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7 Email Marketing Problems

& 9 Medicines to Fix Them




Email is the nucleus of the digital marketing atom.

Social? Content? Engagement? Lead Gen? They all rely on email eventually. That's why it's so important to make sure your email marketing program is 100% healthy. But that's not always the case, is it? Sometimes your email is a little under the weather, and your results suffer accordingly.

Let's change that! In this fast-paced, data-backed, massively relevant webinar you'll learn precisely where email success wanes, and exactly how to immediately address those issues, if they occur. Join Emma and best-selling author Jay Baer (founder of Convince & Convert) for a webinar that is guaranteed to improve your email and make you think "why didn't someone tell me this before?!"

Kirsten: Hi, everyone, and thanks for joining us today for our presentation of seven email marketing problems and nine medicines to fix them. My name is Kirsten Kwon. I’m the Director of Email Marketing here at Emma, and I’ll be your moderator today. For anyone joining us who may not be familiar with Emma, we are an email marketing company based here in Nashville, Tennessee. We offer an easy to use email platform plus email marketing design and strategy services. And today, we are so excited to be here with the one and only, Mr Jay Baer. Jay is the Founder of Convincing Convert, a New York Times bestselling author, expert on all things marketing and, of course, a dear friend of Emma.

But before we get started, just a few housekeeping items to go over. First, we’ll be sending out a recording of today’s webinar. So if you do need to hop off early or want to share this content with the rest of your marketing crew, we’ve got you covered there. You’ll also be receiving a copy of our latest free eBooks so keep an eye up for that, and we will be taking questions at the end of the presentation. We’ve already received some great questions for Jay so thanks so much for passing those along. But if you come up with any while you’re listening today, go ahead and type them directly into your GoToWebinar chatbox or tweet us @EmmaEmail. And finally, follow along with today’s webinar by using the #EmailMedicine.

So with all that said I’ll go ahead and I’ll let Jay kick things off. Jay, thanks so much for joining us today.

Jay: I am delighted to be here. Thank you, my friends, for tuning into this webinar. My friend, Tom Webster is Vice President at Edison Research. He has been in market research for a long, long time, and he has a saying that I will give to you here which is that “The plural of anecdote is not data.” As marketers, we should know this to be true. We should follow this advice but yet, sometimes we fall into a trap where we allow stories that are told inside our organization to help decide our strategy, our operations, and our tactics. There’s one time, this guy said this thing about this other thing, and we take that as directional advice when really it’s just a story for one person.

What we’re gonna talk about here in today’s webinar is how to use math and science to make your email better. And if in fact, you are discovering that your email is not performing as well as you would like specifically, what can you do about that to change that trajectory? Before we get into the recipes and the medicines for email problems, we need to understand what are the key email marketing metrics. There are perhaps more measurements than you think. And sometimes, we find that individuals are paying attention to a couple of these metrics but not all of them. So let’s take a look at the things that you probably should be paying attention to with regard to your email marketing program.

First, is delivery rate which is calculated as a successful delivery as a percentage of your list. So delivery rate is typically 98%, 99% if you’re using a highly reputable email service provider like my friends at Emma, but that is really an indication of how accurate and valid your list is. If your delivery rate is lower than in the high 90s, then it means that some of the email addresses on your list are not formatted correctly or not actual email addresses, things along those lines. So delivery rate is one metric.

You also want to look at open rate, and many folks are familiar with this metric. It’s a foundational measure in email marketing. It tracks the number of subscribers that opened your email as a percentage of all the email sent. So if you send 100 emails and 25 people see that email, open that email, that’s an open rate, of course, of 25%. Now, it’s a little bit misleading sometimes because open rate is calculated when an image loads. So if you send an email that for whatever reason is plain text or they look at your email plain text, and the images don’t load then even if they did look at it, it won’t calculate it as an open. So that can be a little bit off of the exact number of people who look at it, but it’s a good reliable metric.

Click rate, number of clicks as a percentage of emails to leverage. So, again, if we go back to our example and say you sent 100 email and 10 people click on that email, that is a click rate of 10 out of 100. Of course, that would be 10%.

Unsubscribe rate, the percentage of people who get your email and decide based on receipt of that particular message, “You know what, I’m just not interested anymore,” and they click that unsubscribe [inaudible 00:04:44]. You would also on related topic want to pay attention to the number of spam complaints, the number of recipients who marked your email as spam or as junk. Of course, you want that number to be quite small indeed.

And active ratio. So this is a number where you would look at what percentage of your list, what percentage of your email recipients are consistently opening and interacting with your emails as a percentage of your overall list size. So even if somebody opens an email, they might only one out of every five or six emails they get from you. The active ratio is gonna be smaller than your open rate, and it’s gonna be really your core fans if you will. The folks who you can count on that every time you send something, they’re probably gonna open it, they’re gonna click on a lot of them. That’s really your nucleus of your program if you will.

And then post-click activity is exceptionally important and I think is something we don’t pay enough attention to in email. Because in almost every case, the email is the beginning. It is a means to an end. Sending somebody an email isn’t typically the sum total of what you’re trying to do. You’re using the email to educate and form to drive behavior. The email is an inducement. It’s not a self-contained program. So typically, what we want to have happened is we send an email. We want people to click a link in that email to go to our webpage, and then engage in some sort of desirable behavior on that webpage. So you can measure that, of course, in your website analytics program whether it’s Google Analytics or anything else you might be using.

