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2013 was a big year for email.

On the sending side, companies embraced the idea of focusing on the individual to deliver emails that cut through the noise. Using customer actions as triggers, leveraging individual customer profile in emails, embracing mobile email templates and using automated email campaigns to build momentum were all hot last year.

Email on the receiving end was far from neglected either, with the success story that was Mailbox, lots of changes from Gmail and the continued growth of great tools like Yesware to track your individual emails, Boomerang to schedule reminders and emails and SaneBox to manage your email overload.

Here are 10 practical tips that made an impact in 2013. Make sure you put them to good use as part of your email marketing tactics in 2014.

1. What Would Amazon Do? Don’t make your customers think!

Making the user experience as simple as possible is an important step in maximizing your email marketing conversions. This means you need to sweat the details.

The quickest way to make an impact here is to ensure your call to action is congruent and easy to understand. Your email should be about one thing and it should be blazingly clear to the recipient what they should do next.

Amazon sends a campaign that provides the perfect example of a direct CTA. When you buy and read a book on your Kindle, Amazon will follow up with the following campaign:

amazon-review

The desired goal is obviously to get you to review a book you’ve purchased and, as you can see, there is nothing you can do except click through and review the book.

In fact, in the following variation, they go one step further and incorporate the initial step of the review process into the email itself by breaking up the CTA into five separate links you can click (note they have the same goal): amazon

Trump card: Review the emails you send consistently (think weekly newsletters, welcome / setup emails for a web product, cart abandonment campaigns) and ensure your calls to action are as direct and as simple as possible.

2. Send Emails Based On Specific User Actions

Tracking your customers’ actions gives you a lot of extra power when it comes to segmentation and triggers.

Gone are the days when collecting subscribers via one or two subscribe forms gave you everything you needed.

Sending emails based on an individual customer’s actions on your website or with your product can help you yield higher results. A study we did of over 8,000 campaigns revealed that trigger-based campaigns have nearly double the click rate of newsletters with an average click rate of 10% versus 6%.

Amongst many examples of user-triggered campaigns, OkCupid send a campaign that is truly one-to-one by tracking their customers’ actions. When a user receives a rating from another user, OkCupid send an email that looks like this:

okcupid

This level of segmentation simply can’t be achieved without tracking your customers’ actions and is a great example of triggered-email done well.

Trump card: Break down your customer lifecycle into its key events. From there you can use analytics software to help you determine which steps have the highest drop off and implement some email marketing campaigns to help you bridge the gap and drive more customers to take the next step in your funnel.

3. Understand the ‘real’ subject line

One of the most popular tips we published in 2013 was a focus on the way the email ‘Subject Line’ has become so much more than 160 characters.

Here’s how the ‘subject line’ actually looks in nearly all modern email clients, from Gmail to Mailbox:

mailbox

The focus here is that there are actually three components you can manipulate: the from name, the subject and the preview area itself.

how-your-email-recipients-will-see-it-in-gmail1

Trump cards: Testing subject lines is extremely powerful. Here are three things to focus on:

  1. Put the name of your company in the ‘from’ field: Rather than ‘Chris Hexton’, you could use ‘Chris from Vero’. Mentioning the name of your company can be good if your brand is recognisable and is always a great way of building consistency and trust. It keeps your customers from guessing. Lots of companies will email with ‘[Vero]‘ or similar in the subject line yourself but this is a waste of precious space!
  2. Move the position of ‘Open in your browser’: Lots of email marketing templates have the ‘View in your browser’ link at the top of the body. This means that it is generally the text that shows up in the ‘short preview’ section of mail clients.
  3. Use an H1 tag that has meaning: Never waste ‘headings’ in the body of your email. Make sure you include a H1 tag or bold text at the top of your email. Use the ‘short preview’ to your advantage.

4. Build Momentum To Increase Conversion

Sending just one email is not always enough. Instead, there are lots of reasons why you should send emails in series to maximise conversions: you get multiple chances to get in front of your recipients, you can share more great information and you can build trust before making a sale.

Being afraid to send multiple emails is crazy. As long as you meet these two criteria you should not fear using a series of emails to help you increase your conversions:

  1. You’ve asked your customers’ permission: they have an ongoing relationship with your business.
  2. You’re sending varied and specific content to each recipient with each different email in the series. Sending the same thing over-and-over is unlikely to yield quality results, just as is sending something irrelevant (e.g. women’s shoe specials) to the wrong audience (men).

An example we’ve pointed at before comes from Kareem over at SocialWOD. It’s a great example because Kareem was open and honest enough to share results and the results speak for themselves:

kareem-series-email

Imagine if Kareem had stopped at the first email?

