A few days ago, I talked about open rates in email marketing. Certainly that’s a key step in a successful campaign. But then what? You want your target audience to take action! It could be clicking a link. It could be filling out a form. It could be watching a video, making a call or buying a product. How do you get your email list to do that and what factors are involved.
Let’s take a look at the recent campaigns I ran.
My goal was pretty simple; to share a guide that solves a problem to my target audience. There are lots of ways to communicate that in an email. I wanted to be brief and direct and easily share the information. My key points were they needed to see the guide and it was free. So I uploaded the guide to my server as a pdf and sent a brief email for them to view it.
If you remember from the previous article, this campaign had a pretty good open rate of 16.47%. The click-through rate on it…the number of people who clicked the link to see the document was 6.11% or 45 people. I lost 94% of my list! Ouch.
Remember I said I improved my design on the second campaign which had a different recipient list? Its click-through rate did worse! Even though it had a better open rate, the click-through rate was 5.04% or 36 people.
The last campaign was the worst on on opens and clicks. Five people saw my guide in this group. Despite these numbers, I still consider this to be a successful campaign. Why?
With a little effort, not much time and zero cost, I got 86 people to read the information I wanted them to. On each of these campaigns, the email software also shows how many emails were forwarded. I don’t know whether these forwards were for future reminders or sent to different people, but there were 117 forwards between the three campaigns. And someone contacted me from the campaign which is the ultimate goal.
My follow up on this campaign will be to contact the people who clicked the link in another campaign. I’ll also resend using what I learned from the open rates. Things I can tweak in the message include larger links to read the guide and testing the black template which outperformed with the white template.
Some people think email marketing has lost value with the rise of social media. Recent studies show it has better return on investment than social but businesses are still moving away from it. That’s good news for people who still use it. Less competition!
Today I’m going to discuss three factors that influence email marketing results. For this business, I’ve been testing email campaigns to Realtors using different subject lines, offers, content and timing. Let’s look at a few results.
Assumptions – I’m assuming tracking is in place. With anti-spam laws the way they are, it is dangerous and costly to just BCC a campaign from your email client. Using a third party service limits your liability and provides tracking.
Factor 1 – Subject Lines
This is what people see in their inbox. If it’s not catchy or specific, your open rates will suffer. Consider the following example:
I mailed two separate campaigns to the same list. My not so great subject line of “Free Marketing Evaluation – Our Gift to You” got a 2.5% open rate. That’s not very good, especially considering the alternate below it got a nearly 4% open rate. My next campaign to the same list got a 16.47% open rate. In email marketing that’s a home run! The subject line was “Worried About the Zillow/Trulia Merger?” The difference was three fold; it asked a question, it was timely to a recent industry change, it exposed a pain point.
Factor 2 – Design
With that success in the books, I decided to improve. In my haste to get the guide out, I threw together the email. This time I used a better designed template, a different list of my target market and the same subject line.
That home run from before just became a grand slam. The open rate improved to 20.22%! Was it the design? No. Design has no impact on the open rate because it’s not seen before the email is opened! It was the list. This was a new list that had never seen anything from me.
Factor 3 – Timing
At this point I was pretty pleased with myself. I had another never mailed to list of my target market and I was really hoping to make a big impact on this mailing. I had considered sending it out on a Saturday afternoon with a different subject line, but I didn’t want to tweak something I didn’t feel needed to be changed.
So I scheduled it to go out first thing Monday morning. The results were alarming! Even though this was an exact duplicate of the “home run” email campaign, the open rate was a disappointing 6.7%. This is still much better than the other campaigns I’d sent, but there was a huge drop off. Both the other campaigns were sent later in the week in the afternoon and evening.
Open rates are just one part of a successful email campaign. Optimizing your open rates improves your chances for branding, leads and sales. Like direct mail, the biggest challenge with email marketing is getting people to see your message. Test and retest your subject lines so you know what works with your target audience. Once you’ve found a successful strategy, build upon it.
Keep refining your email lists. Every campaign you send eliminates dead email addresses and people who don’t want your message. That means your stats will improve, but you have to keep sending mail.
Finally, timing is everything whether it’s social media posts or email. Once you find a good time, target your marketing around it.
