This article talks about six basic hacks that you can incorporate in your email campaigns to achieve better ROI from your Mass Emails. Very often it is said that the solution to the toughest of problems lies in the simplest means. Same can be said for your email campaigns too. Maximising ROI from your mass email campaign is not that tough if only you can keep certain hygienic things in your mind. But before we dwell into the hacks, a very common question-
Why are we still talking about Email Marketing in 2020?
Whenever I talk to anyone who is new to email marketing, more often than not, the first question is ‘Why email marketing? In a world where new channels of digital marketing like WhatsApp are grabbing eyeballs, why would marketers want to spend heavily on email marketing?
And the answer to this day, to this very second is very simple: it is one of the most cost-effective channels in digital marketing. Email marketing tends to render a 38:1 ROI.
However, the quantum of profit is totally contingent on your email marketing program.
Imagine you are the captain of a cricket team and you have the most economical bowler in the world in your team. You can only make the most of your strike bowler if you use him strategically-don’t use him in the middle overs, save his spell for the death overs or use him in the middle overs when you want to break a partnership!
Similarly, as the captain of your digital marketing program, you need to use emails wisely.
When I help any brand with their email program, I always ask, how do they want email marketing to add value to their business. Each brand would have different answers to this question. For some brands, especially the ones with eCommerce stores, no. of orders is an important metric, hence they focus on the click rates from the email campaigns. For some brands with a lot of retail stores, the open rate is a very important metric.
I have also met a few brands who have a sale on their website twice a month or once a month, for rest of the month they only want to keep their customers engaged with blog content so that they can target the folks who are engaging at the time of the sale!
Hence before designing your email marketing program, define your KPI. Then orient your email marketing program to meet the defined KPI(s).
According to a study by Litmus, 70% of the brands partaking in an email marketing program don’t have a 360 degree view of the ROI from emails!
This is mainly because emails are taken for granted owing to the fact that it’s one of the highest revenue-generating channels in email marketing. Hence if you are tracking your ROI deftly, you already have an edge over 70% of the world’s brands!
6 Hacks to Skyrocket your ROI from Mass Emails
Without further delay, let’s now have a look at a few basic hacks to get you the optimum revenue from your mass emails.
Let’s begin, shall we!
1) Get your Campaigns in the Inbox – Fix your Basics First
When I batted in the nets in my school days, one sentence that my cricket coach would keep reiterating was ‘Watch the ball!’. As a batsman, you can’t take your eyes off the ball from the point it is released from the bowler’s hand. Then comes the other tasks which will help you score runs like timing the ball, playing with a straight bat or finding the gaps! But first, you need to watch the ball and connect with the ball!
Have a look at this beautiful drive from the master 😉
Similarly, in email marketing, you need to get your campaign in the inbox first. According to a survey, 55% of the world’s emails are spam. You need to stand out among these emails with relevancy. You need to reach the inbox of your mailing list first. Nowadays spam filters, especially Gmail spam filters, learn and evolve. Gone are the days when spam filters would be only rule-based.
Maintain a clean mailing list
Your mailing list must be clean: there should be no spam trap ids, the users in your mailing list must be active on your e-comm store/retail store and they should also have a strong affinity to open emails irrespective of the brand from which the emails are sent!
This will ensure that spam filters are getting positive feedback from your email campaigns. Identifying which users would respond to your emails is the key.
Kindly don’t be Don Corleone when it comes to Emails 😛
Monitor your infrastructure
Additionally, ensure that your foundation is laid right: constantly monitor the reputation of your infrastructure. You must send your promotional emails and transactional emails from different IP pools. When it comes to Gmail, proactively monitor the postmaster metrics: there should be no delivery errors, authentication should be 100% and your IPs must not be orange/red.
Since the inception of spam, spam vs anti-spam has been a cat and mouse game.
To evade spam anti-spam communities have been consistently building authentication techniques thus ensuring that the end users don’t receive tampered content or any content from compromised IP pools.
It’s very crucial for your email servers to have all the authentication methods in place for better deliverability. There are 3 major authentication techniques which are widely used in the market.
The authentication methods are as follows:
Back in the days, there was only a fixed pool of IPs sending spam, hence the spam filters were rule-based which made sure that the emails from a certain pool of IPs were not accepted by the recipient servers.
Then spammers started using relay servers so that the sender IP changed to a different range and the emails could be accepted.
As a counter,anti-spam guys introduced SPF which made sure that the envelope domains were authenticated with an SPF TXT record, allowing them to send emails only from a defined pool of IPs present in the TXT record. In such cases if a relay is introduced, SPF fails.
However, this record isn’t taking any action…the emails would be delivered still and the user would have information if the SPF is failing/passing.
This was introduced so that an intruder can’t tamper the email messages in the pipeline. The email along with the private key of the DKIM record is encoded at the delivery server. Private key+email forms a digital signature which is decoded at the recipient server with a public key which is published in the DNS. The decoded email is matched with the incoming email and if the decoded email doesn’t match the received email, DKIM fails.
Even this record doesn’t take any action..it’s only informative.
This record was introduced to take the necessary actions if DKIM or SPF fails resulting in three use cases: Take no action/quarantine the emails/reject the emails.
This record isn’t a mandate but useful for BFSI brands wherein they would want both SPF and DKIM to pass. The prerequisite is:
- DKIM should pass on sender domain
- SPF should pass on envelope domain
Last but not the least, make sure your email template hasn’t landed in spam earlier or rendered a lot of spam complaints as Gmail assigns a negative signature to such templates and despite changing the sender domain and other headers, your campaigns would still land in spam.
