Send Emails Your Subscribers Actually Want to Read

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A recent study reinforces that personalization helps marketers' messages stand out in the inbox.

Marketers may inundate subscribers' inboxes with their missives, but that doesn't mean that their messages are popular among consumers.

According to the “What Consumers Want From Marketing Emails” study from TechnologyAdvice, 40% of the more than 1,300 U.S. adults surveyed ignore marketing emails. Of the 60% who do read them, only 16% do so on a regular basis.

“There's still a segment of the market that's just jaded to email,” says Zach Watson, author of the study's report and content manager for TechnologyAdvice, a business technology resource. “They think that everything that they receive from an email is spam.”

Personalization, he says, is what marketers need to prove these naysayers wrong. But given that 57% of marketing message readers read a quarter or less of all marketing emails received, marketers need to target subscribers before they even open a message; for example, by using the subject line. So, Watson says that it's particularly important for email marketers to be good copywriters and lure subscribers into interacting with the brand right from the get-go.

Still, personalization can be challenging for marketers. Nearly half of the marketing email readers (49.1%) say that they receive irrelevant emails every day. What's more, roughly one quarter believe that marketers could improve their email efforts by providing more informative content (24.2%) or personalized offers (23.9%).

To help drive personalization, and thus relevancy, Watson advises going back to basics and conducting subscriber surveys.

“[As marketers], we have so much data on our hands, [so] it's an easy trap to fall into to think that we know consumers better than they know themselves,” he says. “A key part of knowing your market, segmentation, personalization, and all of the things that we want to do comes from the customers themselves. There's no shame in sending out a survey and asking, ‘How are we doing?'”

Then again, personalization isn't the only way that marketers can get customers' attention. Promotions or discounts (38.9%) is the number one reason respondents read marketing emails, according to the report, followed by the desire to receive news or updates (26.2%). Although some marketers may express concern about over-discounting, Watson says that discounting can be an effective way to drive revenue, depending on the brand's positioning in the market. For instance, luxury brands may not need to depend on promotions and discounts as much as midmarket companies, he points out.

“I would be surprised if Tiffany was sending discounts...on a weekly basis,” he says.

Frequency is another area that can make or break email marketers' relationships with their subscribers. Nearly 44% of marketing email readers say businesses could improve their email efforts by sending less frequent emails. Although every company seems to have their own sending sweet spot, the best way to determine email frequency, Watson says, is to test—particularly through the use of marketing automation technology.

“You have to see where the threshold is,” he says.

For marketers looking to enhance their email marketing strategy, Watson recommends refraining from rushing click send. Instead, marketers should take time to analyze the research they've done on their consumers; such as by getting a better grasp of their personas and needs. As he puts it, “You need to be diligent upfront, have a detailed strategy, and then move toward execution.”

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