Tricks for increasing your click-through and conversion rates

09/21/2010 Leave a comment

If you’re finding that your click-through or conversion rates are below industry standards, or below your own expectations, below is seven strategies you can use to give them a boost.

  1. Links. The more links you include in your emails, the more likely it is your subscribers will find something of interest to click on to bring them to your website. Make your headlines, images, and calls-to-action clickable.
  2. Alt Tags. Instead of a boring alt tag like “Company Logo” that will get ignored, try something like “Learn more about [insert company name]” and link it to your website. That way the alt tags will function as effective calls-to-action even if the images are blocked.
  3. Placement. Make sure one or several links and calls-to-action are “above the fold,” that is, the part of the screen that’s visible without scrolling down.
  4. Graphics. Studies show that images improve response.
  5. Increase delivery. The more frequently you communicate with your subscribers the higher your response will be. However, this can be a double-edged sword, so be careful not to over-saturate your audience with your message.
  6. Segmentation. The more tailored your messages are to your subscribers, the more likely they will engage with you. Segment your mailing list and customize your message in a way that’s appropriate for each group.
  7. Focused landing pages. Ensure that each of your links directs the subscriber to a page on your website that is specifically relevant to the link and is useful. If all your links point to your homepage, for example, it will discourage users from clicking on additional links.

Improving your campaign’s click-through and conversion rate will improve the overall effectiveness of your campaign. Experiment with various techniques and observe how your audience responds.

Retention Marketing

09/14/2010 2 comments

While it’s important to regularly expand your customer base, retaining existing customers is equally if not more important. In fact, it’s more cost-effective to retain current customers than to acquire new ones. Occasionally you’ll have some fall-out from your email campaign as subscribers opt-out. But just because someone is opting-out of your mailing list doesn’t mean they want to say goodbye to you entirely. Done right, you’ll be able to retain these people as customers even if they choose not to continue receiving email from you.

Here are five ways to turn these opt-outs into continued business:

Make it easy to unsubscribe.
Place an unsubscribe link on every email communication you send. Process unsubscribe requests promptly and remove those addresses from your list (within 10 days, according to the CAN-SPAM law, but the best practice is to do it instantaneously). If your customers are dissatisfied with the unsubscribe process it’s likely that they won’t look upon your business favorably in the future.

Offer options. In addition to offering subscribers the option to unsubscribe from the list, offer them the option to receive emails less frequently, or to change their preferences. When you offer multiple choices, customers can decide which content best fits their needs and interests.

Learn from comments left by unsubscribers. Your unsubscribe confirmation page should offer a chance for the customer to provide feedback about why he has chosen to opt out. You may learn that unsubscribers preferred less (or more) frequent communications, or were looking for a different type of content altogether. This valuable information will help you improve your communication plan.

Let people re-subscribe. Sometimes people click “unsubscribe” by accident or change their mind. Make sure your unsubscribe confirmation page gives people the chance to re-subscribe if they’ve clicked your link in error. (The daily coupon newsletter Groupon does this in an amusing way.)

Suggest other ways to stay in touch. Your unsubscribers may not have time to read your email, but may want to follow you on Twitter or become your fan on Facebook. Offer links to your social media accounts on your unsubscribe page.

Another factor to consider is that a subscriber simply may not remember signing up for your email campaign. To avoid subscriber amnesia, use autoresponders to automatically fire off a welcome email at a predetermined time from which the subscriber joined the list. This will ensure that you’ve established contact and may also encourage the subscriber to add your email address to his address book.

When someone asks to unsubscribe from your list, you must respect the request. But an effective unsubscribe process can ensure that you retain the customer, even if you lose the subscriber.

Developing Your Email Marketing Strategy

09/08/2010 Leave a comment

An effective email marketing campaign requires some serious thought, planning, and tweaking. Whether you’re just beginning or already have a campaign underway, take some time to look ahead and develop an email marketing plan to keep you focused and on track to meet your goals. Below are 5 things to consider when developing a strategy.

Goals. Are your goals new customer acquisition, customer retention, or producing repeat sales? Is your intention to provide helpful information to your customers, or are you trying to prompt a particular response? If your answer is all of the above, you should have separate plans to help you reach each goal, simply because your audience and your message will be different for each one.

Audience. Define who are your most important customers or clients. What motivates them and what do they want or expect from your business? Who are your most important prospects, and why? What is important to them? Make sure you know and understand each audience.

Message. What are you trying to say to your audience and how do you want them to perceive you? Defining your message will help you determine what type of campaign will be most effective, such as e-newsletters, holiday or seasonal promotions, preferred customer coupons, new product or service announcements, press releases, general business communications and more.

Define success. How will you know that your campaign is successful? Perhaps it’s a specific number of sales or leads, or maybe an increase in visits to your retail store, phone calls to your office, or new subscribers to your newsletter. Define the percentage increase you would like to achieve within a certain time period.

Resources. Evaluate your resources to determine who will be managing the campaign and developing content. Will you be able to give your campaign a unique design that’s customized to your audience’s tastes? You may need to hire a graphic designer or someone to develop content for your campaign. Hiring professional email marketers who are current on trends and tools can save you time and give your campaign a competitive edge.

Develop a strategy and stick to it for a few months. If you find that it’s not achieving your desired results, perhaps your plan needs a little tweaking. Examine the results of the emails you’ve delivered so far to see whether you notice a pattern or trend. What you learn about the interests of your audience may alter your strategy.

