Think email marketing is old-fashioned? Think again. Despite all the new channels available for communicating with customers, good old-fashioned emails are still your best bet for maximizing ROI. You just have to keep it fresh. What worked with email five, three or even one year ago may not work today. Here we offer tips for updating your email marketing strategy based on the latest trends and research.
- Write a longer subject line. Crafting the perfect subject line is tricky — but it’s also your only shot to get your email opened. A good rule of thumb is to strike a balance between listing benefits and arousing curiosity. Sometimes you can’t do that in less than 40 characters, and that’s okay. It’s time we shook the idea that subject lines need to be short or emoji-laden for mobile compatibility. There’s no one magic number when it comes to character count, but one study (PDF) from Return Path found that subject lines between 61 and 70 characters had the highest read rate (17%).
Think about how your customers read their emails (and track it if you can). A desktop inbox will display about 60 characters, while a mobile device shows about 30. Always place your call to action first, and be aware of how certain words may be abbreviated. Sometimes a recipient might click on an email just to see the end of a truncated subject line that strikes their interest.
- Test your subjects intelligently. By now you probably know never to send an email without first testing your subject line. But there’s an art and a science to A/B testing that will yield the right results to perfect your email’s chance of being read. Before just randomly testing two different subject lines that you kind of like, ask your team what you want to learn. Do you want to find out which length subject line is better? Or, do you want to figure out which benefit to call out, whether a scarcity tactic works, or are you looking to test a key word? Narrow down your one big question, and then come up with a few subject lines to test that will give you your answers. A/B tests should be part of an evolving strategy, one that is always looking to find best practices that are communicated with the whole marketing team and put into action throughout all campaigns.
- Manage your list well. List management is considered the boring part of email marketing. Nobody wants to do it, but it’s essential to an effective campaign. In fact, when your list is full of inactive email addresses, unengaged subscribers and unknowns, it’s more likely that your emails will be flagged as spam. Whether you’ve purchased a list for a lot of money or have been lucky enough to build up a list through a successful web signup, it will require constant maintenance. Periodically you’ll need to re-engage your inactive subscribers. This is a great opportunity to personalize your messaging and keep things light, which isn’t always easy to do in the world of banking. We love this list of fun re-engagement email campaigns; check it out for inspiration.
- Share a video in email. Social media is all about video, but don’t forget that people like to get videos in their inboxes, too (especially in the morning). Including video in an email can improve click-through rate by 300%. And, it helps even more when you include the word “video” in the subject line. Word to the wise: Include your call to action in the video itself, as well as your email.
- Send your emails in the morning, late at night, and on the weekends. There are countless studies that have attempted to determine the best time of day to send an email, and most conclude it’s the morning. If you’re struggling with low open rates, you should use A/B testing to help hone in on the best time for your particular list and message. Generally, especially with emails from financial institutions, which have more serious content, mornings are a good place to start because email volume is lower. However, research shows that many people are more likely to read emails late at night and even on the weekends. Try different times to catch different types of customers, and test it and track the response rates at each time while you’re at it.
- Keep them coming. The most successful email campaigns follow their own reliable rhythm. Recipients who come to expect a regular flow of content in their inboxes will be more likely to engage, even if they’re slow to start. This is referred to in the marketing world as “cadence” — which doesn’t necessarily equate with frequency. Email cadence refers to the amount of time between emails, as well as the content and consistency of delivery. In one study by MarketingSherpa, 91% of respondents admitted they wanted promo emails and 86% said they were more likely to read when emails from a company followed a predictable cadence. One way to refine cadence is to give customers the ability to opt in to the schedule that works best for them. We love to see unsubscribe links that also provide options to choose to receive less emails, rather than totally leaving the list.
A consistent, strategic email marketing campaign with built-in testing will be the backbone of your online presence, keeping your institution top of mind with customers and establishing your voice as a trusted authority. By following these simple tips, many of which are based on common sense, your messaging will remain strong, giving you the flexibility to test out all the latest trends.