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A 54% Open Rate Using Just an Unusual Subject Line

Testing subject lines can make a tremendous difference in the overall success of your email marketing campaigns.  Delivra’s email marketing software offers the ability to test 3 subject lines at once in a matters of minutes.

Some general subject line tips:

  • If you can personalize an email with someone’s location, it makes the email more likely to be opened.
  • Keep the subject line to 50 characters or less but more importantly, use a distinct preheader for all of your emails. We do this in all of our client and prospect emails.
  • Make sure your From Line uses a person or company that the recipient expects to receive email from – many times this will be a company’s name like Delivra or Cody from Delivra, not simply Cody.

Use engaging text – love them or hate them, something must be said for how effective the Buzzfeed/Upworthy type videos at increasing clickthrough, engagement and open rates.  I would recommend testing subject lines in a similar fashion to how you see Upworthy videos or Buzzfeed articles written.

To get started, you might start the headline with -

  • “This is the…”
  • “You won’t believe…”
  • “When you see…”
  • “What happens when…”

Also, try to think outside the box.  For example, our average open rate at Delivra hovers around 20-25%.

We had a 54% open rate recently when I used the following unusual subject line for a webinar invite.

‘Webinar Reminder #17A47D1′

It had a preheader that read –

“Those alphanumerics don’t mean anything, but your attendance does.”

In an inbox full of sameness, simply being unique can make all the difference.

Another example, we had a 38% open rate when we sent a post webinar survey.  The subject lines was -

“We know what you’re thinking…”

It had a preheader that read -

“Actually we don’t. Please fill out our content webinar survey.”

These types of subject lines may or may not work at your company.  The main thing is – test, test, test and test some more.  Unless you do, you will never know how large of difference a unique subject line and preheader can make in your email marketing efforts.

 

3 Ways to Keep Up with Your Content Strategy

Having a content strategy is already putting you a step ahead of a lot of marketing teams out there, but now that you’ve got it, how can you manage it? Let’s face it, no matter how organized we are, it can be difficult to find motivation and inspiration to write a piece of content, especially when you’re dishing it out on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. So I could tell you that having a content calendar will solve all of your problems, but this may not be the case. Sure, it’ll give you a plan, but when those goal dates start approaching, how can you keep up when you’ve got so much on your plate?

Here are a few suggestions from a fellow marketer/multiple-hat-wearer:

1. Brainstorm Often

By “brainstorm,” I don’t necessarily mean stop what you’re doing, close your eyes and start pondering ideas (but hey, if that works for you…). Get a pad a paper and make a map or web, scroll through your twitter and jot down some interesting facts, speak ideas out loud to yourself, perhaps in a nearby conference room.  But hey, if you’re going to be talking to yourself, why not talk to a friend? That leads me to my next suggestion.

2. Don’t Go It Alone

Keeping up with your content will be much easier if you get other members of your team involved. Every couple of months at Delivra, the marketing team chooses a topic (which relates to our pillars), we invite team members to the conference room for an hour and we throw ideas around. This not only gives us topics for blogs, web pages and other content, but it also gets non-marketing team members writing content as well – more content to add to that handy dandy calendar! Don’t be afraid to get creative! We once did a “Blog Windows” project where we wrote topics on the very windows of our office (with washable window marketers of course), inviting team members to come and write ideas when their magic light bulb came on; say after a good client conversation or a suggestion to support. While this didn’t get as many people writing full pieces of content, it did give the marketing team tons of great ideas.

3. Think Ahead

Don’t wait until the day or even the week your piece of content is due. Many types of content require months of prep; like webinars, whitepapers, case studies… and apparently tweets too. It’s easy to stay on top of these when you have a detailed plan, but what’s difficult is remembering the little things in between like blogs and emails. Again, this is more about what works for you – if you can sit down the day of and write a great email in 20 minutes, more power to you, friend. But in my opinion, it’s always wise to get the words down early to give yourself plenty of time for editing and perfecting. If you’re still struggling with your content strategy, Delivra can help! You can check out our 6 Steps to Creating Killer Content webinar series, as well as our content consulting service.

Don’t Be Afraid of Custom Solutions

At Delivra, we do more than deliver email. Allow me to explain.