You can determine how many people came from the email to the site and did the thing that you want them to do. Did they buy the sweater? Did they signup for the event? Did they download the webinar replay? What did you accomplish from that email? And ultimately, that’s a really key metric. Because, again, email in and off itself is just maybe not really what you’re trying to achieve. You’re using email to achieve a broader business objective. So post-click activity is a metric that I think we should spend more time paying attention to an email than we are today.

So let’s do a little poll here. I’m very interested to see what the results are here, and we’re gonna ask you this question. How many of these metrics, how many email metrics do you use? So we just gave you seven on the previous description. So do you use all seven of those? Do you use five or six of them, three or four, one or two, or really none? You’re just sending, you don’t really care about your metrics which is probably not the case if you’re on this webinar, but you never know. So interested to see what your results are.

All right, here we go. Half of you are using three or four metrics. A third of you are using five to six metrics which is exceptional, and 7% of you are using all of the metrics that I talked about, and there’s a very small smattering using less. So I am really enthusiastic about that. Good job, everybody. That is more metrics usage that I would have anticipated, so I’m very delighted to see that. Because the more you measure, the better you’ll be within reason and I’ll talk about that a little bit.

So let’s talk about the seven email marketing problems. What are the things that could be going slightly astray and causing your program to have less result than perhaps you expected, and maybe even less results than you had six months ago, a year ago, two years ago? The first issue could be low delivery rate. As I mentioned, you’re starting to see less than 98%, 99% of your list actually getting your email. That is certainly something that can happen. Low open rate is a very common issue in email marketing today. Open rates have slid overtime fairly steadily so that’s not one that may be unfamiliar to some of you.

Low click-through rates. So maybe people are opening the email, but they don’t actually take action, they don’t click, and there’s like, “Man, all right. Thanks. I appreciate it. Thanks for the send.” That can be an issue. A high unsubscribe rate. A large number of people are saying, “Yeah, I don’t want to get this anymore.”

Similarly, high spam complaints. A low active ratio. So I talked about the active ratio being that group of core fans that really tune in [inaudible 00:09:09] a very small number. If it’s just a tiny group, a tiny segment of your audience, that’s tricky too because you don’t really have that reliable audience that you know that you can reach every time you press Send.

And a low or limited post-click activity. People get the email, they open the email, maybe they even click through the email to your website, but then they don’t do anything once they get there. They either get lost, or the site takes too long to load, or it doesn’t work at a phone or whatever. They’re not actually doing all the things that you want them to do. So those are the seven key email marketing problems that are most common. You may have some slight variations on that, but those are the ones that are most often seen.

One of the things I want to make sure you understand is we have to…we cannot mistake weather for climate. And this happens in email a lot. It happens in digital life where we will observe a pattern. Well, we sent the last three emails and people didn’t open them as much as the last time, therefore, we should totally change how we’re doing email. That’s weather, right? Three emails is weather, it’s not climate, right? A climate is a much larger, strategic, long-term way of thinking. Weather changes every hour especially here in the Midwest.

So do not convince yourself that every finding, every… this subject line didn’t work means that you should then take that to halt and make massive changes to your overall email program. You have to make sure you’re looking at these things over the long term because individual data points can definitely lead you astray if you’re not careful. I will also remind you of this, and actually, I have a sign that I’m looking at right now, it’s in my office. It says, “Some days you’re the pigeon, and some days you’re the statue.” The greatest email marketers in the world have sent many terrible emails. Never forget that.

There is no such thing. There is no such program. There is no such person who sends consistently amazing, extraordinarily successful. We’ve exceeded our goals emails every single time. It just doesn’t happen. It’s not possible. So just because you have a dud, just because you have one or even more than one email that sucked does not mean that you have a massive problem. That does not mean that you’re not good at this. It just means that you’ve got to get better. So don’t get down on yourself if individual emails are not performing. Again, do not mistake weather for climate. You got to look at this over the long period of time.

So I’m curious, how often do you look at your email metrics? We’re gonna give a poll question here of how often you pay attention to these data points. So you could maybe check in one or two times a year, quarterly, monthly, every two or three sends, or after every single email send. How often do you really drill down and look at what Emma might tell you or other email service providers, what data that they have for your consideration?

All right, the people are voting. All right, 50%. Half of you are checking your metrics after every send. Another 39%, almost 40% care checking at least monthly, so the data almost match up to what we looked at before with the number of metrics. So that’s terrific. And I will tell you this. I am not sure that I would advocate checking after every single send unless I had an active test campaign going on. Because the challenge with checking after every single send is it does lend itself toward mistaking weather for climate. What I do in my business, and I’m not suggesting this is the only way to do it, is I check after every two or three. And I want to consider emails in batches of two or three because then I feel like, “Okay, I see a pattern here as opposed to this one versus that one versus that one.” Again, your results may vary. It also depends on how often you send too. If you’re sending three emails a day etc. perhaps a different story.

Okay. So we talked about the seven different email problems that are most commonly observed. Now, let’s take a look at the nine email marketing medicines. What might we use to try and solve those seven problems? So remember the first problem that we looked at was low delivery rate. Just people are not getting the emails like we think they should. It was just not showing up in their inbox. So a couple of things you might look at there. First is list validation. So go back and do some detective work and say, “How did these people get on our list? Where did they come from? And how old is this list?” This is very common in circumstances where…and, you know, you probably shouldn’t be doing this anyway and I suspect that many of you are not doing this but some maybe.

