Five Ways to Improve Your Response Rates

Improve Your Response Rates

Email marketers often wonder about benchmarks and how their open-up and click-through rates stack up against others. While it may sound appealing to be able to do a quick numerical comparison to assess the success of a campaign, this is usually not the most worthwhile exercise because average response rates vary so widely across different industries, organizations and types of campaigns. Instead, the more important focus should be on following a few key best practices to consistently improve the response rates for your particular situation and unique audience. Here are five quick tips to help you do just that.

Acquire Subscribers the Right Way

The most important "to-do" in any type of email marketing is to use double opt-in to ensure that you're getting each and every subscriber's explicit, prior permission for each of your email lists. Don't send marketing email to anyone who hasn't expressly consented to receive your messages, and don't purchase subscriber lists. Sending unsolicited email that puts the onus on the recipient to opt out is simply not worth the spam complaints, erosion of trust, damage to your organization's reputation and loss of the opportunity to engage that person as a subscriber – not to mention the potential legal liabilities. Remember, behind every subscriber count is a group of individual people, each of whom wants control over his or her inbox, a connection with the sender that's built on trust and respect, and content that's relevant and valuable. Include easy paths for people to subscribe to your email lists through your website, newsletter and social channels. Communicate exactly what your list is about, what type of messages the subscriber will receive and how often. Also offer a subscriber preference or profile page at sign-up, allowing your subscribers to specify in detail what types of messages they are interested in. This initial data will serve as a cornerstone for any future segmenting that you do. For additional encouragement and engagement, offer your subscribers specialized incentives, for example exclusive white papers, useful promotional items or discounts that are not available to non-subscribers. And remember to include refer-a-friend opportunities in all of your communication, which will allow your lists to grow virally.

Learn to Write Successful Subject Lines

The subject line is one of the most important factors determining whether your message will be opened, left to languish in the inbox or simply deleted. The subject line needs to be short and to-the-point, between 5-10 words and fewer than 50 characters. Make sure that it conveys a compelling reason for the subscriber to open the message. Offer an incentive or communicate a sense of urgency. However, be careful not to sound too promotional. Subject lines are often used for spam filtering, so avoid buzzwords, splashy sales phrases, exclamation marks, all-caps and other similar spelling gimmicks. When working with such a limited space, clarity is key. Personalization is also important. Make it sound as if the subject line is talking to the individual subscriber. Include the subscriber's name or perhaps location in the subject line to make it seem more personal and targeted. What's great about subject lines is that they are the easiest aspect of a message to test. Take advantage of A/B-split testing and see what resonates best with your target audience. Learn from your mistakes and implement positive outcomes into future campaigns. Writing successful subject lines is a craft that takes time to master.

Use Segmentation to Increase Relevancy and ROI

Segmenting your subscribers into subgroups based on specific, proven criteria and methods is essential to delivering the truly relevant messages that your subscribers want. Though it seems logical that anyone who subscribes – and stays subscribed – to your email list is interested in your messages, specificity based on data is critical to retain, engage and activate each subscriber. Primary segmentation parameters include demographic data, geographic location, personas and level of interaction with previous messages. Prioritize your segmentation efforts using the criteria that best fit your organizational and communication objectives. And remember, it's an evolutionary process, and you'll be refining and honing as you go, based on results. Beyond the basics of better open-up and click-through rates and decreased unsubscribes, using segmentation to bring relevant, relationship-building content to your subscribers can also boost your bottom line.

Send the Right Content at the Right Time with Triggers

Triggered campaigns are follow-up messages that are automatically sent out in response to specific subscriber behavior, like a click from a previous campaign message or some action on your website. For example, if a subscriber clicks through to your website and browses for a certain product or abandons an item in the shopping cart, you can trigger for a reminder message to be sent out after a certain amount of time has passed. Similarly, if a subscriber shows interest in a specific type of product, you can trigger future messages about similar products when applicable. Triggered campaigns take targeting a step further than the more generic subscriber preferences or profiles that you may already have in your database and offer you a glimpse into what the subscriber is interested in at any given time. This makes it much easier to deliver the right content at the right time when the subscriber is most receptive to act.

Maximize Deliverability by Keeping Your List Clean

Deliverability has become an increasingly important concept for email marketers and measures the rate at which your messages are actually delivered to subscribers' inboxes instead of being blocked by ISPs or spam filters. After all, it doesn't matter how compelling your content may be if your subscribers never even receive the messages. Much of deliverability and reputation management revolves around keeping your list clean – meaning, not only deleting invalid email addresses but pruning subscribers who may no longer be interested in your messages. Always include an easy one-click unsubscribe mechanism in every message that you send. If subscribers can't easily unsubscribe, they are much more likely to click the "Report as Spam" or "Junk" button in their email clients. Needless to say, this negatively affects your sender reputation with ISPs and can lead to blacklisting. Also make sure that your email list management software automatically removes any email addresses that bounce. Campaigns with too many bounces affect your ISP reputation in the same way as being reported as spam. Finally, take a close look at low-engagement subscribers. If a subscriber hasn't opened or clicked on any of your messages in a long time, remove them from your list or send them a message asking if they still want to be subscribed with a link to your subscriber preference or profile page. It's possible that you're simply not sending the right kind of messages.

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