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Finding the Gaps

6 steps to an airtight email strategy




With 64% of marketers lacking the time and resources they need, it’s only natural some best practices might slip through the cracks when it comes to your email marketing. So we’re here to help. Join Emma Senior Content Writer Jeff Slutz as he helps you find the gaps in your email strategy so you can quickly get more ROI from your efforts.

You’ll learn:

  • • The smartest ways to rapidly grow and segment your email list.

  • • Design strategies to help your email stand out in crowded inboxes.

  • • Testing tips to boost subscriber engagement with every send.

Hey everybody, thank you so much for joining us for today’s presentation, “Finding the Gaps: Six Steps to an Airtight Email Strategy”. Before we get started today, let’s go over a little bit of housekeeping first. We will be sending a recording of today’s presentation, so if you need to hop off or you just want to share it with a friend or colleague, we have certainly got you covered, so just stay tuned to your inbox.

Also, you all are muted, but please feel free to ask questions, and we’ll cover those at the end. You can type those directly into the GoToWebinar chat panel there, and we’ll tackle those at the conclusion of today’s presentation. And I know a lot of you sent some pretty great questions in when you registered, so we’ll also get to as many of those as we can. I promise I will leave a little bit of time.

And I know that not everyone on the line today is an Emma customer, so for those who are unfamiliar with us, Emma is a leading provider of email marketing software and professional services. We have over 15,000 customers worldwide. And our mission is to help our customers and marketers everywhere really do their very best work on a daily basis.

So, we’ve been around since about 2003, based here in Nashville, which is where I’m talking to you from today. And you’re probably wondering who the heck I am. So, let me tell you, I’m Jeff Slutz. Yes, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but my last name is pronounced with a long U. And I’m the senior content writer here at Emma, which basically means that I get to work every day with a fantastic team that creates all of our marketing content, so from blog post, to white papers, to webinars like this one today. So, I’m excited to get started. So, let’s go ahead and dive right in.

We’re calling this “Finding the Gaps” because, as marketers, we’re all busier than ever. So, there are so many channels, so much data, and every deadline is ASAP. And frankly, sometimes all that pressure, it really sucks. In our recent industry report, we found that 64% of marketers lack the time and resources they need to do the kind of marketing they would like. Now what I wanna know is, who are the 36% that do have the time they need? But that’s certainly a discussion for another time.

So, the point is, when you’re that busy and your pulled in a million different directions, it’s natural that some of the things might fall through the cracks, even with something as critical to your success as email marketing. So, today we’re going to help you quickly identify what might be missing, and give you some solutions for how to fix them, both, you know, right away that you can start doing tomorrow, and especially as you begin planning for 2018.

Now, here’s a quick overview of what we’ll be covering. There are six key questions you really need to ask yourself when it comes to email marketing. In reality, there are probably more than six, but this will certainly give you a solid foundation when you start reviewing your program.

So, number one, is list growth your first priority? This makes sense, right? If you don’t have a thriving email list, then you won’t have anyone on the receiving end of your email. And I’m not just talking about any subscriber, I’m talking about the right kind of subscribers, the ones you’ve prioritized as your target audience. So, I’ll discuss how you can attract more of them.

Number two, are you treating every new subscriber the same? No two subscribers are created equal, they discovered your brand in different ways, they have different expectations and interests, and they’re at probably at different stages in your marketing funnel. So, I’ll talk about how you can tailor your marketing so that you can be more relevant to every one of them.

And number three, how much does email design matter? An awful lot, I hope. So, no matter what type of organization you’re a part of, your email is going toe-to-toe in the inbox with some of the top brands in the world, so…not to mention emails from parents and bosses and, you know, babysitters who cancel at the last minute when you made plans three weeks in advance. But that’s totally hypothetical, so… But you know what I’m talking about, we’re talking about the people that truly matter to your subscriber. So, a top-notch design can make all the difference when it comes to standing out in that crowded inbox.

Number four, do you have a content strategy? Too many marketers still send the same type of content to everyone on their list every time they send, never changing anything at all. And I get it, it’s quicker and certainly easier to do that. But you know what, it’s also shortchanging your most powerful channel that you have your arsenal. So, I’ll talk about how you can optimize that content each time you send.

Number five, are you using automation? Simply put, there’s no better way to make up lost time and drive some pretty mind-blowing results in the process. So, I’ll cover how you can get started, and some easy ways that you can put automation to work for your brand.

And finally, how do you know what’s working? We’re bombarded with data every day. So, I’ll talk about what metrics you should be paying attention to and how you can put some testing strategies in place that will help you get better every time you send.

So, when it comes to finding the gaps in your email marketing program, the first place you should start is with how you’re going about growing your list. It’s your most valuable marketing asset that you have, because we’re talking about your core audience here, the people you’re trying to reach and ultimately convert with every piece of communication that you send.

Now, this is a pretty sobering fact if you look at it. The average email list churns by about 30% every year. So, that means almost a third of your audience will unsubscribe on an annual basis. I mean, that’s scary stuff, right? I mean, that’s why a smart list go strategy is so crucial to your success, it helps you combat that natural churn and ensure that you have a solid and consistent audience to reach.

So, let’s take a look at a couple of examples of brands who are really growing their lists in effective ways. This is an email capture pop-up from Frank and Oak that has a really compelling CTA, it’s as simple as that. It’s easy to see the offer of 15% off so, despite the bummed out expressions there on the women’s faces, I know I’m getting something of value if I join their list. And then I have two options. So there’s the white button which is yes, and obviously stand out more because it looks like it’s pre-selected already. The no button is less enticing and says, “No, I’d rather pay more,” which, yeah, that’s a bit sassy, but they can get away with it because it’s syncing with the brand.

