01 Nov Improve the Open and Clickthrough Rates of your Email Campaigns
Many businesses use email campaigns as an effective way to keep in touch with existing customers or as a tool to convert leads. Email marketing has now been around for a long time and despite seeing advances in technology and the introduction of other digital marketing formats (such as social media or the increasing importance of paid advertising) emails are still a very effective way of communicating with an audience directly.
In this blog post we look at some of the ways a business can improve the open and clickthrough rates of its email campaigns. The following points are broken out into 4 sections which almost act as a chronological running order of the email campaign creation process. These sections are Planning Your Email, Building Your Email, Sending Your Email and Actions After Sending…
Planning Your Email
This is a vital part of the process, many elements of which are often overlooked once the subject matter of the email has been identified.
The most important factor in determining whether or not a recipient will open your email is the subject line. This does require some thought and should be one of the first things that gets determined, at least alongside the body content. The subject line essentially acts as the first call to action. In order to persuade recipients to open your email your introduction needs to be clear, concise and enticing.
If you have a couple of options for your subject line and can’t decide which one you think will be the most effective, you can split test your email, sending two versions out to groups of contacts on your mailing list. Most email platforms offer this functionality and after a percentage of ‘version A’ and ‘version B’ emails have been sent out, automatic analysis will determine which version gets sent out to the remainder of your mailing list.
Similar to split testing, with some email building platforms you can also add dynamic content to the body of your email. Depending on the data you have available on your contacts, you can include additional columns in your mailing list to contain customer preferences, their interests in your offering or in the case of international businesses, you can even include foreign languages in your mailing list. If you have this level of information on your contacts you can use dynamic content in your email to make the emails much more personalised and relevant to your recipients. For example, if you have 30 people on your mailing list that speak French, providing you can create a translated version of your email, dynamic content allows you to include this content instead of the English version, specifically for those recipients. Another example of dynamic content would be to promote a specific product or service to some of your recipients whilst promoting a different product or service to other recipients, all part of the same email send.
When planning your content try to keep your email short and concise. Think carefully about which kinds of content will most likely get the reaction you desire, which will usually be clicks through to your website. The trick to a strong email campaign isn’t just the open rate, but the percentage of recipients who have clicked through to your site, thus completing the call to action, which is the ultimate goal of any email marketing activity. It’s important to keep mobile users at the forefront of your mind when planning your email. Campaign success with mobile users will be down to ease of use. Simple, concise content will be key in converting these recipients.
When planning your call to action (CTA), don’t overload your audience with too many different ones in the same email. By taking your recipients down a simple path with a clear objective you are far more likely to receive clicks than if you were to include numerous different places a recipient can click. To a degree, newsletters can ignore this rule, but if your email is promoting a certain product or service for example, stick to one CTA or as few as possible for the best results.
Are your communications part of a multi-email campaign? If so you need to plan the frequency of your sending. It’s best to create as many of your emails as you can in advance, so you can leave time to change your later emails based on the analysis you obtain from the performance of the earlier ones. As a general rule regarding the frequency of your sending, don’t overdo it as recipients will unsubscribe and you run the risk of your mailing list shrinking in size. The key is to find a good, consistent balance of how regularly you send emails in your campaign. The maximum for sending emails should be no more than 4 in a 7 day week. If you only send emails during the 5 day business week, try not to schedule in more than 3 emails per week. On the other side of this, don’t go a full week in your campaign without sending any emails at all… Unless your campaign is very long term, try to schedule a minimum of 1 email per week so you can keep your customers and leads engaged and to establish your communications as a valid source of information.
Building Your Email
There are a few things you can incorporate when building your email(s) that can increase the chances of readers clicking on your CTA.
First and foremost, it’s important that your content has a flow to it but it also has to be simple and clear for the reader. Most email recipients only scan the marketing emails they open unless they are highly engaged by the subject line or first image/paragraph. The body content of your email purely exists to achieve the goal you wish to achieve as a business, which in the case of your email campaign, is gaining clicks through to the intended service or product page on your website. The content should essentially try to persuade the reader to complete this action and there are some additional ways to increase the likelihood of this happening…
Wherever you include your primary call to action in your email, make sure this is inserted as a button with text on it. It will stand out much more than a text link and will gain a better conversion rate.
