Revamp Your Email Marketing in 2018
If optimizing your brand’s email marketing program didn’t make your list of New Year’s resolutions, you may want to reconsider. Email drives more ROI than any other marketing channel, with an average return of $38 for every dollar spent. It’s also consumers’ preferred channel to receive communications from brands. If 2018 is the year that you’re looking to boost your revenue and consumer engagement, revamping your email program is one of the most achievable ways to do so.
In this post, I’ve outlined several areas of focus that can create a more positive subscriber experience, help drive better results for the brand, and give you a leg up on the competition.
Understand the Subscriber Experience
Despite the fact that it happens frequently, it’s always surprising to me when I present my findings to marketers and they seem caught off guard by aspects of the subscriber experience.
It’s no coincidence that I’m putting this recommendation front and center. The subscriber experience is absolutely core to a successful email program. Not only does it influence consumer engagement and brand perception in and beyond the email program, it can have major implications for how mailbox providers like Gmail process and filter your mail. If you want your messages to land in the inbox rather than the spam folder, and you want subscribers to appreciate and engage with our messages, get the experience dialed in.
- Set expectations. Be clear about what subscribers are signing up for. Review each point of entry to the email program and make sure that permissioning is explicit and expectations are aligned with reality.
- Make a positive impression. As a follow up, ensure that your email program delivers on the promises that you make.
- Get a clear picture of the email lifecycle. Each email program has the opportunity for natural inflection points that enhance the experience, establish positive patterns of engagement, and re-engage or remove subscribers who have gone dormant. Review the complete subscriber lifecycle, from opt-in to opt-out (or suppression) and be sure that content and business rules are well conceived and properly implemented.
- Tidy up your UX. A disjointed or clunky user experience can evoke a range of emotions, from mild frustration to downright rage. Many marketers may unintentionally be causing their subscribers undue strife because they take for granted that the browsing or purchasing path is user friendly. Play the role of a consumer and walk through the complete process, noting and addressing breakdowns or unclear aspects of the user path. Read more about the importance of UX in email in this post.
Overhaul Your Triggered Messages
As you evaluate the subscriber lifecycle, pay careful attention to the triggered messages that are in place and note any gaps. The start of the year is a great time to audit the content, creative, and business rules associated with each message, as well as the triggered program as a whole.
While each email should effectively serve its unique purpose, it’s important to have consistency in the branding, creative approach, and tone. Consider the following as you evaluate your triggered messages:
- Succinct, relevant copy: Ensure that messaging effectively communicates the benefits as well as the ask. Review the positioning to confirm that the subscribers’ needs, concerns, and desires are at the forefront.
- Business rules: As new triggered messages are established, business rules are put in place but rarely revisited. Spend some time assessing the timing, targeting, and suppression rules to make these important messages as effective as possible.
- Functionality: As you review messages, be sure to click through each link to determine whether it directs users to the correct part of the site. Since triggered messages can go untouched for years, website updates and broken redirects are disappointingly common.
- Subject lines: Because of their targeted nature, triggered messages have some of the highest response rates in the email program. They are also some of the most neglected when it comes to subject line testing and optimization. Make the most of these key emails by testing and evaluating which subject lines drive the most engagement.
- Segmentation and targeting: We’re quickly moving away from the “one size fits all” approach in email marketing and triggered messages are no exception. Consider layering in segmentation and creating versions of key messages that will more strongly resonate with specific groups of subscribers.
Freshen Up Your Creative and Content
Once the holiday blitz has subsided, it’s a good time to review creative templates and your brand’s content strategy. These two elements of the email program need to work in unison to communicate value and help the subscriber transition out of inbox processing mode and begin envisioning how the products and services can fit in their personal narrative.
Good email design captures attention, facilitates information processing, augments the brand story, and draws the eye to actionable sections of the template. Good content (defined as both the copy and images selected) capitalizes on attention, articulates value, and outlines next steps.
- Evaluate template processing patterns. As we skim content, our eyes typically follow an “F” shaped path on the page. Designs that take this into consideration are easier for us to process and assess for value. If your brand is due for a major creative overhaul, you may want to consider investing in eye-tracking software to ensure that your designs are directing attention to critical elements on the page.
- Determine whether your signifiers are strong enough. My last post focused on design trends and how important it is for email designers to clearly signify which elements are clickable. Review the elements that subscribers are able click on and consider tests to determine whether stronger signifiers result in stronger click through for your brand.
- Use images wisely. Our eye is naturally drawn to images, so make sure you’re being mindful about what they convey and where they’re directing attention. Images should support key messaging, enhance the perception of value, and draw the eye to towards actionable pieces of content.
- Add value beyond offers. Content marketing has come into its own and is now an essential tool for marketers. If your program is light on non-promotional content pieces, find brand appropriate ways to connect with your audience beyond offers and conversion oriented messaging.
- Spruce up your footers. I’ve long been an advocate for the often ignored footer space within the email creative. In a throwback post, I go into depth on the two types of subscribers that end up in the footer and what marketers can do to enhance the experience for both. If you have a drab boilerplate footer, it’s time to give it the boot!
Evaluate Your Segmentation and Targeting
Segmentation is nothing new, but 2018 should be the year that marketers begin questioning their existing segmentation strategy. With new tools and technology available, advanced segmentation is becoming more accessible for all marketers.
We’ve seen time and time again that increased relevancy leads to increased performance. The list below highlights some ways that marketers can move their program beyond basic segmentation:
- Leveraging personas: As marketers, our job is to communicate with and motivate other humans. Sometimes our segmentation strategy can get in the way of this objective. By creating a set of personas that have unique traits, needs, and concerns, we humanize our audience and can start crafting content that resonates more closely with their needs.
- Personalized send times: Segmenting and sending by time zone is a start, but many sending platforms and add on solutions are making it easier than ever to send to subscribers when they are most likely to open and engage with emails.
- Personalized frequency: Some subscribers have a higher tolerance for increased frequency, while others are at risk of complaining or unsubscribing if frequency exceeds their expectations. Return Path has done extensive exploration of personalized frequency and seen compelling evidence that striking the appropriate frequency across the database can help prevent audience attrition while increasing response rates.
Test, Test, Test … the Easy Way
There are two responses that I default to during any broad discussion on email trends, data, and best practices. The first is, “It depends,” and the second is, “If possible, you should test it.” One of the best things about email marketing is that you can test and optimize every single aspect. The best way to drive better results from your email program is to map out a testing plan and determine what works with your specific audience segments. Across my client roster, I can’t think of an email program element that I haven’t recommended testing. From subject lines to call to action buttons, and from audience selection to suppression thresholds, everything is a test waiting to happen.
The good news for email marketers is that automated testing is becoming more commonplace. Sending platforms are increasingly including this as part of their standard sending packages and there are more than a few vendors, like 8Seconds, that offer add on solutions to make heavy testing accessible.
If your brand has a lackluster adoption of multivariate testing, make 2018 your year. If you’re seeing flat results, select small but statistically relevant samples, be bold with your test content, capture your results, and iterate. Small lifts can have a big cumulative impact over the course of the next year.
I hope this post includes some ideas you can implement to make 2018 a record breaking year for your brand!
As a Senior Email Strategist with Return Path, Casey specializes in driving increased engagement and boosting deliverability. Casey has a healthy fixation with helping marketers realize the potential of their email programs by addressing human needs, building better relationships, and ultimately driving improved results for the business. Her nine years of experience and obsession with evolving the email space helped land her a spot on ExpertSender’s list of “25 Email Geeks to Help You Get Your Geek On.”