This is a transcript from episode 65 of the OMGrowth podcast
I’m Lanie Lamarre and I would like to know where all my bobby pins go to die. I keep buying them, and they keep evaporating, and I’m not sure what happens in-between… but I know that I’m fresh-out of bobby pins and I’d love to an episode of Stranger Things dedicated to that.
Just as I would like to know what happens to my bobby pins, I’m sure you have equally puzzling concerns about your email marketing so today, we’re answering a bunch of the questions you have ask about why your email marketing is not working.
I like to say “the beginning is always a good place to start” (because it is!) and when it comes to improving your email marketing efforts, the beginning does not start with what YOU are doing, but with what the technology is doing.
Before you change anything with your approach to email marketing, it’s a good idea to look at your email deliverability. Email deliverability is a term used to describe the ability for an email that you send to reach an inbox to which you’re sending it.
So how do you know where your email deliverability status stands? You can use a deliverability audit service and I speak more in-depth about this in episode 41 of the podcast, which I will link in the shownotes.
You don’t need a perfect score to have good deliverability rates, either. For instance, I’m not especially concerned that the emails sent to domain @yandex.ru are not being delivered; I do not have any email subscribers who are registered with this domain and I don’t suspect I’m a big deal in Russia (which is what the top-level domain “.ru” represents). I’m not an Olympian and it is not worth the effort for me to seek out a perfect score among the Russian judges, and I encourage you to use the same type of discernment as you review your own results.
Since we already have a whole episode dedicated to this and there are a lot more questions to answer, let’s get cracking on some of the other concerns you may have about your email marketing.
“PEOPLE AREN’T CLICKING ON MY LINKS!”
If you aren’t satisfied with how many people are clicking through on the links you’re embedding in your emails, consider checking yourself. I’m not being sassy, either – I mean this literally: open your emails and look at your links.
- Is it obvious that these are links? Are they different colors and are they underlined differently from the rest of the text? Are your links visible, easy-to-find and frequently displayed?
- Are your calls-to-action (CTAs) strong, clear and compelling?
- Have you tested your links on desktop, mobile AND tablet to ensure they work on all devices and see if there’s anything that can be improved about those specific user experiences?
- Are you sending the same emails to your entire list? Would there be a benefit to further segmenting your list and changing the messaging within your emails to speak to your subscribers in a more direct, personalized manner, like we talked about in episode 63?
Another approach to improvement would be to completely disassociate yourself from your status as a marketer and approach your content with fresh eyes.
Examine your subject lines and pay attention to the first line of text that shows up in the inbox, and then ask yourself, “Would I click on that? Am I offering a compelling reason to open this email? Am I connecting with my audience in this subject line?”
If you aren’t sure, it may be worth testing different subject lines to really see what does and does not connect with your subscribers.
Sometimes called “A/B testing”, split-testing is the practice of publishing more than one version of a marketing asset in order to see and test what your audience responds best to. While it is sometimes used on websites and landing pages to test things like copy, positioning, colors or graphic usage, among other things, most email marketing service providers will allow you to also split-test your email subject lines and/or content to see if version A outperforms version B. (Hence the term A/B Testing.)
A word of warning before we get into how to split-test your email subject lines: this optimization strategy shouldn’t even be on your radar if you’re sending the email to less than 2000 email subscribers.
Why? Because that’s what you need to work with in order to begin seeing significant results. Think about it: version A of your email will go to 1000 subscribers while version B is going to another 1000 subscribers. Since we can no longer rely on open rates as an engagement metric (which we discussed in episode 61), we’ll have to focus on click-through rates, which is why you need at least 1000 people whose behaviors and preferences you’re measuring.
With these numbers, let’s say version A of your email has a click-through rate of 4.5%, which means that 45 people clicked through; meanwhile, version B has a click-through rate of 6.2%, which means that 62 people clicked through. While version B outperforms version A by 1.7%, we’re talking about just 17 people and the statistical relevance of these smaller sets of numbers makes it hard to gain reliable insights to make any real decisions about your marketing and results.
Hence why I suggest 2000 subscribers as the absolute minimum list size you want to be working with if you’re going to split-test your subject lines. If your list size is smaller than that, the optimization strategies you’d most benefit from are the ones that focus more on list growth and increasing engagement before you invest your time and effort into testing.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s talk about how you conduct a proper split-test. You’ll want to get downright scientific about what you’re testing and go into your test with a hypothesis. You remember when you did science experiments in school, right? You always started with a hypothesis you were setting out to prove or disprove.
Same deal with split-testing!
Examples are our friends so let’s use one and say we think that our subscribers would be more interested in our emails when we use emojis in the subject line. As such, for the next quarter, we are committing to split-testing each email we send over the next 3 months with subject lines that contain emojis versus ones that don’t.
“But Lanie,” you may be saying. “That’s a lot of email!” Yes, as per usual, you’re correct and this is a lot of email. But that’s the point: we want to have enough tests and results to make some accurate assessments about our hypothesis. You don’t “one-and-done” science, amirite?
If you want the breakdown of how to tag and track and see this data, check out my book Email Marketing Optimization – link for that is in the shownotes.
But once you wrap up your quarter and you’re doing your quarterly review, you’ll set some time aside to evaluate your results. It’s a good idea to start with your email marketing service analytics to see if you can identify any type of patterns or trends you’re seeing and to make note of anything that gets your attention, especially if there are specific email sets that stand out to you. Then, you can move onto your website analytics to see how each email subject behaves and interacts with your offers and content.