Where you see this kind of list validation issue in many cases where people say, “Well, I collected a bunch of business cards at a trade show, and then we took those email addresses, then we put them on our list.” Now, number one, that’s not technically an opt-in, so you’re sort of in violation of American CAN-SPAM laws, to begin with. But number two, those people may not know that they’re on your list. They just kind of went to the tradeshow booth and they didn’t think tradeshow booth, you know, drop in equals email send and so that can be a little bit tricky. And, of course, as we all know, people tend to change email addresses when they change jobs. So if they give you an email address on their current position and they change positions, that email address may no longer be valid. So if it’s an older list, you start to see some delivery rate issues as well.

There are some services that you can use that are inexpensive, terrific, to help make sure that the email addresses on your list are valid, that they still are real, and if they are not valid anymore. These services may be able to tell you what the new email addresses for that person. BriteVerify is one, DataValidation is one, and XVerify is one as well. All three of those could help you if you were experiencing some list validation questions. The second thing to consider if you have low delivery rate, and that’s your email marketing problem, is to make sure that people understand when they signup for the email. Maybe they signup, you know, very straightforwardly opt-in on your website that they know what is going to happen.

So a lot of times, and I see this a ton as a consultant. The form says, “Get on our list,” and it’s first name, and email address, and submit. Well, how often I got to receive an email from you, and what is that email, and why do I want that email? If you do a better job of explaining what’s gonna happen when people signup, not only will you get a better delivery rate, but you’ll also get a better conversion rate. Because when you say to people, “We’re gonna send you a weekly email about this and about that,” then you’re aligning their expectations going forward. The best possible scenario here, and I really want you to hear this, is to give people a sample of your email. So in a form signup scenario, give them a link that says, “See a sample here, link,” and it posts up an HTML webpage version of a recent email send so they can get a feel for what they are signing on for. That will really help you, okay? So consider that.

If you don’t do that if people don’t know they signed up and obviously they started getting emails from you, it’s like the U2 thing with iTunes, right? When Apple just decided because of their benevolence to make sure that we all got the U2 album “Songs of Innocence” on our iTunes even though we didn’t want it and we didn’t ask for it. And it’s funny you see this in this page right here. This is, “How can I remove Songs of Innocence from my account?” And there’s a bunch of hacks that people created about how to take this out of their iTunes so much so that Apple themselves had to create a piece of content that you see here which tells people how to take this out of their iTunes, okay? So that’s how it feels when people start getting email from you that they don’t remember signing up for, or they think is different than what they signed up, or they think is different than what they signed up for, or they think it’s more often than they signed up for. It’s just like dropping U2 into your iTunes, so don’t do that.

One of the things that can be really, really useful here is to make sure people not only understand how often you’re gonna send but give them a choice of how often to receive. This is one of Emma’s clients, Thistle Farms. And you can see here in the inset what they’ve done is allowed you to update your preferences as a subscriber and say, “Oh, I want Becca’s daily meditation,” or “I only want to receive emails two to three times a month,” or “I want to get the Thistle Farmer monthly,” or “The community news quarterly,” or “The occasional cafĂ© updates.” You can pick one, all, or any mix of those emails to tailor your receipt of emails accordingly which is a really, really smart way to go especially if you have multiple email products as they obviously do. They have five here. And what happened was Thistle Farms was seen low participation rates on their welcome series and so they created this email that allows people to manage preferences. So I want to make sure you understand when this gets this sent.

So when somebody subscribes to a Thistle Farm’s email, the first email they get back is this one that says “Welcome to the Circle. We’re happy you’re here. Thanks for signing up. We’re not gonna spam you, and by the way, we want to make sure that we give you only what you want and when you want it.” So before we even get into this relationship, before we even start to send you other emails, why don’t you just click here and tell us like how often do you want it and which of these do you want? So now, the subscriber has totally decided they have control over what they get, when they get, etc., so now they can use that information to segment future sends. And since they started doing this, they have doubled their rates, doubled their rates which is pretty extraordinary.

Let’s talk about low open rate which is one that a lot of us have seen in the email. There’s a lot of different reasons for this, and low open rate continues to be a challenge. Sometimes images are off, so it artificially suppresses open rate, sometimes emails go to the promotions folder and so they sort of get hidden away by your email software. There’s a lot of reasons for low open rate, but there are a couple of things you can think about doing. One, and I’ll do this in reverse order is, from name testing. So the first thing that people see when they get an email, of course, is who is this email from. That’s, you know, almost every case, the left column of the email software whatever you happen to be using, Gmail, Outlook, etc. It’s the left column is the from name.

So this is an area that I find that companies do not test enough because you could do this several different ways. You could have this email come from, it could be, it could be Jay, my name,, or it could be, right? You could test all of these, and I absolutely suggest that you do. Work with Emma or your email service provider, create an A/B test or an A/B/C/D test depending on how long or how large your list is, and try different from names, and see what kind of impact that has on your open rate. I tell you, you will be surprised at the impact that can have, and almost nobody ever test it.

Once you’ve figured out what from name resonates the best with your audience, the next step should be, especially in the low open rate environment, to do subject line testing. So here, of course, we describe what the email contains, and why people should care about receiving this email. Be cautious about length because, of course, you do not have unlimited characters before it gets cut off. So you can be a little bit longer, and there’s some people out there who will tell you that the subject line has to be incredibly short. I don’t believe that to be true myself. I just believe that you need to make sure that if people only get the first three words that make sense. That it pays off. You can have three words that make sense and then a little bit of a longer subject line as long as where it gets cut off, you’re like, “I don’t know what this means.”

