2016 has been declared as the year that email matures (as was ’14 and ’13 and…)—and we’ve pulled together a few HUNDRED email marketing expert tips to help content marketing pros like us—and you.
Of course we’d be insane to list them all here (especially as we wrap up Valentine’s Day plans and work from home on President’s Day), so we’ve included twenty seven of them here, starting with zero and moving up.
As we learned in our last post, email is a critical part of getting your content shared.
Please take a look—maybe learn something new— leave any tips you might want to share below, and definitely help us share the love by following the email marketing experts listed below!
0. Use Gmail Postmaster Tools
Last summer, Google launched Postermaster Tools allowing qualified marketers to analyze performance with an entirely new interface, including sophisticated software to track delivery states, spam reports, and reputation. Not everyone will qualify to use this tool, but it’s a great resource to look into if you think you need more analytical data.
“Gmail Postmaster Tools gives email marketers a major advantage by allowing them to check on their email performance, to monitor trends over time, and to ensure that their messages are hitting their subscribers’ inboxes. This gives marketers insights that they’ve never had before, and should be taken advantage of immediately.”
1. Surprise, Delight, Inform
There’s nothing better than presenting an audience with news that provokes laughter or makes them think. Coming up with surprising email commentary is no short order, but taking the time to delight your readers with creative content is a great way to incite a purchase or build a loyal list of followers.
“According to Dr. Read Montague, a neuroscientist at Baylor, surprise lights up the brain’s reward pathways. And, unfortunately, delight in marketing is still surprising to most people, so by delighting your customer, you’re creating a positive association with your brand in two ways.”
2. Brainstorm About Email EVERY DAY
Help yourself a heck of a lot with email marketing by carving out time every day to brainstorm. It doesn’t matter if you send emails that day or not, because you’re still spending quality time thinking of how to further engage your subscribers. You never know what genius idea you’ll come up with for your next campaign.
“However you plan your email campaign, just make sure you include it as part of the day’s tasks. Content ideas that are perfect for the busy small business owner include curating relevant content, repurposing content, and creating a quick checklist or group of tips for your readers.” –Monica Montesa, content marketing specialist
3. Pin a Tweet to Increase Subscribers
A pinned tweet on your Twitter account is a stationary tweet that remains at the top of your Twitter page. It’s prime real estate and it’s a great way to directly encourage fellow Tweeters to subscribe to your email list.
“Whichever tweet you choose to pin, just make sure it links to something with the potential to bring in more email subscribers.”
4. Tell Subscribers What To Do
Tell your subscribers what to do! Send clear instructions with your welcome email concerning your products or services. For example, if running a hair salon and sending welcome emails to new subscribers, let them know that booking their next appointment today equals 10 percent off total services.
“Don’t make new subscribers wait for your next newsletter. Instead, use your welcome email to recommend your very best content.” –Pamela Neely, contributor at Campaign Monitor
5. Stop With The Graymail
Graymail may not be spam, but it’s still injuring your email marketing efforts. It often goes directly to junk folders without ever being opened, meaning new subscribers will never see them and wonder what the heck happened to all those emails they were supposed to receive.
“Although it’s not considered spam, sending graymail is problematic because it can hurt the deliverability of your email overall.” –Pamela Vaughan, a principal marketing manager on HubSpot’s optimization team
6. Remove Inactive Email Subscribers
Remove subscribers who never, ever engage with your emails/products/services. This may seem counteractive, but it’s actually a way to reduce spam complaints and ensure you’re sending email to subscribers who really and truly want to read your content.
“With a list of engaged subscribers, you’ll likely see higher open rates, click rates, and overall better email analytics. Keeping disengaged subscribers can skew your email analytics, which isn’t a good thing at all.” –Sam Hollis, customer solutions specialist
7. Make Email Content Sharable
A powerful way to increase the reach of an email is make the content highly sharable, and ask your email subscribers to share the email with friends and family. If you’re providing a special offer be sure to encourage your email list to share the savings with their network. In this situation, everybody wins.
“No matter how many subscribers you currently have, you can increase that number by encouraging your subscribers to forward your emails. Motivate them by offering so much real value that they want to do you – and their friends – a favor.”
8. Avoid Free Autoresponder Services
Any free email marketing software comes with a hidden price. Many of them will include native advertising within your subscriber emails, which can be terribly distracting to your readers and may not make it through SPAM filters. Is a free service worth losing subscribers?
“In addition, free services have to make money too. They do so by including advertising inside your email messages. Some promote their own services, but others will place paid ads in the footer or at the end of your message. Such ad placements can distract subscribers from focusing on your message.”
