Revolutionise your email marketing: The 6 stages of email sophistication [On-Demand Webinar]
With email becoming one of the most effective communication channels in marketing, it’s more important than ever to get it right.
In recent years, email has been shown to massively out-perform social media marketing on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and offers an average ROI of approximately 3800%.
Despite this, many marketers are still yet to understand email’s full potential, let alone use it.
Listen to this on-demand webinar from TFM Insights and Communicator, as Jenna Tiffany introduces you to the Communicator Sophistication scale.
A scale which allows email marketers to determine how sophisticated their current email marketing practices are today.
5 awesome tricks to supercharge your email subject lines
Email subject lines are important.
This is obvious to anyone works in email marketing… or anyone who has an email address, for that matter.
I mean, consider my inbox:
Not only does this give a keen insight into my personal life… but note two things:
The first thing you notice is the “From” name.
This is obviously super important, and is a signal of brand recognition. But, it’s not something you can just change overnight… because it’s your brand. So, while important, it’s not really an optimisation target.
The second is the subject line.
I get a lot of emails, as do you. And I don’t open some of them. But when I’m in buying mode, the subject line is what gets me across the line.
This begs the question, “What makes a subject line awesome?”
Great question. I get asked that all the time (you’d expect as much, considering I run Phrasee, the robot marketer that writes better subject lines than humans…)
So here are 5 awesome tricks to supercharge your subject lines:
There’s trillions of ways to write a subject line. Which is best?
Many people under-estimate the amount of ways you can write a subject line.
Take, for example, this one:
“Get up to 50% off the latest Batmobiles from Wayne Enterprises – sale ends today!”
Here’s another way you can say it:
“Get half off brand new Wayne Enterprise Batmobiles – sale ends at midnight!”
“Ends today! ½ price Batmobiles from Wayne Enterprises…”
“Time for a new Batmobile? Wayne Enterprises is giving you half off… only until midnight”
All of the above are plausible subject lines. But how many more ways can you write the message?
The answer: trillions.
Yep, trillions. Not millions, not billions. Trillions.
There’s way more ways to write this subject line than a human could ever conceive.
And what about picking the best one? Aside from fallible human gut feeling…
Luckily, understanding large sets of language data is something machines are good at – but more on that in a minute.
Short or long? Pro tip: it doesn’t matter!
“I can only see a few characters on my iPhone, therefore the subject line should be short,”
Or so said many an email marketer. And they’re wrong for saying it, and here’s why.
See, subject lines are our thing here at Phrasee. We’ve done the research. We’ve done the stats. We’ve built the models. And guess what?
Subject line length has no effect on open, click or conversion rates.
Take a minute, and digest this fact. Perhaps it’s counter-intuitive, but – and believe me on this – the numbers don’t lie.
I’ll say it again: a subject line’s length has no bearing on its effectiveness.
There’s been some chatter of late about bad versus good words. For example, assuming “brand new” is always better than just plain old “new”.
Well, that’s sort of true, and sort of not true, and here’s why.
For your audience, some words will perform better than others. For example, if you’re selling pretty much anything, calling something “sh*t” likely won’t work so well – unless you’re selling toilets, in which case it may be apropos.
By simply looking at word-level variables (as opposed to more abstract variables like syntax and semantics), you’re using a VERY rudimentary way to analyse a subject line.
It lacks context… but context matters. A lot.
Individual word choice is important, but there’s no single word that’s going to make your subject line the best subject line ever. What’s more important is the interactivity between individual words. The whole, so to speak, is greater than the sum of the parts.
So ignore anyone or anything that says, “Well, I like this word more than that word.” It’s just their opinion, or some really sh*tty “statistics”.
Test your subject lines out. Always.
Let me ask you a question: would you take a pharmaceutical that hadn’t undergone rigorous clinical trials?
So why would you ever send out a subject line that hadn’t been rigorously tested?
Testing is how we learn about the world around us.
It’s how you create sustainable response, revenue and ROI from your email list.
There’s no shortcuts to testing.
And yes, more testing more does mean more work.
But if more testing, and therefore more work, gets you better results…
Isn’t that your job description?