One of the things that you could do, and you see this more and more in emails that you receive I’ll bet in your own inbox is personalization where you put somebody’s first name in the subject line itself or emojis. We’ve been testing emojis in subject lines a lot at Convince & Convert. In many cases, we’ve had good success with it. Now, we’re about to succeed forever, perhaps, perhaps not. But for now, we’re seeing some success there as well. Here’s an example from an Emma customer, The Escape Game. They run a whole series of escape rooms in different cities across the United States. In this case, they were trying to increase their open rate so they A/B-tested their subject line for a free gift card offer. So you can see they did two different ways. The first one was get a free gift card, emoji, emoji, two days only. The second one was buy two gift cards, get one free, emoji, emoji, two days only.

When they tested this, they found that their shorter one, the more direct one, get a free gift card. The first one that you see on your screen there had a 5% higher open rate. Now that may seem small but 5% is actually pretty big if you think about the standard open rate these days is, you know, 20% to 25% depending on your industry. So a 5% bump on a 20% baseline is actually a 25% increase if you get the math there, so that’s pretty significant. And, also the Escape Game’s list is quite large. They have many, many, many, many thousands of recipients. They’ve a large list. So a 5% bump in open rate across a list of that size is a significant finding.

Now, what I would tell you and I’m gonna go back to my point earlier about mistaking weather for climate, here’s what you should not do my friends. You should not run a test like this and say, “Get a free gift card, emoji, emoji, two days only” versus “Buy two gift cards, get one free, emoji, emoji, two days only.” The first one did 5% better. Your conclusion cannot be shorter subject lines are better because you do not know that. You know that in this case, the shorter one was better. But not only is it shorter, but it also positions the offer differently. It says, “Get a free gift card.” The other says, “Buy two get one,” which is not as strong as an offer, right? It’s a more detailed explanation of the offer, but it’s not as strong of a statement. So is it’s length? Perhaps. Is it the way the promotion is framed? Perhaps.

So what you know now is that in this circumstance, short subject line fared better. But you cannot then say “From now on, ladies and gentlemen, what we have to do is all short subject lines because we tested it and it worked.” Do not mistake weather for climate. You would want to test this, the same idea short versus long, many more times across many more emails. And if you see the same pattern every single time, then you have climate. Then you can say, “Now, going forward, we should do short subject lines every time.” Makes sense? Do not use one test as gospel because it is not a gospel.

The third thing that you might want to check on low open rate is list segmentation. So here’s the thing, we all want to send a lot of email to a lot of people and get a lot of open rates and a lot of clicks, right? It’s just the math of it. But somewhat ironically, in many cases, you will have a better result if you send a more specific email to fewer people. If you send… We know that one part of our list… Let me go back. I want to use this as an example. Obviously, The Escape Game sends an email to people from Austin about the Austin Escape Room, okay? But let’s say they didn’t. Let’s say that they were sending email to everybody in the country about their games. Well, if you don’t live in Austin and you’re getting an email about Austin, you’re like, “Bro, I don’t care about Austin, I live in Maine. This is stupid. I’m not gonna open this anymore.”

In those circumstances, what you would want to do which, of course, they already do is to say, “Well, let’s only send emails about Austin to people who we’re almost certain are in Austin.” Because then it becomes more relevant, it’s more specific. It’s a smaller list, you’ve segmented the list, but your results go up because relevancy goes up. And this is pretty much a ratio that you can count on. As relevancy goes up, performance goes up. As relevancy goes up, performance goes up. What creates relevancy? Specificity always in anything. In email, in social, in content marketing, in direct mail, in television, in radio, in restaurants, specificity creates relevance. So do not be afraid to send to fewer people a segment of your list something that you know is more targeted and more relevant to them.

Relevancy is the killer app. I mean that’s really what we were trying to do here, right? Whether it’s in the inbox or on Facebook or Twitter or on YouTube or anywhere else. All we’re trying to do here is win a fight for relevancy. Just to win the war of attention. And the way you do that is by being more specific not less specific. Let’s say that people are opening your email, that’s good news, but they’re not clicking it. They’re like, “Okay, I just read it, but I don’t necessarily feel the need to click this thing.” A couple of things you might want to try here, some medicines if you will. First if content alignment. Does the email itself make sense? 

So in some cases, you might have a subject line that you’ve created because you think the subject line is gonna really encourage people to open it but then the content doesn’t really sync back up to the subject line, right? It’s almost like clickbait on the subject line but then the email inside is not really tied together, “Wait a second, I thought this was about this, and it’s actually about this other thing. I’m not gonna click here.” Sometimes, we don’t look at the end to end process from subscription to send, to open, to click, from the customer’s perspective. Like we feel like, “Well, of course, they know what this email’s about and, of course, they know where the click-through button is because I know where that button is, and I know what we’re doing.”

Well, guess what? You work here. You’re not the test case. Of course, you understand it. You work there. You wrote the email. You’re not going to be confused. If you’re confused about an email you wrote, you got a larger problem. We use Convince & Convert something that I call the Mom Test. And a Mom Test works like this. If you’re going to send an email or create a piece of content or put something on social media, and your mom who loves you unconditionally would not a) Be able to understand it, or b) Click and support it, they don’t send it. They don’t send it. If your mom wouldn’t do it, why would you expect random customer or prospective customer to do it, right? The Mom Test is very, very useful in that regard.

