Having sent over 500 million emails on behalf of our clients, people looking to grow their businesses frequently turn to us for email marketing questions and answers.
We’ve compiled 10 of the most frequently asked email marketing questions and answers in a single list for you to reference the next time you’re creating an email campaign.
1: What’s the point of email marketing?
Email marketing is a way of reaching many people at once to encourage them to do business with you. However, it’s important that email marketers keep their end goals in mind (sales, conversions, web traffic, etc.), and execute their strategy in a way that leads their subscribers to willingly complete the desired action. This approach builds audience trust through emails, thus increasing the sender’s credibility and getting that sender closer to their desired goal.
2: How do I grow my email subscriber list?
Email marketing is only as successful as the email list. A large email list doesn’t automatically equal success, though so make sure that you’re growing your list with the right people. If they’re not actively engaged with you or interested in what you have to say, your email marketing efforts will be for naught.
Your email list should include past, current and potential customers, friends, family, and past coworkers. From there, you can branch out to neighbors, acquaintances, and contacts from clubs and organizations. It’s also important that you give people plenty of opportunities to sign up for your email list through opt-in boxes on your website and blog.
3: How do I figure out what to write about?
If you’re not writing something that your audience cares about, you won’t get their attention, even if you do land the email in their inbox. The emails should be directly tied to the subject line and written in a short, consistent way that makes it quickly readable and easily digested.
Good content marketing like this is centered on your customers. Find out what problems they have and write about them. Learn about their habits and hobbies and pair your expertise with content that will strike a chord with them. Make sure that what you write is serving their interests, not your own agenda.
4: What are the best practices for email subject lines?
You have only 3-4 seconds before someone decides whether or not they are going to open your email, so it’s important to make an impact. Best practices for subject lines are debatable, especially when trying to compare different industries and topics. However, there are some ballpark best practices for subject lines that you can feel confident about following.
Fifty characters is generally a good, safe rule of thumb to follow. However, people have seen great success with subject lines over 70 characters and less than 49, so feel free to experiment. Other tactics that work well in subject lines include asking questions, numbered lists and personalization.
The best email subject lines tend to be specific, short and compelling. Set expectations up front and let the email content do the rest.
BONUS: How do I get more people to open my emails?
Getting your emails into an inbox is only half the battle. These nine pro tricks will definitely boost your email open rates in 2015.
5: What are the laws of email marketing?
As I mentioned above, it’s good to email people you personally know. However, some email lists might include people from bought lists or lead gen services (which you should generally avoid). We don’t recommend buying lists because there are laws in place to protect people from receiving certain types of unsolicited communications.
The CAN-SPAM Act spells out the rules for email marketers, whether their intentions are good or bad. If you’re sending emails for commercial use, you have to do the following:
- Include an unsubscribe method.
- Actually, unsubscribe someone when they request it, and do it in a timely manner.
- If sending for commercial uses, you need to include a physical address.
- While not explicitly banned, sending to people who have not opted in is discouraged.
6: What’s the best time and day to send emails?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions and one of the most debated. Ask 10 people, and you’ll get 10 different answers. Even some of my most trusted sources have differing opinions on the topic based on their data sets:
- Kissmetrics says early mornings and weekends … but also says those days/times are also the most likely to get you unsubscribes and bounces.
- Experian’s benchmark study says that 8 p.m. to midnight is optimal.
- Wordstream thinks that Thursday from 8-9 a.m. is best.
- MailChimp says that Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. are the surefire winners.
Needless to say, there are many right answers to this question. If you’re looking for a fairly safe bet, try Wednesday afternoons around 2 p.m. But every person, recipient and email list is different. Try different days and times and find what works best for your audience.
7: How often should I send emails to my customers?
The jury is not as undecided on this as they are on the best time and day to send emails. The optimal frequency to contact your customers is one to four times a month. This is the frequency we use for our customers, and our clients see great results with a twice-a-month schedule.
Once a month is fine for keeping your name in front of someone. Two-three times a month leaves enough time in between emails so you don’t become a nuisance. Obviously, four times a month gets you to a weekly consistency. Essentially, you can keep increasing your send frequency as much as you want, but be conscious of your open and unsubscribe rates. When your engagement starts to decline, you know you’ve taken it too far.
8: Email deliverability and email open rates: what do these mean?
These are two important email marketing metrics that should serve as the initial measure of your email marketing success.
Email deliverability rate (or acceptance rate) is the success rate of getting an email delivered to a person’s email address. To find out the deliverability rate of your email marketing, you simply take the number of emails delivered and divide it by the number that was sent.
Example: 2,000 emails sent, 1,987 delivered: 1987/2000 = 99% email deliverability
An email open rate is the percentage of people who opened the emails that ended up in inboxes. This is one of the more important metrics for email marketers because it has a huge impact on how their campaigns perform. If someone doesn’t open your email, they never even have the chance to engage with your content.
Ex. 1,987 emails delivered, 750 opened: 750/1987 = 40% open rate
9: What’s a good email open rate?
Similar to the best day/time to send an email, this question can also be a bit slippery to nail down. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. Even if two people in the same industry sent the same email at the same time with the same content, they could have very different open rates due to factors like list quality and personal relationship. In short, there’s no definite answer to this question.
Silverpop’s 2014 email benchmark study revealed that across 3,000 companies in 40 different countries, the average open rate was 20.2 percent. Typically if you’re getting 15-25 percent email open rates, you’re up to industry standards. Over 30 percent and you’re killing it.
But remember, a lot of industries fall below the 20 percent mark. Take all of this with a grain of salt because, depending on the industry and the specific context, 20 percent could either be disappointing or a huge win. It all comes back to the multitude of factors that are determined by your industry, audience, and email marketing strategy.
Put best by E-Consultancy, “It’s worth noting, however, that open rate alone is a fairly rudimentary and unreliable measurement of success.” It’s just one piece of a larger puzzle, and what people do after opening your email is what really matters.
10: What other metrics should I track for email marketing?
Over time, you need to track your email marketing efforts alongside your larger goals, whether they’re direct sales (like B2C retail companies), website traffic and conversions (B2B or B2C with long sales cycles) or referral business.
However, there are four other foundational metrics that you should measure in order to get high email deliverability:
- Inbox rates: how many delivered emails actually made it into someone’s inbox (rather than their junk folder).
Bounce rates: the percentage of emails that were rejected by recipients’ mail servers.
Spam reports: how many times your emails were marked as junk mail/spam by recipients.
Unsubscribes: how many people unsubscribed from your emails.
There are no dumb questions when it comes to email marketing. As you now know, there are many variables that affect the success or failure of your email marketing program. While it’s nice to understand some of the industry standards and best practices for email marketing, the most important takeaway is that everyone’s stats will be different as a result of these variables.
Take all of this with a grain of salt, follow the best practices for email marketing when it comes to content and distribution and, most important of all, track everything to find out what works best for you.