And remember: if anyone ever tells you that split testing is no longer necessary, they are categorically and scientifically wrong. Tell them to have a chocolate drop and go sit in the corner.
Adapt to your audience.
Have you ever sent out a subject line one week, and it worked great, and you sent out the same thing the next week… and it sucked?
That’s annoying, right? Wouldn’t it be great if life were easy and predictable?
Here’s the thing. People change. Your audience changes. The world around you changes.
Michael Phelps isn’t known for treading water. He’s known for adapting his training routines, his swimming techniques, and his evil stares, based upon numerous external factors.
Adapting to your customers wants and needs is the absolute key. Understanding what those wants and needs are difficult to quantify. But – this understanding is key to making your subject lines get results.
AND A BONUS #6 – come meet the machine can write better subject lines than you!
Writing subject lines is hard… and they’re the most scrutinised part of an email campaign. I mean, if your CEO ever comes downstairs to give you crap about an email, 95% of the time it’s about the subject line.
See, when a subject line is good, awesome sauce. But when it sucks, it costs you real, cold, hard cash.
Writing a good subject line is hard because there’s literally trillions of ways to write it. So what are the odds that you get it right? Infinitesimal. There’s too much data for a human to process.
Luckily – this is exactly what machines are good it.
Meet Phrasee – A.I. that writes better subject lines than humans.
Come say hi to us at TFM and see how the magic happens!
We’ll be at stand T760. So come find out about the future of email marketing.
Oh yeah – I’ll be speaking about subject lines in all their glory in the Data & Analytics Theatre on Thursday, 29 September at 12pm (more info). So come check it out. You won’t be disappointed (and if you are, well, hey, them’s the breaks).
So forget what you thought you knew about subject lines… and discover how A.I. will turn you into a subject line superhero.
How The NEC increased click-to-open rates by 173% with smart email marketing
Long gone are the days of sending blanket emails to your entire subscriber list and reaping the rewards. Changes in subscriber behaviour and the rise of the savvy consumer have made it increasingly difficult for marketers to attract attention in the inbox.
There are 7 billion people on the planet and every single one of your customers is different to the next, so you need to be one-step-ahead in order to grab your customers’ attention.
Email is often quoted as one of the best performing marketing channels for return on investment, with the average ROI from email being 3,800% according to the DMA’s National Client Email report.
With year-on-year email sends increasing by 28%, there’s no doubt that the inbox is getting busier, so making sure your emails stand out amongst your competitors is key.
For those reasons (and many more) spending time developing email content and strategy is increasing in importance. However, a lot of brands have yet to fully master the channel and it’s potential.
Let’s not forget the high street brands that didn’t meet changing customer expectations. A recent example is Austin Reed, whose website didn’t meet with the expectations of the 21st century customer. Or Blockbuster, who didn’t look ahead into the importance of emerging digital technologies and were blown away by Netflix, who developed a proposition that met changing customer expectations.
So, how do you make sure your email marketing stands out and helps you stay ahead? This is where brands needs to start being more sophisticated!
Introducing the Sophistication Scale…
At Communicator, we’ve identified 6 levels of email sophistication.
Overview of Communicator’s Email Sophistication Scale
Most marketers already know they should be sending more sophisticated emails, but there are many challenges to overcome, such as: time, budget, education and infrastructure.
The Sophistication Scale is designed to help ambitious email marketers define their current situation and help them to prioritise their progression. As a brand progresses up the scale, they’ll start to see their email performance and, ultimately, their ROI increase.
In email, data powers everything. It’s an age old mentality to say “it’s my data I can do what I want with it”. It’s the customer who owns their data and you’re being trusted with their information as a brand to enhance their experience along the journey.
Sadly, too many brands see their data as numbers and not as individual customers – these brands would be placed at stage zero on the Sophistication Scale. It’s the same for the “batch and blast” method mentioned earlier – you wouldn’t send someone the same message over and over again through a text message so why do the same for your email marketing?
Remember that there are people at the end of an email address and using their personal and behavioural information to power how you interact with them is integral to reaching sophisticated email marketing.