Here’s what happens when you violate the Mom Test and don’t keep your subject line and your content and your email aligned. You may have heard the story a couple of weeks ago about the lady who brought an emotional support peacock on a flight? This is the actual peacock, by the way, an emotional support peacock on a flight. That is incongruent. That creates confusion. That does not make any sense whatsoever. And sometimes, that’s how people interpret your email. If they read your email and they think, “This feels to me like an emotional support peacock,” then the email is not clear enough.

What else might you do if you have low click-through rate? Well, in many cases, you’re call-to-action just isn’t right. You either are not explicit enough about what you want them to do, or you have way too many calls-to-action in your email. I certainly have seen that where it’s like, “Well, you could click here, or this one, or this other one, or this other one, or this other one and you’re like.” “What? I’m just out. It’s too many.” Too many choices. The other thing you want to make sure you do on a regular basis is test the language of your call-to-action, and test the difference in performance between call-to-action buttons, actual graphical buttons, and text links, right? Or the use of images versus non-images, etc. There’s lots of things that you can do in the regard, and there’s some great resources about how to do that specifically on the Emma blog. We’ll make sure you get access to that in the follow-up email that we’ll send you after the webinar.

But I see it all the time. People have this really long email, right? It’s a 700-word email and somewhere in the middle of that field of paragraphs is a link that says, “Click here to do whatever.” And they’re like, “Well, how come nobody clicks?” Because nobody can find it. People are scrolling through your email very quickly with their thumb, and you have to be more obvious than you think about how the call-to-action is mechanized. And I’ll tell you what one of the biggest culprits is about this, okay? I should have asked this as a poll question, and I didn’t think about it until just now. Next time I will. I will bet that 75% of you, maybe more, are designing emails on a desktop but yet, we know for a fact that the majority if emails are consumed on a phone.

So why are we not developing these emails first in mobile and then seeing how they look in desktop, right? And, of course, many people will use an emulator and check the email before you send it in some sort of program that shows you what it looks like on a phone. You should absolutely do that but, yet, we still design it on a laptop, right? We still design it on the 4K monitor that’s like 7,000 inches wide even though that’s the way nobody is gonna look at that email. And so sometimes, we’re a little too cute, a little too smart, a little to subtle with our buttons and our graphics because it works perfectly in this big, broad, awesome, amazing monitor, and then on a phone, no one can see it.

Fundamentally, this is true. Nobody says, “You know what? I sure wish I could get more email.” Nobody says that. I talk about this all the time, and so we have to give people a reason to participate. So if you have low click-through rate, certainly content alignment can be an issue. Certainly, you’re hiding your calls-to-action that can be an issue.

But in many cases, you just got to test your content, right? Maybe you’ve just not given them something that they want to click on. That’s just not worthy of their time. So you can use Emma’s new A/B testing tool to do content testing to say, “Okay, what if we gave them a paragraph versus three paragraphs? What if we gave them an image versus text? What if we gave them bullet points versus non-bullet points? What if we gave it to them in purple versus orange?” You should be testing this all the time. Continue to test these items.

Here’s an example from Koloa Landing which did an A/B test on the real estate development, and you can see they made a lot of changes here. One is more narrow. One is sort of a double column kind of an approach. You see you’ve got smaller photos on the right, larger photos on the left that are stacked. One the right, it’s side by side. They kept the content the same. The headlines are the same. They didn’t change that. Then CTAs are the same, check availability are the same across the board. The content or the preamble I should say on the left is in teal, preamble on the right is in black. So they tested a lot of different things here. On the left, you’ll see that one of the biggest changes is that they have one call-to-action that says, “Check Availability,” right at the top, right? And then as you scroll down, there aren’t any additional buttons. Whereas, on the right, it has the single call-to-action above the fold, “Check Availability.” But as you scroll down, there’s additional buttons that also say “Check Availability.” So you’re sort of getting multiple bytes at that apple.

Even though the content is essentially the same, the click-through rate comparison on these two emails found that the email on the left had substantially better results. A single focused CTA do this. This is the thing that we prefer you to click on. You do not have to decide which of these to click on. You do not have to assess or evaluate multiple options. You just click here. And that’s typically a better approach that usually wins. But I will tell you. It doesn’t always win which is why you always need to test these things for yourself, okay? Now, the one thing I would recommend, and the one quibble I would have with this particular test is that the best way to test is to isolate variables. So how I would test this ideally is to take the email on the left that has check availability and then test it against the exact same email that also has multiple calls-to-action but change no other things.

This test has two or three other changes, right? So you’ve got side by side text verses, photos, two column. You’ve got the color of the preamble at the top, and a couple of other things. So you’ve, I think there’s three or four differences between the two emails here. There’s the headline, “Featured Packages,” “Take Your Pick,” etc. so there are probably four differences between these two. The best way to test is to only test one thing at a time, to isolate variables because then you know that if you have better results on one, it was the one thing that you changed. Now, I understand why that doesn’t always happen. You need to have more time, a bigger list, etc., but that’s the very best way to test is to always isolate your variables.

Let’s say you have a high unsubscribe rate. That’s your email problem, and people are saying, “Hey, I got this and I don’t like this.” Well, there are a couple of things you might do. Go back to the subscribe process review that we talked about like how did people get on the list? So you’re sending them an email that they never anticipated or expected to get from you because that may be a surprise. That’s the U2 in your iTunes problem. You’re like, “I don’t want this. I unsubscribe.” So sending people an email as a surprise is typically not a welcome surprise so that could be an issue.

