When was the last time that you made improvements to your email marketing?

It doesn’t matter if you’re an email marketing veteran, or if you’re just getting started with your first newsletter – there is always room for improvement and knowing where to look is the first step.

I sat down with Dave Charest, content manager at Constant Contact, to see if he had any advice for small businesses looking to make improvements to their email marketing.

What are the most common areas people look to improve when it comes to email marketing?

The end goal for email marketing is generally to make more money for your business. Whether that’s through donations, getting more volunteers, or just selling more products and services. That’s the end goal.

But to get there, what you’re really talking about, with email marketing, is getting people to know, like, and trust you overtime. So when we get into the mechanics of it, there are three things that we look at in terms of what we want to improve: building your list, improving your open rates, and improving your click-throughs or actions that people take. Without any of that, you never get to that end goal.

What steps can people take to improve these areas of their email marketing?

When it comes to your list, you want to grow it because the more people you have on your list then the higher percentage you’ll have of people taking action and leading them to that goal.

There are a couple things you want to do. First, make sure that growing your list is a primary objective. That means making it prominent on your website, offering a reason why people should sign up for your email list, and then also letting them know what to expect. When you lay that stuff out all at the beginning, it makes the next step – which is improving open-rates – easier as you go along.

As far as open-rates, I like to boil that down to three things: relationships, relevancy, and a combination of value and curiosity. Open rates have a lot to do with relationships. The number one reason a person opens an email, is because they have a relationship with the person they are receiving the email from. One of the big things you need to do is make sure that if people sign up expecting to receive emails from your business, then you want to make sure the emails come from the name of your business. Or if they signed up expecting to receive them from an individual, then you want to make sure the person’s name is recognizable because that’s the first thing that they’re going to look for. If they don’t recognize the name, that’s already going to be moved to the trash.

The other is relevancy. Once they recognize the email they are going to look at the subject line and they’re going to ask “Is this something that is important to me?” You need to make sure you know your customers, know the things you’re talking about, and make sure the things you promised them when they signed up are in that subject line and get their attention.

The other thing is the value or curiosity. So if it’s something they really value or if it’s information they’re going to really want, or feel like they need, or just is something that peeks their interest – that increases the likelihood of them opening the email.

And then we had talked about click-throughs. Once they get inside the email, generally you want that person to take some kind of action. It might be something as simple as clicking through a link to read more, clicking to buy something, or even just sharing the email or getting them to hit reply and commenting back. You want to figure out what it is you want them to do and you want to build a case for why they should do that. Another good thing you should do – especially if it’s link-based – is build a benefit into the link text. So instead of “CLICK HERE!” it’s “Get Your Free Guide,” so that there’s a benefit to get them to want to click that.

So those things will help with improving those three things: list, open rates, and the actions that people take.

What one thing do you think people should focus on to improve their email marketing?

The big thing is always about focusing, just in general. So you should focus on focusing. That’s because a lot of the time we try to do too much with the communications we’re sending out. And just the nature of the internet – it’s quick, fast paced, and you want to make it easy for people to act on the information that you’re giving them. So the biggest thing is to focus.

There’s a book by Brian and Jeff Eisenberg called Waiting for Your Cat to Bark? They offer three questions that help with focusing on the action that you want people to take.

  • The first question is who are you trying to persuade to take the action?
  • Number two is what is the action that they want them to take?
  • And three: what does that person need in order to feel confident in taking that action?

So once you figure out who you’re talking to and what you want them to do, then all you want to put in there is the information that person needs in order to take the action. Everything else is insignificant and just having it there gets in the way. You want to streamline it and strip everything else away, so that all you have is the information that leads people to what they need to do.

When was the last time you made improvements to your email marketing? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!