too much content (it’s always worth a test).
Ferns N Petals
The headline with the hashtag in the hero image looks attractive.
Enticing images increase the chance of conversions.
What may not work
The length of the email could be a turn off for the subscriber.
It’s the third Sunday and not the second. That’s a terrible mistake in the footer.
It’s missing the brand logo – for a non-plain text email, this is a branding mistake
There are no obvious, clickable CTAs
Clean email design that uses ample whitespace
CTAs are nice and clean.
What may not work
There may be a bit too much whitespace between the headline and the first paragraph.
The CTAs may be too spaced apart. The entire email is clickable, which is not necessarily a best practice.
M & Co.
The offer is highlighted in the headline itself.
The GIFs render a pleasant visual experience.
The images perfectly match the Father’s Day theme.
What may not work
The GIFs in the second and third fold may go unnoticed.
It could get boring to keep scrolling through the email.
Solid headlines and captivating imagery can stir Father’s Day emotions. We hope you’ve gleaned some ideas for your Father’s Day campaigns.
If you still need help with Father’s Day campaigns—or your next holiday campaigns—InboxArmy can help you achieve your goals. Contact us now.
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. It is also recommended to verify your email list to maintain a good deliverability rate.
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.
Technology has changed the way we market to consumers. Devices and browsers have forced email marketers to design and code templates in certain, ever-changing ways. And increased competition for inbox space and brain space has pushed marketers to the brink of insanity.
All that said, the basic foundations of email marketing have remained the same:
Basic #1: Ask for Permission
To be a responsible email marketer, ask your subscribers for their permission to send them emails. When you ask for permission, you allow the subscriber to think through whether or not they want emails from you. This increases your value as a marketer, and generally improves overall engagement in the long run.
Basic #2: Respect the Inbox and Build Relationships
The inbox is sacred space. Don’t take advantage of the permission you obtain to essentially invade this space with irrelevant, inane, or downright useless emails.
When someone opts in, they want to learn more about your business and what you offer—and they want something you promised like a coupon. If they’re new to your business, you’ll want to educate them on your products and services. If they’re customers already, they’ll want to know what’s new.
When you nurture your subscribers the right way—meaning you communicate with your subscribers in ways that are meaningful to their stage of the relationship with your brand—you can increase engagement and improve retention. Building and improving the relationship with your brand should be the focus of your email marketing program.
Basic #3: Set Expectations
Set expectations with your subscribers right away. Your first email should specify what to expect from you, specifically:
What types of content to expect from you
How often you’ll be emailing them
Any value propositions you hope to convey through your email program
This email by BBC is a welcome email which tells the subscriber how often they would be emailing and the type of content they will send. The subscriber can decide if they want to continue receiving the emails or not.
Basic #4: Personalize Your Emails
Great marketing is about listening to your customers and improving their lives with your products or services. Email marketing is no different.
As we touched on in the previous section, your email marketing program should focus on delivering content and offers that are relevant to your recipients. You can gather this information through engagement data (like opens and clicks), online surveys, purchase behavior, and more. The more data you gather, the more focused your email content can be.
This email by Briefcase is meant for a segment that started creating an account but did not end up completing the process for some reason. It has been personalized to make sure they finish the sign-up process.
Basic #5: Monitor and Measure
Email marketing is wonderful for the simple fact that just about every aspect of it is measurable in some way—Opens, clicks, forwards, bounces, complaints, unsubscribes, etc.
And when you send an email marketing campaign, you’ll want to A) Monitor, and B) Measure. You’ll want to monitor:
You’ll want to further measure:
Conversion Rate (however you define conversions)
These basic data points will speak volumes to campaign performance and be major determining factors in your ongoing email marketing strategy.
Your Subject Line: It should encourage opens from the subscriber. Keep it simple, in line with the content and exactly as long as it needs to be to get your point across.
Your Content: It should be simple, easy to understand, and drive to your desired action/conversion as soon as possible. Note: The average read time for an email is about 11 seconds (if you’re lucky). You have less time than that to get your point across and your action completed.
Your Call to Action: This is the most important aspect of your campaign. It needs to have proper placement, be easy to find, easy to understand, and link to a place where the desired action can be completed easily. Think easy.
The basics of email marketing haven’t changed, even while we continue to incorporate the latest design and coding trends. What are some basics we haven’t listed here?
Easter is this Sunday, and most brands already have their email marketing campaigns lined up and ready to go. What sets Easter apart from other holiday emails is the color scheme many brands bring into play—pastel colors in shades of green, blue, and pink that provide a feeling of warmth and Spring. (And of course—the Easter Bunny.)
If you’re still in need of last-minute ideas, we’ve got inspirations for you:
Subject Line: Hop On Over To Our NEW $5 Mini Workshop!
