Quality matters more than quantity in two important ways. The quality of the subscriber list is more important than the quantity of the list. The quality of the email content is more important than the quantity of it.
My background in journalism might have something to do with my views on email marketing best practices.
Throughout a long career, I found that quality almost always wins over quantity when it comes to the information consumer, whether that consumer is a newspaper reader, TV watcher, website visitor or email subscriber.
Someone who is tricked into subscribing to anything won’t be a subscriber for long. That person is a low quality subscriber because loyalty is non existent. A 100-page newspaper filled with poorly written articles will have a harder time holding on to subscribers than a 50-page newspapers with well-written articles.
These same ideas easily apply to email marketing.
Email Quality Increases Response Rates
The best email marketing gets the best response rate. The response rate is determined by:
- A transparent, opt-in email subscriber form.
- The conversion rate of people coming to the email subscription page.
- The churn rate, meaning the rate of subscriptions to unsubscribes.
- The open rate or the percentage of emails that are opened by subscribers.
- The click rate or how often people click on links in the email.
- The site conversion rate of people who click on a link in the email and take action on the site (buy something, click on ads, etc.).
It is better to have 100 quality subscribers clicking 100 times a month for 10,000 high quality visits than 10,000 junk subscribers who click an average of once a month for 10,000 low quality visits.
Best practices deliver quality subscribers with a high response rate while “worst practices” guarantee high churn, a large number of complaints and a poor return on investment.
What are some best practices?
1) Email only to people who have requested the email.
A common practice is a form on the site for some other purpose, such as registration, with a box that has a checkmark in it — the “opt out” approach. If the site visitor doesn’t see it, or forgets to uncheck it, he or she gets an unwanted email.
2) Identify the source of the email clearly.
Use the business name and postal address in the email or in a link to a website page with contact information. Include an unsubscribe option and an email address for contacting someone with questions, complaints or other feedback.
3) Use an appealing subject line.
For a news site, “Today’s News” doesn’t cut it. “Explosion kills 4 people at city hall” is much more likely to increase the open rate. For a business site, “Home decor on sale this weekend only” will usually get more clicks than “Sale this weekend”. Be as specific as possible.
Be careful about using exclamation points, all capital letters or other methods of getting attention because spam filters may block the email.
4) Put links near the top.
This is an important practice for website publishing and it applies just as well for an email. Prominence is critical.
Imagine opening an email with few links and boring content in the opening screen. Why would anyone scroll down to view more?
5) Minimize the number of images.
Many email viewers block images because of the possibility of viruses and the fact that they potentially slow the display of the email.
It is common to open an email with many large blocked images that push links further down and impact the click rate.
But surely consider using HTML colors to add some spice to the email. Remember to offer a text-only version in addition to an HTML version.
6) Send emails from mid morning to mid afternoon.
Emails too early in the day might be overlooked by subscribers from other work or personal emails.
Emails sent late in the day may get overlooked if the subscriber is an employee getting ready to leave or someone at home is preparing to shut down the computer for the day.
7) Track analytics at least monthly.
Don’t worry about the daily results. They will bounce around quite a bit.
Worry a little more about the weekly results. Worry a lot about the monthly numbers.
8) Test and Retest
Email marketing best practices are like any other best practices. The amount of effort that goes into them will determine the results.
Maintain a chart of monthly results. Make small changes to the format at least monthly and watch what happens.
Test and test again. In time, the numbers certainly will improve.