Because the New Year is traditionally the season for making personal and professional resolutions, this is an opportune time to consider optimizing your email marketing program.
As we enter the New Year, many of you have probably already been subjected to the annual question: “What are your resolutions?” Your answer will most likely pertain to personal improvement and growth; maybe you will challenge yourself to read 50 books before 2017 or increase your weekly visits to the gym (or even just join one)?
In addition to your personal resolutions, perhaps 2016 is also the year to consider making resolutions surrounding the improvement of your email program. Keeping this sentiment in mind, here are a couple of essential email marketing resolutions that are worth adding to your list.
Reach more customers
Your first resolution for this year should be to reach more customers.
In 2015, global deliverability took a significant dive, dropping to 79 percent. The U.S. fared even worse at 76 percent. With nearly one in four legitimate messages failing to reach the inbox, marketers not only missed out on any potential ROI from those diverted messages, but they also missed an opportunity to build and maintain relationships with those subscribers.
Marketers that were blocked from inbox in 2015 will continue to see their messages in the spam folder or lost altogether, unless they understand why these messages were filtered and take the necessary action to earn their way back into the inbox.
First, marketers need to understand how their incoming mail is assessed by mailbox providers. The primary goal of a mailbox provider is to create a great user experience for its customers, the mailbox holders. To ensure this, they need to filter out the good from the bad.
With over 70 percent of email sent being spam, mailbox providers have a tough battle identifying legitimate mail, but they have help in the form of a sender’s reputation.
Your reputation functions much like your credit score. If you consistently pay your bills on time you have a high credit score, it indicates to lenders that you are responsible. Likewise, if you are a legitimate sender who has a consistent healthy, subscriber-friendly email program, you will have a strong sender reputation or score. These scores are not static: just as missed payments will tank your credit score, sending to spam traps or exhibiting other spammy behavior will result in a drop in your reputation score along with a corresponding decline in deliverability.
Another critical factor that will either make or break your deliverability is the activity of your subscribers. Your subscribers actions and behaviors – whether negative, positive, or completely inactive – represents valuable customer feedback. Mailbox providers listen very closely to their subscribers in order to understand what content they enjoy and learn which senders’ messages they regard as spam. However, mailbox providers aren’t the only ones with access to this information. Marketers can also use the same subscriber feedback that mailbox providers receive. Whether they analyze the feedback and make changes or ignore the signs of unsatisfied subscribers can make all the difference in deliverability.
Create deeper connections with customers
The subscriber inbox is a battlefield full of marketing messages from an impressive variety of brands, some of which may be your direct competition. Each additional message in the inbox threatens to obscure your email more and more from the subscriber. Ensuring that you reach your customers only serves as a foot in the door; really earning their attention is contingent upon creating a program that is worth engaging with.
While you may already be listening to customer feedback to assure that your content is not being perceived as spam, you can go a step further in optimizing your program by learning what types of content your customers prefer, how they want to hear from you, and when they are most likely to interact with you.
Start by optimizing your message content – from subject line to sign-off – to create a deeper connection with your customers. Assess the engagement generated from each of your previous campaigns, then ask yourself a few questions:
- Which emails were most read?
- Which emails were ignored?
- What emails were marked as spam?
- What emails were forwarded?
- Is there a certain subject line format that particularly attracts subscribers?
- How should the copy be formatted so that it entices the subscribers to click through?
Look for patterns in this data to determine what your subscribers prefer.
Remember – there is no one-size-fits-all tactic. Segment your lists by how often they engage and the types of content they engage with, then test different options on a sample of each segment before sending to the rest.
The next step is to optimize your sending strategy. Even the best content won’t inspire engagement if it goes unnoticed among other messages in an overloaded inbox. Protect your content from getting lost in the crowd and leverage optimal send times by tracking when subscribers are reading. Segment your list based on these observations.
If the New Year follows the trends of 2015, marketers have a lot of work cut out for them. Not only will competition in the inbox continue to be fierce, but getting into the inbox will continue to have its share of challenges.
To make the best of 2016, marketers need to work toward reaching more customers and creating deeper connections with them. The good news is that the tools and data are readily available to all, and the same resolve that keeps you going to the gym as the weather turns will help you guide your email program to new heights this year.
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