However, one of the biggest things happening here is the type of form they’re using. This is a banner style form that slides up from the bottom when you land on the page. It’s unobtrusive. Unlike a traditional pop-up or a light-box form, I’m still able to navigate the website in the background, and the banner stays stationary there at the bottom until I either subscribe or I tell it to go away. And according to our friends at Privy who provide a plethora of these custom form types that you can connect your ESP to grow your audience, these banner style sign-up forms, they drastically outperform static forms. By static forms I mean, you know, the ones that you often see just kind of embedded there in the footer of web pages, and they even outperform pop-ups, which, you know, this can often be annoying to site visitors when you’re trying to find the information that you want.

And also one more thing about this, this form appears when I go to this very particular page on Frank and Oak’s site. In this case they were announcing women’s clothing for the first time ever, so by clicking on this banner on this particular page, a new subscriber is also telling them something about their potential preferences, which, that’s awesome because, as you’ll see, the more data you have, the better that you can target and provide a great experience for them.

And here’s a different kind of sign-up form that’s on celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s site. Here, they’re asking you for a little more information but not too much upfront, they only require the basic info, like name and email address. And you’re also able to include some additional data that will help them send more targeted messaging once you’re on their list, like birthday and zip code. And I love that they include the check boxes there on the right, so you can tell them exactly what type of content you’re interested in. This not only benefits Gordon Ramsay, but it helps their team in learning what their new subscribers are interested in. But it also benefits the subscriber, it helps ensure that Gordon’s team doesn’t clutter up their inbox with emails that they don’t care about. That’s a total win-win for both sides there.

And there’s something very important about both of these forms, they’re not asking for too much information. So, every field that you actually add to your sign up form will cause the conversion rate to drop. So, only ask for the information that you need and that you plan to use right away, that is very important. Don’t get greedy when it comes to that initial sign up. The important part is that you get them into your ecosystem, because once they’re in you can always ask for more info over time as they become more familiar with your brand. Plus, if you’re paying close attention to those email metrics, you can discover exactly what types of content that they’re opening and clicking, and that will tell you so much more about them so you can tailor their experience more accordingly in the long run.

And that brings us to step number two. Are you treating every new subscriber the same? So, when someone joins your list, they’re inviting you into their inbox, that’s what they’re doing. And that’s a personal space, and it should be treated as such. You owe it to your subscribers to deliver the best possible experience, making a one-to-many communication like email truly feel one-to-one. Because guess what, if you don’t, they’ll be gone.

Receiving too many emails is the number one reason that people unsubscribe. If your email strategy is to blast everything to everyone on your list every time you send, you might actually get away with it at first. I mean, email, it’s an effective channel, even when it’s done poorly, which that’s sadly sometimes why it gets neglected and these gaps are created in the first place. But today’s consumers, they’re super smart, they’ll quickly realize that most of what you’re sending to them, it’s not relevant to their interest. So, even if you aren’t actually sending that often, it will still feel like you’re sending too much because it has nothing to do with their needs. They’ll open it, and then it’s gone. So, you become one of those senders that they reflexively delete when they’re scanning their inbox until they get tired of doing that, and ultimately they’ll unsubscribe.

So, what’s the answer? It’s segmentation. Segmentation is an absolute must if you want to have a successful email program. Just look at that stat right there, I mean, talk about some results that would get some serious high-fives around the office. Segmentation, it gives you a ridiculous advantage over brands who aren’t doing it. And there are a million ways you can segment. Pretty much any data point that you’re collecting, it can be used to create a segment and tailor your content accordingly. So, let’s take a look at some real world examples and I’ll give you a better idea of what I mean.

If you attended one of our recent webinars before, then you might actually remember this example. But I love it and I share it a lot because it’s such a textbook case of smart segmentation. So, are you all familiar with “The Escape Game” at all? So, it’s actually where you pay them to lock you in a themed room with a bunch of friends or coworkers, and then you have to escape in a certain amount of time. Yeah, I was very much skeptic at first because that frankly sounds terrible but, after doing it with our marketing team here, it’s awesome, they won me over. It’s so much fun. And there are a lot of companies out here that do this, but Escape Game is number one in the country. So, if you have one near you, you should definitely check it out, it’s an awesome team building experience for your marketing team, you’ll love it.

So, since they’re locking people in rooms across the country, they create segments based on location. So, you get a specific content tailored to the city where you escape. And what I love about the design of these is that, while the general CTA is the same, “Hey, you came to the game, we’d love to give you a discount to come back and try a different one,” they have a tailored header per city that immediately makes it feel more personal. But even cooler, they’re also segmenting by the actual game you played. So, if you look at the bottom, they entice you there with other rooms that you can escape from at that location. And notice, they vary based on location since they don’t have every game in every city. It’s really subtle, but it’s a great way to create a personalized experience and bring one-time customers back into the fold.

This next example here is from David’s Bridal. And I apologize here, the copy is a little small, but I’ll talk you through what they’re doing. My colleague McKenzie, she recently got married, and prior to her wedding she joined David’s Bridal’s list. So, during the sign up process they asked for her wedding date, so they knew exactly when the big day would be. And with that information they created segments based on how many months away their subscribers are from the wedding day.

So, this particular email was sent six months out from Mackenzie’s wedding. And the subject line said, “Mackenzie, you’re six months away,” which that’s personalized, it’s relevant, it’s eye-catching to her. So, naturally, she opened it, and this is what she saw. Each piece of content as you go through, it’s tailored to something that she would be doing at the six-month mark ahead of her wedding. So, you know, like, relaxing, because planning a wedding is pretty much the most stressful thing on the planet. Hair makeup tips, look your best on the big day, pointers for making sure that you have the right vendors in place like photographers, caterers, DJs. You get the idea, it’s all super relevant, it’s super helpful, and you can be sure that she’ll be opening and clicking on their next mailing when it comes five months out. So, it’s an awesome, awesome job of giving subscribers the kind of information that they want.

So, not only with those previous examples segmented, but the one, the David’s Bridal one in particular, it was also personalized for McKenzie. But personalization, that’s totally one of the marketing terms that gets thrown around a lot that can mean so many different things. So, for some it’s simply, you know, including the first name in the subject line, you’ve seen that before. But for savvier marketers out there, it extends all the way through the content of their mailing. So, it’s important when you’re talking about personalization with your team or with your boss, that you really define that term so you can really nail down those expectations. So, I’ll show you some examples and so we can talk about some different ways people are personalizing.