List segmentation, also an issue. So just like we talked about with Thistle Farms, if you have a high unsubscribe rate, it may just be the people say, “Look, you know, I don’t hate you guys, I just don’t need this email this often.” I’ll tell you. I have an example about this. So last year, I bought myself some underwear, and it’s a pretty awesome purchase. And like a lot of guys, you know, I buy underwear every couple of presidential elections. It’s just not a thing that most dudes purchase with a great degree of frequency, but I actually did some research, and I said, “Yeah, I think this is the best underwear for me.” So I went on their website, and I bought like a whole bunch like 6, 8, 10, 20-pair on a bunch. A lot of underwear, a stack of underwear.

So they flagged me and they [inaudible 00:37:13] like, “This guy is a great customer. We need to put him in bucket one.” So here’s what happens, friends. I started getting an email from them every day. I was getting an email about buying underwear every single day. Now, nobody buys that much underwear, not even race car drivers. I mean especially after already buying a whole bunch of email like it’s gonna be a while before I’m ready to do that again, and so I unsubscribed, right? It wasn’t that they were a bad company. It wasn’t that they sent bad emails, the emails were actually kind of funny… It’s just that it’s just way too much, right? So in circumstances like these, you have to understand that people have a different relationship with your brands, and so that’s what I love about Thistle Farms as they said, “Okay, maybe you don’t want to get an email every day, maybe you only you’ll only want to hear from us once a quarter.” And if I would have had that option, I guarantee I’d still be on that list.

So they said, “Hey, you probably don’t want an underwear every day…” I don’t. “But we’ll send you an email about new products every 60 days.” I’m like, “Great, let’s do that. Let’s do that instead.” But that wasn’t an option, so it’s a late switch for me. I’m on their list, off list. I’m off the list because I had no options, okay? So if you have an unsubscriber, a) send better emails, but b) maybe the issue is you just need to give people more options. On a related point, if you have spam complaints, almost the same issue because essentially, what happens is they’re clicking the spam button other than, instead of I should say, instead of clicking unsubscribe.

And you probably know this, but I’ll repeat it anyway. It is very much better for you as a sender if people click unsubscribe as opposed to clicking spam. Which is why you should, in my estimation, at the bottom of many of your emails say, “If you are not finding value in this email…” or even better, “If you would like to change the frequency with which you receive this email please, please, please, please, click here to update your preferences.”

You want to give them an extremely obvious way to update their preferences with you so that the thing that they do not do is move their cursor up to the top of their email software and click Spam. Because when they do that, it hurts your deliverability and they start to greylist your domain name, things like that. You don’t want that. So be very overt, and very upfront, and very obvious about giving your subscribers an opportunity to change their email relationship with your company. Do not make them click Spam because that will not help you over the long haul.

We talked about the active ratio which is a group of fans, email recipients who really you can count on, right? They open almost every one. They click all the time. They’re your super fans. You want obviously more of those than fewer. If you don’t have very many, it’s probably because you’re failing the relevance test. That what you’re sending is not specific enough to sort of ring their bell so least segmentation is absolutely a best practice here. That’s the medicine to consider to start to send emails to smaller groups of people about a more specific topic. The other thing you can think about here is a reengagement campaign where you send an email to everybody that says, “Hey…” or maybe to people who don’t open, “Would you still like to receive our emails? And if so, click here.” And even better yet, “Click here to tell us what you’d like to get from us,” or “How often would you like to get email from us?”

This kind of reengagement campaign can have a lot of great results on your program because you can renew interest that stirs up people. And it’s also a natural list cleansing opportunity because if you say to your list, people who haven’t opened in a while, “Hey, do you still want to get this email?” And they don’t respond, then the chances are they’re not coming back, right? There’s a truth in the email marketing which is if somebody hasn’t opened the last 10 emails, the chances of then opening the 11th email if it’s the same thing is not good. It’s not good, and it is fine. And it fine, it is perfectly fine to have a smaller email list. Keeping your list clean, meaning you’re sending to people who you know want your email is better than sending more emails to people even though you know that most of them don’t care, okay? So list hygiene and that kind of list cleansing through reengagement is absolutely a good idea.

If people aren’t doing what you want them to do after the click, right? So they get the email, they open the email, and they click the email like, “Yes, all these things are working.” But then you get to the website, and they don’t do what you want them to do, that’s probably a couple of issues. Either the content isn’t aligned between the email and what happens on the webpage, or the call-to-action is misleading like they think this is gonna happen when they click this button or this link, and then something else happens, or you need a better website or landing page, right? You should actually be using the same kind of A/B testing principles to make sure that the landing page works for them as well, okay? So you just want to make sure that all those things are tied together in a sequence.

And I want to ask this question in a poll because I’m just really fascinated to know how often this is happening today. How often do you create specific landing pages for your emails? And before you vote, let me explain what I mean here. That you build a webpage, and the only purpose of that webpage is to backstop your email. If you have an email that you send and you just click a link to some webpage that already exist on your site, that’s a different thing. That’s just a link to a webpage. I mean, you build a webpage, you build a landing page solely for the purpose of something behind a link in your email. Make sense? How often does that happen for you? Just curious.

We are polling. Okay, so not as often as you might think. We’ve got only a handful of folks, 15% who do it usually or every time. So ponder that. If what you’re trying to do is ultimately create some sort of behavior that happens on the site, one of the ways to make that behavior occur may, in fact, be to create more customized landing pages that are more specific to the email itself. Something to ponder. A quick note on the scientific method, when we are testing in email, and we should always be testing in the email, and we should always be testing, we want to make sure that we’re doing a couple of things. First, you want to start with a hypothesis and write it down is the best thing to do, to literally write this down. You’ll be better off if you do that. Write it down and say, “If we change this call-to-action button, I believe that it will increase the click-through rate versus the control.” And the control is the emails that you usually send and the results that you usually get.

