You’ve been crafting emails since the dawn of time, so you know a thing or two about driving opens, clicks and conversions. You can do it in your sleep. But while you were dreaming, email practices may have become more refined. Every once in awhile it pays to look closely at what you’re doing, even if it seems old hat, and assess if it’s achieving the results you desire.
Your email needs a lot going for it to be relevant, evade spam filters, be noticed in the inbox, opened, read and acted upon. Let’s run through some key strategies successful campaigns employ see how your efforts compare.
Is your email precisely targeted? (5 points)
- Geography. This can be particularly important for businesses with many locations.
- Demographics. Factors such as age, family size, race, gender, education, income, occupation, nationality and more drive the demographic segmentation.
- Behavior. Behaviors are inferred or observed primarily by purchase decisions, but can include other behaviors like being slow to make payments or consistently opening emails promptly.
- Psychographics. This segmentation considers lifestyle choices, personality traits, values and opinions.
These four areas only lay the groundwork for targeting, as you’ll probably want to use a combination of segmentation facets to define and refine your target audiences.
Is your email personalized? (5 points)
Refer to your customers by name when you can – but do a reality check. If your data is suspect, skip personalizing by name. You shouldn’t send an email to Jill when the recipient is named Jack.
Send all your emails using the same “From” address. Recipients who recognize your address are far more likely to open your emails. If you have the option to create a “friendly” from address, ensure it’s recognizable to recipients as coming from your organization. Use the opportunity to add clarity to the purpose of the email by including what it is, such as “ABC Co. Account Services.”
Is your email subject line effective? (5 points)
Short, clear and direct subject lines are almost always best. It’s tempting to get clever, but don’t be vague. It’s tempting to use superlatives, but don’t oversell. Avoid symbols and emojis as these can trigger spam filters. Don’t use the word “free” in a subject line either – it can harm your reputation as a sender. “Earn” is another word associated with email scams, and should be avoided.
Are you optimizing the Inbox Preview? (5 points)
When it comes to email, the first thing a recipient sees is the inbox preview: who it’s from, the subject line, and the beginning of the message.
According to research by Higher Logic (formerly Informz), 33% of recipients open emails solely based on the subject line, while 68% do so based on the ‘From’ name. You can spend hours crafting an email, but neglecting the subject line and From address may ensure it’s never even seen. Subject lines, sender names and the preview text work together to drive open rates.
In fact, despite your focus on subject lines, the “from” line is the top line of the inbox preview, and the sender’s name is usually bigger and bolder than any element in the preview. It’s a good idea to preview the inbox preview before you hit “send.”
Are you A/B testing subject lines? (5 points)
Most modern email platforms provide for A/B testing of subject lines. While this can be helpful in testing hypothetical situations to determine what rules you should apply to subject lines, most of these hypotheticals have already been tested and the results are easy to find and apply. You’re likely to find yourself proving something that’s already widely known, such as the best length of a subject line.
Where these A/B testing tools excel is in automatically applying the “winning” subject line to emails remaining to be sent. This effectively gives you two swings at every pitch – one might be a home run. You don’t lose anything in trying the second subject line.
Are you keeping layouts simple? (5 points)
Animated graphics, huge fonts and in-your-face color schemes are not as effective as novices think. Animated GIFs don’t always render as expected in various email clients, and emails heavy in graphics can trigger SPAM filters. Large, flat graphics including lots of text aren’t readable by screen readers, and fall afoul of accessibility standards. Emails should be easy to navigate. Customers don’t have time to read a lot of copy and no patience for high-volume sales pitches. If content must be expanded upon, link to a landing page.
Are you including a clear and singular call to action? (5 points)
Why send an email without asking recipients to do something? A call to action should be easy to see and access, with a clear indication of what the click will accomplish. “Click Here” should be avoided – certainly you can do better than that! “Take Our Survey,” “Register Now,” “View Your Score,” “Learn More”… all of these are better choices. Remember, a Call to Action includes the word “action.” Use verbs.
35 points: Excellent! You’re an email ninja!
30 points: Ohhh so close. Your next email will be perfect.
25 points: Each of these practices is equally valued. Which are you discounting?
20 points: There is definitely room for improvement. What will you do next?
15 points or less: Reassess your efforts and focus on the practices you’ve overlooked.
Test Your Email Savvy
was written by me, Greg Norton – also known as webzenkai. I’ve got more than two decades’ experience building effective websites and powerful email campaigns that yield results. Feel free to contact me regarding this article or anything else you find on this website.