Here’s another example from McKenzie’s inbox, she gets a ton of great examples, and she seems to always get some good stuff, so we’re gonna be sharing them. So, LOFT here incorporates her name a couple of times within the body of the by email. It’s attention-grabbing, we can’t help but stop when we see our name, and it makes the overall experience and the offer feel like it’s tailor-made just for her. But it’s personalized even beyond that, if you look at the copy, “It’s been a while. Here’s a little gift to get you back in the mix.” It’s been a long time since she bought from them, they know that, she knows that, so they’re taking that customer data, and in this case her last purchase date, and they’re using it to send her this personalized offer. It’s a classic re-engagement tactic and, guess what, this totally works. I’ve bought from one of these emails, you’ve probably bought from one of these emails before, we should all be sending these kinds of emails.

And real quick, one more quick…it doesn’t have anything to do a personalization, but it’s a quick nerdy design thing. Look at the model right there, do you notice where she’s looking, is right at the CTA button down there. Eye tracking studies show that we’ll naturally follow her gaze to see what she’s looking at, so that’s a kind of a neat little trick you can use the next time you’re including the image of a person in your email, so try that out.

Here’s another great example of personalization, and this is an abandoned cart email. So, this is from food delivery service DoorDash, they’re tracking the name of the restaurant that you started to order from, and they’re including that in the reminder, that, “Hey, you were about to order from here. If you’re still hungry, we’ll make it easy for you to jump back in and finish it.” Plus, just look that little lonely burger there on the desert island, you wanna save that burger, you wanna bring that burger back to your house, and you’re probably going to eat him, but whatever, that’s neither here nor there.

So, that brings us to our next step. How much does email design truly matter to you, to your brand, and more importantly to your audience? So, like I said before, I hope it matters a lot. When you think about your brand, think of how much goes into it on a daily basis. People are investing a ton of time and money in every other facet of the organization, so why should your email design, your most effective form of communication get overlooked? And design is so much more than just your template. So, let’s take a look what we mean here, and highlight some ideas that you can, you know, tastefully steal from.

Here’s an important thing first before diving into the examples, here’s the important thing to keep in mind. When it comes to design, 80% of people, they’re only scanning your email. So, think about your own habits, when you open an email, you’re probably not reading it word for word, you’re quickly looking at the images, you’re scanning headlines, and maybe you’re glancing at the CTA button to see what they want you to do. But then when you get…and, you know, and if it’s something interesting you’ll give it a closer read and go from there. So, it’s vital that you take that natural human behavior into account when it comes to your design.

Let me show you what I mean here. Case in point, this example from New York FC, it’s sent the morning of the match, and everything is designed to get you ready for that day’s game. The hero image is fun, it draws you in, it’s exciting, it gets you pumped for that 4:00 p.m. start time. The design, it’s super clean, and scannable, and you can find exactly what…the information you need and choose whether or not you want to click through to learn more. And you can see who’s playing, what time, where can I watch it, where can I follow along. And if I don’t, like, I can’t catch this one, like, you don’t have the time, there’s a nice call out there at the bottom that allows me to see when the next match is. This whole design, it’s clean, it’s simple, and it’s pretty darn easy on the eye. It’s great, because you see a lot of pretty bad professional sports examples out there, so this is a nice, clean one I wanted to highlight.

But almost if not more important than designing with scanning in mind, is making sure your design is mobile optimized. Seventy-five percent of your audience will flat out delete an email without a second thought if it’s hard to see on their phone. We’re practically addicted to our phone, so mobile optimization, it’s no longer a would-be-nice-to-have kind of thing, it’s an absolute must if you want to get in the game. I think the stat is up to over 54% of emails are opened on mobile devices these days. So, let’s take a quick look at a before and after to show you what I mean when it comes to mobile optimization.

This is an email from an organization called Visit Philadelphia, and they promote all the great things to do and see, you know, when you visit Philadelphia. So, this email, you know, it’s not necessarily bad, I mean, we’ve all certainly seen worse, but it could be so, so, so much better. So, this, they use a classic newsletter layout, it has two columns instead of one column, which that’s not easy to scan on a mobile device, it can look pretty small and it’s hard to find what you want. There’s a lot of great information here, but it just completely gets lost in that layout. Plus, the hero image, that’s a nice photo of a hotel room, but it’s really unclear exactly what they want me to do, if anything, unless you really read and dive into the content. And like I mentioned before, the vast majority of subscribers, they’re merely scanning, they’re not gonna read. So, sorry to all you writers out there, myself included.

There are also… Another thing about this email, there are way, way, way too many CTAs. And they’re all in the form of text links which, if you’ve ever tried to tap those on the small screen, you know that can be quite a pain in the butt. And worst of all, just look at how it rendered on a phone there on the right. This email was not mobile-friendly at all, so really this is doomed to fail from the outside. I can pretty much guarantee most of people that opened this email just deleted it when they saw how that popped up.

So, Visit Philadelphia, they needed a hand with their design, so they actually contacted our very talented, if I might say so, and my design services team, and here is what their emails look like now. So, you’ll see they have a nice, single column layout now, which that’s important for mobile because it helps you control exactly how your different content elements are going to stack on mobile devices. Also it’s very clear what they want me to do right away when I open the email, and I look at the header, I’m gonna read about 20 awesome things do on Labor Day in Philadelphia. They cut down on a number of articles, and they included an eye-catching image with each article.

So, a quick thing about that, our brains they process images 60,000 times faster than text. So, instead of describing all the cool things going on in Philadelphia, they’re showing them off in an image-heavy format that draws us in. And of course, it looks great when you open on a mobile device, you see how it compare how it renders here to the one that they had before. And the end result of all these simple changes, once they switched over to this mobile-optimized template, they got a 20% lift in clicks immediately on the very next send, and they’ve maintained that level. So, those are absolutely awesome results, and that really adds up in the long run for your brand.