If we change this button, it will increase the click-through rate versus the control. You want to write down the hypothesis because then you can make sure that you’re testing that hypothesis instead of just trying some stuff, okay? Another note. My friend, Tom Webster, who I mentioned at the beginning of the webinar also says, “Great marketers seek to prove themselves wrong instead of trying to prove themselves right”. And that is exceptional advice. Third, ABT. Always be testing. I cannot create a scenario in my mind where it makes sense to not test every time you send an email. There is no rationale for not running a test with every email sent. Also, remember that smaller numbers will, by definition, create bigger variations in your results. So if your list is smaller if your segment is smaller, you’re gonna see bigger fluctuations in all of your metrics, open rate, click through rate, post-click rate, all of those things. You’re gonna see bigger fluctuation so just be careful about that.

Certainly, one of the ways you fight against confusing weather and climate is to look at your results over a longer period of time. And that is even more important when you have smaller numbers, to begin with, because you can see a 6%, 8%, 10% swing and you’re like, “Holy macro, that’s incredible.” But it may not be statistically valid. So just be cautious about smaller numbers. Email is not always gonna be perfect. Nobody is that good. But I know how to make you better. There are seven common email problems, nine email medicines that we’ve looked at today. If you know how to find your problems, and you know the medicine to fix them, and you know the process to test the options for those fixes, all you got to do is get started. And I hope you’ll do just that perhaps with the help of my friends at Emma.

We’ve got time for a few questions. Thank you for your kind of…I think we’ve got some great amazing questions. And I put these together before the webinar so we can get through most of these with time. And if we’ve got additional questions later, maybe we’ll try and answer these in a blog post or a follow-up webinar or phone conversation. So Karen asks, “I put together a faculty-staff newsletter and I have a hard time getting faculty to read it. Our staff members read are relatively low. I would appreciate any tips to better hook the faculty audience.”

So Karen is sending an email to two different groups of people, faculty and staff. Staff reads the email, faculty does not. Based on what we’ve learned today, what we would tell Karen is that you should segment your list. You should not have a faculty/staff newsletter. You should have a faculty newsletter and a staff newsletter because you can make each of those much more relevant if you do not combine the content for both of those groups into one email. Okay, Karen? That’s your answer. Two emails, not one.

Jacqueline asks, “Beautiful image-rich marketing messaging emails versus plain-text personal emails when to use which?” She’s working with potential university students and their families all the way through the admissions process. Well, I would tell you this, Jacqueline, I have made that switch myself. I used to send a lot more visual emails, and now I send a lot more emails that are essentially plain text, that are essentially letters or notes from me to my audience. That works, that sort of a plain text, a note from Jay Baer works, if the same person is sending it and the recipient knows who that person is.

So Jacqueline, if the people receiving your emails know who you are, they know Jacqueline, or they know your boss or whomever, then you can get away with that. But a personal note from somebody that you don’t know is not a personal note. It’s just creepy, right? It’s like a hostage letters. So that’s when you should do it. If you have that kind of recognition factor, it can work. I would still test it, but I would not be sending personal text-only, you know, from the desk of emails if people don’t know who you are. It’s just weird.

Mike asks, “My analysis of our email response shows that the most likely conversions are names that have been on the file for six months or less,” no surprises there. “Have you found any successful techniques for converting people who are on file for longer than a year to break out of their comfort zone, etc.?”

So what Mike is saying is that people who are newer to the list tend to perform better than people who are older on the list. Of course, that’s true. Because when you get on the email just like the beginning stages of dating, like “Man, it’s so great to spend time with this person. I can’t wait to go to the zoo again.” And the same thing was true with you, “I can’t wait to get another email from them.” And then over time, they’re like, “Man, I hope we don’t have to go to the zoo again.” And like, “Wow, I hope I don’t get another email from them.” It’s just the nature of all relationships at some level.

So, Mike, this is where you should be doing a couple of things, a) reconsider segmenting the list. Have a different email for people who are six months or newer, and a different email for people who older than six months and give them different things in the email based on the relationship status with you. And two, this is a good place for re-engagement campaign, to send that email and say, “Hey, our record show you’ve been on the list now for a year. We want to make sure that what we’re sending still meet your needs. Would you like to change your keens? Would you like to get different emails from us?” Just like Thistle Farms did, that would be a good time to launch that sort of re-engagement questionnaire, Mike.

Chris asks, “We have a client who is a habitual over sender, and it’s impacted the open rate dramatically. How can we retrain the existing list to not ignore the emails now that we have a better strategy?” So what Chris is saying here is they used to send a lot of emails, too many emails, and they open rate went down, down, down because people are sick of getting those emails. But now they have a new strategy to send less often and more relevant emails, how can you make sure that people know that that is the case?

Just like we talked about a minute ago with Mike, Chris, this is where you do the re-engagement campaign. You would literally fall on your sort. I’ve actually done this because I’ve made a couple of email strategy changes of my own. You send an email to the whole and just say, “Guys, look, we screwed up, and we sent too many emails, and you got sick of it, and we’re sorry, and we’re not doing that now. We got a whole new plan so make sure that you’re on the list. And if you want to get off the list entirely, that’s cool. We don’t blame you. But trust us, it’s a whole new day here.” So just like Domino’s Pizza said, “Hey, our pizza is terrible, but now it’s better.” Same idea with email, that can really, really work for you. I would send that.