Make sure you add alt text to all of your images. Most email platforms make users click first in order to download imagery, they don’t automatically show your email in it’s full glory. If a reader doesn’t click to download imagery your email will be nowhere near as impactful as it could be, but alt text goes some way to circumventing this issue, allowing readers to at least see what your image is supposed to be. The same logic applies to your CTA button(s) as well. Adding alt text will either help towards convincing your recipients to download the imagery or even click straight through to your website based on the text content of your campaign.
It is also worth adding links to the images you have used to increase the chances of a clickthrough. Many email readers expect images to be clickable and it’s considered good practice in email creation.
Where you do use links in your body text, make sure these links stand out. Use colour and embolden them so somebody scanning your email can quickly identify your links and make a quick decision whether or not they want to click on them.
It is good practice to include a CTA button, a clickable image or a text link relatively high up in your email; if possible, as high up the email as you can get away with. This will be particularly useful for mobile users as emails are often tricky to navigate on mobile devices, with lots of scrolling and zooming required to navigate successfully without missing content.
Don’t use background images in your campaign as they are unsupported by most email clients, Microsoft Outlook being a good example. As a recommendation, use background colours providing they suit your branding. Instead of a background image, add your imagery into the body content to help break the text up and enhance your communications. This technique can be done very effectively to create an excellent looking email that is clear and concise to your readers.
Include social sharing options in your email so a reader can instantly share your content on social media. This can dramatically increase the shelf life of your email, it expands your audience and increases the number of potential clicks through which your communications can gain. Social sharing buttons will increase the effectiveness of your email campaign should readers choose to do this. Alternatively, you can add social follow buttons to your emails. This means your campaign will be limited to your mailing list as opposed to having the potential to spread over social platforms, but you can quickly gain likes and follows instead, increasing your social following in the process. Think about which one of these buttons is right for your campaign and business.
Sending Your Email
Before you send your email there are a few important things to think about…
Plan a bit of time in to preview your drafted email and test it thoroughly. Most email builders allow you to preview how your email will look on screen. This is useful to spot typos and mistakes that might have crept into your campaign but most email builders will often show your email differently on screen to how it will actually appear in the inbox. Always commit to sending test emails internally so you can see a true reflection of how they will appear in the recipient’s inbox. Check your campaign on desktop and on a mobile device so you can identify any issues that might hinder your reader’s experience.
When scheduling your emails think about what time would be best for the campaign to land in the inbox of your mailing list. In most cases the best times to send your emails are around 10am or 2.30pm on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. This is generally a rule of thumb for B2B businesses, but for B2C businesses the most effective times to send email campaigns could be completely different. As a piece of advice, check Google Analytics or any previously sent marketing emails to develop a clear picture of when people are most likely to interact with your communications.
Also bear in mind time zones if your email is going out to an international audience. Segment your mailing list by time zone and schedule your dispatches at the most appropriate times in order to get the best response to your campaign overseas as well as in the UK.
As mentioned above, you can also split test (or ‘A/B test’) your email and send out multiple variations at the same time. Most email platforms will allow you to send a ‘version A’ and a ‘version B’ to a percentage of your mailing list (which you can usually specify yourself) and whichever version has the best open rate or clickthrough rate after a set amount of time (one hour for example) will be sent to the remainder of your mailing list shortly afterwards. This ensures the most successful variation of your email content or subject line is used for the majority of your mailing list and will also give you a good idea of what makes your audience respond, for other emails going forward.
Actions After Sending
It is vital that after each email has been sent, you analyse its performance after a few days, or a week to see how it has performed. Identify what has worked and what hasn’t, which CTAs have been successful and which didn’t work as you hoped they might. For the following email you create, whether it’s part of the same campaign or not, remember to include similar elements to what has been proven to work, but more importantly don’t be afraid to change what hasn’t worked and try something a bit different. Repeat this process for all email campaigns until you find something that your recipients respond better to, whether this is how you communicate your CTAs, or whether you want your subject line to gain a better open rate.
By following all of the above steps you should see your open and clickthrough rates improve over time, providing you send emails on a consistent basis. If you are between campaigns, find something useful to email your contacts about. Be proactive and use these opportunities to further gather intel on what makes your emails effective and what doesn’t.