To be honest, this milestone would have passed me by if LinkedIn hadn’t sent me a notice. At first I thought, “Wow, I can’t believe it’s been that long!” Then I started thinking about the other things it means. It means this blog is five years old. It means I’m five years older. It means I’ve found a place for myself professionally.
When this business started, Utah was hit with the Great Recession. I wrote this blog for a month and then I started networking in person. That’s when I started getting business and this blog served as a resource to show people I knew what I was doing.
A lot has changed in online marketing over the past five years. Social media is a real thing now. Back then digital marketing practitioners had to persuade businesses to use social media. Now social media is just a given of any web marketing plan.
I became so convinced, I changed the name of the company from SEO by Swaby to Swaby Online Media. It was a move I believe reflected the diversity of what I did in online marketing.
I’ve been very blessed along the way to get help from different people. One early piece of advice I got was to be as specific as I could about who I wanted to work for. That’s difficult to do when you’re trying to keep up with the bills and any money that comes in seems to be the same. It’s not. Being specific about your client is probably the best advice I got. I tried to narrow things down, but it still isn’t narrow enough when your clients include a home builder, a doctor and a start-up designer blanket company.
So I’ve now decided I only want to work with service based businesses in finance and real estate. This makes my target client real estate agents and brokers, mortgage professionals and insurance offices. That’s still fairly broad, but much more focused. When you know who you want to work with, it becomes easier to find them!
Another lesson I learned is to network in person. As I said earlier, I spent my first month in business writing for this blog. Then I went out and networked. Networking got me business but it also got me some perspective. It’s lonely being a solopreneur. Networking got me out of the house, gave me fresh ideas, allowed me to speak in public and helped me establish myself as an expert.
Over the years, I did have regular employment in spurts. I had one gig that looked like regular employment, but they were still really a client. Another challenge in being self-employed is commitment. It’s easy to be committed when you have clients, but a lot more difficult when you don’t. One of the main reasons I started this business is I recognized the economy was changing. America is going to be filled with people who have their own businesses, consult or work multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet. This was research I had done 15 years ago, so I was committed to the idea of working for myself.
However, working for yourself isn’t idyllic. It means chasing new business. It means chasing checks. It means criticism. It means losing clients. It means it can be a wild and crazy ride.
My life is a lot different now and more ideally suited for self-employment. I’ve downsized financially so my overhead is low. I have a family commitment that makes my time precious. All my circumstances compel me to be self-employed and keep this business going, so that’s what I’m going to do. I have a new client from my focused target market and I will continue develop business in those industries.
It’s been a great ride so far and I’m looking forward to the next five years!
Email marketing is still a viable and effective strategy to get sales, referrals and stay in contact with clients. The key is to have a strategy and stick to it. There are two main types of email marketing – drip marketing and blast marketing. Let’s take a look at what they mean and how they can be used in your business.
Blast marketing is designed as a one off, or part of a small campaign to promote a product or service with the singular idea the recipient will take action because of the message. Think about retail sales emails as an example. Email blasts can be sent to your existing database, a purchased list or even a joint venture with another business.
Drip marketing is very different in its execution, but can have some of the same desirable effects of blast marketing. Drip emails are designed for prospects or clients as a stay in touch method. Ultimately drip emails are designed to increase sales, but before that happens, they can be used to generate referrals, build traffic to your website and grow your social media channels. Drip emails are designed to be sent to people who know you – clients, referrals, prospects. They also take more time to create and execute since you are NOT directly selling.
What most small business owners don’t realize is email marketing has to be multifaceted. The goals of email marketing are to:
- Get sales
- Acquire clients
- Get referrals
- Stay in touch with existing clients
- Increase traffic to your website
- Increase your social media channels
- Build your drip marketing list
Did you notice the last item on that list? How do you build your drip marketing database? The answer is to get more clients or customers and you do that by making more sales.
- Make sure you ask your customers to join your list. You can do this at the point of sale or when you do post close follow up.
- Acquire databases for your list.
- Make sure you’re collecting emails and sending them something!
- Leverage your social channels to build your list.
Now that you understand the difference between blast marketing and drip marketing, you’ll be able to start utilizing them as part of your strategy. In a future article, I’ll dive deeper into drip marketing.