Dan Zarrella, a social media researcher and author, recently revealed in a Hubspot webinar a trove of statistical analysis on email marketing. Zarrella parsed 9.5 billion email sets from MailChimp, ran three focus groups, and did a survey to come to his conclusions about the best email marketing practices. Although Zarrella's insights were directed at "commercial" email, nonprofits can benefit just as well.
Here are some of Zarrella's tips about email marketing.
PERSONAL VS. BUSINESS AND TIMING
1. If you're worried about whether you should do something different depending on whether you are sending to a recipient's personal email inbox or their business inbox, put that worry on the shelf. Zarrella found that most people (88%) do not use separate email accounts for business and personal. In other words, there is almost no difference between "consumers" and "business people." People simply no longer segment their lives in that way.
2. We all worry about timing our emails just right. If asked what day would be best for marketing email, most of us would pick a weekday. Surprise! Turns out that the highest clickthrough rates are on the weekend...Saturday and Sunday. Who knew? Most unsubs (people unsubscrbing from your emails) happen on Monday and Tuesday.
3. Zarrella also cleared up the confusion about what time of day to send your emails. It turns out that emails sent between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. garner the highest click throughs. That is true no matter what day of the week it is.
SUBJECT LINE AND CONTENT TIPS
4. We always want to know which subject lines work best in our emails. Zarrella found that these words were clicked most often: posts, jobs, survey, week's, e-newsletter, issue, digest, bulleting and editions. (See the graph above for more.)
5. Did you realize that 80.8% of people now read their email on their smartphones? That is the insight from Zarella's extensive research. So, make sure your email looks good on mobile.
6. What about content? What content works best? Zarrella found that the more links you include in your email, the better the click through rate becomes, and the fewer unsubs that result. Use lots of links. Try linking in a variety of ways. Give the reader lots of opportunities to click through to your offer or content.
EMAIL RITUALS AND THE "HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH" QUESTION
7. Content that is perceived as valuable is often archived by recipients. Improve your chances of being archived for future reference by including reference material such as data, tools, facts, tips, etc.
8. Email readers establish rituals, it turns out. Play to that instinct by showing up on a certain schedule, and by using a subject line and sender line that "serializes" your information. Use words such as "weekly," "digest," and "Part 1." Zarella found from his focus groups that people tend to think of email as "homework" and set up a schedule to handle it. It matters less how often you email than that you are on a schedule. See the most highly clicked subject line words--they often imply continuity.
9. How much email is too much? Zarrella found that we shouldn't worry so much about sending email too often. Frequent is good. In fact, infrequent emails result in more unsubs. Besides that, if a reader is going to unsub, they will likely do it early on. Once your emails are beyond that point, high frequency doesn't seem to matter as long as your content is good and you send emails at an optimum time. Avoid, for instance, Mondays and Tuesdays since unsubs are high on those days.
DO THEY REALLY READ YOUR E-MAILS? AND WHAT IS THE ROI?
10. As your email list ages (that is the longer people are subscribers), the click through rate will go down. Don't be surprised. Try to find fresh subscribers on a regular basis since new subscribers click more than long time subscribers.
11. Wondering if your emails even get read? Zarrella's research showed that more than 70% of email readers will read most of your message. Comforting, yes?
12. Although people do not have separate email inboxes for commercial and personal emails, they do have junk mail boxes--58% of us do. The trick is to avoid being placed in those boxes. Zarrella found that we value emails from people we know (or recognize--a celebrity for instance), if we're expecting it, and when we feel we are part of an exclusive group.
13. Do those "forward this message" or "tweet this message" pleas work? No, says Zarrella. Most recipients do not forward or tweet the emails. What works better is to ask the recipient to follow you on FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
14. How do you measure your email effectiveness? Zarrella says, "Show me the money." The end result should be product purchased, action taken, donation given...whatever it is that you need the recipient to do. That means linking to landing pages that convert. Don't waste those links. Send readers to pages that will seal the deal.