Email is still an integral part of marketing campaigns and B2B or B2C communication in general, but the unfortunate truth is that very few inbox arrivals are opened and even fewer engaged with to any degree of success. We take a look at the key hurdles in your path and what you can do with messaging, layout and timing to remedy the problem.
Despite the fact that people check their inboxes on average several times per day, there is more or less a 1-in-4 chance that any one email will actually end up getting read. This is no more relevant than for the subject line, a reader's first point of interaction. While simply alluding to the email's theme gives some indication of what to expect, the downside is that it may allow the recipient to be dismissive without ever clicking through and opening up the content.
In light of this, it's essential to use the subject line to leave the reader wanting to learn more. Were this article sent as an email, we could simply opt for something like:
'Almost 8 in 10 emails are never opened'
'Only 22% of emails will ever be opened'
These essentially give a brief summary of the main point, but as a result mean that the reader is able to make a judgement of just how valuable this is going to be to them without leaving their inbox. Instead, it's more effective to:
Resulting improvements could take the form of:
'This is how to improve on the 22% of people that open your emails'
'How do you avoid just 2 in 10 of your emails ever being opened?'
'Want to improve your email open rates? We'll show you how…'
If emails offer a taste of further offers or content on your site, they ought to be considered as conversation starters of sorts. In this regard, the 'opening line' of this dialogue needs to allude to the insight being offered, whilst holding back enough detail to generate the curiosity to open the full email and read on.
Another tweak is to personalise where possible, which has been proven to increase the chance of reading by over one quarter. The mechanics of email means contacting vast swathes of subscribers is a total breeze, but the trick lies in making each one of those individuals feel involved in whatever initiative it is you're promoting.
Friendly greetings and dramatic headlines can be a good place to start, but the additional enhancement of a personal touch may mean the difference between positive engagement and drawing a blank. With the range of mail management options out there - and as long as your subscriber list is accurate and up-to-date - there should be no excuses for not taking the opportunity to make your readership feel personally valued; something which has massive potential further down the buyer funnel.
'Want to increase your email open rates, Liz? We'll show you how…'
'Tom, here's how to improve on the 22% of people that currently open your emails'
A sure-fire way of complimenting a personalised subject line is to configure your distribution settings to show a named sender. Rather than using a default 'email@example.com' (or even the sacrilegious 'firstname.lastname@example.org' AKA 'we don't want to have to deal with your query if we can help it' you could choose a first name, or a team if the former is too personal.
Receiving communications from 'jack@mygreatbusiness' or the slightly less personal 'clientteam@mygreatbusiness' at least shows that there are real humans on the other end of the email, which is the first important step in gaining trust.
The resulting interaction becomes one individual speaking to another, rather than a faceless organisation trying to contact 'just another' member of a mailing list. This will augment the sense of value felt by the recipient and hopefully result in them feeling more invested in the exchange.
So, you've managed to beat the odds and pique the interest of your reader sufficiently that they've opened your email, but the probability that they go on to click any of the links, pictures or calls-to-action within it and actually land on a product or service page plummets to only a few meagre percent. So close, yet so far…
In such a busy, competitive environment full of informational noise and clutter, it's vital to go the extra mile and give any marketing communication sent via this method some extra thought, detail and polish. If you want customers to invest the time in your emails, you should treat afford the build process an appropriate level of careful design, curation and execution.
Colour palettes should be on brand, layout clean and orderly, links clearly demarcated. Reactive content is a bonus, but never at the expense of user experience. Also, where you place your calls-to-action should depend on your desired outcome:
As with the subject line, personalising an email's content has been proven to improve both click-through rate and, ultimately, conversions by 10-15%. This kind of segmented approach based on factors such as demographic, purchase history, interests, preferences and other customer info will make the email content immediately more relevant to the recipient. With this relevancy comes a greater chance of being rewarded with your customer's precious time and attention and the opportunity to continue guiding them a step closer to the hallowed ground of the application form, shopping basket or order request.
A final, but equally as critical factor in your email success is the time and day you send it. In today's ever-connected landscape where the transition between desktop and mobile is as increasingly more fluid, what were previously consistent optimum open and click-through times have now become less predictable and much more aligned with general lifestyle than working habits.
Coschedule's excellent report summarises the vast and often bewildering array of studies into the best time to send email, but a solid foundation for your distributive strategy is as follows:
In conclusion, to increase chance of a better open rates:
- Use the subject line to refer to the recipient by name, and create a sense of curiosity
- Send from a named person, not a generic organisation address
- Schedule delivery for late morning either side of Wednesday.
And to potentially improve on click-through rates:
- Personalise content based on preferences, history and demographics
- Adjust type and tone of calls-to-action to the email content and position
- Schedule delivery for mornings or evenings during the weekend.
All things said, it's important to note that no matter how well executed and timed it is, no single email (or letter, content article or digital ad for that matter) will take your brand from relative anonymity to trusted industry leader. Your strategy should work as a coherent whole across all channels, always revolving around offering longer term value and insight across all stages of the customer journey and giving your audience the time and space to evaluate a potential purchase in their own time. If successfully implemented in this way, there should be more chance that conversion is a matter of when, not if.
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