9. Don’t Buy Lists
You wouldn’t pay for friends on Facebook, would you? There are no shortcuts when it comes to building a solid list of subscribers. While it might be tempting to purchase an established list, it’s not a good way to start building an authentic relationship with your readers.
“Don’t buy email lists from some dodgy data company. If you want to get in front of a specific audience you’re better off asking to be included in an already established newsletter in your industry.”
10. Avoid “Faking It Until You Make It”
Avoid all tactics that fall under the “fake it till you make it” category. Buying social media fans and email subscribers are two big no-no’s, as is commissioning spam and other shady tactics. You may think it “looks good,” but all it’s doing is associating your brand with other companies that utilize blackhat tactics.
“Just as we think social media, marketing and business leaders were finally starting to “get it” in regard to the foundation of social media being about human connection, relationships, authenticity, there seems to be a new wave of cheaters, influence score addicted, self proclaimed “gurus” ready to risk their reputation, business, client relationships, integrity and more for a few hundred or tens of thousands fake Facebook fans or Twitter followers.”
11. Experiment with List Segmentation
List segmentation can be as simple or as complex as you would like. While it’s useful to have segments identifying ‘buyers’ from ‘non-buyers’ there are thousands of colorful ways to interact with your readers using more creative list segmentation. Use geography, time of sign up, or past purchases to aim focused marketing at specific people on your list.
“You can create incredibly complex automation sequences and have hundreds of different segments in your email list, but when you’re first starting out, keep it simple. The non-buyer versus buyer segmentation is one of the simplest to understand, implement, and one of the most useful.”
12. Integrate Email and Social Media
You may not think that email messages and social media should exist in the same space, but your target audience does and that’s what matters. When you integrate email and social media, you can increase your followers, get more click-throughs, and encourage more engagement on each of your emails.
“Email and social media may not seem like the most natural bedfellows. But integrating them can help you get more out of each channel — more followers, more click-throughs, more engagement — and grow your presence online. Pretty important in a space as crowded as digital. Getting started is easy.”
13. Offer an eBook or Digital Document to New Email Subscribers
A lot of people searching for your product or service may want to collect more information about what they’re searching for before they make a purchase. Offer these indecisive shoppers some peace of mind and the information they need to make a well-informed decision. Additionally, by authoring the eBook or article yourself, you’ll gain valuable authority on the matter and trust from subscribers.
“One of the appeals of the eBook is that they are relatively easy to create in terms of the technology required. They’re also very easy to consume for anyone with a computer, smartphone, or tablet. While you could create an eBook from scratch and pack it with original and high-value content, if you really are short on time, you can get started by compiling a collection of your best articles into a single document.”
14. Split Test Email Campaigns Constantly
It doesn’t have to be perfect, or go exactly as planned, but split testing your emails is essential to developing a comprehensive knowledge of your audience. Testing different email factors should be done fairly regularly to maximize your results.
“A/B testing stands for “Always Be Testing,” right? It should! Once you start testing various elements of your marketing campaigns – from PPC text ads to landing pages to email subject lines – you realize “A/B testing best practices” are only a rough guideline. You never know what’s going to work with your audience until you AB test it.”
15. Diversify Your A/B Testing Methods
Think outside the box the next time you decide to split test an email campaign. In addition to subject lines and layout, consider other details that could be tested: things like, writing tone, image selection, number of links, or use of testimonials.
“Marketers often get stuck or run out of fresh ideas for email split testing, making it repetitive…Of course the whole anatomy of the email can be tested. Even the core message and your segmentation… Knowing what works is key to insightful marketing campaigns. With A/B split testing you have a great result booster at your disposal.”
16. Think Mobile First in 2016
The mobile first mentality is all about rethinking the users experience—when are they checking their email, and where? In 2016, more people are using their phone to check emails then ever before. Make formatting choices that benefit your reader’s mobile lifestyle. Work with responsive templates or adaptive technologies to get the best results.
“Brands have been stubbornly slow to adapt to consumers’ shift to reading email on mobile devices. In late 2014, the majority of marketers were finally using mobile-friendly design techniques for their emails. In 2016, we’ll see this trend take a jump forward as the majority of marketers adopt responsive email design.”
17. Maintain a Consistent Brand Message in all Emails
Depending on the nature of your list, what you’re selling, and how you market your brand in other online spaces, your email marketing should compliment those things accordingly. This means the images, words, tone and styling should work together to create a cohesive brand identity.
“When it comes to effective branding, consistency is extremely important. If your email marketing message lacks consistency, then you will likely end up with lackluster results.”