Trump card: Put together a series of ~6 emails over 2-3 weeks that educate your customers. Use the final email to call your customer to action, to subscribe to your product or purchase your goods. Send this series to new customers or customers that put down their email for a resource.

5. Use Surveys To Increase Subscription Rates

One of the most successful ways to increase your email subscriber rates that we saw in 2013 was to use surveys.

Qualaroo makes it extremely simple to ask customers questions and collect customer email addresses. Using this across your site can lead to a surge in signups. Take the following simple questionnaire that not only helped us discover which content would be most relevant to our website visitors but to actually get their email addresses for attendance:

qualaroo-webinar

qualaroo-get-email

Jason Buzzell from the University of Alberta talked about the success they’ve seen with Qualaroo over on the KISSmetrics blog, increasing subscription rates by over 500%.

That’s impressive!

Trump card: Setup a simple survey on your home page or blog landing page that asks customers a question to get them engaged and then, for those who respond positively, asks for their email so you can follow-up.

6. Do NOT miss out on responsive emails (Litmus)

It’s fairly widely acknowledged that more and more customers are emailing using their mobile devices. Jordie Van Rijn shares some great statistics on mobile email marketing, highlighting that 48% of all email is now opened on a mobile device.

So, if you’re not using responsive email templates or plain text emails then your’e definitely not maximising your email potential. Litmus shared a case study from Tsubo that saw a 10% increase in conversions when they implemented a responsive email template that looked great across multiple email clients.

tsubo-example-responsive-email-template

There are lots of ways to get your hands on a quality template, along with lots of great guides to responsive email design from the guys at Litmus and Campaign Monitor.

Trump card: Most marketers only use a few base templates. Review your templates to ensure they are responsive and give the nearly 50% of customers who open your emails on their mobile a great experience!

7. Make customers FEEL good

Making customers feel good is an obvious way to build trust.

In 2013 we highlighted a series of amazing emails from the last few years that embrace this attitude to its core.

Take this great example from LinkedIn. Not only is the email action based but it is designed solely to make you feel good and reciprocate, encouraging engagement with the LinkedIn platform.

linkedin-endorsements

More ‘general’ examples are all about the copy. Make your customers feel good by writing something out of the box that grabs their attention. Take this classic example from Zappos:

zappos

Trump card: Re-write the copy for one of your emails and go crazy – do something differently to your usual style. Take tips from the best, such as Joanna Weibe over at CopyHackers.

8. Make Your Offers Creative Using Personalization

Too often it’s easy to fall into the habit of sending the same sorts of deals and offers again-and-again. It’s natural to repeat what works.

Unfortunately this means that we often miss out on global maxima. Trying ideas that are out of the box is what leads to extraordinary results.

Tzvi from Userlicious shared the success of a campaign that used personalised coupon codes based on the recipient’s company – for example, if you worked for Walmart your coupon code would have been WALMART, if you worked for Starbucks it would have been STARBUCKS and so on. Implementing a campaign like this is now easier than ever before and the results were outstanding.

userlicious

Tzvi determined that this campaign made an extra 35% over the standard email newsletters his client sent. How would you like to send a newsletter that made 35% more than last week?

Trump card: Use personalisation to tailor your next offer. Use the customer’s name, company, the size of their business or another specific metric to get your customers sharing. Another angle is to use this data to create niche segments, letting you send more without annoying your customers!

9. Track your conversions PROPERLY (Google)

Tracking your conversions using Google Analytics is a smart move – and it’s getting smarter. Google Analytics segmentation has recently undergone some dramatic changes that make it extremely powerful.

Combined with multi-channel attribution and attribution modelling you can find out an amazing amount about your marketing thanks to Google Analytics. Trying to answer questions such as “what sorts of emails did a customer receive before they signed up”, “do customers read our blog?” or “do customers that subscribe click on more newsletters?” is where Google Analytics shines.

Learning how to setup conversion tracking for your email marketing is extremely valuable. As an example, Mike Pantoliano shared his discovering for a client that they were undervaluing their Resource Center by as much as $26,000 – which is a pretty big number. final-report

Don’t undervalue your email marketing this year. Setup some quality multi-attribution goal tracking and make sure you suck every bit of juice out of your email campaigns that you can.

Trump card: Become familiar with the reports in Google Analytics and ask for help (feel free to email me) with anything you don’t understand.

Rocket into 2014

These tips should give you a focus for reviewing and revitalising your email campaigns this new year.

What else did you learn last year? What is one thing you’re already planning on trying this year?

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