Delivered, opened and clicked. If you successfully conquer each of these stages it’s likely that your email campaign is well on the way to achieving your objectives. But what can you do to maximise your chances of success in these areas. Here are 3 key considerations for each…
What impacts… delivery?
Data quality – it might seem obvious but having high quality data is a key factor in minimising delivery failure. Email data decays at around 3% per month (people move jobs, change email providers, retire etc). This means that all other things being equal, with a regular campaign schedule, you should expect delivery success of around 97% or higher. Having a robust process to collect, build and actively maintain a high quality of data is an important foundation of any email strategy. If you have other data sources, like a CRM system, integrate this directly with your email marketing. This will add multiple collection and validation points and will ensure that the data used in your email marketing will always be as up to date as possible.
Reputation – it’s often overlooked but reputation, that is your reputation as a sender of email campaigns, is increasingly important (arguably it’s now the most important) factor in whether or not your emails are delivered. ISPs are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the way they actively monitor and approve email traffic for delivery. The days of purely looking at content are over. What your end users do with your past campaigns is now a critical factor in whether or not your current campaign will be successfully delivered. A history of positive interaction, such as opening, clicking links and forwarding will act in your favour. By contrast, a history of poor interaction, and especially negative actions like marking as spam, will make it much more likely that your current campaign will be removed.
Content – notwithstanding the above, the quality of your content is still important in getting your campaigns delivered. There’s a general rule of thumb that if your content looks and feels like spam then ISPs are likely to identify it as such and decline delivery. Check that your link destinations are working and valid. Suspicion that linked destinations may be corrupt is likely to add weight to the view that your message is spam. Also check your HTML code quality and items like ALT-text for images. Spam emails generally lack such finesse. And of course if you build your campaign solely with images or pack it full of spammy words you’ll get what you probably deserve.
What impacts… opens?
Sender recognition – on average we only open around 25% of the emails we receive. Getting your subscribers to recognise (and trust) you as an email sender is a big first step in getting your campaigns opened. Consistently using a from-address and sender name will allow you to build up this trust, and once in place will be the first hurdle overcome.
Subject line – beyond who it is coming from, if anything is the gateway to getting your email opened, it’s your subject line (also your additional pre-header text if this is used). Your subject line is the teaser to what goodies your campaign contains, and hence why a reader should take the next step and open it. There’s lots of (good) advice on what makes a successful subject line, but the general rule of thumb is to keep it short and interesting. If you can capture your reader’s attention and imagination in this short piece of text then an open is much more likely.
Timing – again, often overlooked but the timing of an email delivery is an important part of being relevant. A large proportion of emails are opened within the first hour or so after delivery so this is an important window of opportunity. Catching your reader at a time when the message (so far as indicated by the subject line) is both convenient and timely can have a big impact on whether or not it is opened. It’s going to differ widely but understanding the relationship between your objective, your audience and the nature of your content will provide valuable insight into when might be an optimum time to hit ‘send’.
What impacts… engagement?
Content – in many respects this is the easy part. Your campaign has arrived and it’s been opened, so there’s a fair chance that it will now be read. Even having survived this far it’s important to understand that people commonly skim read content. This applies to all content, but it’s especially evident with websites and emails. Many of your audience will be reading your email message on a mobile or a tablet. They are likely to be busy and distracted. There’s lots that could be said about content, but with this in mind, perhaps the most important consideration is to make it quick and easy for your readers to find and digest the key points of your message. Even if they don’t read your message word for word (trust me, they won’t) if you can do this well, the core of your message will still be conveyed.
Relevance – it’s all too easy to create a generic message and send it to everyone in your database. Millions of marketing messages like this are created and sent every day – that’s one of the reasons why average engagement rates are as low as they are. It’s not rocket science. We engage with (that is avidly read and actively click) content which is relevant, to us as individuals. Even adding a simple ‘drop in’ personalisation can add a sense of relevance. However to shoot your engagement rates well above the average you’ll need to work harder. There are lots of precision marketing techniques available. These allow you to profile and segment your audience according to various characteristics and then target content which is more highly relevant to them. Techniques like Dynamic Content can do this automatically, but even a relatively simple differentiation of audience and associated content will have a dramatic effect.
Call to action – it’s not always the case but it’s likely that you’ll want your reader to interact somehow with your campaign. So tell them. Making your call to action easy to find, easy to understand and easy to click will increase the likelihood that this action will be taken. Text links can be small, hard to see and fiddly, especially on a mobile device. Images are great but it’s sometimes not clear that the image is also a clickable call to action, and remember, images are not always displayed. Dedicated HTML call to action buttons work best. Make them easy to find (try the squint test on your campaign layout) and include a concise, clear and irresistible instruction.