Here’s another example of a gorgeous mobile-optimized email from a non-profit. This is from Charity: Water. And the thing I want to call attention to here is the really laser focus of this email. Everything from the headline, to the image, to the copy, to the CTA button, it’s focused on just one thing, Father’s Day. So, according to WorkStream, emails with a single call-to-action can increase sales by 1,617%. That’s a mind-boggling number, let that sink in for a second. So, you know, if you’re facing a situation where your boss wants to cram a million things into every email, that’s a stat of some hard data, you can kind of go back to them and say, “Hey, maybe we should break these up into separate sends and just focus on one thing at a time, because it will generate much, much better results in the long run.” So, you know, if you want to deliver a great experience start by not freaking out your subscribers with 18 different calls-to-action crammed into your email.

So, including too many CTAs, that’s a mistake that far too many of us continue to make. And it’s tempting, you’re busy, you’re overwhelmed, and you just wanna get that email out and have it do so many things for you, but that rarely works. So, Charity: Water, if you also notice here they use a button rather than a text link, they’re much easier to tap on mobile devices, so they’ll outperform text links pretty much every single time.

And some quick button tips, so when you’re including those in your mailings, make sure the language on those buttons is very specific. So, use first person pronouns, use action verbs, you know, tell me what to do. Your job as a marketer is to make this easy for me. So, in this case, “GIVE FOR DAD.” Yeah, that’s something I can do, I’m gonna do that.

That brings us to our next step, which is email content. Do you have an email content strategy? And by that I mean, are you only sending when you have something important to say? Or are you saying, “Shoot, it’s been a week or two since we sent an email, we need to get something, anything out, at all costs, it doesn’t matter if we don’t have anything important,”? Too often it’s the latter for a lot of marketers out there. So, we’ll talk about some ways you can optimize it here.

Here’s a good rule of thumb that I like to follow. If your content isn’t either, A, helpful, B, valuable, or C, informative, don’t hit Send. You’re better off waiting until you have the right content than sending just because, because you’re gonna risk annoying your audience with something irrelevant and becoming one of those brands that they just ignore every time you send.

This here is a welcome email from Fender Guitars, it’s a fantastic example that checks all three of those boxes I just talked about. It’s helpful because it tells me what type of content I can expect from them in the future, and it gives me a number of different avenues to engage with the brand. It’s informative because it shows me what kinds of products they offer beyond guitars, and it gives me access to lessons that I might not otherwise have known about. And it’s valuable because it gives me exclusive content that’s not available to non-subscribers. And it also provides a direct avenue connect with other fans of Fender that I might not have had otherwise. So, all in all, this is a great introduction to their brand, and I know that I made a good decision by joining their email list.

But, you know, that doesn’t mean that you have to include a lot of content like Fender does, sometimes a simple teaser can be fun and valuable enough. I love this example here from Boosted Skateboards because, the design, it’s very dramatic, very mysterious, that copy is compelling. I don’t wanna wait until May, I want to click on that button and discover what this new skateboard is all about. I want to see it. Now, you don’t want to go overboard for this kind of tactic because, you know, your audience will quickly get tired of sending these teaser type emails, but it’s certainly a great way to mix up your content when you know you have some really big news coming up to share in the future. Plus, what this kind of content can do is it can add value to being on your list in the first place. So, if you give, you know, your subscribers a sneak peek to what that big news is prior to sharing it with the larger audience… So, that kind of thing just generates positive buzz and positive word of mouth about your brand that you really can’t buy. So, it’s a fun tactic to try every once in a while.

So, not only do you wanna vary what you’re saying in your email to keep it fresh, we should also try different…actual different types of content from time-to-time, so, you know, send a blog post one week, followed by an invitation, followed by an info-graphic, followed by, yes, a video. Video is proven time and time again to be one of the most reliable ways to boost engagement with an email. Our friends at Wistia, they found that including a video thumbnail in your email, it can actually lift your click rates by as much as 300%. And you can find any number of case studies and examples that can prove that out, it’s pretty powerful stuff.

So, here’s an example that I absolutely love, love, love. This came from Netflix, and was promoting an upcoming season of “House of Cards”. First of all, that letter format on the White House stationery, it just looks different from anything else that lands in your inbox. And the juxtaposition there of including a video thumbnail on something that looks like a printed letter, but it’s actually in an email, it’s such a creative way to play with your expectations and mix that media up. The video, it just looks out of place there, so it immediately grabs our attention. And, you know, I mean, I don’t even actually watch “House of Cards”, but you can bet your bottom dollar I clicked on that and watched the trailer because it was such a cool email.

Another way to lift your click rates and really freshen up your content is by including a GIF in your design. GIFs have been shown to increase email conversion rates by as much 130%. That’s kind of crazy when you think of something as simple as just adding a GIF, but it really freshens up your design, it adds some movement to what’s traditionally been a static medium in email. So, it grabs your attention, and plus, it’s flat-out fun, we all like to be surprised and delighted every once in a while. I know when we get emails here on the office that have a cool GIF, those are the ones that we’re sharing around to check out.

And, you know, we get this question a lot, but yes, GIFs, they should function for the vast majority of your subscribers. Almost all email clients support GIFs according to our trusted friends there at Litmus, and it’s extremely likely that down the road 100% of email clients will support them. Right now Outlook is a little bit tricky, some versions of Outlook, they’ll display just the first frame of an animated GIF, it won’t actually animate so just display that first frame as a static image, but as long as that first frame of the GIF looks good and makes sense within the context of an email as a standalone element, no one will ever know the difference or know that it was something that was supposed to animate and isn’t. So, don’t be afraid to use them, I highly encourage them.

So, I won’t spend too much time on this email here from mattress company Kasper, other than to say that I love that GIF, it’s simple, it’s fun, and it ties in well with the rest the email. The promo code “CLINK”, and the CTA, “CELEBRATE WITH US,” just a clean, beautiful, and celebratory email that you wanna be a part of. And actually, I hope those coffee mugs are animating for you guys. Unlike most email clients, sometimes PowerPoint and GoToWebinar can be a little finicky when it comes to GIFs, but it’s cool, they’re clinking together and the coffee is sloshing around, that’s basically what’s happening there if you can’t see it.

