It’s tough to be an email today. On any given day you have to fight against 205 other billion emails just to get a little bit of attention. If you’re a personal note between friends or a message from a boss to an employee, you might stand a chance. But if you’re a marketing email, the odds aren’t in your favor.
The chances that a marketing email will get opened hover, on average, between 17 to 27 percent. Even the emails that make it past that hurdle are lucky if they get about a 3 percent click rate.
Savvy marketers know that before an email is ever created, a strategy must be planned. An email powered by a well-researched goal stands much better odds against the competition. They also know the importance of segmenting email lists — an email tailored to a recipient’s interests or prior behavior is better off than a blanket message.
Luckily for recipients, but perhaps unluckily for competing emails, more and more marketers are beginning to follow these two crucial best practices. And more over, marketing automation software is making it easy to do so.
What remains to set an email apart are the details that are easily overlooked, and thus easily erred. Pay attention to these small mistakes, and you’re sure to see big results.
1. Not optimizing the sender
The reason messages between friends and coworkers get opened is because the recipient knows there is going to be a conversation, which is the opposite of what most marketing emails are (but should be). Of course, it would be impossible to engage in a back-and-forth with every person on your email list, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t leave the door open.
Unless you’re sending something entirely transactional, such as a copy of a receipt, don’t use a noreply@ email address. If you do, you’re more or less saying, “Hi, read this email and do what I say, but under no circumstances contact me back.” — not exactly a great way to build a relationship.
Create a personalized from address that clearly states who the sender is and conveys a relationship, such as support@, help@, team@, or even a name. The related inbox can be checked intermittently, and you’ll provide an extra moment of delight to any customers who reach out with a true inquiry.
2. Overlooking message preview
There is much written about what makes a great subject line. And many marketers spend hours laboring over just the right set of characters, wishing they had just a little more space to capture readers’ attention. Guess what? You do.
Message preview is the snippet of text that appears next to a subject line in your desktop inbox or below the subject line in your mobile inbox. If you don’t choose a custom message preview, it will default to the first line of text, resulting in something wholly uninspiring as:
That’s a total waste of space. Instead, use that additional character account to capture attention by sharing more information about what’s inside, previewing personalization, or even incorporating humor. In the battle for inbox attention, personality matters.
3. Too many CTAs
With open rates so low, many marketers try to compensate by covering as many bases as possible in the content. Oftentimes, this results in an email with multiple calls-to-action competing for the readers’ attention. It’s done in hopes that one of the many CTAs will appeal to each reader, thus resulting in a click. But more often than not, the confusion just drives readers away.
When a reader opens your email, they’re inviting you to take a moment of their time. Don’t waste it. Email copy is not the place to test multiple CTAs. Instead, focus on segmenting your email list and testing single CTAs with each group, based on their interests and previous behavior. Give readers specific direction and they will be more likely to follow.
4. No image alt text
A lot of attention is paid to email design, but recipients could be missing out on those visual details if you don’t create alt text when you upload an image. Some recipients have settings to block the automatic display of images, and alt text is the best place to share details.
Other audience members may use screen readers, which rely on image alt text to convey what the image depicts. Image alt text is critical to accessibility. Ensure you’re adding alt text that accurately describes what’s in those images you worked so hard on.
Related to both too many CTAs and no image alt text is the mistake of leaving off a text link. Not every recipient loves a button CTA, or even can view it depending on their settings or accessibility. After you’ve chosen that main CTA, ensure that even if you’re highlighting it visually in a button or other image, that you’re also including it in a text link. One of these links should be visible above the fold.
6. Not cleaning your lists
Most email automation software makes it simple for audience members to unsubscribe and automatically cleans those addresses from your list. But what about the readers who don’t unsubscribe, but also never open your email? When you consistently email the same unresponsive addresses, email providers will begin to move your messages to spam.
This is a case in which again, segmentation can help. Create one list of your most active audience members and continue to email them as before. Move the unresponsive group to another list and consider whether you want to scrap those emails, or create a re-engagement plan that could include changing their email frequency, altering email content, or even sending a survey request for how they’d like you to proceed.
Yes, it’s tough to be an email today, but savvy marketers can help. Start with a strategy, segment your audience, test (test, test, and test again), but don’t forget to pay attention to the details. In a world of 205 billion emails, sometimes it’s the littlest things that have the biggest impact.
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