Email results not what they should be? Try these techniques to improve the performance of your next campaign:
1. Make sure that critical information (offer, key benefits, call to action – what, why, how) is “above the fold”, i.e. in the top left 2-4 inches (400-500 vertical pixels) of your email.
2. Include a text link at the top of the email to give the recipient the option to view the email in their browser. That link should sum up your offer, call to action, and a key benefit.
3. Test responsive design so that your email “snaps to size” when viewed on a mobile device. Responsive design can require additional coding (read: time and money), so test it head to head against a standard (but mobile-friendly) design to gauge whether your audience merits the investment.
4. Try to avoid images that contain important copy such as headlines or offer descriptions. Most email clients block images by default, so copy won’t be seen when images are suppressed.
5. Define alt tags for images that include your CTA or headline.
6. Too many images can also increase your chances of being triggered by spam filters. A rough guideline is to use an image-to-text ratio of 30/70 or below.
7. Messages over 100K in size will increase the chances of getting your message blocked or filtered As a general rule, keep message to between 35K and 75K.
8. Generally speaking, successful subject lines give the reader a clue as to what the offer is (a white paper, webinar, eBook, etc.) But action verbs (Download, Register) often work well also.
9. To reduce the probability of your subject line being truncated (and rendered ineffective) in the inbox, limit subject lines to fewer than 40 characters counting spaces OR at least be sure that the most impactful part of your topic/offer is included within that character count. (Note: mobile users may see even fewer than 40 characters.)
10. Always test subject lines – no excuses. If you don’t test subject line and your campaign performs below expectations, you’ll never know what effect your subject line had on results.
11. Not sure what to test? Two of the most important subject line variables are 1) Topic and 2) Benefit. If your subject matter is a hot topic, it’s wise to test at least one subject line with that topic front and center. If your topic is more obscure or less well known, then lead with a benefit of responding (e.g. “Learn how …”).
12. Avoid ALL CAPS, t e x t w i t h s p a c e s, exclamation points!!, and dollar signs ($$)
13. Get to the point. Don’t make your reader wade through a recitation of facts (“As an IT manager, you know that …”) It should be immediately clear to the reader what you’re asking him/her to do, what he or she will get, and why it’s important.
14. There should be only one offer, and one call to action. Secondary offers and extraneous links (including social links) distract the reader and reduce conversion rates.
15. Repeat the call to action 2-3 times at minimum, and include both text links and buttons.
16. Avoid beginning your email with a yes/no question unless it serves to sell the offer and highlight what the reader will learn, i.e. “Did you know…?” Asking yes/no questions puts the onus on the reader to decide whether he/she should read further. If that answer is “no,” you’ve lost them.
17. Offers should be a) specific, and b) tangible. Avoid “learn more” and “for more information” at all costs.
18. Sell the value of the offer by highlighting a relevant statistic or quote that can help tease the content and show value or added credibility.
19. State benefits in action-oriented terms, and not simply as a topic, for example: “Learn how to …” vs. “How to …”
20. Break up long blocks of copy into short paragraphs of 1-2 sentences each, even it makes the email look longer. Long paragraphs are difficult to scan and look intimidating at a glance, decreasing click rates.
21. Sub-heads within emails are effective ways to break up content and grab the reader if he/she scans the email at a glance, but should not be written as if for a brochure (i.e. as titles for sections of content). Email sub-heads should 1) be action-oriented and 2) tie back to the offer.
22. Sell the offer, not the product. Describe the offer in terms that will appeal to someone experiencing the problems/issues that your product/service/solution can solve.
23. When marketing events, include specifics. In addition to date and time, include a speaker bio, how long the event is, a list of topics (if not an agenda), top 3 reasons to attend (benefits), etc.
24. Social sharing links can expand an email’s reach, but they can also cannibalize email response, driving away clicks to your primary call-to-action. In general, social links are best relegated to the landing page, thank you page or confirmation email.
25. Don’t confuse social “sharing” icons with “follow” social icons. Social sharing icons provide the recipient the opportunity to share your content and extend the reach of your campaign. “Follow” icons promote your company’s social media channels.
26. Make your thank you page work harder. Include related offers/content, social sharing icons, and suggested “next steps.”
27. Fulfill downloadable offers via email (using a link, not an attachment). Using email fulfillment 1) enforces valid email addresses, 2) makes it easier for the recipient to access the content at a later date, and 3) allows you to trigger sales follow-up (or increase lead score) when he/she clicks on the link.
28. Test one variable at a time. For subject lines, vary one or two words at most so that the results mean something.
29. Test copy and design elements on your landing page. Increasing conversion (click to registration) rates is often much easier compared to achieving the same impact at the front end of the process (open, click rates).
30. (Bonus!) Use tools such as Litmus to perform spam filter tests prior to broadcast and preview your campaign across different email clients.
Update: check out this awesome infographic on the same topic.