Think Outside the Email: 6 Ways to Send More Relevant, Engaging Emails

February 21st, 2012 by Anthony Schneider

We’ve written recently about list building, mobile and social email as well as email design and production. But what can you do outside the email to create better, more effective email campaigns?

Here are 6 things we recommend that take place more or less outside the email but nonetheless work to increase the relevance of your email campaign and serve to increase clicks, reduce churn and reconnect with inactive or lost subscribers.

1. Survey Your Customers

The best way to find out what your email subscribers want is to ask them. Our emails would be better if they… The thing you like most about our emails is… Find out the answer by asking your subscribers. You can do a survey, engage fewer customers in a focus group, or just ask some of your smarter customers.

“A well-designed survey can provide invaluable information on what customers want and how to communicate with them most effectively,” says Sandy Bayer, founder of Bayer Consulting, a strategic research firm.  “A review of more than 100 separate market research projects across many industries found that more than 90% of the projects had a positive impact on their companies, with those initiated by senior management having the greatest benefit.”

Read about online surveys here.

2. Segment Email Lists

You don’t need to build a list to improve performance. Segment email lists, so your recipients receive more relevant messages, based on geographic location, job description, behavior or purchase history. According to eMarketer, 39% of marketers who segmented their email lists experienced higher open rates; 28% saw lower unsubscribe rates, and 24% reported increased revenue. Already segmenting? Try additional segmentation and benchmark to see if it spurs clicks or sales. Read our post on email segmentation.

3. Automate Emails

Use automation to tighten the one-to-one bond with your email recipients and increase email timeliness and relevance. For example, polls and surveys post-purchase or after signup do a great job of eliciting information and strengthening the tie with a subscriber or customer. Similarly, birthday emails and reminder emails are easy to do and give users personalized, useful content.

Platforms like LiveIntent and Movable Ink allow you to automate live content and real-time display advertising in your emails.

4. Create an Email Preference Center

Reduce churn, empower your subscribers and increase segmentation in one fell digital swoop with an email preference center (EPC) that allows users to dictate their own email preferences. Read all about it.

5. Use Video

No, 2012 will not be the year of streaming video in your email body (unless you’re using LiveClicker or a similar technology). However, online video has come of age. 71% of adults who go online watch video (PewInternet). And according to MediaPost, the number of marketers that plan to use video in email campaigns skyrocketed five times between 2009 and 2011.

Video adds visual flavor and intrigue and provides a seamless entry point to your brand or website. As of February 2011, YouTube has 490 million unique users worldwide per month, who spend a staggering 2.9 billion hours on the site each month. According to a slightly old (2009) Forrester report, incorporating video into emails improves clickthrough rates by 2 to 3 times. Old report but the song remains the same: we like clicking on intriguing or relevant videos. You don’t have to battle with the technology. A screenshot with a “play” button will likely serve your purposes, and you can setup a YouTube channel in minutes to host your videos.

6. Woo Inactives and Find Lost Subscribers

Before you buy a list of people you don’t know, rebuild your list from people you do.

Don’t treat your inactives as if they are active subscribers, and don’t give up on lost contacts. Reach out to your inactives with an email campaign designed especially for them. Maybe there’s a special offer, or one great new product or service you’re pretty sure they don’t know about. Keep it short, woo them, wow them… and keep them clicking. Reconnect with lost accounts by Email Change of Address (ECOA) services, like FreshAddress.

. . .

How will you know if it’s working? Measure increased sales, open rates and clicks. And let us know if you have success stories to share, questions, comments.