Email marketing is a cost-effective way to reach customers and generate leads, particularly for small to medium sized businesses. Although perceived as an old-school method by some, and condemned as a declining form of communication by others, email still delivers the best return on investment of any marketing channel, and this ROI is easy to track. In addition, unlike social media, email ensures guaranteed delivery to contacts who have opted in, meaning that they have chosen to receive your marketing and are therefore more likely to be aware of your brand, product or service. According to GetResponse, the average click-through rate in Great Britain is just 2.66 percent, so here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re a small business looking to improve your email marketing.

Are you automating your email marketing?

Smaller businesses may be tempted to send their emails manually in order to avoid investing in expensive software, but it is well worth the expenditure to save yourself time and effort. Email marketing doesn’t cost much to get started, and you’ll find a huge variety of choices to establish a solution for your business’s needs – you can analyse metrics from previous campaigns, apply your branding consistently, and target specific audiences with ease. At Mackman, we use Mailchimp to design, send, and monitor our email campaigns for clients. However, there are so many options to choose from with individual benefits to each. Here are three popular email marketing platforms to get you started:

Mailchimp – as previously mentioned, Mailchimp is a full-service marketing platform that allows you to integrate third-party features. The price plans are flexible and there is a wealth of helpful documentation and tutorials on their website.

Campaigner – Although slightly more complex than Mailchimp, Campaigner boasts streamlined workflows, round-the-clock customer support and intuitive features.

HubSpot Marketing Hub – As hinted at by the name, HubSpot’s Marketing Hub incorporates a huge variety of features, including social media management.

Have you segmented your audience?

Lists of email contacts can be made up of a multitude of different individuals or businesses, all of whom will be interested in different topics. Blanket content can work for newsletters, for example, but identifying a specific need among your audience segments and targeting your emails accordingly can drastically increase your open and click-through rates. Often you can ask those who are signing up to segment themselves using a contact form on your website – for example, if you sell building supplies, you can create a field asking users to tick whether they’re an architect, a developer, a builder or a private individual. However, if you’re working from one long list without differentiating what messages you’re sending, sort your recipients by type, whether that be interest, purchase behaviour, geographic region or another factor, and change your copy accordingly.

Tailoring your content enables you to appeal to consumers at every step of the buying journey. This results in fewer unsubscribes, higher click-through, and increased engagement as your targeting is focused on sending users content they want to read.

What are you saying with your subject line?

The subject line of an email is the first thing that recipients read, and they can delete emails without reading any further. Making the subject line relevant to the content of your email and writing in a way that encourages people to click is essential. The best subject lines are:

  • Easy to understand
  • Short yet descriptive
  • Light on punctuation

There are different opinions about the use of emojis in subject lines – if it is appropriate for your business’s tone of voice then emojis could boost your open rate, while conversely, they could be seen as unprofessional or gimmicky. Another point to consider is that certain spam-related trigger words are known to cause issues. These could relegate your email to a recipient’s junk folder without it even getting read. Searching for these words online brings up exhaustive lists of terms to avoid, but the best guide is to exercise common sense – steer clear of superlatives and slang, such as ‘one hundred percent free’, ‘once in a lifetime’, ‘4U’, and most importantly, variations on the phrase ‘this is not spam’.

Again, the best way to work out how to strike a good balance is to test, test, test. Try writing two different subject lines for the same email and sending them out at once to see which fares better with your customers.

When are you sending your marketing emails?

Open and click-through rates vary depending on the time of day and day of the week. This may seem like a time-consuming exercise, but by taking into account these tips, you could easily boost the number of people who are reading your marketing emails. On average, the start of the week tends to be the best time to send campaigns when considering opens and clicks, yet the ratio of clicks to opens is best at the weekend. Again, use your judgement here depending on the subject of the email – if it contains a promotion or offer, it makes more sense to send it at the beginning of the week to ensure the maximum amount of time for customers to redeem it. Test this out for yourself by scheduling or manually sending campaigns on different days of the week or certain times of day and measuring the results.

Consider your own audience and who is in it. Are your customers predominantly working professionals? If so, digital marketers generally accept that the best times of day to send emails are around mid-morning (10AM) and just after lunch (1AM). However, many people check their personal inboxes when they get home from work at 6PM, making this another useful target. It’s hard to generalise about what specific times are most advantageous. This is why there are algorithms to work out the optimal slot to send emails built into most email marketing platforms.

Have you thought about mobile users?

According to Campaign Monitor, email opens on mobile devices grew 30% from 2010 to 2015. Emails display differently on the smaller screen size of mobile phones. There are a number of other factors to consider when making your emails mobile friendly. The touch interface means that mobile users face frustration if there are a lot of links crowded close together. Data restrictions could result in an image-heavy email loading slowly, by which time the recipient may have lost interest and deleted it. Here are some important points to consider:

  • 600-650 pixels is the optimum width for an email on a mobile device.
  • Boost the font size to make your copy legible. Increase the size of buttons to make them easier to tap.
  • Optimise your emails for load times, and use alt text in case your images don’t load correctly.
  • Keep your layout as straightforward as possible, i.e. one column only.
  • Make sure your email is concise and to the point with a clear call to action.

Are You Keeping Up To Date With Best Practice?

As with any digital marketing, it’s worth keeping up to date with any industry and cultural changes. Email marketing, along with the rest of digital marketing, is continually evolving and changing. Technology has come on leaps and bounds since basic text emails, we’re now used to seeing personalised content, countdown timers and more in our emails.

There has also been a cultural shift that’s been ongoing since GDPR regulations came in. Consumers expect their consent and privacy to be respected by only receiving things they signed up for and being able to opt out of your email list. With Apple’s iOS 15 update set to shake up email marketing, we think this trend will continue into the future.

If you’re not keeping up with how email marketing technology is evolving, or paying attention to the general mood and cultural changes your email marketing won’t be as effective as it could be.

Points to take away

Continual testing is key to effective email marketing. Accessing analytics and adjusting your campaigns accordingly can make the world of difference to your open rates. In addition, it provides evidence that your investment is paying off. Emails will continue to be a key channel for reaching out to customers for the foreseeable future; it is important that any forays you make into email marketing are measurable. This means that they can be replicated if successful and refined if not.