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5 Practical Tips to Improve Your Email Marketing Campaign

Jerry Low

Every business needs to grow, and email marketing remains one of the best tools for both reaching and maintaining customers.

While a few years ago, marketers were quick to announce that email was dead. This has proven to be far from true. In fact, it's more alive than ever, and email marketing will give you one of the best returns on your marketing dollar.

According to the latest report from the Direct Marketing Association, every $1 spent on advertising is returning approximately $43 and some as high as $70.

Not every email that hits someone's inbox it going to be a winner, however. Some go straight to the spam folder, and that's the kiss of death for an email marketing campaign.

If you want your business to start seeing these profitable returns, you'll need to step up your game.

Related Article: You've Got Mail: The Comprehensive Email Marketing Guide

Survey result: How important is email marketing within your business strategically?
Survey result: How important is email marketing within your business strategically?

Here are five practical tips that help you get more subscribers as well as increase your engagement.

Employ an Effective Opt-in Strategy

It's certainly difficult to have an effective email marketing campaign when you don't have any subscribers. Above all else, don't buy a list of emails.

Your open rates will be dreadful as will your return on investment. That same list was probably sold to many other companies, and you'll likely immediately be flagged as a spammer the moment you send out your first newsletter. That being said, here are some practical methods for building a quality list:

  • Create an effective opt-in campaign on your website that consists of an engaging message on a sign-up box. Placing the box near the top of the website works best (pop-ups are ok, too) and be sure to let customers know what benefit they'll derive from subscribing.
  • If you use account registration on your website, you can incorporate list sign-up into that registration.
  • Provide an incentive for signing up such as a free download or a discount code. Another popular option is called a Content Upgrade. For example, you post an article about bamboo floor installation on your blog, yet promise email subscribers a more in-depth article and a video demonstration. Authority Hacker used just one Content Upgrade to collect more than 11,000 new email subscribers.

Quality is just as important as quantity with regards to an email list. If you have a low-quality list, this will affect the delivery rates, and hence the open rates, of your messages.

Related Article: Simple Steps to Optimizing Your Email Marketing Campaigns

Improve Your Email Open Rate

Speaking of open rates, having a massive list of emails is only half the battle. You still need people to open those emails and engage in the content. Your open rate is the percentage of your list who, you guessed it, opened your email. Here are a few tactics that you can use to increase your open rate.

  • Marketer Neal Taparia found that he could increase his open rate by over 54 percent by re-sending unopened emails. Other marketers have modified this slightly by changing the subject line before re-sending.
  • Subject lines matter almost more than what you have inside the email. They should be short (25 to 30 characters), compelling, and focused. Email subject lines should not include spammy words such as "cash", "free", or "urgent", and should never be in ALL CAPS.
  • The frequency with which you send emails could have an effect on your open rates as well. Recommendations on this vary but the consensus is that you should email at least weekly, and one marketer's study in a particular industry recommends up to six times per week.
  • When you send out your emails matters as well. Both open and click-through rates may vary depending on the characteristics of your particular audience so you may need to do some testing. Marketergizmo summarizes several different studies on this, with many concluding that the middle of the week is best.

Optimize for Mobile

Shayna Marks said mobile-optimized email is "small screens, big problems".

If you aren't optimizing your email marketing campaigns for mobile, you are losing a large segment of your market.

According to Litmus, in 2015 alone 33 percent off all email opens occurred on an iPhone and 55 percent of all emails were opened on mobile devices. The number will only continue to grow as people check their email multiple times throughout the day.

According to a 2015 study by LiveClicker and The Relevancy Group, some of the biggest turnoffs that people have with mobile email include that it is too small to read and interact with, the email and landing pages aren't mobile optimized, and the messages aren't well-formatted for mobile phones. Email messages should load quickly and should be responsive so that they are easily viewed on smartphones and tablets.

As you create a campaign, be sure to test the message on different devices before you hit send.

Use Video

Video marketing has taken off in the last five years but using videos in email marketing is still somewhat new. It should be no secret that we love videos. Each day, Americans watch 8,061 years of video content on YouTube and 713 years worth of videos on Facebook.

According to an eMarketer report, four times as many consumers would prefer watching a video about a product or service as opposed to reading about it. It's been estimated that videos in email marketing messages increase click-through rates by as much as 3x and can boost a company's return on investment by 40 percent. Sounds attractive, right?

While video seems like the next big thing in email, there is one potential roadblock. Some email systems aren't compatible with video playback. One of the ways to get around this is to send an animated GIF thumbnail in your email message with a button that looks like a video player. When the reader hits "play", they are redirected to a landing page with the embedded video.

The additional benefit of this is that you've just transported that reader to your website. If you use this method, videos should be set to auto-play once the reader is redirected and there should always be a clear call-to-action (CTA) at the end that directs the user to their next step.

Related Article: Interview Questions to Ask an Email Marketing Manager [Infographic]

Send Quality Content

If you're not sending out relevant and engaging content to your subscribers, it won't matter whether they've opened your email or not. They probably won't ever open another one or click through to your website. Content should be a balance of visually appealing and intriguing information with a small dose of promotion.

Know the purpose of your email before you begin. Is this a newsletter, informative, exclusive offer, announcement, or lead nurturing piece? Finally, remember that this is about quality and not quantity. When reading emails, people appreciate a concise message and, more than anything else, a lot of images.

Several years ago, the Nielsen Norman Group reported on an academic study about web use. The study's not-so-shocking findings were that 80 percent of users are only scanning your email messages, necessitating the need for a strong headline, some bold images, and a clear call to action (CTA).

Backing this up, Hubspot reported that 65 percent of readers prefer emails that contain more images. As not all email services will display images, they should only be a portion of your email and not the entire message. A good rule of thumb is to use about thirty percent of your space for images.

Image Credit: NanoStockk / Getty Images
Jerry Low Member
Jerry Low is a geek dad who enjoys building web assets. He regularly writes about blogging and web marketing. Learn more by following him on Twitter or subscribe to WHSR’s newsletter.