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Email marketing (2 of 3): Expand your reach

October 26, 2015

Part 2: For intermediate marketers


Photo: Dafne Cholet (CC)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Email marketers ask people to subscribe to their lists and then contact them regularly (at least once a month). Beginners who haven’t done either of these tasks should visit Part 1.

At the intermediate level, we want to build a sustainable engine. Like blogs, I’ve seen too many email newsletters sputter and die within months. Don’t let that happen to your company’s precious marketing outreach.

I want you to work on these two tactics at the intermediate level: measuring open and click rates and creating an editorial calendar.

Regular readers know how much I care about tracking numbers. It’s important for you to know how effective your emails are, and tracking metrics should always be a part of your digital marketing.

Fortunately, most email providers have such metrics baked in. For example, I use MailChimp, a sponsor of my Y’all Connect annual conference, to send thousands of emails each month. I know that my emails usually have a 20 percent open rate, meaning that 20 percent of subscribers will open it at least once.

The industry average is 19 percent, so my goal is to beat that every time. Now you know exactly how many people bother to open your lovingly crafted email, and who they are.

(See why it’s not worth it to add subscribers without their consent? All you’ll get is a lousy open rate and possible fines.)

Your email might be simple and straightforward, with an image, some text and a button or link to click (you are providing a call to action, right?). Or your email might have multiple stories and links. Email metrics help you understand what subscribers click.

Understanding their behavior helps you provide better content, craft better pitches and sell more widgets. The higher your click rate, the more likely people are following your directives, whether to click to your site or elsewhere.

My click rate hovers between 1 and 2 percent, which leaves a lot of room for improvement with an industry average of 2.15 percent.

MailChimp has a great up-to-date table of benchmarks for open rates and click rates.

The click map is another tool to study user behavior.

click map

Click on the click map to see larger version.

You can improve open rates by experimenting with:

  • subject lines;
  • delivery time and day;
  • consistency in timing and frequency;
  • great content inside.

You can improve click rates by experimenting with:

  • wording of calls to action;
  • newsletter layout;
  • buttons (like the one at the end of this post);
  • teasers vs. full stories;
  • understanding what your audience craves.

I also track other email-related statistics. For example, how many people reading my latest post came via my email newsletter? How many sales and queries did I generate through this week’s newsletter?

Working with your email newsletter falls under my three-step plan for all aspects of digital marketing: 1. Experiment. 2. Measure. 3. Adjust. A spreadsheet, by the way, is an excellent way to record all of this data you’re tracking.

Long-term planning requires an editorial calendar. This tool helped me plan content at every media outlet I managed and will help you organize topics, writers and deadlines.

Brainstorm topics for future email newsletters, then organize them chronologically in a spreadsheet. Set aside a few hours to write your newsletters for the month or the quarter; batching can be a huge time-saver. Coordinate with colleagues who have roles in publishing the newsletter (writer, editor, photographer, designer, boss).

And coordinate your emails with your other marketing efforts: ads in traditional media, events, blog posts, social media campaigns, webinars and anything else.

A great editorial calendar keeps everyone in sync and allows for changes as marketing plans and audiences evolve. The hours invested in putting it together saves time and money down the road.

Download my free template to start building your own editorial calendar for email newsletters:

By working on metrics and an editorial calendar in advance, your email newsletter will grow in readership and engagement over the coming year. This is where you start to leave your competitors behind.

Parts 3 coming next week, with advanced tactics.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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