Boost Conversion and Deliverability with 3 Email Marketing Rules
Faces come and go in email marketing. Experienced marketers move up the ladder as newbies enter the industry. Reliable information about best practices is in constant demand, which is why Chad White wrote the book, Email Marketing Rules: How to wear a white hat, shoot straight, and win hearts.
White has researched email marketing for more than 10 years. As founder of the Retail Email Blog, he tracked close to 100,000 emails to monitor their content, design, frequencies, and tactics. Today, his research continues as Principal of Marketing Research at ExactTarget.
“The book is the culmination of all of those years trying to help people and putting all of my best wisdom into one package,” said White.
We had the opportunity to speak with White to learn what his new book has to offer email newbies and veterans. First, we had to know, did the world need another book about email marketing best practices?
Yes, said White, because best practices are misunderstood. What many people consider a “best practice” is often just a tactic. Books on the subject can be quickly dated after they are published.
“A lot of people would probably say that ‘responsive design’ is a best practice,” said White. “I walk it one step back from that and talk about how having your emails render and function properly across a variety of platforms is really the best practice.”
One of White’s goals when writing the book was to deliver a set of guidelines that were more timeless and evergreen than the latest buzzword in the industry. His book explains more than 100 rules of email marketing. We describe three of his favorites below.
Rule #11. Focus on maximizing the value of a subscriber, not on maximizing the results of a campaign.
Revenue is always important to retail email marketers. Their programs have to drive ROI or they’re out of a job. B2B email marketers typically need to generate sales leads for the same reason. Both groups have a central goal and they need to maximize results.
Creating a goal for your program is important, but it should not cloud your judgment on a campaign level, says White. Too many companies focus on maximizing revenue from every email campaign. The result is that lifetime customer value is sacrificed for short-term gains.
“We all know there are tricks and little tactics you can use that fool subscribers and generate artificial interest by being misleading or scandalous or offensive. … These kinds of tricks decrease trust and can lead to greater unsubscribes, more spam complaints, and lower response in the future,” said White.
In other words: think long-term. Do not be so obsessed with hitting this month’s goal for revenue that you sacrifice the quality of your list. Instead, focus on serving the subscribers as well as possible. Maximize overall results, not just campaign results.
This mindset will help you discover campaigns that increase subscriber satisfaction and engagement. Although these campaigns might not generate direct leads or revenue, they have impact, White says.
“They are campaigns that create a halo-effect that makes future campaigns more effective. You’re going to miss those opportunities if you’re just looking at things on a campaign-by-campaign basis.”
Rule #14. Don’t attach too much meaning to your open rates.
Open rates are easy to measure. They’re the most-tracked metric in email marketing, but they’re not used correctly, White says.
“I die a little every time I hear someone talking about how they gauge the success of a subject line test based on opens. That’s absolutely the wrong way to gauge the success of a subject line.”
Subject lines can prepare readers for the content of the email and prime them for conversion. That’s why marketers need to know the impact of a subject line on the overall goal of the campaign to truly gauge its results.
For example if the goal of the email is to sell a product, how did the subject line affect sales in the test? If the goal is to spur downloads, how did the subject line affect the conversion rate? Only by tracking all the way to conversion can you determine which subject line is the winner.
“Pay attention to open rates, they’re definitely important,” said White. “But don’t put too much stock in them.”
Rule #17. Accept that ESPs have relatively little control over the deliverability of your emails.
Email marketers need to take responsibility for their programs. If your delivery rates are in the dumps, it’s not your ESP’s fault, and it’s not the ISPs’ fault; it’s your fault, says White.
“ESPs can help you get out of trouble, but marketers are the ones who get themselves into trouble.”
The most important factor in your deliverability is your sender reputation. ISPs monitor the performance of your emails and the number of spam complaints and bounces they generate. If you want to improve your delivery rate, improve the quality of your list by reactivating dormant subscribers, removing invalid addresses, and resolving the issues that cause complaints. The goal is to have a high-quality list, not the biggest list on the block.
“A smaller list is something that most email marketers loathe the idea of, but that’s the path forward for some,” said White.
Stick to Your Rules
Tactics are part of email marketing. They help us get results week after week. But they will always evolve as technology and behaviors shift. We need a compass to keep our programs on the right path during times of change. That compass should be our principles and rules for email marketing – not our tactics.
You should sit down with your team to hammer out the rules of your email program. How will subscribers always be treated? How will the success of a campaign always be judged? When change floods the industry, a list like this will keep you on solid ground.
Takeaway: If you like these ideas and want to check out the other 107 solid marketing rules, Chad White’s book should be your next read. It’s great for Newbees. As for the Ninjas, it will certainly get your marketing juices flowing and remind you of what’s important when it comes to email marketing. Great work Chad!
Check it out on Amazon: Email Marketing Rules: How to wear a white hat, shoot straight, and win hearts.