Step five, are you using automation? So, we hear it all the time. I know automation works, I know I should be using it, but I just haven’t gotten around to it, or frankly I don’t know where to start. So, we’re right there with you. I mean, you know, we’re a marketing software and services company, and even we could be doing a better job of using automation on a daily basis. But, you know, the fact is, not only will automation help you save time, those results, they’re just too, too big to ignore.

There are a couple of numbers that I want to share with you all. First, triggered emails drive 624% higher click rates. That’s some serious smelling salts for marketers who are still blast-sending the same content to everyone on their list, because triggered emails, they fire based on an action that your audience takes. So, it’s something that immediately is relevant, immediately is timely, and so that’s why it gets those kind of results. And the second number I’d like to share is that 63% of companies that are outgrowing their competitors, they use marketing automation. So, you know, we’re marketers, so we’re competitive people by nature, and we all want to outperform our competition, and automation is the one way you can do it.

And look, you know, automation, it can seem a little intimidating at first, we’re all afraid that we might screw something up by kind of taking our hands off the wheel, but if you apply the same careful thought and strategy to automation as you would to any other tool, and you don’t just set it and forget it, you keep an eye on it, and you change it as you see what’s working and what’s not, you’ll get some pretty great results, and you’ll be thankful for that extra time you’re gonna save in the long run. So, if you are just getting started on automation, my advice is to test the waters and set up a welcome email.

Here is a welcome email from REI, and this really checks all the boxes of what a great welcome email should be. First, they immediately follow through on the promise of their sign-up form, which is to provide a 15% discount to anyone that joins their list. That’s super important to establish credibility for your brand right away, and believe me, not everyone does it, you’d be amazed. Next, they say a little bit more about what their brand is all about and some of the philanthropic work that they do. You know, a welcome email, you can almost think of it like a first date, so here REI is using this opportunity to put their best foot forward and help their subscribers get to know them a little better.

Next, just like they’re on a first date, they want to get to know their subscribers a little better too. So, they ask them to update their preferences, which will help REI tailor the content that they include in future sends to them. And, you know, if you remember my long spiel earlier about segmentation, this is where segmentation starts, with updating those preferences. And finally, they provide a number of different avenues for subscribers to explore on their website. And you know what, by including all those links to the various product lines at the bottom there, they’re gonna learn even more about what that new subscriber is interested in, which means, yep, you guessed it, using that click data for segmentation and personalization down the road.

So, you know, in REI, they’re packing a lot in here, but the design is so clean that it doesn’t feel like a lot when it lands in your inbox. And, you know, another way to go, another way they could have gone, would be to break out the different sections of this email into individual emails that are part of a longer welcome series that, you know, they send an email once a week, for example, both work wonders. So, do what’s right for your brand, and just make sure that you are automating some sort of welcome experience. It’s very important that when someone signs up for your list they get that awesome welcome email right away, because they’ll never be more engaged with your brand than right after they sign up.

So, what are some other ways that you can use automation? Similar to a welcome email, this here is a thank you email, and thank you emails, they’re a no-brainer. So, it’s just the polite thing to do, really, if a subscriber takes you up on an offer. This is an example from Warby Parker, and it also feature some top-notch personalization in here. So, this one includes the exact sunglasses that I requested to try on. And they’re not asking any more from me, they’re just confirming my order and showing a little gratitude, which that makes for a fantastic brand impression, increases the likelihood that I’m actually gonna buy from them both now and in the future. So…and that, you know, I’ll probably tell people about Warby Parker and what kind of a cool brand they are.

Now, let’s take a look at a different way that you can use automation that’s really gaining traction. So, Surface Hotels, they automate follow-up emails based on the content that you click in the initial email. Here, my colleague Jamie clicked on the Hotel Havana image in the first email, there in the bottom left corner, because she was looking to book a trip to San Antonio. She ultimately didn’t book a room at the time that she clicked on that email, but a couple of days later she got the follow-up there on the right, which highlights the hotel that she clicked on using the same exact image, it triggers her memory, and, you know, it worked like a charm. She actually ended up booking a room at this very hotel from that email. So, proof’s in the pudding right there.

And I just had to share one more example, this is a re-engagement email from Polyvore. Similar to the example I shared earlier from LOFT, the re-engagement here is another fantastic use of automation. If someone hasn’t purchased in a certain amount of time, automate a win-back campaign that gets them back into the fold. And, you know, who wouldn’t be charmed by something like this? And I get that this type of email, it won’t work for every kind of organization, you know, from a design standpoint, if you’re a bank or a hospital or something you probably don’t want to be sending this kind of light, emoji-filled, fake chat.

But the point is to not be afraid to try something a little different, especially if someone has engaged with your…or has disengaged from your traditional sense. Give them a little something different to spice it up, and give them a special offer that will get them back into the fold, and maybe you’ll create a loyal customer out of it.

And that brings us to the sixth and final step, which is fixing the gaps…or, which is how do you know what you’re doing is working? This is crucial to fixing the gaps in your email strategy. So, the simple fact is that marketers, we are awash in data, 62% of marketers feel overwhelmed by the volume of info coming in. There’s tons of data, there’s a ton of channels, you have very limited time and resources, and frankly it makes you just wanna tap out and go to the bar. So, believe me, almost every marketer feels this way. So, what can you do about it?

First, you have to identify, what are those metrics that truly matter to your brand? In the email world, we tend to obsess over opens and clicks, and rightfully so, they’re the most obvious indicators of whether or not an email was successful. But I would like to take it a step further and look at, you know, what’s your end goal with that particular email? Is it sales? Is it donations? Is it downloads of a white paper, RSVPs? Then look at your opening click rates through that particular lens and how they impacted that ultimate conversion. It will be different for every organization, but your marketing and your data, it shouldn’t live in silos, they work hand-in-hand. So, once you’ve identified those metrics that really matter, it’s time to optimize your email for them, and really there’s no better way to do that than to test your content.