In an increasingly commoditized industry, it’s becoming harder than ever before to differentiate between vendors. Who is the best at email, really?

In the process of selecting an ESP, you’ve done your homework, and you know there’s a checklist of standard features and functionality any email platform should provide. When you get right down to it, the differences across platforms are negligible: some have a glamorous UI that even DaVinci would laud; some have a panoply of automated reports that come straight to your inboxes (do you even have time to read them?!); and some are bare-bones-nuts-and-bolts. No extra service. Web-based, tier zero, support only.

Rest assured that, on all of the basics and essentials, we’ve got you covered. But, generally speaking, so does everyone else.

As a marketer tasked with growing your company’s bottom line, you have an obligation to your stakeholders to do as much as you can with LESS. (P.S. we get it, and we know you’ve shopped us. It’s okay.)

Here’s what we don’t talk about quite as often. If an ESP is telling you they can in fact brew your dark roast to perfection, drop your kids off to daycare early every day, have dinner on the table by 7:00 pm sharp, do your board presentation prep, ensure that your day runs seamlessly, and otherwise solve world hunger, well…. you have been duped.

We’ve featured many client success stories on our website over the past year, and if you’ve been following all of the cool developments here at Delivra, you know we are passionate about helping marketing technologists (that’s you!) become more successful. Sometimes, it’s not about doing more, or doing everything, better. It’s about finding the sweet spot; the 20% of your email marketing program that delivers 80% of the results. In the client success department, our goal is to help you extend your impact straight into that captive and fruitful 20% (go, Pareto!), and the solutions we recommend are tailored. Not pre-canned. Custom. A word that gives some marketers heartburn, but we’re not afraid to hang our hat on it. Every client is unique, and our goal is to spend enough time getting to know you and your business that we can tell you what’s essential, and what might be cool to try, but might not be worth your time or money. We’re really pragmatists and data scientists at heart.

Ultimately, most ESP’s will have most of the features you are looking for. What you get at Delivra is a team of passionate, and knowledgeable employees who are committed to helping you do email better. Your ESP is nothing without the strategy behind it, and this is our world. Let’s talk, preferably over some dark roast.

Testing Doesn’t Work for Crappy Marketers

Some marketers say testing isn’t effective. They say, “Look, I’ve tried testing and I haven’t seen any results. I haven’t seen any reason to spend staff time, effort, thought, etc. on testing. Sure, it works for other companies – I’ve seen those case studies, but my list is different.”

If you have heard someone say that, you are (un)lucky enough to know a crabby, crappy marketer.

“Cody,” you might shout, “Though I am not one of the aforementioned marketers, don’t be mean! They might be good marketers with a unique list that can’t be helped via testing.”

Nay! For everyone’s list can be continuously improved via testing (says I).

How did these crabby, crappy marketers become so pessimistic?

Perhaps our crappy marketer did this:

One day, they read a case study that showed a 50% increase in opens for Company X. Company X simply changed their email send time from early morning to overnight, and saw the dramatic increase. So crappy marketer gets an idea – “I always send my emails at the same time and same day,” he thinks.  “I will send to my list at a different time of day and likewise see a 50% increase in revenue.”

Sounds good, but his logic is flawed. For two reasons – in this case, the crappy marketer had simply skipped to the results portion of the original case study and didn’t read that Company X planned this test after several weeks of preliminary testing.  Before creating the test, they began the process by doing an analysis of their website traffic and found that most of the people interested in their product were young, phone owning, wealthy people – ie. their email subscribers likely check their phones as soon as they wake up.

But that wasn’t all the excellent Company X team did – instead of sending to their 2 million person list all at once for the first time, they decided to do a small segment a week ahead of the big test. They wanted to make sure the segment they sent to was statistically significant enough to matter, but not so significant that if it was a huge failure, their boss would be upset because they lost their company a year’s worth of their salary in one email.  They decided on sending at the new time to only 10% of their list this first time.  But of course, the crappy marketer skipped that preliminary test and also skipped the part in the case study where the preliminary results showed a tremendous increase in revenue for that 10% segment. Uh oh…

So after skipping the preliminary segment test, skipping the website traffic demographic review, and skipping off to work to send out their first test  (but of course this test only tests their luck since they had missed so many best practices), they set up their weekly email to go out at 6 am the following morning.

