I sent an email to over 3,000 people. Of the 749 people who opened it, not a single one clicked through.
...That was the wake-up call.
I opened up our reports in MailChimp, and here's what I saw:
At Process Street, we're still in the early stages of developing our email marketing strategy, and I'm pretty new to marketing. I thought this was a good enough excuse for our metrics, but it turns out I just needed to change a few obvious things.
So, bear with me as I tear down the email marketing material I'm least proud of and show you what I changed to increase our average click-through by 842%. This is from an average of 0.26% to 2.45%.
1. Automatically Generated Blog Post Extract + CTA
This is the first kind of email we tried. It's automatically generated and sent out as soon as the blog post goes live. MailChimp pulls a certain amount of words from the start of the post and creates a pretty unpersuasive email. These are the stats from this particular campaign:
*Sad trombone sound*
While it's surprising that many people opened it, it's not surprising only three clicked through. Everything about this email is lazy, impersonal and uncompelling.
So, instead of clipping the text in an awkward place, we tried sending the entire blog post in an email to see what happened.
2. Automatically Generated Full Blog Post with No CTA
This email went down slightly better, but its purpose wasn't clear enough to get many people to click through. Considering that most people read the first few sentences of an email before skipping to the CTA, it's not shocking that a 1000 word email got these poor results:
Not much good at all. I was getting annoyed, so devoted a full day to reading other marketing emails, copywriting articles, and psychological theories on what makes people click. Here's a more recent email I wrote after this research...
3. Optimized Email with a Clear CTA
After learning a few golden rules of copywriting and ideas for effective structures from reading the emails of other marketers, this email performed much better.
How to Improve your Email Marketing Click-through Rates
I learned a lot from just reading marketing emails, but I'm the sort of person who really wants to know why something works. In this next section, I'm going to share with you what I found while researching email marketing best practices on my quest to not feel like I'm shooting emails into the void.
Write better subject lines
Assuming that 3% of everyone who opens the email clicks through, getting more people to actually open the email increases your chances of conversion.
Whether it's headlines, subject lines, opening hooks or Facebook ads, we all respond to the same language no matter what the format (or decade). Here's the proof, from the 1961 book by John Caples: Tested Advertising Methods:
If you read a lot of blog posts, news articles or pretty much anything that is designed to make you click it, these will be all too familiar to you.
Tested Advertising Methods is consistently recommended by pro copywriters. It's a great place to start since writing emails like these is essentially copywriting.
P.S: this book is now in the public domain. Grab a copy of the PDF from Archive.org!
Play on the Need for Closure
Need for closure (NFC), or the psychology of open loops is nothing new. If you've ever watched a TV show on the edge of your seat for hours on end, it's probably a technique you've been trapped by.
Buffer's Kevan Lee explains:
Open loops are rooted in psychology. We need closure in our lives, and when we don’t get this closure, we feel anxiety, which spurs us to get closure, to find out more, to keep reading.
Notice the 'Finish reading' call-to-action at the bottom of email 3. That's what I'm doing - I'm playing on the need we all have for closure, or to finish what we started.
Explain benefits, not features
Another classic copywriting axiom, explaining the benefits helps to answer the time-poor voice inside your reader's head screaming "why should I care?" Similar to writing headlines, the body of your email should be all about why the reader should bother.
What's in it for them? Explaining features forces the reader to imagine why what you're telling them is useful. It's better to tell them why before they can get confused since confused people don't buy (or click, in our case).
Make it easy to scan through
Everybody scans, says blogger Jeff Goins. When we read an email, we don't pick through it word for word. Instead, our eyes dart from sentence to sentence, frantically figuring out whether the content is worth devoting time to. You should make it easy for your reader to scan because that's what they're going to do anyway. You can do this in a few different ways.
- Bullet points
- Numbered lists
- Short paragraphs
- Conversational writing
The best phrases for bolding and listing are the problems and benefits. That way, your reader can relate to a problem and connect your solution to it instantly.
Use preview text properly
Preview text appears directly to the right of your subject line in your reader's inbox. Treat it like a subheader, and make it equally as compelling as your subject. As you can see in email 1 above, the preview text wasn't optimized properly and appeared as a link.
There's nothing compelling about a bare URL.
In email 2, you can see that the preview text told the reader nothing new and was basically a rephrased version of the subject.
The third email sells the benefits in the preview text with the line 'Reduce mistakes, increase productivity and track processes with ease'. Boom! That's what we want to do.
Here are some great uses of preview text I've come across:
Why do they work? They involve you, intrigue you, ask questions, and tell you what to expect inside the email.
Go put it into practice!
Well, I've shown you how I fixed my email marketing problems, now it's over to you. For me personally, learning marketing is a fascinating journey. With no formal training, I cross each bridge as I come to it and let you all know how I'm doing through our blog, and through the Process Street newsletter.
Have you implemented these strategies? Let me know about your successes in the comments.