So, why test? First off, it settles arguments. So much of what we do as marketers is still subjective. I mean, it’s the same way here at Emma. So, if you have creative differences, test it and let that data decide. We do this all the time, especially when it comes to subject lines and headlines. If you have two ideas you can’t quite choose between, do a 50-50 test and let the data decide what wins.

Number two, testing also helps you convince your boss. Pitching something to your boss, it’s stressful and sometimes terrifying, depending on who your boss is. So, it helps to have that data on your side. If you want to sell your boss on trying something new, you know, like investing more in a particular channel or launching a new campaign, test elements of it out first to get some data that supports your case. It will make that pitch much less nerve-racking when you have some hard data that supports it. And if you are the boss, encouraging a culture of testing, it gives your marketing team confidence to do their best work. They’ll be more creative for you, and ultimately they will generate better results because you’re making data-backed decisions, you’re not just making decisions on a whim because you think it’s the right or wrong thing to do.

And most importantly, testing gives your audience a vote in how you market to them. When you’re testing and you’re letting data lead the way, what you’re actually doing is listening to your audience. They’ll tell you what they wanna see from your brand. It takes some of the guesswork, and that subjectivity that we talked about, it takes it right out of it, and that’s a beautiful thing when you’re trying to move fast and maximize your results along the way.

So, what are some things that you can test? Subject lines, they’re the most obvious thing. You know, writing a great subject line, it’s one of the most difficult tasks in email marketing. There’s nothing, nothing more frustrating than creating an email that you know is a winner, that looks great, has killer copy, but it gets tanked by a crappy subject line and no one opened it. So, test out different subject lines with a small portion of your audience first, and then send the winner to the rest of your list is a great way to maximize your open rate.

But, you know, don’t stop with the subject line, you can test really virtually any part of your email as you can see here. The important thing, one, is that you are testing, and two, that you only test one thing at a time. You want to be 100% sure that the thing you’re testing is the only variable that’s impacting your results, so that’s very crucial when you’re doing testing.

So, here’s just a quick example of what testing looks like from within the Emma app. So, this here is a screenshot from one of our customers, Koloa Landing. They conducted a content split test here, where it looks like they were testing a headline on a Valentine’s Day campaign, and what they did is they tested it with a very small percentage of their audience, I believe that this was 20% of their audience, and then they sent the winning headline to the rest of their list. So, the other thing they could do is this could automatically go out, you could set this up to automate where it would automatically fire out the winner. Or, you could stop this any point along the way, so if you say you’ve set the test to go to 20%, you’re at the 10% mark and you see that one is absolutely crushing the other, you can stop it right then and send the winner out so that you make sure the most members of your audience get the winning content. So, it’s a really great tool, I encourage you guys to use it.

Okay, we’ve covered a ridiculous amount of ground today in a very short period of time, so let’s just do a quick recap of how you can fill the gaps in your email strategy, and then, you know, we’ll tackle some of your questions.

So number one, focus on list growth. So, your email list, it’s your most valuable marketing asset, so you don’t want to neglect it. You should always be looking for opportunities to keep it growing, keep it healthy, keep it thriving. Your email list is crucial.

Number two, get more personal but, you know, not in a creepy way. Consumers, they’re savvier than ever, they’re busy, they know when they’re being sold to. The only way to win their hearts is to provide relevant content that matters to them on an individual level, that’s where segmentation and personalization come in. You absolutely need to be doing this if you wanna have a successful email program.

Number three, take pride in your email design. If you haven’t touched your email template in three years, it’s time to touch that email template. There’s so much you can do to not only make a great impression, but also to boost your conversion rate. So, keep an eye on those email design best practices, refresh that template, try out different templates when you’re sending those different kinds of content. Like, when you’re incorporating a GIF, mix it up a little bit. And have some fun with it, design is a fun thing, so, you know, make yours look great.

Number four, make sure your content is valuable, helpful, or informative. And mix it up, include those GIFs, include those blog posts, include videos, invites, keep it from getting stale.

Number five, it’s time to embrace automation. If you haven’t already, it’s time, so quit talking about it, start doing it. We’re all feeling the crunch of a lack of time and resources, so if you find the right tool, automation can really help with that and you’ll be amazed at both the results you’ll see and the time you’ll save once you get it up and running.

And finally, test, test, and test again. It helps you learn more about what your audience wants to see from you, it resolve those creative differences, and it helps you maximize results every time you send. Testing is how you know what’s working, you’re letting your audience explicitly tell you, “I want this kind of content, this kind of email from your brand.”

And that is a wrap. That is how you fix…find and fix the gaps in your email strategy. So, I hope that was helpful. We will start diving into some of your questions here. There were a lot of great ones that came in. Excuse me one moment while I grab a sip of water. I was talking a lot there.

And we’re back. Okay, so first one comes from Chandler, who asks, “You mentioned how hard it is to write a good subject line. Can you give us some tips on how to do that?” Yes. I could probably do a whole webinar on writing subject lines, and maybe we should, because they are very important. First up, you wanna keep them short. Subject lines, you know, the more concise you can be the better. A long one that runs off the screen, people aren’t gonna pay attention to it. And you have to keep in mind that on mobile devices you have very, very limited amount of room there, so I think on an iPhone it’s something like 32 characters is the cutoff point. So, keep them short.

Also, don’t forget about your pre-header text, you should always be…that’s the little grayed-out text that shows up beneath the subject line in the inbox, you want to be updating that every time, because don’t let it just be the default if you have trouble viewing this mailing kind of thing. That’s a place where you can provide a little more context, you can do a little bit more teasing of the content that’s inside the email without making it a super long subject line.