Let’s look at the stats
Our customer The NEC Group has been on a journey with us to progress through the Sophistication Scale. Through the progress made in developing a single customer view (SCV), the brand was able to move up the scale with their B2C email marketing and are currently at level 4.
On this journey, they’ve created a new contact strategy and implemented new tailored and personalised journeys for their subscribers as soon as they sign up with The NEC Group, right through to post purchase communications. Focusing on moving through the sophistication scale has increased their email performance and the results speak for themselves:
173% increase in clicks to opens;
20% increase in open rate;
Increase in preference completions because they’re able to add value from the very start of a customer’s journey.
Journey to sophistication
I’ve highlighted the increasing development and use of SCVs as one of my key trends in email marketing 2016. It’s the brands that are adopting these approaches who are the ones up front. Now it’s up to the rest of the email marketing industry to catch-up or fall behind.
So… where to start?
We recognise that there are constraints to becoming more sophisticated with your email marketing, and that some brands won’t know where to start or what exactly the end goal looks like.
In the meantime, below are our top 5 steps for your journey to more sophisticated email marketing;
Step 1: Identify where your current email marketing activity sits on the Sophistication Scale. Once you know where you sit, what’s your ambition? Do you want to be at Stage 3 or Stage 5?
Step 2: You may find that you need to change some mind sets within your business from ‘blasting’ email ways to becoming more sophisticated in your thinking. If that’s the case, getting buy-in from all stakeholders at the very beginning (or at least starting that conversation) will mean you’ve set good foundations. This will limit shocked responses you get when you change your way of sending emails.
Step 3: Determine your email strategy. Identify your goals, analyse your performance in terms of what works well, identify opportunities and areas for improvement and set goals and objectives so you have something to strive for. Also, benchmark yourself against the competition! This will provide you with further context.
Having a strategy is really key – there‘s still an industry-wide lack of emphasis placed on having an email strategy, with 33% of email marketing agencies stating that their clients really need to focus on strategy & campaign planning (Econsultancy’s Email & eCRM Report, June 2016).
Tactics have a place but remember that ‘tactics without a strategy is the noise before defeat’ (Sun Tzu).
Step 4: Put your customer at the heart of your email strategy. Stop and think about what the benefit is for your recipient; how will that email journey add value to your customer’s experience with your brand, service and product?
If you don’t know what your customers expect from you then ask them (and use the answers as a guide, not as gospel) and analysis previous performance to assess where you’re currently hitting the mark and where you aren’t.
You could create a brilliant strategy, but be too internally focused that it isn’t effective because it doesn’t meet with your customers’ expectations.
Step 5: Analyse your performance regularly. What’s working really well and what could be improved? Benchmark your performance against competitors to see where the opportunities are and to ensure you’re always applying context to your activity.
MailChimp came 6th in the “Most Loved Marketing Technologies” in our 2015 Marketing Technology Report, scoring 7.7 out of 10. From the 1,001 user reviews collected, certain comments jumped out about MailChimp:
“Really great applications with user-friendly templates.”
“Cheap and effective.”
However, when a business gets to a certain size and has requirements to integrate with other platforms, users are finding they need to move away from MailChimp to more scalable email platforms to enable sufficient customer retention:
“MailChimp is great and free to start with, but once things get bigger, then sometimes other platforms are better to use cost-wise.”
“As the number of emails increases, it is becoming less capable to meet our needs.”
TrustRadius sees MailChimp score highly with an 8.0 out of 10.
Bob Thompson, President and CEO at CustomerThink Corp., summarises that MailChimp is “very affordable. Especially considering the functionality, a great deal.” He adds that “ease of use has also been helpful. My staff can use MailChimp with very little training.” He, and others, warn of MailChimp’s hardline on suspected spam:
“MailChimp takes a very hard line on spam complaints. This is generally good because it ensures a ‘clean’ signup process, but opt-in subscribers sometimes forget they signed up and complain anyway. If this surpasses a threshold (fairly low, in my opinion) you could end up with your account suspended until you explain what happened. While I understand the need to enforce quality, this is a draconian approach that puts my business at risk.”
