Pondering his answer. Hard.
We recently spied a nonprofit marketer’s query on Facebook and decided to turn it into the first Ask Brett in which Citizens are invited to ask Brett a marketing question which he’ll do his darndest to answer. Send your question to email@example.com
The perplexed marketer requested anonymity but her query ran a little bit like this:
I work for a [insert private sector website serving the nonprofit sector that sends 64% of you weekly emails] and we’ve seen a dramatic and sudden drop in email open rates. We’ve investigated technical issues but that’s not the problem. Any suggestions to boost open rates?
Here’s a bold statement: for the overwhelming majority of organisations, in the overwhelming number of circumstances, email is the best communications medium available with which to promote, campaign and communicate.
Using mass email ain’t sexy like social media but it works. That’s why QANTAS, LinkedIn, Ticketmaster, ASOS and the like never stop emailing you. Even social media giants use email to communicate with you. If they stopped emailing they’d stop making money.
Most organisations using mass email could significantly improve their open rates, which we define as the percentage of recipients who, having received your email, open it.
So let’s get to it.
Experiment a little with your email habits.
#1 Be willing to A/B test by which we mean that you divide your database into two random segments (Groups A and B) and send the same email to both groups with just one element changed (perhaps the subject line) and monitor which group had the higher open rate. It’s a simple experiment but potentially revealing.
Most of us rarely test anything. We’re happy enough just to get the monthly eNewsletter out and check the stats page. That’s not OK.
You can always split your database into more than two segments but only test one element at a time. Then re-test to confirm your original findings and make changes to your usual practice.
The best marketers are forever testing, tweaking and boasting about every improvement they gain. “Hey sending on Thursday scored us an extra 34 opens!” Smart organisations reward this, most don’t but we digress…
Time is of the essence.
#2 First thing to A/B test is send time. The email in question was being sent out late on Thursdays. This is madness. Our hunch is that the best open rates will be achieved by sending early in the day so as to arrive just before the subscriber’s first download of email for the working day. People get busier and more pressured as the day unfolds, so get in early. You should be able to schedule your email to be sent at any time. As for the day of the week, we avoid Mondays and Fridays but don’t take our word for it – test it and see.
If you are being read by working adults, office hours are the best time to send (even if the email content is personal, not professional) but your readership might skew towards retirees or students. Testing will reveal all. If you test something inspired by this post, let us know the results.
Where is the drama in this?
#3 Subject boxes – every eMarketer will tell you that they understand the need to create interesting subject boxes. They know they need to be daring so as to grab people’s scant attention as they scan their inbox, yet many still roll out stuff like above.
Oh c’mon! Subscribers already know the email in their inbox is from you – tell them something they don’t know.
Try: ACME Christmas party photos + 12 we can help you.
Once again, split the database randomly into two or more segments and try different approaches to subject box copy from dry to cryptic to punny to funny and see what works.
#4 Have some content that only appears in your email – not your website and make prominent mention of this. When a subscriber sees your email you don’t want them to think, “Oh – I’ll visit their site” which they might fail to do. You want them to think “better open this email to see what’s in it”.
The email-only content doesn’t have to be words. It could be a video. Australian marketer Richard Hanson told us that The Wilderness Society included a beautiful user-submitted photograph in each email to inspire more openings. Nice idea.
#5 Have less content. Are there emails that inspire this thought in you? “Oh good…I must get back to that later when I have the time.” That’s not a thought you want to inspire.
Don’t overwhelm people with long emails; particularly as 40% + will be reading your email on their tiny phone screen. Be short, sharp and sassy with links to your ever expanding website.
We received this compliment recently re the Hootville Lowdown from workplace communication coach Narelle Hanratty:
“When I open the newsletter, here’s what it says to me: “You can read this now because it’s real easy and quick.”
That warmed our cold, cold hearts.
#6 Serialisation of content. We recently received one email with the content: 7 ways to create a more collaborative workplace. It may have been wiser to expand on each of the seven ways and drip feed these across seven emails. If you have a particularly interesting topic to write about ensure that you get the maximum value from it and keep subscribers opening.
Book your place at our 2015 eMarketing Savvy workshops in Melbourne or Sydney.
#7 Have better content. This is so obvious but it is equally obvious that too many organisations don’t consider what their subscribers are really looking for. If you send people emails of jobs think twice about padding the content with broader employment sector news. Subscribers may just want the list of jobs. We’ve seen mental health service providers write loooong emails full of policy analysis when their subscribers might prefer practical advice on helping their adult children with psychotic disorders off drugs and in employment. Be helpful. We try to be.
#8 Sex it up. A boring looking email is less likely to be opened than a better-looking email. Enough said.
Don’t worry, get appy.
#9 Mobile friendly design. 40% of Lowdowns are opened on mobile devices. Do you know your mobile opening percentage? Your mobile readership may be higher depending on demographics. Your email template must display well across the plethora of devices. You don’t want recipients to think: “Oh good – I’ll read it later when I get to my desk / laptop.” They won’t. They’ll be busy doing other stuff by then. Turncoats.
#10 Special edition for non-openers. If you have a large group of non-openers it’s worth taking the trouble to send just them a special email. The subject box should be something along the lines of:
Hey stranger – was it something we said?
The copy should acknowledge that they haven’t opened your emails in a while and re-explain the benefits of actually opening and reading the emails you send. You may win back some hearts and minds. This will work best if you can include the recipient’s first name in the subject box.
You don’t win friends with salad.
#11 Buy their love. Never, ever underestimate the power of a bribe. Especially if the bribe has an i in front of it (as in iPad). Or is alcoholic. Or sweet.
If you really want to boost your open rates offer a random prize to someone who opens your email. Simple as that. Is it worth it? Depends the size of your database, how expensive the prize and how much you value an additional person opening your email.
#12 Place a value on each subscriber. This point is crucial. In fact none of the previous tips will be actioned unless you do this. Fundraisers know what they are willing to pay to acquire a new donor based on the average value to the organisation of that donor. Similarly, how much are you willing to pay /do to have someone extra open your email given that the email may inspire them to use your service, donate, attend an event or refer a friend to you?
Grown up eMarketers have a figure in mind.
If you are willing to pay 50c for a Facebook advertisement click-through you may well be more than happy to spend this much to get a non-opening subscriber to double click for a change.
Let’s say you spend $50 to deliver a bottle of Champagne to one lucky opener. Let’s say that offer gains you 200 extra opens. That’s 25c per extras open. Bargain!
We reckon that the following edition will also enjoy a boosted open rate even without the Champagne. Bigger bargain!
If you have a big but disengaged database you may score 1000 more opens in which case you are on a big fat winner. Huge bargain. Use this tactic and thank us later.
Now check out our eMarketing Savvy training workshops in 2015.
Don’t forget to share any results you gain via these tactics and email us your Ask Brett questions.