Smart, strategic, useful lessons in B2B emailing

Email class is in session!

Email class is in session!

Marketing pundits love to say email is dead. It’s been dying a slow death, apparently, because they’ve been warning of its demise for the better part of a decade. It may be safe to say, for certain industries, that email is probably belly up, but I can’t think of any off hand. That’s because for more than 90% of marketers—including financial, retail, B2B, travel, healthcare, and so many others—email is used daily in marketing efforts and with success.

The defense rests. But in the meantime, here are some powerful tips and insights to help optimize your email marketing.

EMAIL STRATEGY TIPS

Younger emailers differ from older ones. Multiple surveys show that younger email users have multiple email addresses—often with the goal of “editing” unwanted messages from their lives. In essence, they have their serious email address, and then they have their junk ones.

If your audience skews younger (30 and down), a high percentage may be giving you their “other” email address. To combat this, be clear that you won’t spam or inundate them, and send them email communications/offers that bring real value or content. And then stick to that promise.

Opt-out must be an option. As a company, the CAN-SPAM Act requires that you put an “unsubscribe” option in your email. Fines are hefty, plus, once list companies tag you as a spammer, they could drop you. For a quick rundown on CAN-SPAM requirements, click here.

Remember how emails are read. As we wrote about a few weeks ago, tablet use is really on the rise—and email is one of the most used features on them. For the younger set (under 30), as you would guess, the phone rules. So remember your audience, and make your email messages appropriate and friendly for their devices.

Timing matters—but not how you may think. The logic makes sense: If you’re sending B2B email, send it during the week, when people are at work reading email. But, study after study shows that marketing emails are often opened later in the week and on the weekends, when people have time to look, absorb and click through. If you do B2B, consider sending your message later in the week, or even on a Saturday, just to test it out. The results may surprise you.

Eye-candy matters, too, but in balance. In a recent survey by HubSpot of their customers and prospects, two-thirds of respondents said they preferred image-based emails, as opposed to mostly text. (Most also prefer HTML format, by the way.) HOWEVER—there is a sort of eyeball saturation point. The same survey found that if there were too many visuals in an email, click-through rates went down. The lesson: Have some imagery, but don’t go too nuts.

SUBJECT LINE TIPS

Subject lines still matter. In an inbox flooded with emails, people get overwhelmed and just start a mad, deleting rampage. A well-crafted subject line can save you from that firing line. Craft it well.

Subject lines with the word “you” in them get opened more. Imagine that. This is not a revelation; it’s marketing 101. Likewise, subject lines with the words “Thank you” and “Download” have high open rates, according to HubSpot.

Don’t scare people. The “Last chance!” “Do NOT miss this!” alarmist emails are a dime a dozen, and will be promptly deleted or ignored, a la the little boy who cried wolf. A helpful hint: Many social media and blog-type headlines work beautifully as email subject lines. Here’s our primer on how to do that.

Keep it short. Subject lines, ideally, should be 50 characters or less for readability. Also—best practices advise to avoid ALL CAPS and even punctuation, if possible, in a subject line (spam often uses punctuation, symbols or numbers instead of letters).

EMAIL COPY TIPS

Content matters in email, too. If you send worthwhile stuff, it will be welcomed and opened. The more successful email marketers today are thinking more like content marketers. They use email to offer valuable info in and of itself or to act as a bridge to awesome content with links or downloads.

Make it scannable and succinct. A wall of text doesn’t invite readership with today’s inpatient eyes. Use visuals, bold text, white space, color and more to make your email scannable and easy to read. The goal should be to pull the eye down the page… not make it look or feel like work!

Be merciless in your editing. Your email should communicate without a wasted word or image.

Proofread, please. Typos in emails make you look like a dolt.

Include links, too… to your website, social media, privacy statement, or whatever makes sense. And don’t forget to add the unsubscribe.

MEASUREMENT

For many marketers, email testing has gone the way of shoulder pads—it’s just not stylish anymore. But the serious email marketers will employ it, because it gives you real feedback on the effectiveness of your messaging. Most will send two or three test messages to a small percentage of their mailing list and later compare how each did. The winning email gets carried out to the rest of the list.

Be sure to test various subject lines, too. I’ve seen a simple change in a subject line triple response rates. Testing may seem like a waste of time to some, especially in our age of “get it done!” But isn’t it more of a waste of time to send something that may be weak and ineffective?

How do I measure thee? Let me count the ways! Here are the very basics you should be measuring in any email campaign or effort:

Click-through rate – The percentage of people who clicked on a URL in your email

Open rate – What percentage of people opened your email

Bounce rate – The percentage of sent messages that couldn’t be delivered (wrong address, for example)

Unsubscribe rate – How many people/what percentage are requesting an unsubscribe

Like any medium, email has its basic tenets, and it has elements that continue to evolve—mostly driven by device, usage and audience. The beauty of email is that it’s easy to implement, be creative and measure. What more could a marketer want?

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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