Maintaining strong open and click-through rates is the foundation of effective campaigns. They also play an increasingly important role in delivery, as ISPs use them to measure a message's relevance.
So if you fall off your game, you don't just feel it in your current campaign; softer delivery on your next campaigns could also result.
The list of best practices for creating
relevant emails is long and well-known to email professionals: Collect qualified subscribers. Allow subscribers to manage preferences. Maintain a predictable sending frequency so your subscribers
remember who you are and why they subscribed. Target content based on what you know about subscribers. Learn more about your subscribers so you can target even better; repeat as necessary.
If you're reading this column, you probably already think of your email file as a strategic communications asset, and not simply a tool or, worse, a "list." It represents the known universe
of people most likely to give you money, or follow an action that will compel someone else to give you money. It's not a mere "list" any more than Game 4 of the World Series is a mere "ball game."
And because it's a strategic asset, it touches your entire business, and is touched by your entire business. Think about how other touch points with your subscribers can be better leveraged
to increase how relevant your emails are, and ultimately lift your open and click-through rates:
Increase your out-of-inbox frequency.
Your messages will pull better if your brand matters more, so find ways to be more present in your subscribers' lives outside of the inbox. For example, consider online advertising with the objective
of simply lifting the relevance of your emails. Use what you know about your subscribers to target them across the web. Try Facebook ads inside of groups they commonly join. Use highly targeted search
ads. If your company has local or regional visibility, sponsor Little League teams in the Zip codes where your subscribers are clustered. Many marketing tactics that you may have dismissed because of
a low ROI based on direct sales might very well be justifiable if the return you seek is email-based, the next most direct path to revenues.
your email like a brand. You toil mightily to promote your company and your products. Why not treat your email messages the same way? If you have a recurring newsletter or promotional
campaign (or can develop one) run ads that promote them by name to build their equity. You'll not only grow your list with fresh subscribers; you'll nudge your current subscribers towards taking
action next time your message reaches their inbox.
Lift open rates through open dialogues. Get someone to talk to you and you have
empirical evidence that you are relevant to them. So open dialogues - lots of them. Use surveys to solicit opinions. Start with very short and anonymous ones to break the seal and get your subscribers
to speak up -- however softly -- by clicking a box or answering a question with a 1-word response. Couple them with sweepstakes as an incentive to respond. Giving away some product or prizes is a
small price to pay for hundreds or thousands of current subscribers who are now more engaged with your organization. Look also at Twitter, one of the most frictionless communication channels invented
so far. And while you're at it, take a hard look at your blog. Is it just another broadcast channel? How can you change it so that it's more interactive, knowing that every keyboard tap and mouse
click in your direction could translate into a higher open rate on your next email message?
Foreshadow your messages. Now that you've got
all this other media devoted (directly or indirectly) to your email messaging, use it to telegraph some of the upcoming message content. For example, instead of "Subscribe to our Newsletter" in your
Facebook ads or on your blog, go more dynamic and direct like "Watch for our newsletter on Tuesday with your 20% off pre-reg code. Subscribe here." Anticipation begets relevance.
your subscribers of the benefits associated with your messages as often as you can, and of the reason they elected to hear from you in the first place. If you're staying true to the mission of your
missives, the difference between whitelists and dark days may lie outside of the inbox altogether.