Last month, we discussed branding—what it is, common mistakes and the importance of a cohesive design for all your print and digital marketing materials. Your e-mail newsletter is one of those, and its design, content and setup can affect your open rates. Want to avoid annoying your e-mail subscribers?
According to Litmus Software Inc.’s 2016 State of Email Report:
- The return on investment of e-mail marketing is 38 to 1 on every dollar invested.
- E-mail is the preferred method of communication.
- Open rates on mobile devices increased to 55%, while those of webmail and desktop decreased (to 26% and 19%, respectively).
What does this mean to you and what can you do about your e-mails? Follow these 11 best practices for better e-mail open rates and ways to avoid annoying your e-mail subscribers.
- Make sure your e-mail template has a consistent look with the rest of your marketing materials. (Find out how inconsistent marketing materials hurt your brand.) If you aren’t having your e-mail custom designed and are using a template provided by your e-mail service provider, be sure to at least match the colors from your brand palette and ask your designer to design a custom header image for your template. If you insert your logo yourself instead of using a custom header image, at least be sure to size it proportionately.
- Use a responsive e-mail design, which means the e-mail will be reader friendly in most browsers and programs on mobile devices without the recipient needing to pinch and pan. Pinching and panning results in the reader becoming frustrated and deleting the e-mail.
- Only add subscribers who’ve given you permission to be added to your list. It’s not only common courtesy (do you want to irritate a subscriber before they’ve even read your e-mail?), but is a requirement of international anti-spam laws.
- Use a recognizable name and e-mail address in the “from” when setting up your e-mail. If you have multiple staff members sending out e-mail newsletters, using a single e-mail address that doesn’t change (for example, info@) ensures the e-mail address won’t have to change if that employee leaves. It also could help with deliverability to their inbox because they probably already have that e-mail address in their address book.
- Take advantage of preview text. This is the area usually found in the top left corner. This text is what is shown in some e-mail programs before the subscriber opens the e-mail. It acts as a secondary subject line, a teaser. If you don’t use it, then the first few words in the e-mail will show up instead, which could be “View this in a browser” or the first words in the body of your e-mail—not the most desirable. Keep it short and sweet: aim for about 50 or fewer characters.
- Write an intriguing subject line. Using questions or numbers (“11 Ways to…”) have been shown to enhance open rates. The use of sentence case (capitalizing only the first word in the line, as opposed to the first letter of every word) has also been recommended. Make it relevant and short.
- Consider personalization where appropriate. If you begin your e-mail with a letter to the reader, for example, you could use “Dear [name].” Most e-mail service providers have their own unique code to achieve this that is easy to insert.
- Keep the content simple in terms of the number of columns and length. Single columns work best for not only the reader but for responsive design. Including links to continue reading on your website allows the reader to scan the e-mail easily and decide quickly what they want to read. It also gives you an additional opportunity to get them onto your website!
- Use alt tags for all images. When you insert an image, the e-mail service provider may prompt you to add alt text. Alt text is what shows when images are not displayed. It should be short, sweet and descriptive of the image.
- Always include unsubscribe and “forward to a friend” links. If a subscriber has lost interest, they need an easy way to opt out of your list, and this is usually required by anti-spam laws. On the other hand, if someone thinks a colleague might be interested in your message, don’t miss this opportunity.
- Test, test, test!
- Test each e-mail prior to sending to your list—not only because you inserted an image at too big of a size that may have wrecked your e-mail layout, but because mobile, webmail and desktop mail programs can change how they interpret e-mail code (which means how your e-mail looks).
- Test each e-mail for the likelihood it will be marked as spam (many e-mail service providers offer this as an option).
- Test open rates after sending your e-mail campaign by reviewing the day of the week and time of day you send e-mails to see when your audience is most engaged.