Check ALL Your From Addresses. It amazes me how many companies still email from hideous email addresses. Open Sky mails from Member Alert with subject lines like “look what we have found for you.” (Hello Spam filter, let’s get cozy.) Pomegranate mails from “contact us@” and Stonewall Kitchen mails from “content.” I love Stonewall’s products but CONTENT? What the hell has she done for me lately? Garnet Hill mails from “Customer Service” and Uno Allo Volta mails from “CustServ” as if they can’t be bothered. Not to mention, I get dozens of emails each week from “community” (not to be confused with communicable.)
The majority of your email success happens outside the envelope: the “to” address, the “from” address, the subject line, the preview, the format, and the deliverability. Nail them all and your success rates will increase. Period.
Work Your Unsubscribes. It frosts my a** that so many companies try to bamboozle people into not unsubscribing with links that don’t work; unsubscribe pages that don’t load; no unsubscribe links at all; and so on. I’m NOT at all a fan of the Vermont Teddy Bear way of putting their unsubscribe link at the top of their emails (in a HOT spot no less) but I also think it’s important (and legally sound) to give people a way to opt out of your emails whenever they want. The key is to work your unsubscribe page.
What does that mean? It means offering a page that allows the user to change/update their email address (this is HUGE and not to be underestimated); change their frequency (if you can handle it); tell you the things that they are most interested in hearing about; and so on. You don’t want to force users to answer a census-style survey with eleventy bazillion questions but three or four good questions is just fine. Remember, a good unsubscribe page will save about half the people from bailing. Yes, 50%. So keep tweaking it.
Continue the Series. It floors me how many companies put their users through a 1-3 “series” email abandoned cart program and then just dump them. I know. I know. Many vendors recommend you only mail abandoners x times but that’s typically because they are on some sort of commission deal and want to cherry pick the easiest-to-convert names off the list without impacting their cookie-cutter deliverability. Here’s the thing. It’s 2015. People aren’t loading their carts because it’s a novelty like they were in the early 90’s. When a user adds something to their cart they are indicating interest and/or a propensity to buy. So, instead of just dumping them after they haven’t responded to your x emails over a week, put them into a separate bucket and mail them once a month till they buy or die. (You can mail them every 2 weeks, every 3 weeks, whatever. The point here is to keep contacting them as long as it’s lucrative for you to do so.) Incidentally, this “continue the series” advice is good for abandoned searches; PTP’s (page target programs); and so on.
Figure Out Your DTS (number of days to sale.) My buddy, Bill LaPierre, frequently uses his blog to profess his undying love to the Co-ops. (Just to be clear, he despises them. With. A. Passion.) These days, I feel the same way about most email providers. The thing about many (not all, but the majority) providers is that their recommendations about YOUR file are heavily influenced by their deliverability standards/issues/weaknesses. So, they’ll commonly tell people that after xx days if the user hasn’t responded to your offerings, you should suppress/delete them. (If you’re not immediately convinced, they’ll then use SPAM traps and all sort of other malarkey to scare you.) The thing about deleting/suppressing names is that it often makes sense in theory but it can be the kiss of death in practice.
For example, say you sell personal tax forms. The majority of your business will be done within a 4 month period. Each individual customer will buy from you once a year and that’s it. So, if someone has bought from you at the end of March or beginning of April (let’s face it, most people are last minute) and they don’t need to buy from you again till the following year, you have a year of “wasted” emails (unless, of course, you have something to sell them.) If you don’t get opens or clicks for x months, your provider will likely tell you to get rid of the “bad” names. This is NOT good. The names aren’t bad – they just don’t have anything to buy from you at this time. Suppressing them may make your stats look better but it’s not going to do anything for your sales long-term. The better thing to do is to figure out what your DTS (number of days to sale — how long it takes to get someone to buy) is and market toward it.
And yes, I realize the above example is extreme but you get the idea. Figuring out your DTS is important for all companies. Maybe you’re a B2C gift company who gets an average of one purchase a year at Christmastime. Perhaps you’re a B2B company and the majority of your business is government business, where there are intense fiscal buying cycles. Maybe you sell training to teachers or vitamins to body builders. It doesn’t really matter. Knowing your DTS will help you become a better marketer.
Collect More Email Addresses. I’ve written lots of tips and articles about how you can collect more email addresses using entrance and exit pops, catfishes, sidewinders, carthoppers and the like but today I’d like to talk to you about something else: all the ways that your prospects and customers are connecting with you that you are not keeping track of: live chat, customer service emails, inbound calls, surveys, old-school mail orders, and so on.
If you’re like most companies, chances are that you have lots of incoming email addresses (and fax numbers which are valuable if you’re in B2B – yes fax programs work!) that you’re not doing anything with. Take a few minutes to figure out all the places you’re capturing – or more important, should be capturing — email names. Then, develop a plan of attack. No, you shouldn’t just dump them into your spray-and-pray program – I mean, you can, and sometimes companies do, but instead, I would suggests you consider a series of trigger emails to onboard them to your file. (I highly recommend you run the newfound names against your file first – and you definitely need to run them against your unsubscribes too.)
Have a question or want to add one of your own email ideas? Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.