Upon waking up, their 400,000 older, less affable, and less tech-savvy email subscribers got up and went to the bathroom and took a shower. They had their morning coffee, read the newspaper and drove to work – having still not checked their email. Meanwhile, a dozen other marketing teams have been sending those subscribers even more email, and crappy marketer’s email is moving down the inbox – alone and hungry for opens. When crappy marketer comes in that morning (after checking his email first thing when he woke up), he found out that his email wasn’t doing very well. It seems his opens and clicks were down 75%  and most importantly, he has to explain to his boss why revenue is down 75% for the mailing. Drat! The lesson our crappy marketers learned from all of this — TESTING DOESN’T WORK!

Don’t be a crabby, crappy marketer. Follow best practices when testing. While not every test will result in a 50% increase in revenue, no single test is likely to cause a drastic revenue decrease. And one more thing – take heart. You have a real competitive advantage as there are crabby, crappy marketers hiding in plain sight in nearly every market that think testing doesn’t work on ‘their list.’

Have you tested your way to greatness? Tell us the story.

Neil’s Top Tweets: Volume 12

neils_top_tweetsHere are the latest top tweets from Delivra’s President and CEO, Neil Berman! Be sure to follow him for the latest digital marketing tips and trends: @nfberman

5/20: If you think about it, the #1 mobile app is email via @mediapost

5/12: 45 words to avoid in your email marketing subject lines via @Econsultancy

5/29: I agree! GE CMO Beth Comstock: B-to-B Marketers Can’t Sell if They Can’t Tell a Story

6/4: Apple’s App Store has 1.2M apps, that’s a crowded marketplace!

6/12: Mining for Gold: The Most Valuable Data Sources for the Email Marketer in Order of Importance

Don’t Be Afraid to Take Things Apart

The other night, right before a camping trip, one of my friends brought me an LED lantern that wasn’t working. “Can you fix this? I’ve replaced the batteries, but it still won’t work.”

Now, I have absolutely no electrical engineering experience. I look at schematics and wind up more confused than when I started. Watts, Volts, Parallel, Series… it’s all pretty much Greek to me.  But I love taking things apart, especially when things aren’t working.

So I did, and at each step, I’d check to see if something changed.  At one point, when the lamp was more apart than together, I tried it again, and voila – it worked. Sadly, though I was keeping track of each step, I couldn’t for the life of me begin to tell you what it was that fixed it.  But as I assembled it back together, I checked at each point to make sure it was still working (it was). About 2/3 of the way through, as I was adding a screw in the base, I ran a test and it didn’t work. When I eased the screw out, it worked. There was something about that screw that pinched or offset a connection which prevented the lantern from lighting.SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

At times, I think that’s a good allegory for how email deliverability works. You have to be willing to blow up what you’re currently doing. You have to start back at the baseline. You go back to the point where things work: where your emails are no longer being blocked or filtered, then progress until you encounter a problem.

It’s easy to say, “Just send emails that people want, to people who want them, and you won’t have a problem.”  In fact, that’s something I say all the time.  But as programs grow in size and complexity, things can become obscured. More business units and new partners are added and the whole thing starts to get fuzzy.

If you’re not keeping track of who came from where, or how emails from different sources are responding (opens, clicks, unsubs, complaints…) then you need to start deconstructing. Get back to where you were when you didn’t have a problem. Get back to where things work. Then add pieces back in until you find the problem.

It’s not always easy, but we’ve helped a number of organizations identify the problems with their programs over the years. Sometimes they don’t want to fix them and go elsewhere, believing someone has the magic beans that will overpower bad practices. But more often than not, it is a matter of, “I had no idea that was a problem,” and we’re able to bring them up to speed with best practices to improve their program.

If you’ve noticed that your emails are getting blocked, or worry that they might not be getting through to your audience, we can help identify problems and formulate a plan to get you back on track!

