Are You Sabotaging Your Own Email Blasts?

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Too many marketers are blasting emails at the wrong time, a February 13 Center for Media Research email brief reported (link unavailable). As a TrackMaven analysis of email traffic put it, “the majority of marketers are drawing from the same email marketing playbook.” As a result, they create their own problem, because the most popular times for blasting create traffic jams on the information superhighway. So any one email is far more likely to get lost, unnoticed, unopened and unclicked, among all the online noise. No wonder that “email open rates are hovering around 20 percent and click rates in the low 3 percent range on average.”

After sampling over 93,000 emails from over 2,000 mailing lists, TrackMaven found that more are sent between 11 AM and Noon on Thursdays. But emails from more patient marketers, who were willing to wait a few hours until 2 to 5 PM the same day, were far more effective. But timing’s only one way marketers are undermining their own email blasts. Another way is being in the wrong product or service category.

Email service provider Mailchimp looked at the free reports it generates for customers and found that some industry categories are far more effective than others, Among 46 product and service categories, there’s a 16.08 percent spread in open rate. That spread is almost equal to the total email open rate average. The disparity in click rate, 3.87 percent, is more than the total click rate average. The highest category’s open rate (Hobbies, with 29.92 percent) is more than double the lowest’s (Daily Deals and E-Coupons, 13.94 percent), and its click rate almost triple (5.77 vs. 1.9 percent). It helps a lot to be in a category that people are naturally interested in. Arts & Artists (28.85 percent open, 3.06 click) and Home & Garden (26.11 and 4.17) do almost as well as the Hobbies category, of which they’re subsets. Ironically, two categories that should know enough to do better – Marketing & Advertising (with 18.99 and 2.25 percent) and E-Commerce (17.9 and 2.7) – are among the losers.

Subject lines are another factor. Mailchimp says that subject lines that lead with the company name get substantially higher open rates, but some of their own percentages by category tend to refute this. Daily Deals & E-Coupon emails almost always lead with the company name yet have the substantially below-average open and click rates. Familiarity can breed contempt.

There are two things the subject line should definitely do. The first is tell people what the email’s about, because that’s what they’ll read to determine whether or not to open the email. The second is avoiding spam filters, which are set up to automatically banish certain words and techniques to the junk mail folder, where they’ll languish, unseen, forever:

  • Talking about lots of money
  • Using the word “breakthrough”
  • Obvious mortgage pitch
  • Claiming to be urgent
  • “Money-back guarantee”
  • “Click here!”
  • “Free”
  • “Buy now”
  • “Once in a lifetime opportunity”
  • Too many exclamation points!!!!!!
  • ALL CAPS (the visual equivalent of shouting)
  • Bright red or green colored fonts
  • Converting Microsoft Word files to HTML, which creates sloppy coding
  • Making you email more image than text. Spam filters can’t read images, so they assume the sender’s a spammer out to trick them

One piece of good news is that size doesn’t matter (company size, that is). While companies with 50 or more employees got the highest open and click rates – 24.13 and 3.15 percent respectively – companies with 1 to ten employees weren’t that far behind, with 22.58 percent of their emails opened and 3.13 percent clicked. The worst off were companies of 11 to 25, with 21.6 and 2.81 percent. The total spread of 2.53 percent in open rate and 0.34 percent in click rate is pretty narrow.

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