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By now, it’s been pretty well established that running your own email marketing list is one of today’s “must do” digital marketing techniques. Unfortunately, though, opening an email marketing account and slapping an opt-in form onto your website doesn’t really constitute effective email marketing!
Instead of wasting the valuable resource you’ve built by collecting readers’ email addresses, consider the following tips on how to get the most out of this powerful technique:
1 – Be short and sweet
Really, no one wants to open an email message and be inundated by endless blocks of dense text. Email messages are meant to be easily digestible and to-the-point – so stop sending out what could pass for ebook chapters when a simple bullet point summary will suffice!
How short is short enough? Ideally, messages shouldn’t be longer than 500 words, unless you have several important points to cover and you’ve conditioned your list to expect longer messages. However, what’s even more important than length is the way you format your messages. To keep things easy on the eyes, limit your text and make use of the formatting features (like bullet points, bold text and headlines) that will help recipients to process your message efficiently.
2 – Use variable substitution wisely
Depending on the email marketing program you use, you may be able to insert fields like “[first_name]” that pull data pieces from your subscriber database in order to personalize your messages. And while personalization can be great for conversions, there are two problems with using these variable substitutions too often:
- If you use them too frequently, you risk coming off as a huckster salesman (for example, “Hey John. I’ve got a message for you, John. John, have you ever thought about how much it costs you to…?”).
- If your subscribers filled out your form with BS information (as an example, first name “Random,” last name “Subscriber”), your messages aren’t going to make any sense following variable substitutions.
As a result, you’re much better off using variable substation sparingly!
3 – Make your messages mobile-compatible
Do me a favor – add yourself to your email list and then see if the next message you receive from your list can be easily read in a mobile environment. If not, take action to make your messages more mobile-compatible.
These days, nearly everyone with a smartphone uses these devices to check their messages, so if your info is trapped in an email template that isn’t rendering correctly, you’ve essentially wasted a valuable open. If you only ever send out plain-text messages, you’re probably fine. But if you use HTML templates to enhance the look of your messages, make sure your email management program allows you to serve up a different mobile-ready version to readers who are opening your emails on mobile devices.
4 – Have a goal for every message sent
When you run an email list, you should never – ever – be sending a message just for the hell of it. Each piece of communication that goes out to your subscriber list should have a thoroughly defined goal that can be measured in order to define success. For example, you could track:
- Sales using coupon codes contained in your messages
- The sale of specific featured products
- Click-throughs to specific posts on your blog
- Article shares on social media sites
- Requests for email responses that generate valuable market research
Of course, not all of your email marketing messages need to request sales (and, in fact, doing so might make you come off as too promotional). However, getting readers in the habit of responding to the messages you send will make it more likely that future sales promotions are acted upon by your highly-engaged audience.
5 – Scrub your email lists regularly
If you offer a bonus for subscribing to your email newsletter, chances are you’ve got at least a few members who opened your initial email and no others – no matter how good you are about asking for follow-up action.
And since most email management programs charge you by the subscriber or the number of overall emails sent, it’s vital that you take the time to scrub your lists regularly to remove inactive subscribers and keep costs down.
To do this, navigate to your subscriber lists and use your email management program’s advanced search features to find subscribers who:
- Haven’t opened a message from you since a certain date (as an example, in the past two months)
- Were added to your list before that same date (to prevent you from scrubbing out subscribers who haven’t been on your list long enough to meet your open rate criteria)
Go ahead and delete these subscribers, as they aren’t currently adding any value to your list. Ultimately, if they want to continue to hear from you, they can re-enroll using the form on your website.
6 – Allow your audiences to segment themselves
When you think about email list management as a type of marketing in general, it’s easy to see how sending messages that are tailored to an individual member’s preferences will be more effective than mailing out a single promotional message. Really, the closer you can get your email messages to match your subscribers’ interests and preferences, the more likely you’ll be to bring about the action you designated as your email marketing goal.
Now, if you operate with a single email list, every subscriber in your account receives the same message – which isn’t very tailored at all! On the other hand, if you could break down your subscriber lists into smaller groups based on key characteristics, your emails could appeal to the things that make each group unique.
In fact, this process is called “segmenting,” and there are two ways you can go about doing it.
The first is to allow users to segment themselves by signing up to receive specific mailings based on shared interests. As an example, HARO – the “Help a Reporter Out” organization that matches up journalists with experts in given industries – allows new subscribers to receive any of the following mailings, in addition to joining the group’s main email list:
The downside to self-segmenting is that many people will take a pass on opting into multiple lists, fearing that doing so will result in spam-filled inboxes. In addition, there are some cases – like highly-useful past-purchaser email groups – in which subscribers won’t be sort themselves into segments on their own. In that case, you can…
7 – Create your own segments based on user behaviors
To begin the segment customization process, you’ll want to first analyze the different ways in which new members are added to your email list. If, for example, you receive new subscribers from several different locations – including those both on and off your website – you may find it useful to segment your list according to the specific source from which a new subscriber originated. The relative size of each list could tell you a lot about the referral sources that are resonating best with your audience.
In addition, once you’ve begun adding names and email addresses to the subscriber database within your email list management program, you can create further mailing segments based on filters that you define. By doing so, you could create segments that contain only people who have purchase your products or those who open every message from you – both of which would be great opportunities to send out targeted promotional offers to those people who have demonstrated an affinity for your brand.
8 – Use metrics to find your ideal send time
While you’re in your email list management program creating these segmented groups, take a second to look at the times at which your messages have been opened. Not all programs offer this type of analytics, though most of the better-known email marketing platforms – including Aweber, Constant Contact and MailChimp – do offer this type of reporting.
If you are able to access open times tracking, pay attention to whether your audience tends to be most active in the morning, in the afternoon or at night. Then, apply this knowledge to future mailings to ensure that your messages reach your subscribers when they’re most engaged with the digital world.
9 – Monitor open rates to test subject line efficacy
One of the most critical parts of email marketing success is coming up with an effective subject line for each message you send out. Think about it… We all suffer from inbox overload to some extent, so a message from a business needs to have a pretty kickass subject line in order to cut through the clutter and convince recipients to spend their time opening it up.
Unfortunately, there’s no “hard and fast” rule as to what constitutes an effective subject line. Although you can find plenty of tutorials out there that will give you headline formulas and other suggestions, the reality is that what works well for one audience might not work for a different group of email subscribers.
So instead of following some arbitrary templates, come up with the email subject lines that you believe will be most exciting for your audience to read and most likely to result in message opens. Then, track your open rates by email subject line to see which of your titles has generated the most interest. Try to determine what exactly made one subject line more effective than another, and then apply the results of your analysis to future messages to make them as engaging as possible.
10 – Split test broadcast messages to get to know your audience better
Finally, it’s not exactly a secret that we here at Single Grain love split testing. We love split testing on everything from web page headlines to overall site colors – and we definitely love it when it comes to determining objectively which of several possible email message variations is most effective at provoking your target action.
Again, not all email management programs offer this feature (and even then, the programs that do might offer split testing on either broadcast or autoresponder messages, but not both). However, if you do have access to an internal split testing program, use it! Building up a database of what works and doesn’t work when it comes to reaching your unique subscribers is incredibly valuable when it comes to effective email marketing management.
Do you currently run an email marketing list on your website? If so, share your biggest challenge with utilizing this powerful technique in the comment area below!
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