Sherri Kesinger, Principal at Interactive Savvy, echoes this:
“…with an older list, MailChimp can get touchy about higher than normal bounce rates. If your bounce rate is too high, MailChimp will lock the account and require explanations about where you obtained your list, when you emailed to them last, whether they opted in to hear from you, etc.”
She does however recommend MailChimp for small businesses and entrepreneurs on a limited budget: “It works well “out of the box” with clean designs, user friendly layout and great WordPress integration, plus it’s free to get started if you’re working with fewer than 2000 contacts.”
FEBRUARY 2016 – New features
MailChimp have unveiled Inbox Preview to allow users to see when an HTML will look like across various email clients. It replaces Inbox Inspector, a feature since 2007 – MailChimp blog.
OCTOBER 2015 – Marketing tips campaign
MailChimp, in partnership with Facebook, Twitter, Google, Shopify, and WooCommerce, launches its Holiday Marketing Tips: a collection of resources designed to help online merchants and small businesses improve their marketing – Business Wire.
SEPTEMBER 2015 – Pro package launched
The email marketing firm launches MailChimp Pro, offering multivariate testing, comparative reports, priority support and more – Marketing Land.
In this video, a very calm gentleman takes 30 seconds to explain the thinking behind the Pro package:
MailChimp pricing: How much is it?
MailChimp has a nifty email quantity slider to guide you through its service plans. Its unsurprisingly popular “Free Forever” plan permits up to 2,000 “subscribers” (people in your email list) and 12,000 emails per month.
Pricing plans start becoming a concern once you want to send unlimited emails (as soon as you’re sending two emails a month to a list of more than 6,000, you’re over the free limit), at which point any subscriber number over 500 will cost $10/month upwards.
The “Growing Business” set of features (including automation, time zones and support) is free once you’re paying a monthly fee, with the “Pro Marketer” feature set incurring a $199 charge on top.
There is always the pay-as-you-go option, with low volumes costing around $0.03 p/email.
MailChimp templates: Where to find the best ones
MailChimp offers a number of templates itself, which can be accessed from the Email Designer.
There are Basic templates which can be manipulated within the Drag and Drop Editor; more stylish Themes, organised by category (e.g. sports or music, some of which are less flexible); it’s also possible to code your own and import them. MailChimp’s Knowledge Base details the different options.
To see what’s achievable, MailChimp has an “inspiration” site, showing off various email layouts and styles.
Themeforest has a range of email templates compatible with MailChimp starting at around $15 for plain ones. Anything cheaper than this might be a MailChimp compatible landing page / coming soon / under construction template – read carefully before you buy.
42 percent of Email Marketers don’t know about Email Marketing
Infographic reveals invaluable statistics on trending video usage in email marketing.
Video support in email is a ‘hot topic’ in email marketing, according to this infographic created by Email Monks and Email on Acid.
An initial surprising statistic: HTML5 Video is supported by 58% of email clients. Why is it surprising?
Video has often been viewed as an issue to embed in emails, fears of deliverance problems have led to the common usage of static images, redirecting to the actual video landing page.
HTML5 is currently the new standard for HTML, offering a wide range of deliverance from animation to music without the need for any plug-ins. The idea behind HTML5 ideally is the ability to embed video directly into an email with no deliverance issues.
According to the infographic, video embedded in the emails will play for 58% of all users, inclusive of users on iOS, Outlook.com (except IE 8 Win), Apple Mail and Thunderbird. This is great if you know your clients are viewing your emails on these platforms. According to the results from the infographic research, using video in email marketing offers a wide scope of benefits, such as;
Standing out from the crowd
Enhanced brand awareness
Increased website traffic
Increased ROI through increased click-through rates
The infographic research follows on to reveal that 20% of email marketers are ‘not likely at all’ to implement or even plan to use videos in their emails. With consistent research across the industry, supporting the return on investment for using video in email marketing such as this recent study by The Relevancy Group (sponsored by StreamSend), it becomes questionable why marketers would not even have plans to make the most of this promising avenue. The Relevancy Group interviewed 266 marketing executives and found those that used videos in their emails experienced a 40% boost in ROI.
Do you fall into the bracket of marketers who plan to embrace video, or are you not ashamed to admit you have no plans to whatsoever?