Test your e-newsletter’s readability

08/31/2010 Leave a comment

How do your subscribers read your e-newsletter? They don’t–they scan it. You can improve the effectiveness of your newsletter by increasing its readability, and scanability. If you’re unsure how your content measures up, use the Flesch–Kincaid tool in Microsoft Word.

The Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score indicates how easy a text is to read. A high score implies an easy text. To give you a point of reference, here are some examples of readability scores: Read more…

Timing is everything: When’s the best time to deliver an email?

08/24/2010 2 comments

The time you choose to deliver your email can have an impact on the overall results of your campaign. Your emails should reach your subscribers when they will be most receptive to your message.

When not to send an email:

Friday-Monday. If your audience consists mainly of 9-to-5ers, your subscribers will generally be out of the office on Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, inboxes are brimming with new messages that arrived over the weekend. Friday typically has the lowest open rate of all days.

Holidays. Emails delivered immediately before, during, or after a major holiday won’t get read until the post-holiday dust has settled, and by then your message may be outdated.

Overnight or first thing in the morning. Stay clear of the morning deleting frenzy. Subscribers are typically cleaning their inboxes early in the day and your email may get trashed.

The best time to send an email:

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It’s likely that your subscribers have settled into their weekly routines and have more time to dedicate to reading your email.

10:00 am. Since consumers tend to dive deeper into email in the morning, this delivery time is especially effective if you’re sending a newsletter that requires reader involvement.

1:00 pm. In the afternoon, consumers are dipping in-and-out of their inboxes. If you’re sending a promotion with a clear and urgent call-to-action then this delivery time is most effective.

What if my subscribers live in different time zones? Some email service providers offer a geolocation service that will allow you to schedule your campaigns to automatically deliver based on each subscriber’s time zone.

When selecting your delivery time, consider your demographic and the nature of your promotion. The best thing to do is to experiment with different delivery times and segment your subscribers by their engagement levels. Understanding your subscribers’ email habits will help increase your campaign’s open rate.

Categories: Geolocation, Scheduling

TL;DR: When good emails go bad.

08/17/2010 Leave a comment

We’ve all done it. Once in a while we get a little carried away and write an email that’s just too long. If the recipient is as dedicated to your message as you are then she or he may actually read every word. If not, then you might get this as a response: “tldr”. Translation: “too long; didn’t read.” Ouch.

Your customers are busy people and so are their inboxes. When they receive an email from you most will do a quick scan of the content to assess if it’s worth a thorough read.

Nielsen Norman Group’s research found that the average time allocated to a newsletter after opening it is only 51 seconds. 35% of the time, recipients only skim a small part of the newsletter or glance at the content. Read more…

Categories: Email content

Feed Me: Turn your blog into an automated email newslettern

08/10/2010 Leave a comment

Developing content for your email newsletter can sometimes be a challenge. If you already maintain a blog to promote your business, however, you can easily leverage it to produce an automated email newsletter that will help attract new fans, create repeat customers, and drive traffic back to your blog or website.

Here are some of the benefits to delivering your blog updates as an email newsletter:

New subscribers. When you publish useful and interesting content on your blog your readers will be motivated to share it. Receiving your blog post in an email form could encourage them to forward it to others who may be interested, and you could gain new readers.  (Make sure to insert links in your email that track back to both your blog and your website.)

It’s free. You can avoid paying fees to an email service provider by taking advantage of free blog-to-email applications (more on that in a sec).

You own the email list and can export it at any time. If in the future you decide to produce a more elaborate email marketing campaign using an email service provider, you’ll have a list of readers’ email addresses at your fingertips to re-launch your campaign.

Email drives people back to your blog. Readers can explore other posts, visit your website and engage with you.

Effortless: With a blog-to-newsletter conversion application, you only have to write your blog (as you already do) and the RSS feed automatically populates a professionally designed and permanent email template. No additional work on your end.

How does this work? First, a little background: With the creation of blogs came the evolution of RSS, which allows followers to receive immediate updates to their RSS readers (e.g. GoogleReader, iGoogle, Bloglines, MyYahoo!, FeedDemon, iTunes, etc.) without having to physically visit the blog. RSS has been around since 2006, but it hasn’t really caught on in a major way and most internet users still prefer email communication. According to HubSpot, business blogs average 12 times more subscribers via email than by RSS and other industries reflect similar user preference.

So how can you create your own automated email newsletter? Here are two tools that will convert your blog posts into emails and automatically deliver them:
Feedburner: FeedBurner email is a service that allows publishers to deliver their feed content to subscribers via email for free. Visit this page for more information.

FeedBlitz: FeedBlitz is similar to Feedburner but offers a few extra features to enhance delivery and tracking. You don’t have to have a blog to use FeedBlitz and sending out emails is not all it does; it also lets you use automatic email marketing with RSS feeds and social media. Note: Feedblitz isn’t free. The fee for 100 to 499 subscribers is currently listed as $9.98 USD per month.

WordPress – WordPress has its own email subscription tool, called Subscribe2, that’s built-in to the system. If you have a WordPress blog all you have to do is implement this plugin.  If you want to send HTML emails then you’ll need to upgrade to Subscribe2 HTML which costs $40 USD.

MailChimp – Unlike Feedburner and Feedblitz, with MailChimp’s RSS-to-email tool you can use your own customized HTML email templates. Open rate and click tracking, bounce management, list cleaning, and spam filter check are also included.

Do you use an RSS-to-email tool? How is it affecting your marketing efforts?