Why Email Still Rules
By Joanna Ellis, COO of The Literary Platform
Despite our on-going obsession with social media, email marketing is still the champ when it comes to conversion. You own the data, which means you can develop some pretty valuable insights into some of your most engaged customers. What’s more if someone has signed up to receive email from you they’ve made a pretty active commitment – something you did made them think you were worth it; and if recent thinking on ‘dark social’ is anything to go by, email remains one of the key ways that content is shared, it’s just that this sharing is not easily traceable.
Email marketing is a science and an art and there are lots of great resources out there that can help you craft and send emails to elicit better response rates, but here is our starter checklist for better email marketing.
1) Sign up – make it easy, make it tempting
Signing up for your newsletter should be easy, the option to do so should appear throughout your site, and signpost what people can expect, for example ‘sign up for weekly news’. Whilst it’s fine to ask subscribers for information don’t make it a requirement, an email address should be all they need to enter.
Make it possible to sign up for your newsletter in other places. Integrate your email sign up form into your Facebook page and collect emails at live events using handy tools such as Mailchimp’s Chimpadeedoo
2) The ‘Welcome’ email – the most important email of all
Welcome emails have 50-60% open rate, far higher than subsequent emails. Get off to a good start by rolling in an offer or popular content into an automated ‘Welcome’ message to new subscribers.
3) Optimise, Optimise, OPTIMISE!
In plain English this means thinking hard about how, and when, your email will appear in someone’s inbox.
Accessing email is one of the key activities carried out on mobile and 41% of email is now opened on mobile devices, so make sure your emails are mobile friendly or prepare to be dismissed.
The ‘From’ line should be human sounding – who wants to open an email from random a string of letters and numbers?!
The ‘Subject’ line should be short, descriptive and, of course, tempting. Let your customers know what’s inside and avoid over the top claims – ‘FREE’ is a known culprit – lest you end up in email purgatory: the spam folder. When it comes to length most email browsers cut off after 50 characters, or 35 when viewed on mobile, so anything after that will not be visible.
There is no blanket rule for the best day or time to send an email. Tuesdays and Thursdays are busiest in terms of email volume and there’s a noticeable drop off at weekends. The periods with the highest open and click through rates are 8 and 9 am (before the real work starts), 3 and 4pm (when people have done some work post-lunch and turn to reviewing email), and 8pm (post dinner, personal admin). This is really broad brush stuff and the data from your own campaigns will be the best guide to what works for your subscribers. If you have a large overseas subscriber base bear timezones in mind.
4) Segmentation and tailoring
Segmenting your email list basically means grouping your subscribers into groups that have similar traits in order to create more targeted emails. The thinking behind this is that the more relevant an email is to someone the more likely they are to engage i.e. open, click, share. You can segment in all sorts of ways, by subject, by geographical location, by behaviour e.g. most active, least active. Segmentation might be more effort than it’s worth if you have small subscriber base, but as your list grows review your data for patterns and build around those: how can you reward your most loyal customers? How can you re-kindle the love from your least active subscribers? Create targeted geographical campaigns around your events.
5) Finally, don’t be afraid to do something different
Everyone’s a publisher now, you really are a publisher, with great content at your disposal, so be creative! A weekly short story, poem or recipe; notes from the editor’s desk; a letter from an author; a round-up of articles that inspired you, the possibilities are endless.
A note about email newsletter services
There are some great value email newsletter services out there many of which are well suited to smaller organisations, or those just starting out with email marketing. Many of these have free options with additional capacity, support or functionality being bought as you grow in numbers and confidence.
Do some research to find out which service best suits your needs. Here are some of our favourites to get you started:
Mailchimp is free if you have fewer than 2000 subscribers and are sending fewer than 12,000 emails per month. It’s easy to use and the free service offers great value in terms of functionality and analytics, with more sophisticated functionality available with a paid plan. Furthermore it integrates really well with other services such as Eventbrite and Facebook and, whether you’re using it or not, Mailchimp has some great free resources on email marketing.
Mad Mimi is free if you have fewer than 2500 subscribers and are sending fewer than 12,500 emails per month. The free plan doesn’t include support, and there are fewer integrations than Mailchimp, but Mad Mimi is super-intuitive and easy to use. They too have some great free resources on email marketing.
Tiny Letter rules when it comes to pared back simplicity both for readers and those crafting the newsletter and it’s completely free. Adding images is a bit cranky so it’s best for text-only newsletters but it includes decent analytics, a really neat ‘Reply’ function which allows readers to reply directly to your newsletter, and offers the interesting option of being able to charge for your newsletter.
Joanna Ellis is the Chief Operating Officer at The Literary Platform Collective, an agency specialising in books and technology, who work with Faber Factory to deliver consumer engagement workshops for their publisher clients. The Literary Platform also runs an online magazine covering the intersection of books and technology and tweet from @thelitplatform.
©Joanna Ellis, September 2013