The example we just used was testing the use of emojis in the subject lines but there are a lot of other things you can test in your subject lines as well. Here are some other subject line-related content you can consider testing:
- The use of passive voice (like, “subject lines you’ll love”) versus active voice (like, “you’ll love these subject lines”);
- The use of personalization (like, “Lanie, open this now”) versus non-personalized (like, “You have to open this now”);
- The use of punctuation (like, “did you know this?” versus “I have to tell you this!”);
- The use of captions for urgency (like, “[TIME SENSITIVE] Check this out” versus “Today only: Check this out”);
- The use of intimate language (like, “See you tomorrow?”) versus professional language (like, “Sign up for tomorrow’s workshop”);
- The use of attention words such as “now”, “free”, and so on.
Keep in mind that I am not a copywriter and don’t pretend to be an expert at subject lines, although I do have awesome sauce recommendations in the shownotes if you’re looking for that type of help.
My goal in sharing these is to get your wheels turning with what is available for you to test. Another thing is that even though we’ve been talking about subject lines, there’s a whole lot more you can A/B test in your emails than just subject lines. You can also test that first line of preview text that shows up in the email header, which shows up in the inbox like this:
You can split-test the language or copy you’re using in your actual emails, or the colors of your links and buttons, or the types of images you’re using in the emails, and of course, as long as you’re getting enough traffic to make the results worth it, you can also split-test your automations and evergreen sequences as well.
The email optimization world is truly your oyster but a word of caution: stick to testing just one thing at a time to make sure you have boundaries as to what your results are and to ensure you have clear insights that you’re assessing.
And remember that your insights are meant to be parlayed. This means that you can and want to extend the trends and patterns you’re seeing with your emails into other areas. For instance, if you’re seeing something that works in your email subject lines, look at how that information can be applied to your social media captions, your sales copy, your advertising campaigns, and more. The better your data is about what your people engage with and how they interact with your content and offers, the easier it is to use that information to see better marketing results in other areas as well.
“PEOPLE ARE UNSUBSCRIBING. LIKE, A LOT!”
When you put so much work into growing your email list, it may not always FEEL like people unsubscribing from your email list is a good thing… but it can be. If people aren’t picking up what you’re throwing down or perhaps they’ve learned all they’re interested in from you, they’re really doing you a favor by removing themselves as someone who you have something useful to share with. After all, you ARE paying for these subscribers through your email marketing services fees and people aren’t like souvenirs that you have to hang on to.
Having said that, you don’t want to be seeing more than 2% of your list unsubscribing at a time on a regular basis because it typically means something isn’t right. If those unsubscribes are accompanied with SPAM complaints, this is especially important for you to look into; if people are reporting you as SPAM, this can impact your sender reputation and email deliverability.
Here are some areas you can look at to help minimize your unsubscribe rates and SPAM complaints, as well as some go-to questions to gain some insights on what exactly you could work on to improve this:
YOUR SUBSCRIPTION PROCESS
- How are people getting onto your list? Are they signing up to your offers intentionally or do you have people signing up who don’t really understand what they’re agreeing to receive from you?
- Is the messaging you’re using to get people on your list the same as what you use once those people are on your list, or could there be a “disconnect” between what your subscriber’s expectations are and what you actually deliver?
YOUR TAGGING PROCESS
- Are you segmenting your subscribers in a way that is providing them with emails and content relevant to the interests they have for being on your list?
- Is there a way you could be more precise with how you’re tagging your subscribers’ interests and motives for being on your list so that you can better match their needs with the emails you’re sending?
YOUR EMAIL DELIVERY
- If you have multiple automated email sequences running, is it possible that they overlap each other and you’re overwhelming your new subscribers and/or buyers with too many emails and conflicting promotions or messaging?
- If you’re running a specific promotion and you’re sending more emails than you usually do, it is normal to see your unsubscribe rates rise during this period. But are you giving people who are not interested in this specific promotion and/or offer the opportunity to opt-out of that series while still being able to stay on your email list and continue receiving correspondence after this promo?
- Also, consider reviewing the frequency of your email delivery. In this case, you’ll want to do a little cost-benefit analysis by not only focusing on your unsubscribe rates but looking at the number of sales and/or engagement that those same emails generated as well.
YOUR ACTUAL EMAIL CONTENT
- Similar to the last point, you don’t want to assess an email solely against its unsubscribe rates; you want to assess the overall performance, including click-throughs and sales or engagement generated. You’re seldom able to look at one metric in isolation and have it tell the whole story of your performance, and you will have to look at the “big picture” of what happened to understand if it’s the actual content of your emails that need to be changed.
- We spoke of split-testing your subject lines earlier but you can also split-test the actual types of content in your emails. Do your people respond better to video? Do they prefer long-form emails or shorter ones? Have you tested the use of GIFs and images versus text-only?
There’s a reason why almost every email marketing service integrates testing options into its platforms; all marketing is a constant wash-rinse-repeat process of testing, assessing and modifying how we’re promoting ourselves, our messages and our offers.
We’re often so focused on getting more traffic and more subscribers that we overlook the optimization opportunities we already have to build on our existing list. As such, improving our email marketing performance isn’t always our first priority, even though it can result in the biggest returns.
There’s a lot that goes into your own email marketing optimization and my new book Email Marketing Optimization covers a whole lot more of that ground if this is a priority for you.
But here’s the kicker: you’re never going to be done with any of this. All digital marketing is a wash-rinse-repeat process of publishing, tracking and improving, and then taking what you’ve learned to publish, track and improve, all over again.
While your email list is usually your most engaged traffic source, HOW engaged they are is completely up to you. You have a responsibility towards these lovely people who have put their trust and contact information in your hands.
Try to always keep in mind what a privilege it is for you to have and foster this relationship with your subscribers, and that like all relationships, you want to do everything you can to make the benefits mutual and to deliver those benefits as often as possible.
And if you want help, I have a book dedicated to that and dedicated to you – it’s true, you can read the dedication and see for yourself – because I’ve told you this before but you’re favorite. Talk soon!