18. Go Beyond the Welcome Autoresponder Message
Autoresponders are a great way to build a relationship with your audience without slaving over daily emails; but this only works if you think beyond the welcome message and lay groundwork for subsequent correspondences. By sending messages more frequently, you’ll stand out from your competitors.
“Many people write a welcome message only and never continue their autoresponder series. You will stand out from your competitors by sending at least three-to-five messages in your email series.”
19. Always Link to Social Media Accounts
Email marketing is the best opportunity to showcase all your media channels in one place. Make sure they’re prominently located in all your emails (preferably in the same spot) and always test the links to ensure they connect properly and to the correct site.
“If people enjoy your email content they may well be interested in what you’ve got to say elsewhere.“
20. Bring Content Marketing In-House
In a research report by SoDA, 28 percent of North American Businesses have left agencies to peruse in-house content creation. Agency work has shifted to innovation and specialized tasks. Meanwhile, businesses are more empowered to express their own creative sides, and you should too.
“In an ad campaign, you make a pitch, win a deal, execute the creative, provide a report and start over. Agencies are generally funded and organized by campaigns. But in a socially-oriented world, the connection never stops. You fund, staff, and execute continuously. The traditional agency model is not necessarily built for that.”
21. Test Email Delivery Times
Customers, and potential customers, are often busy people. They don’t always open up emails exactly when you’d think or hope they will. To increase your email open rate, strive to have your email land in their inbox when they’re looking at it. Test your email delivery times more than once, and then select time slots with high open rates.
“Schedule your emails to deliver during times when subscribers actively check their inbox and when there may be less competition from other brands for reader mindshare. Ignore the studies that suggest 10:30 a.m. or 5 p.m. are the best times to send emails.”
22. Be Cautious When Engaging Old Lists
Better safe than sorry when reestablishing a relationship with a list that hasn’t been communicated with in a while. Avoid sending to addresses older than 2 years or with lists older than 24 months. Scrub through the list to ensure bad emails are deleted and clear out inactive users to avoid any penalties from your Email Service Provider (ESP).
“Verify your older lists with a third party service such as Kickbox or Briteverify to clean out inactive or erroneous addresses before sending. The nominal cost of cleaning your list is preferable to damaging your sending reputation and will help ensure that your list is best positioned for success.”
23. Think Omnichannel Marketing
Because you don’t know when and where you customers are going to open their emails, it’s important to prepare for all channels as you develop content. Omnichannel functionality is designed to streamline the customer’s experience regardless of how they check their inbox.
“53 percent of total email opens occurred on a mobile phone or tablet in Q3 2014, which Experian reports was an increase from the 48 percent seen in Q2 2014. If your email marketing campaigns aren’t already mobile-ready, make that a priority.”
24. Punctuation Marks Matter
The precious space in your subject line may seem like a bad place to ask a question, but according to Venture Beat, it’s a great way to stir engagement. In fact, punctuation marks of any variety increase open rates by 9 percent when used in the subject line.
“The presence of any type of punctuation mark increased open rates by 9 percent. Question marks are particularly effective at engaging recipients. In fact, the study found subject lines with question marks have open rates 44 percent greater than those with exclamation points.”
25. Pick Email Marketing Software That Fits
Not all Email marketing software will be a good fit for your specific needs. If you’re short on cash and don’t need a lot of customization, a free version may be your best options. Whether you need more segmentation control or better tools for customized graphics, do your homework first and find what works for your budget and marketing needs.
“One thing we learned in reviewing the email marketing software solutions…is that, even though the packages are very similar, they are not identical. Some are more about visual design and others focus on contact management…Most software solutions offer month-to-month plans, but consider how quickly you may outgrow your tier before committing to a quarterly or yearly plan.”
26. Review Last Year’s Email Marketing Strategy
Take some time to review your 2015 email marketing strategy. Think about what subject lines and content generated the most interest, and what practices should be left behind for good. This provides a much better idea of how to formulate a more effective, streamlined email marketing plan.
“Going back through 2015’s metrics will give you two things: 1) a clear idea of the goals you want to achieve in 2016; 2) the beginnings of a strategy for how to achieve them. Be specific with your goals too. “Improve average click-through rate” is too wishy-washy. Quantify it. Set your benchmarks. Define what success looks like. 20 percent increase in subscribers? 10 percent increase in leads generated from email? It’s your call.” –Jeremy Taylor, social media consultant at UK-based marketing agency, Our Social Times
So what do you think? I definitely learned a few things while we put together these email marketing expert tips (I try to learn one new thing every day), and we hope you did as well.
How are you building or nurturing your email subscriber list this year?