Although it’s been with us since the 1970s, email marketing remains one of the cornerstones of many digital strategies, with 73% of professional marketers rating it as a core part of their business. However, the landscape of email marketing services and best practice is constantly changing and developing as new technology and software solutions influence the way we access and consume messages.
If you’re just getting started, or you feel your current email marketing strategy could do with an overhaul, you might want to consider some of the following points.
The Growth of Mobile
Where previously the majority of email was accessed from a desktop computer, during office hours, in the last few years the rise of “always connected” smartphones means that many people consume email on the small screen.
This means that marketers must ensure the design and content of their message works well, whatever the device it’s viewed on. As with website design, the key word is “responsive” – email templates that adapt and reflow to fit smaller screens.
You’ll need to ensure your email software creates responsive designs automatically, or allows you to send different versions of your email to different recipients, depending on their preferred device.
Email List Management
Careful email list management is crucial if you want to maintain good open and click through rates on your messages, and avoid being blacklisted as a spammer.
Ensure all contacts on your list have genuinely opted in to receive emails from you – don’t use lists you’ve bought from a third party data broker, or email addresses you’ve scraped from websites, as these people have not given you permission to send to them and are much more likely to report your emails as spam.
Ensure there’s a clearly visible link for recipients to unsubscribe from your list if they wish, and keep an eye out for any addresses that bounce more than a couple of times – these should also be removed. If you consistently send email to defunct addresses, your email service provider is likely to suspect you of spamming.
Timing of Emails
The timing of your messages is one of the most important aspects in determining their success. When recipients opt in, you should inform them of or allow them to choose the frequency at which they’ll receive email from you, whether that’s once a week, once a month, or even once a year. Stick to these limits, and don’t bombard people with more email than they’ve asked for.
In terms of the timing of individual messages, think carefully about your target audience and aim to deliver your email at a time when they’ll be most receptive to reading it. For business emails this may mean sending during a relatively quiet time during office hours, perhaps a weekday late afternoon.
For consumer emails you may get better results on a weekend. Once you’ve established which time works for you, stick to that pattern, so recipients know when to expect new messages.
If you’re sending internationally, you’ll need to ensure recipients based in different time zones receive your emails at the optimum time. This is a common feature of many online email management tools such as the ones listed below.
Many email marketing software packages allow you to use A/B testing to try out different message layouts, content or subject lines to determine which works best for your audience. You create two versions of your email – A and B – and then they are sent to half of your contact list each.
You’ll then be able to measure which one performed better in terms of open rate, or clicks through to your website, and adapt future templates accordingly.
Email Subject Line Tips
The email subject line is arguably the most important element of your communication. However, it is often treated as an afterthought. A good email subject line makes the difference between prompting your contact to open and read your email, and hitting the ‘delete’ key without opening it at all.
The subject line should be relatively concise, under 50 characters, containing enough information to pique the recipients’ interest, while encouraging them to read further. Personalising your subject line is a great way to improve open rates, adding their name to make the email seem more relevant. As mentioned above, A/B testing is a great way to try out different formats and styles of subject lines to see which one performs best for your audience.
Top Email Marketing Software
Most marketers use one of the top email marketing software solutions to manage their campaigns. There are a huge amount of different services out there, with a variety of price plans, features and interfaces. A selection of the most popular email software is presented below:
One of the more well-known solutions, thanks in part to its friendly branding and widespread advertising, Mailchimp operates a pay-by-subscriber model where your monthly charge is related to the size of your list.
It’s suitable for beginners, with helpful hints and tips presented throughout the process, and can be used completely free if your list is under 2,000 subscribers.
The software allows you to build and manage your email templates, maintain and manage several contact lists, and perform A/B testing and prescheduled email sending. You can also monitor performance on the go with the free Mailchimp mobile app.
Unlike Mailchimp, Constant Contact doesn’t offer a free tier, however a no strings attached 60 day free trial should give you ample time to assess if this is the platform for you.
The inbuilt template builder is straightforward to use, although with less free imagery than other platforms.
Where Constant Contact shines is that alongside its email management function, it offers a social networking plugin to publish your newsletters directly to your followers, as well as an event scheduler, which can automatically send invitations and updates to your list.
One of the most well-established email marketing services, this has packages starting at $19 per month for a 500 subscriber plan. AWeber offers a wide range of premade email templates and stock photographs to choose from, or the option to build your own from scratch.
It also features a powerful subscription form builder, allowing you to create detailed signup forms which can be embedded directly into your website.
The autoresponder feature lets you schedule a series of messages to go out automatically in the days and months after a contact joins your list, and there’s an Android or iOS app so you can track the performance of your campaigns from your smartphone.
GetResponse offers an entry level subscription at $15/month for 1,000 subscribers, which compares favourably to most of the competition.
The inbuilt email builder has all of the features you’d expect, as well as a handy preview tool so you can see how your template is going to look on a desktop, laptop or smartphone directly from your browser.
If you’re advertising on Facebook or Twitter, the software allows you to pull in subscriber details directly from those platforms, or alternatively embed PayPal buttons in your template to sell directly from within the email.
From only $9 per month for a list of 1,000 subscribers, ActiveCampaign packs all of the email creation, editing and scheduling tools you need into an easy to use interface.
Where it excels is in the level of detail available to you to allow you to segment your contact lists based on your CRM data – indeed it offers most of the functionality you’d need in a basic CRM system, which can avoid the need to use two separate programs.
Powerful marketing automation is also supported, with a flowchart-like system which allows you to build complex autoresponder schedules to develop and convert leads.
Whichever email marketing tool you choose, and however big your list, the tips above should help keep you on the right track. However, email marketing is a constantly evolving medium, so it’s vital to keep yourself up to speed with the latest trends and developments if you want to remain competitive.