And I know there’s a temptation when it comes to subject lines to be as clever and funny and witty as possible to grab attention, but what I wanna stress there is that I think clarity is much, much more important. It’s more important that folks, when they’re just scanning their inbox, they know you’re providing them something that’s informative or valuable. Because, if you do something that’s a little too far left-field, they’re not gonna take the time to sit there and get the joke, it’s not the place to try out your stand-up routine. So, really focus on being clear. That’s not to say that you have to be boring or that you should be boring, you wanna be compelling, so convey a sense of urgency or exclusivity that will get folks opening your emails more than a funny joke or anything like that.

Subject lines also, like I talked about earlier, that’s a prime candidate for testing, and you should be testing. I think every time you send an email you should test the subject line to make sure you’re sending a subject line that resonates with your audience. So, definitely do that. And another point along these lines is don’t forget about your From name. Your From name actually impacts your open rate a whole lot more than your subject line does. So, if you look at, you know, think about your own behavior when you open your inbox. What’s the first thing you’re doing? You’re looking at who the email is from. So, you want to make sure that is something that’s easily recognizable, and is from your brand. If you do mix it up, make sure it’s very clear that, you know, if it’s coming from your CEO or something, it’s jimceo@brandname or something like that, so that it’s very clear who it’s coming from so that they’ll pay attention to it and not just delete it thinking it’s spam or something else.

Okay, we have a couple of questions here, and we get these all the time, this is a very common question from Julie and Audrey. “Many popular, trendy emails are B2C. We would love to see more of this applying to B2B, especially in a boring industry.” You know, most of the examples we shared here were B2C. So, “Are there any examples for B2B that you can talk about?” So, yes, so I think the important thing to remember here is that what you wanna do is that there are still humans on the other side of your email regardless of if you’re a B2C or B2B. So, a lot of the best practices that we talked about today, you know, that people are only scanning, design for scanners, make sure your email is mobile-optimized, make sure you’re using buttons to set up text links, make sure you’re using compelling images, all of that applies regardless of what kind of brand you are. Those designs…because we’re all humans, we all have the same brains, like, same kind of physiology. So, that kind of stuff will resonate regardless of who you’re sending to.

It’s true we show a lot of B2C because they typically are on the forefront and more of the cutting edge design-wise, and we want to kind of show what’s possible. There’s really no excuse that B2B should be sending poorly designed email, they can send great email too. In a lot of ways, what you actually see is that B2C is starting to borrow from the B2B world, and including content. Because, like, traditionally in the B2B space, you have to rely more on your content because it’s a longer buying cycle, so you’re providing value, you’re providing helpful content along the way so that when it comes time to purchase, someone is remembering your brand. You’re seeing a lot of B2C companies do that too. So, like, you know, REI for example, they’ll show you the best places that you can use that backpack to go, when you go hiking or, like, awesome camping areas. So, the importance of content and being relevant and valuable is true across industries.

And when it comes, like, you know, to being a boring industry and feeling like you can’t do exciting things, I think the important thing is to be human. Even if you are in a traditional, you know, boring, like, if you’re in finance or, like, say health care or something like that, people tend to think…or legal industry, you don’t wanna be doing crazy stuff because the important thing is that you’re conveying trust, but you still want to convey your humanity, you wanna talk like a human being. You want to be an expert but you don’t want to be, you know, so jargon-heavy all the time that people can’t relate to you. So, I mean, that would be my opinion. In keeping with your brand, speak with a human voice in your email.

Let’s pop down to another question here that we have from Kelly. “What is the best way to format a button to drive clicks? And are there certain colors that work best? What about the wording?” So, I mean, I’m sure most of you see that when it comes to buttons in terms of how it’s formatted or the way it looks, you see rectangular buttons are everywhere. That tends to be the traditional button that you see. We did have an example here at Emma where a customer tried out a circular button, they tested a circular button versus a rectangle one, so it actually looked like the button you would press in to start your car, and it actually outperformed the rectangular button. Now, I don’t know if it was because it looked different or because there’s something psychologically that when you see a circular button it looks like something you just wanna push. But that was actually kind of an interesting test, so it might be something you wanna try out. The important thing there is that you make sure the color and the copy are the same, so that what you’re really testing there is the shape of that actual…of the button, so you know what’s really impacting that click rate.

In terms of colors, you wanna go with complementary colors. So, I’m not a designer by trade, but I know a little bit about this. So, if you look at the color wheel, you know, if you have a blue background, the complementary color would be yellow, so you’d want your yellow button that would pop out. If you have a green background, you’d wanna use red, and vice versa. That will really make sure that button is the most eye-catching thing in your email.

And in terms of wording, we mentioned this a little bit earlier, but you really want to use active words. You don’t want to just say…and you wanna be clear, like, about what you’re doing and what you’re getting from that CTA. So, instead of just saying, like, “Submit,” or, “Learn More,” or, “Enter Here,” or something like that, or, “Click Here,” it’s, “Get the white paper,” “Buy Now,” like, “RSVP Here.” It’s really being clear about what you’re asking them to do and you’re setting the expectation of what will be on the other side of that button. So, that’s kind of the best practices when it comes to a button.

So, the other thing is, try one above the fold or try one at the bottom of your email, that’s another test you can try. So, that way you’ll see, are your subscribers clicking right away at the top or are they actually scrolling and getting more of the pitch before they click at the bottom? That’s another quick test you can do.

Another question here from Kristin. “When are some peak days and times during the week that yield higher open rates?” Yeah, this is a great question, we get this all time. When is the best time to send? This again, I hate to be the drum here, but this is another key thing that you’re gonna wanna test, because it’s going to be different for every brand. So, if you traditionally send at 10:00 a.m. and you see an open rate, try sending at lunchtime, see what that does to your open rates. Or, try sending at the end of the day and see how that impacts things. So, there’s a little bit of trial and error here when it comes to honing on the exact open rate, but something you want to do definitely. And try out, you know, the different days of the week too, and see what works best for your brand. This is really not… I wish I could say Tuesday at 11:00 a.m., send it at that time every day.