What we liked:
Makes wonderful use of Easter-themed colors
Promotional information in the first fold
Responsive email design that re-arranges the elements into single column
The zig-zag layout in the second half aids in scannability
Subject Line: No bunny but you 🐰
What we liked:
This evite features a video—or rather a hero image with a play button to prevent a broken user experience (since video does not play in all email clients).
The video is instructional and is followed up in the email with a promotional banner.
The navigation menu has been shifted to the bottom to provide a distraction-free experience “above the fold.”
Every email you send has a specific purpose. Is that purpose obvious to your recipients? Whether your email’s purpose is to drive an eBook download or a specific product purchase, the question remains:
How do you get recipients take your desired action?
While there are many factors—like the subject line, copy and design–which help to drive engagement, the call-to-action (or CTA) is the most important factor for prompting action.
CTAs provide clear direction as to what the subscriber needs to do next—and is ultimately a key driver in the success of your email campaign.
Maximize Your CTA
Three components play key roles in your CTA’s effectiveness: copy, design, and placement.
With the advent of tablets, smartphones, and touchscreens, the concept of “click here” as CTA copy is somewhat antiquated. It also doesn’t provide value or direction in terms of usability. So, how should you approach the copy portion of your CTAs. Here are some ideas:
Make sure the CTA states exactly what the recipient will get by clicking.
Use strong action verbs in your CTA.
Be specific and focus on benefits.
Create a sense of urgency.
Use numbers (when applicable) to denote discounts. (e.g. “Save 20% Now”).
Be concise—5 words of less is ideal.
Add first-person elements.
Suppose you have an eBook to offer to your email recipient. Good CTA copy might be:
A well-designed CTA, irrespective of where it is placed in the email, succeeds in standing out. Let’s see what design options you might consider:
1. Button Type
“Bulletproof” buttons are built with code instead of images. Using code means these buttons display in all email clients—even with images off.
Adding movement to your CTA (with animation via CSS) can draw the eye.
Rectangular buttons are common and effective. You can test using rounded corners on your rectangles to add some shape and depth.
When it comes to CTA size, it can be as large as you want, provided it’s nicely balance with other elements in your email template. You should also consider a mobile-first design not just for your CTA but your template as whole—as more than 50% of opens and clicks are coming via mobile devices these days.
For mobile, Apple uses and recommends CTAs that are 44x44px. You should test your sizes to help find your ideal. (Longer may work better or worse for you.)
CTA color can have a major impact on clicks and conversions. Vibrant colors that contrast with your template’s background can make your CTA more noticeable.
Ultimately, you’re likely to choose a color from your brand style guide. If you’re unsure, and it’s a good fit for your brand, try Blue. The chart below shows how effective blue can be in terms of driving clicks.
Legibility, strength, and color play a major role in how a font can drive CTA effectiveness. Essentially, is your CTA text readable?
For fonts, you also need to be sure that if you’re using code/text for the CTA copy that the font you choose is compatible across email clients—or a suitable, “web/email-safe” backup option is selected as well.
6. White space
White space around your CTA plays an important role in grabbing the recipient’s attention, as it creates a visual break. White space especially works well for those who open your emails on mobile devices as this provides enough clear area for the recipient to click on it with their fingertip.
Don’t make your CTA hard to find. In terms of placement, that means putting the CTA “high enough” (some may say “above the fold”) in the email that recipients don’t miss it.
Good CTA placement helps your email to be scannable and maintain focus on your main purpose. Whether that means right at the top or in the middle of your template depends on how you test placements and how your subscribers ultimately engage.
You may find that for simple CTAs (like a product offer), placing the button high up makes perfect sense. You may find that for a more complicated offer, you’ll need some space for explanation before putting in the CTA. That’s a decision for which you’ll have to test and find out what works best for you.
All these tips above are important to consider, but there’s one critical factor I left out: Proper linking. If your CTA doesn’t link to a good, correct, relevant, working landing page, it doesn’t matter how good your CTA is. Make sure *where* you’re taking your clickers matches up.
What other best practices are you using with your CTAs? Share them in the comments below.
DISCLAIMER: This blog post does not replace actual legal advice from an actual lawyer. This is a very high-level overview of some things you should look at when considering email marketing under the new GDPR regulation beginning in May. I’m not a lawyer—I don’t even play one on TV. Take these ideas and go talk to a real lawyer if you need to.
This May 25th is GDPR Day! For email marketers, this day is when the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect. That’s a lot of words (and an acronym) for what? Let’s take a look.
This regulation is designed to protect the personal data of European Union citizens and extend this scope of protection and scrutiny to all foreign companies that are processing data of the EU residents. This regulation is legally binding for any company that collects/deals with EU personal data, whether the company resides in the EU or not.
So how does GDPR define “personal data”:
“Any information that could be used, on its own or in conjunction with other data, to identify an individual is considered as personal data.”
Essentially, as an email marketer, you really need to consider every piece of data you collect as “personal data.” And if you have the data, you need to have the “receipts” as well—meaning some record of an express opt-in, proof your subscribers know what data you collect, why you’re collecting it, how you’re using data, etc.
