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9 Expert Tips to Improve Email Marketing Performance

Aiming to improve email marketing performance and see more results from your campaigns? You’ll see more payoff from every send, when you know exactly which levers to pull.

In our September Litmus Talks webinar “Embrace the Email Performance Trifecta and See Major Results” we chatted with experts from Constant Contact, HubSpot, and Mailchimp to hone in on the elements that have the most impact when it comes to reaching the inbox, encouraging consistent engagement and interpreting if your emails are resonating.

Read on for nine ways to improve your email performance, and catch all their insights on-demand with the full webinar.

1. Don’t rely on open rates as your engagement metric

Engagement is a key aspect of making it to the inbox. It signals that you are a legitimate sender subscribers want to hear from. But popular as they may be, open rates aren’t the email metric that accurately indicates that’s happening.

For starters, Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection now impacts more than 53% of email market share, and inflates open rates for those who’ve opted in. On top of that, Paxton Nicholas, Deliverability Ops Team Lead, HubSpot says many people don’t realize that open rates can be inflated by bots. (For the record, soft bounces and emails opened in preview mode should not impact opens).

Instead of relying on open rates, look at engagement markers that show the email actually got into the inbox and generated real human interaction. These include:

“Pay attention to the behavior that happened after it was opened–not just that it was opened,” says Jess Materna, Litmus’ Director of Product Marketing.

2. Prioritize quality over quantity

Email is a permission-based marketing channel. Subscribers have raised their hands and agreed to hear from you. When you start with that already-engaged audience, it will send more positive signals to your internet service provider (ISP) and help your email get delivered more often.

Instead of focusing on how many emails you’re sending, Dave Charest, Director, Small Business Success, Constant Contact says your ability to improve email marketing and campaign performance ultimately comes down to sending quality content that adds value to the subscriber.

This definition of value should be based on:

  • Where subscribers are in their customer journey
  • The nature of your business (and what that means for subscribers)
  • How often you can deliver real value in your message (which can be educational, inspirational, or revenue-related)
  • Adhering to the expectations you’ve set up front about how often subscribers will hear from you

3. Don’t underestimate the importance of inbox recognition

As inboxes get more cluttered, instant inbox recognition and credibility are critical. Consider implementing BIMI (short for Brand Indicators for Message Identification). BIMI allows you to display a sender logo alongside your messages in the inbox, when verified under a set of BIMI specifications. And, as a text record that lives on your servers, BIMI works right alongside SPF, DMARC, and DKIM to signal to email clients that you are you, and aids in email deliverability.

Subject lines tend to rise to the top of the list in conversations about ways to improve email marketing, but Charest says it’s important to remember that they’re just one element of a successful email. Your “From” name (combined with subscribers’ willingness to want to hear from you) is actually more important.

4. Know there’s not a silver bullet to email deliverability

Email deliverability is complex, and you have to do a lot of things right to set the foundation, says John Wolf, Director of Product Management, Mailchimp. Part of this requires that your domains are authenticated and that you’re following infrastructure best practices.  

Wondering if the number of IPs you use (or don’t) is impacting deliverability? Nicholas says there is no exact right number of IPs.  “If you’re sending and people are opening your emails, you are going to have a much better time sending from one IP. But, if you have very few engagements or a lot of negative engagement, throwing more IPs at the problem isn’t the answer.”

The real solution? Look at the source of your contacts, your lists, and cater to the people who really want to get your emails.

5. Don’t sweat landing in the promotions folder

You could take steps to recommend that subscribers move your email over to their primary inbox…but why? Depending on the nature of your business, people may want to process the type of email you send in the Promotions tab.

That’s when they are in the mindset to take action and buy something. If you can do more to encourage people to look for your email, want it and anticipate it, Charest says that’s more important than trying to game your way into a different folder. Form a plan to send consistently, at whatever cadence and frequency works for your business.

(You can also check where you’ll land in Gmail before you send with our Litmus Gmail Tabs check tool).

6. Take your data if you move ESPs

If you move ESPs, Nicholas says it’s critical to bring your data with you: “These influence your ability to filter and target the folks who are engaging. That’s key to boosting deliverability.”

Export data like:

  • Opens, clicks, replies, unsubscribes
  • Spam reports
  • Your opt-out list
  • Who is engaging, with which emails, when they last engaged

7. Clean your email lists quarterly

You should willingly remove unengaged subscribers from your list at least once a quarter, to protect your email deliverability. But how do you deal with internal stakeholders who think that a bigger list is better? Educate people on the downside of continuing to send to those who don’t respond.

Charest recommends this strategy:

  • Create dynamic segments. Show what your email campaigns get from your “most engaged” subscribers compared to the “least engaged”
  • Look at the ROI. In all likelihood, you’ll find that there’s not alot of money associated with reaching out to the disengage

What about stakeholders that want to use that first-party data in other marketing channels? If someone has unsubscribed from your lists, it’s likely not the best use of the resources required to try to market to them in other (pricier) channels.

8. Send more than one type of email

Promotional emails related to a sale or an offer may make sense for your business, but they can also be easily ignored if the timing isn’t right.

Balance your campaigns with non-promotional emails that can help subscribers use your product or service to solve a problem. This combination messaging can help keep your business top of mind and subscribers engaged without bombarding them with sales messages.

9. Add value to your emails with interactivity and personalization

Experiment with interactive email elements, tools like countdown timers, live polls, surveys, or similar functionality that invites participation. Abandoned cart emails and those that suggest items based on what subscribers bought before can also make their lives easier and add value to your emails.

Or, try animation and GIFs to add some life to your emails. (Follow these animated GIFs in email tips so you don’t slow down load times!)

Get more results from every email campaign

These nine tips can improve your email marketing from the perspective of your subscribers–and make every email campaign more impactful. Don’t forget to conduct email testing before you hit send so you know your email delivers the impression (and hopefully, the results) you intend.

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