The 8 most effective email marketing strategies

The cutthroat inbox of your standard consumer is packed with marketing messages, competitive subject lines, and scores of attention-seeking emails. With over 144 billion emails sent each and every day, email marketing remains one of the elite channels for business communication. So how does the signal separate itself from the noise?

To be sure, finding the key to a stand-out message is critical to your bottom line—whether that bottom line is cold, hard cash, community engagement or anything in between. What follows are eight inbox-tested email strategies that successful senders have used to get their emails clicked.

1. Personalize your email without using the recipient’s name

No more “Dear [INSERT NAME HERE]”. The practice of personalized email greetings is not nearly as effective as it may seem. In fact, research by Temple’s Fox School of Business suggests that this particular kind of personalization could be harmful.

Given the high level of cyber security concerns about phishing, identity theft, and credit card fraud, many consumers would be wary of emails, particularly those with personal greetings.

A significant element of email marketing is relationship. Does a recipient trust you? Does a recipient even know who you are? When an email jumps the gun by forcing familiarity too soon, the personalization comes across as intrusive. Intimacy is earned in real life and it would appear to be the same way with email.

Faking familiarity with the subscriber turns many wary email readers off. But this isn’t to say that all forms of personalization are off-limits. In fact, a particular brand of personalization can pay off big time: Sending email that acknowledges a subscriber’s individuality (e.g., purchase history or demographic).

The study also found that product personalization, in which customers are directed to products that their past purchasing patterns suggest they will like, triggered positive responses in 98 percent of customers.

The point here is that if you are to use personalization as an email strategy, do so in a meaningful way. It takes little knowledge or relationship to place someone’s name in your greeting. It shows far greater care to send personalized email that is specific to a recipient’s needs and history.

2. The long and short of subject lines

When it comes to deciding how to craft that perfect subject line, there appears to be really only one area to avoid: the subject line of 60 to 70 characters. Marketers refer to this as the “dead zone” of subject length. According to research by Adestra, which tracked over 900 million emails for its report, there is no increase in either open rate or click-through rate at this 60-to-70 character length of subject line.

Conversely, subject lines 70 characters and up tested to be most beneficial to engage readers in clicking through to the content, and subject lines 49 characters and below tested well with open rate. In fact, Adestra found that subject lines fewer than 10 characters long had an open rate of 58%.

Either way, a helpful email strategy is to squeeze out more words or cut back just a bit to avoid that 60 to 70 character dead zone.

3. 8:00 p.m. to midnight is the prime time to send your email

While many a quality email may be built during business hours, the ones with the best open rates aren’t being sent from 9 to 5. The top email strategy is to send at night.

In their quarterly email report for 2012’s fourth quarter, Experian Marketing Services found that the time of day that received the best open rate was 8:00 p.m. to midnight. This block not only performed better for open rate (a respectable 22 percent) but also for click-through and sales.

The 8P.M. to midnight window is also the least used. Optimal mailing time often depends upon your customers’ behaviors, inbox crowding, and the deployment times of other marketers.

Inbox crowding and the deployment times of other marketers go hand-in-hand; if your email goes out when few others do, it stands a greater chance of getting noticed.

Optimal mailing for your customers’ needs will be up to you. Test, test, and test some more to find out how your customer ticks and when he/she opens email.

4. The best content is free content: Give something away

Consumers love a free lunch—or a free template. In a study on their email list of 6,300 subscribers, Bluewire Media tested various types of content to see what led to the highest rates for opens and clicks. The winner was templates and tools, just the kind of freebies that email readers want.

Many a consumer will ask, “What’s in it for me?” When it comes to resources, Bluewire Media’s test results say that templates and tools outweigh e-books, expert interviews, brain teasers, and even photo albums. You will want to test with your own list, but certainly use Bluewire’s research as a head start.

5. Mobile opens accounts for 47 percent of all email opens

Mobile opens accounted for 47 percent of all email opens in June, according to numbers provided by email marketing firm Litmus. If your email list accounts for €1000 in sales each month, could you afford to wave bye-bye to €470 just because your email looks strange on a mobile phone?

Design responsively to ensure that your email looks great no matter where it’s read. Here are some quick mobile design tips:

  • Convert your email to a one column template for an easy mobile fix.
  • Bump up the font size for improved readability on smart phones.
  • Follow the iOS guideline of buttons at least 44 pixels wide by 44 pixels tall.
  • Make the call-to-action obvious and easy to tap. Above the fold is preferable.
  • Consider ergonomics. Many users tap and scroll with their thumb, so keep important tappable elements in the middle of the screen.

6. Email still reigns over Facebook and Twitter

Over an 18-month period, SocialTwist monitored 119 referral campaigns from leading brands and companies. The results showed a significant advantage to email’s ability to convert new customers compared to Facebook and Twitter.

Of the 300,000 referrals who became new customers, 50.8 percent were reached by email, compared to 26.8 percent for Twitter and 22 percent for Facebook.

7. Send email on the weekends

While not as overwhelming a winner as the 8:00 p.m. to midnight time of day, Saturday and Sunday did outperform their weekday counterparts in Experian’s study of day-of-week performance.

Again, the volume of email sent on the weekends is low, just like the volume for evening emails, which could help those messages stand out more. The margins for click-through, open, and sales rates were not substantial, but in email marketing, every little bit counts.

8. Re-engage an inactive group of subscribers

Research has found that the average inactivity for an email list is 63 percent, meaning that once someone joins they are less likely to ever follow-up with your follow-up emails. Email marketing firm Listrak goes so far as to identify the first 90 days as the window for turning a sign-up into a devoted customer.

What’s to become of that inactive 63 percent? Re-engagement campaigns are an excellent place to start.

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