GDPR compliance is not just restricted to data collected after the regulation goes into effect, either. It’s retroactive to all personal data of subscribers in the EU that reside on your current mailing list, too. (There is a period that can be construed as “implied consent” for some companies for a period of time, but that clock is running.)
And to show you how serious this regulation is, noncompliance can mean a fine of up to 20 million Euros or 4% of your total revenue (whichever is higher).
Sounds Scary? Take a Breath…
Though GDPR sounds scary, it is actually designed to protect both data owners as well as companies who handle the data. And, if you’re handling your list the right way now, you’re not too far from compliance as it is.
Since you are required to specify what you can and can’t do with your subscriber’s personal data, this (forced) transparency builds brand trust. Subscribers may be more inclined to offer their personal data once they are confident about it not being misused.
Additionally, GDPR helps businesses and email marketers document cleaner and more relevant data–increasing overall mailing list quality and lowering unsubscribe rates (we hope).
Steps to prepare for GDPR compliance
Here are two things you need to do as soon as possible:
1. Bring your current mailing list up to speed
Now is the time to evaluate your mailing list and prune unwanted email addresses.
Start by asking yourself these questions:
Do I have proof of how I procured the email addresses?
Does my opt-in form ask for the express consent of my subscribers?
Do I use the data exactly for the purpose for which my subscriber gave consent?
If your answer is “no” to any of these questions, you need to make changes, stat. Some other changes you can make include:
Change to double opt-in and only send to subscribers who have completed the confirmation process. (Again, receipts…)
Set up a process for subscribers to easily have full access to their personal data. They must be allowed to refuse usage of their personal data, even in profiling or automated/triggered programs.
2. Implement clean communications with new subscribers.
For new subscribers joining your mailing list, once you have streamlined your onboarding process for your existing subscribers, new subscriber onboarding should be a breeze. Avoid practices such as pre-ticked opt-in boxes and confusing messages (such as using double negatives to convey positive act) on your opt-in forms. Any “disruptive” mechanisms are a strict no-no under GDPR.
Best Practices to follow:
Identify your loyal customers (and prospects) first and get them to opt in again. As May 25th nears, your subscribers are surely going to experience an influx of permission-based emails. Stand apart from the clutter by re-opting in your most engaged subscribers first. NOTE: This is essential if you can’t produce proof of prior opt-in.
Refresh your data collection methods. This will help you gather records on how you gained consent.
When re-opting in your existing mailing list, non-responders should be considered opted out (unless you can produce hard proof of prior opt-in).
Resell the positives. Show your subscribers the benefits/value of being subscribed.
Understanding GDPR is not rocket science, especially if you have already been working on the basis of true permission-based marketing. It can be an opportunity—one that you can take full advantage of by getting your business compliant.
Persuasive email marketing is all about convincing your leads to purchase from you. You only have a few seconds for your email campaign to create an impression on your subscribers. If done right, though, email marketing campaigns can successfully drive conversions.
Let’s take a quick look at the dos and don’ts of persuasive email marketing.
1. Be aware of your target audience
While sending out persuasive emails, you should be aware of who your target audience is. Write an email that matches their buyer persona and place in the sales funnel.
2. Define the purpose of your email
What do you want your subscriber to do? Define a particular goal for your email and make sure it’s obvious in how you place an enticing CTA.
3. Deliver value for the customer
Essentially, answer “What’s in it for me?” A good persuasive email is the one that helps the customer in some or the other way. Justify your email by providing a solution to a problem that they might be facing.
4. Leverage word of mouth
Include testimonials and user reviews for your products and services. This can breed a sense of trust in your subscribers and point them to evidence of customers made happy by your brands.
5. Use eye-catching language
Highlight action words that grab attention, like fast, improve, introducing, etc. Make them bold if you have to. The point is to grab the subscribers who will be scanning your message for something important.
6. Add your headshot in the email signature (where it makes sense to do so)
If your email is truly meant to be one-to-one, never forget that you are communicating with a real person at the other end of the email. Including a headshot in your email signature is a nice way of conveying that the email is from a real person just like the recipient.
Now, let’s shift our focus…
1. Use redundant words
2. Make the email too long
Your email should be as short and to-the-point as possible (unless you’re testing). If needed, break the email into smaller more readable (read: scannable) chunks. Include an interesting visual that matches your email purpose and conclude with a relevant CTA that stands out in the email.
3. Use technical jargon (unless required)
It’s a major turnoff for people when they read an email that is totally irrelevant and hard to understand. Give a clear idea about how you can help by using clear language and simple terms.
4. Forget personalization
Take into consideration past interactions and past purchases, if any. Draft an email specifically tailored to meet their requirements.
Create emails that your readers look forward to receiving and want to open. Deliver content that make your subscribers want to buy from you. That’s the whole idea of persuasive email marketing.