Worst Questions to Ask When Choosing an ESP

Earlier this year, one of my colleagues, Alex Johnson, wrote a great article on things to consider when switching email service providers. This article touched on some key elements to think about when looking at switching ESPs. However, it did not cover an important and fundamental aspect when researching email marketing partners which is – what questions should I even be asking?

Every day in the sales department we answer dozens of calls from eager marketing professionals looking at potentially partnering with a new email marketing software and services company. They all have different reasons for their search and many of them have unique challenges and goals. But regardless of what they’re in the market for and why, here are the top 5 worst questions we unfortunately hear on a daily basis. But don’t worry, we suggest the questions you SHOULD be asking instead, and they are the ones you really wanted the answers to.

Top 5 worst questions:

1. How much does it cost?

2. What features does your system have?

3. How many clients do you have?

4. Do you have support and training?

5. How user-friendly is your system?

These seem like perfectly fine, harmless questions, right? WRONG. Asking bad questions will get you bad answers and waste your time. Below are the questions you should be asking and the reasons why.

1. Instead of “How much does it cost?” you should be asking, “What value does your solution bring?”

HERE’S WHY: ESPs will typically give you answers like, “free,” “cheap,” “expensive,” or “it depends.” But how does this really help you? What you and the decision makers really care about is value. If I invest X dollars into this product or service, what is the average return I can expect to receive? What is the average return your current clients receive? I have yet to see an owner of a company choose a cheap or “free” product with no obvious return on investment over an expensive solution that has a proven ROI.

2. Instead of “What features does your system have?” you should be asking, “How will your technology help us reach our goals?”

questionHERE’S WHY: Comparing features of software systems side by side only gives you part of the overall picture. The same feature on two different systems can have a wildly different user experience. For example, split testing functionality with one ESP software tool may efficiently solve a challenge for ABC Company while making it much more difficult for XYZ Company to accomplish their goals because they use this feature much differently. The real information you care about is how effective will the product be at accomplishing your organization’s specific goals. This not only forces the ESP to stay focused on discussing things that matter to you and your organization, but at the same time assists in helping everyone involved to stay sharply focused on your goals. It is very easy to get side-tracked by new, shiny features that you’ll probably never use.

3. Instead of “How many clients do you have?” you should be asking, “How do most of your clients partner with your company?”

HERE’S WHY: Great companies might only have a few hundred extremely happy clients that have been chosen with care. A good ESP that cares about keeping its clients happy and successful in the long term should be asking you a lot of questions as well. Not every ESP is a perfect fit for every potential client. A company can’t be good at everything and if they say they are – you should run quickly in the opposite direction. Some ESPs are inexpensive and fairly easy to use as long as you don’t need much support or any additional services. Other ESPs take a full-service approach and serve as mini-marketing agencies for their clients’ email programs, providing email marketing professional services such as content creation, campaign development, design and execution.

4. Instead of “Do you have support and training?” you should be asking, “Walk me through the support and training resources you offer and how your clients utilize them.”

HERE’S WHY: I have yet to run across an ESP that doesn’t answer YES to the first question. What ESP isn’t going to at least claim to offer some level of support and training? What you really need to know and understand is if the level of support and training is going to be sufficient for you and your staff. For example, some ESPs only offer support via email and training is simply a pre-recorded video. If you’re not an expert in email marketing software, I don’t care how “user-friendly” a system claims to be – this just does not work for most users. You need to make sure the support and training options offered by an ESP fit the needs and skill level of your users.

5. Instead of “How user-friendly is your system?” you should be asking, “Who typically uses your software and what are their primary roles within an organization?”

HERE’S WHY: Since the dawn of software development, almost every software solution ever created claims to be the easiest to use in the universe. “User-friendly” is an over-used, relative term that depends solely on the skill level of – wait for it – the USER. Some users are highly skilled marketing professionals that have used cloud-based software tools since they were in college. Others have a hard time opening “the internet” on their computer. Other users may have the skills and expertise to use a system but simply don’t have the time. Make sure you know your users and their time constraints before pulling the trigger on your new ESP partner.

Choosing the right ESP is not always easy, but knowing the right questions to ask can sure make the process a lot less painful and lead you to the best available partner for you. Who knows – that may even be Delivra!

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