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By Amine Rahal, entrepreneur, writer and CEO of IronMonk, a digital marketing agency specializing in SEO and CMO at Regal Assets, an IRA company.
Email marketing doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves. While SEO and voice search often hog the spotlight these days, old-fashioned email marketing still brings in higher returns, according to business owners.
In fact, a 2019 survey found that over 70% of marketers believe email marketing generates “good” or “excellent” returns as a marketing channel — a higher satisfaction rate than both paid search and organic SEO.
If you’re already leveraging email marketing but aren’t getting the results you want, you might have a relevance problem. As the owner of two digital marketing companies, I’ve helped countless clients optimize their email marketing strategy by following these key guidelines and techniques.
Email Relevance 101
We all know what it’s like to have our inbox flooded with newsletters we couldn’t care less about. Like clockwork, they either get sent to the trash bin or remain forever unread. The reason you never open them is they aren’t relevant to your interests or needs.
If your email open rate is low, it probably has more to do with the relevance of your email than the subject line you’ve written. Below, I’ve outlined some of the best ways to boost your open rates via relevance-building.
Step 1: Revamp Your List
If your mailing list is bought and paid for, forget about it. Ditch it and start fresh. If your mailing list is organic but not converting, you also need to change your email recruitment strategy.
When recruiting subscribers to your mailing list, you need a marketing funnel. Since that goes beyond the scope of this article, I recommend checking out this informative article on funnel construction. The key difference is that the CTA at the end of your content must always point to your mailing list, and the prompt should involve a benefit (i.e., discount, promotional codes) in exchange for their email.
Cleaning up your email list starts with proper targeting. If your content is hyper-targeted to your niche, and solves real problems that your niche has, then chances are you’ll accrue a list of IDs that are interested in opening your emails.
The same goes for invalid email addresses. If you use email automation like HubSpot or MailChimp, you can adjust the settings to immediately weed out “stale” addresses. For manual users, you’ll have to do this manually whenever emails bounce back.
Step 2: Optimize Timing
Timely messaging is important. If your message is inapplicable to your readers, they’re not going to open it. Studies have found that most people shop online on Sundays and Mondays, so announcing a sale on an e-commerce product might be optimal on these days. Likewise, holiday emails should be sent out well in advance (two or three weeks) so that your audience has time to consider making a purchase throughout the holiday season.
Step 3: Consider Context-Triggering
Personalized emails should be sent out at various points triggered by customer behavior. For example, a clever reminder email (i.e., “Can We Help You With That?”) should be sent out a few hours after a prospect has abandoned a shopping cart.
Likewise, welcome emails should be sent after someone joins your mailing list. The same goes for reengagement (i.e., “We Miss You! Here’s a Coupon for 10% Off”) if a customer has gone a specific amount of time without visiting your website.
Step 4: Curate Your Audience’s Emails
Segmentation is important if you want to maintain your audience’s attention over time. When users create an account on your website or sign up for your mailing list, ask them what kind of content they do and don’t want to be informed about. This way, you can avoid sending irrelevant emails to customers and instead send them information they’re interested in (i.e., sales and promotions, but not long-form informative content).
Step 5: Subject-Line Optimization
Your subject line is critical. However, it still ranks second in importance to relevance. Once you’ve tweaked your emails to hit more relevant targets, then you can move forward with subject-line optimization by following these basic rules:
• Keep it brief (I recommend 40 characters or less).
• Create a sense of urgency or time-sensitivity.
• Avoid fluff words or jargon.
• Avoid using personal names in subject lines.
• Make it clear that there’s a benefit for the reader inside.
Your subject line has to draw the right kind of attention. If you’re spammy or misleading, you’ll blow all the trust you’ve built with your mailing list and your open and conversion rates will suffer as a result. For more on proper subject line etiquette, check out my full-length guide to subject line mastery.
Putting It All Together
Irrelevant emails never convert. They don’t even get opened. That’s why you should never rely on mass email blasts without first considering whether they’re truly relevant to your audience. Fortunately, you can tweak your email marketing strategy to make your messages more timely, personalized, and targeted.
Email marketing and content marketing are inextricably tied. If you build high-quality content that solves important problems for your audience, then a dedicated and targeted mailing list will naturally build with time — assuming you include your email sign-up in your CTA. This is the first and most important step in crafting emails that convert.