When I am helping any brand with their email program, I ensure the following basic do’s and don’ts are followed while making the content, for better deliverability on Gmail ids :
- Don’t use domains blacklisted by google.
- Don’t use Malfunctional HTML tags.
- Don’t use any blacklisted email, contact no.
- Don’t send cached content. Gmail caches the contents which are marked as spam with a signature.
- Alt, Title & Map tags should be removed. Alt & Title tags often have generic keywords like Facebook, Instagram etc. which may bring down the overall score of your template. MAP tag is an old hack to enable clicks within certain parts of an image and generally causes emails to land in spam for Gmail users.
Hack 2: Reduce the Hops to the Landing Page
The end user’s journey to the landing page must be a seamless experience. I have witnessed many cases wherein there’s a drop in traffic owing to the wait time to load the landing page. This results in a direct loss in revenue.
This wait time could mainly be encountered when there are several hops before loading the landing page. The hops are mainly owing to a third party tracking application or third party applications which help in deep linking like branch.io.
To avert such hops, you would want direct integration with your link tracking service so that the extra hop is reduced.
You can closely monitor the wait time of all the hops by pasting your link URL on the following website :
Following is a snapshot of a Pingdom result-
You need to focus on those URLs which have a substantial wait time. The wait time is indicated by the yellow colour. For users who are navigating the page for the first time, the DNS wait time would be more as compared to users who already have browsed similar link tracking URLs as the local cache/ISP cache would be able to load the page.
It’s also important to know which part of the world you are sending your campaign to.
It’s recommended that the link tracking servers are located in the same region as the maximum users in your mailing list!
Hack 3: Reduce the Percentage of Images in your Template
I have come across many cases wherein due to the content being image-heavy, the banner image along with the CTA buttons consume a lot of time to load, resulting in a drop in clicks. This activity will render an open because while the user has opened the email and lost interest when the content was loading, the loading of the dotted image would have sent feedback to your open tracking server. Hence it’s very crucial to monitor your clicks.
There could be an underlying problem if the open percentage is high, but your click rate is low.
It’s advisable to have a 40:60 image: text ratio. Reducing the percentage of images in your content gives it the essence of transactional emails and you may end up hitting the primary tab considering other factors like end-user engagement.
Also ensuring the images are hosted in the same location as the maximum users in your mailing list, helps the images load quicker. Preferably the images should be hosted on a CDN.
Hack 4: Have an Email Focussed Sign-up Flow
If the sign-up can be a double opt-in process for email ids, you have already ensured that only genuine email ids are entering your mailing list. While this may be a little bit of a backdrop for eCommerce stores which encourage on the fly check-out or shopping, there could be other hacks implemented such as rewarding the users upon validating the email ids.
When I say email focussed sign-up, it need not be double opt-in always.
There are many brands which nurture the end-users to choose their preferences from the time they enter the CRM.
There’s this business newsletter website I signed up on and the welcome email had a ‘Manage your email preferences’ footer which led me to a customized landing page on which I could choose the type of newsletters I wanted to receive:
Hence with this kind of flow, you know your end-user preferences from Day 1!
It’s important to note that welcome emails serve 2 purposes:
- Building user affinity
- Filtering out invalid email ids
Hence the hard bounce threshold for blacklisting should be set to 1 for welcome emails i.e. if there’s a single hard bounce, your system should be able to blacklist the end-user, ensuring only valid email ids enter your mailing list.
Hack 5: Maintain a Steady Campaign Calendar
Your mass email campaign calendar shouldn’t be sporadic. You must nurture your end-users to receive emails at a particular time of the day and on particular days of the week.
This would improve the user experience and boost the affinity of the end-users.
If your campaign calendar is sporadic, the users won’t know when to expect your email campaign and a few of the emails can be missed.
Now with the world fast-moving to AI-based technologies, it’s important to consider the benefits of Send Time Optimization. While generally most Send Time Optimization models would be targeting users at the prefered time of opens, this may not be the ideal model for generating revenue. You would want to nudge your users when they tend to click rather than open because the revenue you are generating from emails is dependent on the clicks, not the opens!
Hack 6: Primary Inboxing
Primary inboxing is like a wildcard in your email marketing program.
First and foremost you need to understand if your end-users will have a positive response to primary inboxing. In a lot of cases, primary inboxing increases the no. of unsubs and spam complaints. While on any given day primary inboxing will increase your engagement, however, you need to ensure that you are hitting the primary tab of users who have an affinity to your brand.
If the users don’t have an affinity, primary inboxing isn’t the right hack for you!
However, if the users have an affinity, primary inboxing generally gives you a 2X jump in open rates and thus a boost in the number of clicks.
Well, it’s been a long read. Only these 6 basic hacks won’t help you earn from your email campaigns. There are so many hacks that just one article isn’t enough to cover them all. Like the spam filters in today’s world, you have to learn and evolve!
You can be ahead in the game only if you have started adopting the recent technologies like Gmail AMP, annotations & markup. Also, your system needs to be adept enough to support AI-based technologies. Send Time Optimization & Subject Line Optimization techniques really give you an edge in the mass email program.
However, before any hack, assign the highest priority to deliverability: the email must reach the end user’s inbox first!
Also when you are sending an email campaign, don’t think of the number of emails you are sending, think of how much you are spending! If you are sending 1M emails, you need to always remember that you are investing 600000$. (I have considered the rate/email to be 0.6$).
This will make sure that your focus is on the revenue from the email campaigns and you aren’t sending for the heck of sending. Always remember like time is money, so is an email!
Do you have some other hacks that have helped you maximize your ROI? Is there something that you would want me to cover next? Comment down below and I will be more than happy to take your requests forward.
Thank you for Reading!
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