7 Keys of Successful Email Marketing Campaigns

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.

5 Ways Creatives can Deal with Non-Paying Clients

Freelance designers have serious problems when it comes to collecting payment from clients. As a follow up to another post that deals with some steps being taken to give creatives some defense against clients who refuse to pay, I wanted to know more about the experiences other creatives have had in dealing with such clients or what design professionals have done to successfully collect on what they’re owed.

The range and variety of solutions offered up by members of the LinkedIn group, Creative Dilemmas, came as a pleasant surprise, shedding some brilliant and practical solutions to creative professionals’ invoicing woes as well as steps other creatives can take to avoid getting burnt.

Below is a list of five ways creatives can prevent getting burnt by non-paying clients.

I.  Collect a deposit before any work begins.

“We collect a deposit up front and then invoice the balance at the end. This way we are covered for at least half of the total cost.”

Having to deal with a non-paying client can be easier to manage — or completely avoided — if some preventive strategies are put in place from the very start. Making payment on a project deposit a necessity of every project you take on protects you in two key ways. First, it ensures you get paid for at least a portion of your total projected time and/or expenses. I’ve found my own clients to be comfortable with 25% of the total projected cost of the project, though it’s common for creatives to ask for at least half of the total cost.

“If [clients] don’t want to pay a deposit, then they have no intentions of paying [later

Many creatives have also found collecting a project deposit to be a useful tool for separating good clients from the bad. If you choose not to collect a deposit, you may never get paid — no one likes to work for free.

II.  If You Don’t Trust Them, Don’t Work with Them

“The two times in my 22-year career that I felt uncomfortable about a client were the two times I got stiffed.”

In our day to day lives, we choose to associate with people we can trust. This mindset should also apply to the way we conduct business. A client that’s in a rush to get work done or makes promises that sound too good to be true are signals that you should reevaluate the relationship. Trust your instincts. Ending a relationship with a client that displays warning signs like these could save you a lot of time and energy later down the road.

“I only deal with companies who I feel are trustworthy from the very start. Life’s too short to be chasing invoices.”

III.  Be Professional, Be Assertive

“Perception is everything. To many, ‘freelancer’ means ‘pushover’. If they think you’re a pushover, that’s the treatment you’ll receive.”

Freelancers have to make themselves crystal clear in the way they conduct business. Otherwise, we run the risk of being walked all over, or misunderstood. Let your clients and prospects know that you’re running your business on your terms – not theirs. It might come as a shock, but people don’t want to work with a quirky, egotistical designer that’s difficult to work with: they’re looking for a reliable, honest professional that is as concerned about their business as they are about theirs.

IV.  Get Creative When It’s Time to Collect

“I have a photo of my dog looking extremely sad by an empty dog bowl with a headline that reads “Time to Feed the Dog”… it has invariably caused my invoices to be found and processed.”

While this may be proof that even funny, good-humored approaches to collecting payment can work, it also proves that there’s no single approach to invoicing that guarantees you’ll be paid on time. Every invoice I send out consists of one copy delivered to the client in the mail, one via email and a phone call to letting the client know that they’ve been invoiced. This may be annoying to the client, but it shows them that I’m serious about what I do and that I want to be paid in a timely manner. A client can’t say that an invoice was lost in the mail if they have it sitting in their inbox, or vice versa. If I think a client may be dodging me in hopes that I’ll just forget about their invoice, that’s when I send another one – this time as a certified letter. Resourceful professionals will demonstrate that sometimes you’re going to have to get creative.

“I was once contacted by the president of a design firm who was owed a fair amount of money… I told her to go to the client’s office and sit in the waiting room until someone came out with a check. It worked.”

V.  Explore Your Other Options

“I have only had one instance where I turned a client over to a collection agency… much to my shock, I actually got the money.”

You do have options available to you if a client absolutely refuses to pay. Collection agencies, the better business bureau and small claims courts are a few of the options available to designers in such events. It’s best to weigh the cost and effectiveness of these and any other options available to you to find the one that is best suited to your needs.

Small claims court is a great tool for small businesses. When you get a judgement in your favor, the sheriff goes over and collects the money for you plus all expenses.”

What have you found to be an effective way of dealing with non-paying clients or your own invoicing troubles? Suggestions?

Poll Results: Have You Ever Worked with a Freelance Designer, Studio or Agency?

In early December, I posted a new poll on my LinkedIn profile page. It raised the question Have you or the company you work for ever hired out work to a freelance graphic designer, studio or agency? While there wasn’t as much participation in this poll as I had hoped for, I was still able to gather some good information from the results.
The Predictions:

  • Participants from larger business/organization will most likely answer that they have worked with a design studio/agency.
  • Participants from smaller business/organizations will be somewhat split: some may have worked with a freelancer, some may have worked with a design studio/agency.
  • Most participants will reply that they have never worked with a freelance designer.

The Findings:

  • A majority of the respondents, ages 25-34, are women in a management position with a background in sales.
  • Half of the participants represent mid-size businesses and have never hired out work to a freelancer, studio or agency.
  • One quarter of the participants have hired out work to a design studio or agency in the past.

While the number of the participants in this poll wasn’t as large as I had hoped, it did point out some things worth mentioning and did reflect some of my predictions. I was surprised to find that a majority of participants had never worked with either a freelancer, design studio or larger agency. I wasn’t surprised to find that most of the participants hadn’t worked with a freelance designer, and that makes me wonder why. Is it because these businesses don’t feel comfortable working with a freelancer?, Is it because they’ve never been approached by one?, Did the thought ever cross their mind? Maybe it’s a combination of a variety of reasons.

Keep an eye out in the days ahead for more information about the advantages of working with freelancers as well as the value it can bring to your business.

Poll Results Here

Recent Poll Results: Small Businesses and Graphic Design

Before proceeding with the premiere issue of the Scott Creative newsletter, I needed to know that my audience could see the value in it. I fully understand that graphic design questions and concerns probably aren’t at the top of the heap of business concerns that professionals are dealing with right now – but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be addressed at some point.

So, why not segue into solving a few of these problems with a friendly newsletter? The goal of this newsletter is to serve as an entry point into learning more about the role that graphic design plays in our professional lives and just how large of a role it plays in business.

Graphic design is a concern of small businesses [and] individuals who come from these businesses are interested in learning how it applies to their business.

If you participated in the poll that I posted earlier this month on my LinkedIn profile page, thank you for doing so: the information I gathered from it was extremely helpful in determining the sort of content that will end up in future newsletters. The poll asked a single question: “Are you interested in receiving an eNewsletter covering graphic design trends and design-related questions for your business?” Here are some of my findings from the poll results:

  • Three quarters of poll participants replied “yes”, they were interested in receiving the newsletter.
  • The age of poll participants varied widely. Three quarters of votes came from participants 25-54 years old. The oldest age group represented (55+) showed the most opposition to receiving the newsletter.
  • Nearly 70% of poll participants came from small businesses.

What other observations will I be taking away from this poll? It pointed out many things that I’ve spoken about with many people over the last year: that graphic design is a concern of small businesses, and that individuals who come from these businesses are interested in learning how it applies to their business.

If you own your own business or are coming from a small business, then this recent poll demonstrates the value this newsletter will have for you or your business. Of course I also hope that if/when you’re really interested in the influence graphic design can have on your business, you’ll get in touch with me. Also, if you’re interested in receiving this monthly newsletter, please let me know!