Essentially, email is a copy-driven medium, but the design considerations of your marketing email campaigns are just as important as their message. Not only does a well-designed email enhance a campaign’s message, it can actually lead to higher open and click-through rates, and potentially a higher return on investment. Whether you’re launching your first email marketing campaign or are looking for ways to improve them, these seven keys can help you make your future email campaigns a success.
Pick a Frequency and Stick to It
An integral part of planning ongoing email campaigns is choosing when to send them. Whatever the frequency, it’s important that you stick to a regular campaign schedule. If recipients have opted-in to receive your emails for a source of relevant content, than it’s likely that they are going to be looking forward to receiving your emails regularly.
First, determine what time email campaigns will be sent. Generally speaking, email sent in the morning (specifically between the hours of 6:00 – 7:00 am) has been shown to produce higher click-thru rates than email sent later in the day. It makes sense that if a campaign is sent early in the morning, recipients probably have reserved some time for email at the start of their day. If you have been sending your email campaigns later in the day or into the evening, put this theory to test in your next campaign and see if your open and click rate is higher earlier in the day.
Next, determine which day you will be sending each email campaign. Though you would think that the best time to send an email campaign would be early in the week (Monday or Tuesday, for example), results of studies conducted by Hubspot show that the click-through rates of email campaigns appear to be much higher on weekends. Email campaigns sent on Saturdays carry one of the highest click-through rates and the lowest unsubscribe rates of the week. It’s understandable that people have a lot more time to read through their emails on weekends; target your next campaign for a Saturday or Sunday and measure the results.
Lastly, after launching an email campaign, evaluate the effectiveness of your campaign schedule and make changes when and where you see fit. Service providers like MailChimp offer data on opens and click-through rates over the length of a campaign. When you begin to see a slip in open or click-through rates, use this data to help you fine tune your campaign schedule.
Use a Strong Subject Line
Every time you launch a campaign, that email is competing for both space and visibility in your recipients’ inboxes. For that reason, developing a strong subject line is integral to a successful email marketing campaign. Strong subject lines are built to resonate with your audience through the use of relevant keywords. Before opening your email, recipients should be able to easily identify who is sending the email (use a sender name that your recipients will easily recognize), what the email is about and why it’s important to them.
Identify what it takes to keep your emails out of the spam/trash folder. Subject lines containing words like sale, rewards limited time offer, and/or containing percentage values are often filtered as spam. Want proof? Just take a look at what’s currently in your own spam folder. One way to easily avoid the spam folder is to remind your recipients to add the sender’s email address to their contacts/address book. This can be done easily through a separate email or on your sign-up form.
Consider serializing your email campaigns. According to data collected by HubSpot on over 9.5 billion emails sent using MailChimp, the most clicked subject line words mention “newsletter”, or reference a “digest/bulletin/edition”. Serialized content provides recipients with an easy way of archiving/filtering your emails. An additional strategy to develop a strong subject line is A/B Testing. This involves developing two different subject lines for the same email campaign. Emails are first sent to a portion of recipients to determine which is most effective. The subject line with the highest rate of opens is then sent to the remainder of the recipients. CopyBlogger’s The Three Key Elements of Irresistible Email Subject Lines is an excellent source for research into drafting an effective subject line.
Content is King
Understandably, your recipients don’t have hours to sift through a marketing email. There’s work to be done and a full inbox of other messages waiting for them each morning (or evening). Stick to the point of what you’re trying to accomplish – and do it quickly. Easily digestible, highly relevant and valuable bits of content that utilize simple functions of design can result in a higher click-through rate.
As marketing emails are usually just skimmed over, put important bits of content in bold/italics as this design trick effectively draws the eye to that information. As the eye is also drawn to images, use them appropriately to enhance your email. For example, place a photo/image that’s strongly associated to a portion of copy (a sales pitch, information on a product, etc.) where it is seen before – not after – the copy itself. Enticing, relevant images will entice the recipient to read the copy associated with it.
More Links Equal Higher Click-Through Rates
Providing links within your content is another way of engaging your recipients, but the number of links also determines the success or failure of an email campaign. Using data provided by MailChimp, email marketing professionals at Hubspot also found that there’s a strong correlation between the number of links in an email and that email’s click-through rate: emails containing a high number of links have a high click-through rate and a lower unsubscribe rate than those containing a low number of links.
When it comes to placing links, don’t limit yourself to segments of text. Internet users are accustomed to clicking on graphics/images, so include links within these as well. Consider links to be a litmus test of an email’s content: If and when people aren’t clicking on links, it’s likely that you’ve failed to engage your recipients, or you simply provided too few of them. If that’s the case, make some adjustments for your next campaign.
Optimize Your Emails to be Seen and Read Everywhere
Recent surveys tell us that a large number of mobile devices are used to check and read emails. One recent survey by HubSpot found that over 80% of respondents use mobile devices for reading email. Considering that the market for mobile devices is such growing so rapidly, optimizing your email campaign for viewing on these devices is a necessity. Owners of smart phones and/or tablet computers will tell you how frustrating it can be to decipher a website or email that isn’t optimized for a mobile device: use or develop an email template that is suitable for this audience.
As a great deal of email is still viewed on a laptop or desktop computer, you must still optimize images to make them suitable for viewing on the web. This keeps loading times of graphics and your recipients’ frustration with slow loading speeds at a minimum. Popular third-party photo editing/manipulation software such as Adobe Photoshop can be used to alter, manipulate and optimize graphics for the web with ease.
Include a Text Only Version
Many email providers have settings that prevent images within an email from loading, may block images altogether. Obviously, if your marketing email consists of one graphic that contains all information of an offer or promotion, you have a big problem. Not only could the content of your email be temporarily blocked from view, it may not load at all. In such instances, a text-only version can be utilized as a fail safe of any email campaign. Usually, it’s simply a carbon-copy of an email excluding any graphics. Though it may not be as attractive as your carefully designed email, at least the content stands a chance of being seen, read and clicked through.
Won’t You Follow Me?
In the internet age, a strong online presence may be an integral part of your business. If you haven’t already, consider opening accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking sites before making email campaigns a part of your marketing plan. Once these accounts are established, include icons and links to each corresponding page/profile.
You may have doubts about the usefulness of these popular social networks, but audiences both young and old find a lot of use in them. In addition to your website/blog, displaying your social networks in email campaigns shows your recipients where for additional interaction with your brand/business. Utilize these social networking platforms as sources of additional news, sales and offers.