Jocelyn asks, “What’s the optimal frequency for sending email newsletters?” I will tell you, Jocelyn, the same thing I tell everybody, both clients and friends and both in the context of email marketing, and social media and content marketing. The optimal time to send an email is when you have something worthwhile to say. That’s it. That’s the least, right? I mean, to say we have a weekly email don’t really make any sense because you’re just saying, “Well, we’re gonna send something every week whether it’s relevant or worthwhile or not.” Now, I should point out that in fact do have a weekly email so do as I say not as I do. But there is definitely some truth to this notion of, “Let’s send when we are ready to send. When we know that what we’re sending out is meritorious and worthy of attention,” that’s really the answer.

Mariana asks, “What do you think based on your Utility theory…” Utility is a bestselling book I wrote about being useful in your content marketing. “What do you think based on your Utility theory, what is the best way to increase open rates and click-throughs? What are the main factors that makes email content sticky?” It goes back to what I said earlier that relevancy is the killer app. Like nobody is saying, “Man, if I could just get more emails, that would make my day.”

So if you’re email is not performing, it’s probably not a good enough email. Like it doesn’t provide enough value. So maybe what you do is say, “Well, what could we give people via email that they would truly treasure?” What would they say, “Wow, I cannot believe they gave me this much value in this email?” That’s what you’re trying… that’s sort of the mentality that you’re trying to then send, right? They’re like, “Wow, I can’t believe how great this email is.” And if it’s not that, if it doesn’t pass that Mom Test, well, then you probably know what your answer is.

Jerry asks, “How can you build your email lists using social media?” Well, a couple of options, Jerry. One would be to do it directly with lead gen ads. You can purchase ads on Facebook, on Twitter, and I think on LinkedIn now, almost positive, where you can actually say, “Hey, we’ve got this new eBook, we’ve got a new eBook from Emma that we’re working on right now that you could just say, ‘I want this eBook,’” and, by the way, get on the email list too, and you can collect, harvest if you will, email addresses directly through the social media ad. So they don’t even click to go to your website, you just collect the email addresses inside the ad unit itself. Very easy to deal with and relatively affordable as well.

Second option would be the same premise but a click away. So you say, “We’ve got this amazing new webinar from Jay, or we’ve got this new eBook from Jay.” And you click to get that and it goes to a landing page. And on the landing page, you gate that asset and you say, “Hey, please give us your email address in order to get this webinar, in order to get this eBook.”  And then you collect the email addresses at that point. So you get to the same place, one is no clicks, one is one click. The pricing of those ads are a little different, but that’s how you do it.

Let’s see here. We got two more. Rosy asks, “We have different paintings every week that people can register for,” and each week she sends out upcoming paintings. She struggles with trying to make an email different from the last week’s email other than just the paintings that are on the schedule. “Is it important to make that email different?” So as I understand this and I’m projecting somewhat, maybe Rosy owns an art gallery and every week people get an email from her that says, “Here are the new paintings in the gallery,” something along those lines I think is what’s going on here.

So she asks, “Hey, should we sent different emails all the time or is it just like, “Here is this week’s paintings.” Well, I guess the real question is, does it work, right? If what you’re doing today which is the same email every week is working, well then who cares. Send the same email. I’m gonna suspect that’s probably not working because you took the time to send in a question, Rosy. So here’s what I would do. I would make that email more interesting on a regular basis. So each week, not only will I send them the new paintings but I would include one or two trivia questions about paints.

So like one of the things you guys may have seen in your life is like different colors of paint, you know, different reds and blues and yellows and greens are made out of… the way those colors are made is crazy. Like some reds are made out of like the dried skeletons of like this freaky Egyptian beetle. Like there’s all these weird stuff out there that we use for pigment. And so I would have a little paragraph at every email about a color that’s used in one of the paintings that week and I would say, “Okay, this painting includes cyan. Well, here’s where cyan comes from.” Things like that.

I would do weekly interviews with artists, and I would say, “Hey, this painting is from this person, here’s a little interview we did with her about her work and why she did this painting, etc.” So I would just up the interest level of the emails every week, and I think that will work better for you.

The last question today, and everybody thank you so much for being a part of this. We’ll send you the recording. We’ll send you a full eBook on the same topic as well. Thanks as always to my friends from Emma for having me. I hope you enjoyed this.

The last question is from last Matthew who says, “Jay, if you weren’t in business what other career would you have chosen?” Well, I sort of picked a career and then I switched to business. I’m older than Matthew thinks perhaps. I was originally in politics. I was a political campaign manager. That’s how I made my living for the first few years as a professional then I got out of that business. Thank God, and it was not business I’d want to be in right now as a matter of fact. And so I got involved in the internet way back in 1993 back when domain names were still free, is when I started in this business. 

But before then, before 1993, I was in politics. But if it wasn’t politics and it wasn’t marketing and speaking and writing books, I would be a game show host. So if somebody said to me, “Jay, what is the one job that you would do other than your job?” That’s an easy answer for me, I would host “The Price is Right.” If anything ever happens to Drew Carey, God forbid, or Drew Carey just decides, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” I am all-in on hosting “Price is Right.”

It’s my favorite game show, and I think I could do a good job at that. So that would be it. I guess my fallback job, Matthew, would be to run a competitive barbecue team. To travel in the country just making pulled pork and brisket, that seems like a pretty good gig as well.

Thanks so much, everybody. I appreciate you taking the time. Thanks to Emma. Good luck, and good email.

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