Email Conversion Optimization: The 5 Key Elements
Marketing leaders leave more to chance than other business leaders.
Most other departments have well-defined methodologies to use when leading their teams. Supply chain and logistics leaders have Six Sigma. The finance department has Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Manufacturing leaders have Totally Quality Management.
The marketing department – well, there’s that star performer with the golden gut.
To help marketing leaders achieve consistent performance across their teams and agencies, MECLABS has created a series of patented methodologies that show how to consistently increase conversion. These are simple heuristics (aka thought tools) to help you and your team identify where to focus your energies when moving through a conversion opportunity.
The MECLABS Email Conversion Index
In this article, we’ll take a quick look at the Email Conversion Index, a heuristic developed from patterning the results of the MECLABS research library.
In the heuristic, “Eme” stands for “email effectiveness index.” In other words, focus on the five key elements to increase the effectiveness of your emails.
Relevance to the Customer
Relevance (“rv”) is the compatibility of the email message to the recipient’s motivations. As you can see in the heuristic, relevance is very powerful and has a multiplicative effective on the overall performance of the email.
Relevance equals results. I’m sure this isn’t surprising to you. If you go to an email marketing event, you will hear all of the speakers discuss relevance.
But how exactly can you be more relevant?
The relevance of an email can be based upon the internal motivations of the recipient, such as:
- Personal interests
- Shopping habits
- Communication styles
- Level of engagement
- Email behavioral data (for example, an increasing intensity automated drip campaign could send more and more frequent emails about certain topics that subscribers click on in previous emails)
The email’s relevance could also be based on external events surrounding a recipient, like:
- Special discounts
- Limited-time offers
- News events
- Competitive initiatives
Of course you are familiar with this term, even if you don’t have marketing experience. However, are you thinking about it in the right way? Have you ever really thought of it as value before?
That is essentially what an offer should be. Not an ask, but a give. If “May I offer you an app to download?” is the offer in your email marketing it should feel as valuable as “May I offer you a drink?”
The value you promise in your email in exchange for a click, that is the offer (“of”). After all, value is the primary reason an ideal prospect would respond to you.
Your communication of value begins in your subject line and should be maintained in the body of the email and, really, throughout the entire conversion process.
In the body of the email, it is important to distinguish the difference between the product offer and the clickthrough offer. It is all too easy to confuse the two.
For example, I’m into electric cars. I have a Nissan LEAF. I could get an email about the all-new LEAF. That’s the product. I’m interested, but frankly, I’m probably not clicking through. I’m not going to buy a car based on an email.
However, what if the email offered me an invitation to an exclusive event for previous LEAF owners. That is the clickthrough offer, and now you’ve got me clicking.
To avoid this danger, ask two questions:
- Q1: What is your objective?
- Q2: What is the best way to achieve your objective by serving the customer?
It helps to just have one clear objective/offer in an email. But if you have multiple objectives/offers, make sure the value of each is clear for the customer so as not to confuse them with an overwhelming layout (see “Friction.”)
An appealing element introduced in your email to achieve a desired action is an incentive (“i”).
Please notice, the entire heuristic isn’t just incentive. There are other elements involved. The incentive alone doesn’t equal email effectiveness.
However, that is how some marketers treat their incentives. They sell only with incentive. They use and abuse incentives. You might get more clicks on your email that way, but think big picture. You should sell on value (see “Offer”) or you will torpedo your margins. Your email subscribers will always expect bribes to act.
An incentive should just be that little bit extra that helps your subscriber overcome inertia and act.
For example, we have an automated drip campaign at MarketingSherpa (publishing subsidiary of MECLABS Institute) to re-engage inactive email subscribers. We added an incentive because these are our lowest motivation subscribers. They need a little something extra.
But notice how I said “a little something.” We’re just trying to get them to overcome inertia and engage with us again, to see the value in their email subscription.
We could have offered an incentive with a high price tag to get them to act. For example, “click for your chance to win a free email messaging online certification course” (which we sell for $695).
Instead, we chose an incentive that is in line with the main value proposition of the email newsletter – free content. Since they are already subscribers, we are reducing the cost for them (filling out a form) and they can just click on the link in the email to get the free content.
This email, like many content offer emails, uses a very similar incentive and offer. These subscribers needed that little extra something to act since they were low motivation. However, we weren’t going to overdo it and outright bribe them to click.
There is a minus sign before the next two elements because they are a cost to the email subscriber and, therefore, are an element that hurt email effectiveness.
Friction (“f”) is generated by email messages that do not match the subscriber’s thought sequence when they receive the email. For example, if they’ve just subscribed to your email list, and right away, you ask them to buy a seven-figure product. There is friction. You’re not on the same page with those subscribers. They’re just starting to get to know you. Email copy should crafted to synchronize to the decision patterns of the recipient.
Friction is also caused when recipients are forced to make meaning of the email. There should be an instant click in their mind where they instantly know what the email is about and are enticed enough to learn more about the value they may receive. That click in the mind ultimately leads to a click on a link.
Friction could be caused by other factors. Like a difficult email layout, text that is hard to read or understand, an email that is unnecessarily long (although long emails aren’t always wrong), or one that just doesn’t render properly (on mobile, for example).
Make the email experience as seamless and clear as you can for customers, and you will get more clicks.
Anxiety (“a”) is psychological concern stimulated by a given element in the email process and is also a negative.
While website visitors are skeptical and cautious, the natural level of concern is even greater for email offer recipients.
The very nature of email, as an outbound or “push” marketing channel, causes it to need to overcome the extra measure of distrust and skepticism.
You need an extraordinary amount of over-correction to overcome this extra measure of anxiety and distrust. They are essentially clicking from one channel familiar to them (their own inbox) to an entirely different, external channel (they’re not sure exactly where the link will take them).
The basics help reduce anxiety that your email is an outright scam. A well copy edited email with no spelling or grammatical errors. A professionally designed email.
In addition, sometimes it can help to give them a hint or preview about what’s on the other side of the click. For example, to reduce anxiety in the MarketingSherpa email I mentioned earlier, we include the text “one click to download, no form fill is required.”
10 Heuristics to Help Your Team Improve All Its Marketing
Email conversion optimization is likely just one of your marketing challenges. To help your team be thoughtful and thorough when planning and evaluating all of your marketing program and campaigns, here is a heuristics cheat sheet (just click on the link, no form fill necessary).
Daniel Burstein is the Senior Director, Content and Marketing at MECLABS Institute. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the marketing direction for MECLABS — digging for actionable discoveries while serving as an advocate for the audience.