What Email Practices Have You Rethought Recently?

In this and past political seasons, one often-discussed topic is whether it’s OK for a candidate to change his stance on an issue.

If candidates change their opinion because their views and assumptions have truly changed and evolved over the years, then I would argue changing one’s views is a positive sign. It can show a willingness to change and evolve as they learn more – through facts, real-world use cases and personal experiences. On the other hand, changing your stance simply to get more votes -- or because that’s the way the wind is blowing -- is cowardly or calculating or both.

As I write this column, I hear an interesting story on NPR about the University of West Virginia, which took the counterintuitive step of selling alcohol at football games to reduce drinking and violence. What you say?

When the college started selling alcohol inside the stadium, combined with forbidding fans to leave and return to the stadium (thus eliminating underage fans from drinking outside and then coming back in ), drinking-induced issues declined.



"In 2010, we made 117 arrests on game days. In this past year, we only made 79. See, that’s almost a 35 percent reduction in arrests we made,” said Bob Roberts, West Virginia University police chief.

Now this is only a single sample at one college, so it remains to be seen if this antithetical approach will work at most colleges. But the important takeaway is that the school’s athletic director, Oliver Luck, was willing to think outside the box and try a potentially unconventional approach to solve a serious problem.

What does this have to do with email marketing? To encourage you with two ideas:

1.    To rethink virtually every aspect of your email program. Ask yourself why things are done a certain way. I often discover when meeting with email marketers that they often aren’t even sure why a particular approach is taken or process is used. Frequently, this is because they’ve inherited the email program from marketers no longer employed at the company -- and no one in the company knows or can remember why the particular approach was taken.

2.    Coupled with rethinking aspects of your program is the idea of stepping outside your normal comfort zone and perhaps testing a radical new approach. This doesn’t necessarily mean pushing the envelope so far you risk annoying subscribers and breaking their trust, but do check your old thinking at the door.

So what are we talking about? What are some examples of email programs, tactics and processes you may want to consider rethinking?

  • Pop-overs: These are not your older brother’s obnoxious pop-ups. Pop-overs, which are actually part of the code of the page they are on, are difficult for site visitors to block, but are generally viewed as less annoying than pop-ups – which are separate pages. But many marketers are finding that using pop-overs can lead to increases in opt-ins many times that of traditional opt-in forms.
  • Subject lines: Have you been using short subject lines with fewer than 50 characters for years because some blogger told you they had to be that short? Why not try 100+ -character subject lines for a change? Have you tried product-specific subject lines rather than one-size-fits-all generic approaches?
  • Sending Time: Have you fallen into a “send time trap” – always sending your emails at 4 a.m. local time? Have you tried sending on Sunday evenings -- or better yet, at different times for each individual recipient?
  • Inactives: Is your current reactivation program based on sending a couple of win-back emails with discounts to subscribers who have been inactive for 12 months? How about trying an early activation approach – putting subscribers into a “wake up” program after showing little-to-no engagement after three months of inactivity.

What email marketing tactics have you questioned, finding, perhaps to your surprise, that a very different approach led to a much greater result? I’d love to hear both your successes or failures -- and especially surprises -- in the comments section below.

Until next time, take it up a notch.

3 comments about "What Email Practices Have You Rethought Recently?".
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  1. Kurt Johansen from Johansen International, September 11, 2012 at 4:06 a.m.

    Loren, I think what you are really saying here is TEST. And undoubtedly that is a great way to determine what's working and what is not. My clients send out emails to people on their lists whom they know personally. The major corporate companies send out emails to lists whom they 'don't know' personally. This is always been a dilemma for me when seeking out new and innovative ways to email market. I have been saying in your posts for three years now, email marketing is about 1. The List 2. The Relationship and 3. The Offer. You see, I'm a fan and always will be of personalisation in the subject line and the start of the email. If you know someone use their name ! However, I am reading many studies and research saying don't personalise. But this research is often done on emails that were received from large corporates who don't know their recipients 'personally'. Nonetheless, I am going to give 'non-personalisation' a try and see how this affects all my statistics. And this is where I am again agreeing with another of your posts. Keep them coming. Regards Kurt Johansen (Australia)

  2. Katherine Raz from Signal, September 13, 2012 at 2:30 p.m.

    Speaking of personalization, there are other ways big companies can personalize emails rather than just saying, "Hi KURT --"

    When I get those emails I know it's an autofill. So it doesn't feel personal anyway.

    Instead, I like for larger companies and brands to tailor their email communications to my personal preferences. And have the technology behind them to be able to do so. If I purchased predominantly Mac products, start sending me the "Mac user" emails. If I live in Honolulu, don't send me the winter coats 50% off email.

    Segmentation is personalization when it comes to big brands with big lists. That's how to make it personal.

  3. Kurt Johansen from Johansen International, September 13, 2012 at 5:41 p.m.

    I totally agree Katherine that segmentation is also personalisation. The question large brands have is if they segment too much they miss out the spontaneous gift buying which may occur. Not everyone buys for themselves. This is where large brands fall down in my eyes. They send 'email brochures' out instead of using 'copy' in their emails. By using copy they could say, "Hi Katherine, I know you are in Honolulu and may not need a 50% off coat. But I'm sure you have a few friends State Side who'd love.... etc." To me this is personalisation and segmentation at it's best. But that takes effort to do email marketing this way. But as such may be missing out on sales.

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