Best practice: optimisation Published July 19, 2011 In my three previous blogs on email marketing best practice I have hopefully provided you with some of the email marketing basics, once you have all that stuff down you can start being creative and optimising the recipient experience. Engagement and re-engagement As we know ISPs reward engagement and punish complaints. To ensure consistent inbox placement, especially at high volumes, you will need to target people differently depending on their engagement levels and feel happy about dumping non-engaged addresses eventually. An easy way of doing this is splitting the openers and non-openers over the last 3 months then emailing the ones who don’t open some different content to wake them up. If they still aren’t opening after 6 months to a year (max) dump them. They are not going to open an email so you might as well stop emailing them. This will lessen the percentage of emails not getting opened so your reputation should improve. And, by waking up some of the non-openers you have increased your list of engaged people who are now more likely to spend money with you. The important thing is to make sure the CTAs in the email you send people are achievable compared to the rapport they have with you. If they don’t know you very well they are less likely to spend money than people who know you well. In the same way as you have to talk to a sales person before you will trust them enough to give them money for a service, use your email to increase the rapport until you have enough engagement to get them to spend. This high engagement will also be good for deliverability. If you keep hard selling to recipients, you will lose that rapport and they will start ignoring you, then while your list is still big, its value is lower because less people are actually engaged. Over time you may even be able to pick out the people who always open your emails – these would be ‘fans’ – it is likely that these people always load your images or even have their inbox set to automatically load them. These are the people you can send the really attractive image email to because they will always see them, you can encourage them to tell their friends and share these lovely looking emails with their social networks and get more new sign-ups. Finally, if you have ever bought a list and there are people on that list who have never opened an email after 6 months, drop them. If you have old list data that you have not emailed for a while, you may have to lose a big chunk of that too. Any address that has not been emailed for over 6 months stands a chance of being a spam trap. Anything over 2 years it’s best to drop them. Achievable Call to Actions While it would be nice, not every recipient will be inclined to get your email, open it, click through and give you money, this is something we just have to come to terms with. By using things like engagement metrics; time since last interaction with an email, how long they’ve been signed up and even other metrics from your website, account managers on the phone etc, you can get a good idea of what your rapport is with groups of recipients. You can then input this information into manageable categories, target recipients separately and make the call to action appropriate to that rapport. Subject line testing It is the subject line that gets the open. People decide what to do with the email and how much time they are willing to spend on it depending on what you say in the subject and how honest it is. Any decent ESP will give you the opportunity to add more than one subject line to a message and when the campaign is sent the subject lines are AB tested and you can see which one did the best at the end. Some ESPs will allow you tell the software to choose the best subject line part of the way through the delivery so you can add multiple subject lines, send your campaign and after a small chunk of the delivery has gone out, the ESP will see which subject line has got the most opens and send the rest of the delivery with that one. Preference centres If you have more than one thing to email people about, there is a chance that they will not want all of it. In these cases recipients are often presented with the choice of tolerating the irrelevant in order to still get the relevant, not all will do that and you could lose subscribers, whether they unsubscribe or just ignore you. The trick to helping your recipient engagement is to allow people to tell you what they want and can you do this with a preference centre. It is like a sign-up form but has additional options for them to choose from, normally check boxes and radio buttons. Different companies will have different preferences depending on their market. At Pure360 we generally have the EMM – our email newsletter, Events and Pure360 news and updates – like product updates and special notification etc. This is not an uncommon set-up. It is often the events and special update emails that cause the most losses to the newsletter list, so it is important to allow people to stop them while staying on the newsletter list. Charities that make a lot of their money from events often separate events out further by location. If it’s just a North West, South East, London event; some by event type, e.g.: runs or black tie dinner, etc. Some will create a special list per event so people can track it all the way to the end. You can go as far as you like with this as long as you are consistent and give people the opportunity to opt-out of all current and future emails if they so wish. I hope you found this useful, you can also check out my email best practice guide featuring extended information on all the topics covered in this series. The guide is coming soon.