So, and the thing that happens which is really interesting is that sometimes you’ll see a study that comes out that does just that, and it says, “You need to be sending on Wednesdays at 3:00 p.m.” What ends up happening is everyone starts sending at that time, and then inboxes get flooded at that exact time, and then the open rates actually go down, because there are just so many emails going out at that exact time, and so the folks that then start sending at different times actually get more attention on their email. So it’s kind of an interesting trend.

And another thing to pay attention to here is, take a look at your email metrics and see what devices folks are using to open their email. So, if you see that most of your audience is opening on desktop, you can probably make an educated guess that they’re opening at work, so you wanna send during those working hours. If they’re opening on mobile, they might be opening it more in the evening or, you know, in the mornings or around lunchtime or something like that. So, that’s another indicator that you can use.

The other thing is just think about your audience and make some educated guesses there. There was actually a great example, one of our strategic services folks here had a client that markets to charter boat captains, and they were typically sending their emails around, you know, mid-afternoon, like 3:00 or 4:00, something like that. And their open rate were kind of, yeah, they were okay, they weren’t great. And what my colleague found out was that charter boat captains don’t typically actually get off the water until after, like, 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. So, she recommended, “Hey, shift your send time to, like, 8:00 p.m. when they’re off the water and they’re back looking at their phone or something,” and their open rate skyrocketed. So, that’s the other thing, just pay attention to, like, who is your audience, and when are they most likely…when do you think they’ll most likely be opening their email, and do it that way.

Another question here from Sophia. “For specialized content programming, how many emails per week is too many?” This, I think, goes back to segmentation. And I think when people get in trouble for sending too many emails it’s typically because they’re sending to everyone on their list every time. So, even if you do… So if you send, like, three emails a week, what you wanna do is look at the content of that email, look at your list, and match up who on your list would be the most important…would be most likely to be interested in the content that you’re sending, and segment that way? That way, your list in total is only getting one email per week instead of everyone getting all three emails that week.

Another thing, and this is critical as we’re approaching the holiday season, and everyone’s about to get completely bombarded and flooded with email. We had a customer at Canyon Ranch here, he did a really interesting thing a couple years ago prior to Cyber Monday. They said, “Hey, we are about to run a really cool offer for Cyber Monday, we’re gonna be sending a ton of email about it.” They sent this email out in, like, late October that said, “This is gonna be happening. If you’re interested, click this button and we’ll put you in the segment to receive these emails. If you’re not interested, click this other button and we’ll press you from the list, just from those sends, so you don’t get them.” So, that is such a smart way to cater to your audience, that, hey you’re really only sending those messages to the people that care about it and have already indicated they’re interested in it, and that way you don’t have to feel bad about bombarding their inbox, or you don’t have to worry about sending to folks who might not be interested and who might just completely tune you out or unsubscribe because they’re so tired of all of your holiday emails. So, that was a really interesting strategy, and it paid off big time for them. That single campaign made over $2 million for their brand, which was crazy, so it was really cool.

Also, we had a little bit of, you know, experience with this. So, we sent out a good email, typically once a month, that’s just kind of, you know, all the good things that are happening here Emma. We there for a while said, “Well, what if we start sending twice a month,” you know, because we have a ton of news to share. It wasn’t for a lack of content or news. So, we tried it twice a month, and what we found is that our open rates went down, people were like, “No, I don’t want this twice a month, I only want it once a month from you.” So, we saw that, we’re like, cool, our audience told us, “That’s too much, we don’t want it like that.” So, we went back to doing it just once a month. So, pay attention to your results too, that will help you find the way.

Okay, from Desarey, we can have time for one or two more here. “Can you talk through zip code targeting and segmentation?” So, yeah, certainly. This is straight up segmenting by location, which if it makes sense for your brand, if you’ve got multiple locations, or if you don’t, you should be segmenting by this data point if you have it. If you have their zip code, this is great. Because say you’re hosting an event, a local event in Denver, you’d wanna segment by that zip code or a certain radius within that zip code. That way you’re not inviting people in Tampa who are unlikely to come to that event, and you’re annoying them with something that’s completely irrelevant to their interest. So, that’s one quick and easy way that you can do it.

Also, think about that escape game example, that’s straight up segmenting by zip code, so they know where their customers are in, you know, Nashville or in Minneapolis or Austin, and so they’re segmenting by those zip codes within a certain radius of folks who are within driving distance to one of their games, and are sending their promos that way.

The other thing that you often see, this is also a classic example of both zip code segmentation and dynamic content, is you often see for folks like restaurants or retailers who have brick and mortar locations, you’ll see at the bottom of the email, “Find a store near you.” That’s straight up zip code segmentation. So, they’ll find your zip code, and they’ll include actually, like, a map of, like, where are the stores, where can you find me in person. So, that’s another really smart way that you can use zip code or segmenting by location.

Okay, finally, one question…another question from Denise. “Would you recommend testing on both an email and the landing page during the same campaign? My CEO suggested doing that but that seems to go against best practices.” Denise, I completely agree with you, I side with you on this. I would say just test one thing at a time. You want… Because the problem is, when you’re testing multiple variables and you’re setting the goal, whatever that goal is, you’re not sure which one of those variables is impacting that goal. Was it the email? Was it the land… Like, say you want people to download a content piece or a white paper. Was it the email that was impacting that, the message you’re gonna carry through to the landing page? Or, was it the landing page where they ended up that impacted that test?

And also, you have to keep track of way too many variables. So, when you have two different email, too many different landing pages, it becomes too hard to retrace the steps of the people that actually did that. Which email did they get? Which landing page did they get? What did they ultimately do? We already talked about this, you only have so much time and so many resources. So, make it easy on yourselves, test one thing at a time, get that result, move on to the next test. So, that would be my recommendation. Good luck to you, Denise, in selling that to your CEO. I know that can be tough, but best luck to you.

And that is about all the time we have, folks. I really, really want to thank you all for joining us, I had a blast, I hope you did too. Again, stay tuned to your inbox, we’ll be sending the recording out, so if there’s something that you missed, you wanna see again, or if you wanna share it around, I encourage you to do that. And thanks, take care y’all. Bye.

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