Turning the Page on Textbook Emails

Many marketers take comfort in tradition. They like to use common practices—even if they’re not always the best practices—and stick with what they know. This is especially true for time-honored channels like email. But if all marketers leverage the same best practices, then no one can ever really be the best. 

“The Stagnant State of Email”—a report by marketing analytics company TrackMaven that analyzes more than 93,000 emails—shows that there’s nothing wrong with rewriting a few textbook practices. Here are four small ways marketers can step out of their email comfort zones.

Mix it up

Nearly 20% of the emails analyzed were sent on a Thursday, and 10.78% were sent between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m., according to the study. Marketers like to stick with what works, says Sabel Harris, director and marketing maven for TrackMaven. But odds are, they’re not the only ones sending emails during these optimal times. So instead of grabbing customers’ attention, marketers end up creating a lot of noise, she notes.

To stand out from the crowd, marketers should vary their content and send times, Harris advises. For example, only 6% of the emails are sent on Saturdays or Sundays. according to the study. So send an educational email over the weekend, rather than a business email during the work week, to provide value even when customers aren’t in their nine-to-five mind-set, Harris explains.

“Try not to send your emails at the exact same time every day because then people become blind to that email,” she says. “Varying the times will help increase the open rates and click-through rates. Then it provides a longer-term value because it becomes less predictable.”

Ask questions, but be brief

Less than 5% of the emails analyzed contain question marks in their subject lines. However, customers may read the subject line as a question directed to them and feel inclined to answer the question and, ultimately, open the email, Harris says. She also encourages marketers to make their subject lines personal but brief. Marketers seem to be abiding by this rule of thumb as 59% of the sample emails had subject lines containing 50 characters or less.

“We’re getting a constant stream of email,” Harris says. “We need to go back to the foundation of email, which is building relationships, but also getting your point across. No one wants to read a 250-character subject line. People want to know what’s going to be in that email, [and] they want to know that it’s directed at them and for them.”

Avoid “spammy terms”

Including words like “help,” “percent off,” and “reminder,” in the subject line can send emails straight to the spam folder. Marketers seem to be dodging these traps for the most part. According to the study, just 0.73% of emails contained the word “help” in their subject lines. Likewise, only 0.21% included the word “reminder” and just 0.01% featured the words “percent off.”

“Any email marketer wants to avoid the spam inbox as much as they want to avoid people unsubscribing to their emails,” Harris says.

Center on your audience’s needs, not your own

Good email content, according to Harris, depends on your audience. If a company’s subscribers are mobile mavens, for instance, then it should cut down on the word count and ensure that all graphics are mobile friendly, she says. However, Harris says that it’s important to constantly test. But above all else, marketers must ensure that they’re offering consumers value instead of just chasing leads, she says.

“You never want to be that friend that just talks about themselves all the time,” Harris says. “You want to be the friend that they go to for advice, that they’re constantly looking to for value out of the conversation.”

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