Starting TODAY I’m going to invite those who really bring knowledge,
integrity, and skill to ‘guest post’ on the site with two things in mind…
1. That you enjoy their article, interact with them in the comments,
and apply the material to your own business/marketing.
2. That you sign-up for/do/take action with whatever they’re doing 🙂
Today, we have the world famous Tim Bourquin! If you don’t know Tim,
you’ve never been to a Money Show/Traders Expo, you’ve never been
properly interviewed, and you are probably missing out on a TON of
(what I call) instant lead gen ROI with his AfterOffers.com
But he’s got a TON of knowledge and after you read the article, talk to
him about AfterOffers.com where your new leads are instantly
monetized…OK onto the article!
I’ve been doing email marketing in a variety of industries for 15 years now and tested every part of the email structure – everything from the “from” address to the unsubscribe link position and everything in between. I still don’t feel like an “expert” though, because there always seems to be just one more thing to test and evaluate.
In the beginning, I made changes and test things strictly from gut feel. If I thought something would work better, I’d just try it out and if it seemed like it resulted in more sales, it must have worked! That actually worked pretty well, but occasionally a hunch didn’t work out, but I had no hard data to really see what was going on with my email marketing.
Today even the least expensive email marketing services offer stats like click rate, open rate, and unsubscribe rate. There’s no excuse not to see exactly what is happening with each email you send and easily judge its success against previous or future emails you send to your list.
And yet I am constantly hearing email marketing “experts” say things that simply aren’t true about subject lines, from addresses and email body content. These things may have been true at some point years ago, but our testing at After Offers simply doesn’t prove them true anymore. These folks are either regurgitating old ideas because they aren’t in the email game anymore, or they just don’t realize that the old tired “truths” of email marketing have changed – and they can’t understand whey their open rates have plummeted.
So here are 5 email marketing ideas that are still being sold as truth – and are actually FALSE!
1. You should “line break” the body of your email every 4-5 words
FALSE. When was the last time you received an email from a friend or co-worker that had a line break every few words? Nothing screams, “I’M A MARKETING MESSAGE IN YOUR INBOX!” than an email that starts a new line every few words.
I’m not entirely sure where this started in the first place. I think early in the mobile days the phone browsers didn’t handle regular email well and they forced users to constantly scroll to the right to read your email on their mobile device. These days obviously mobile device browsers are smarter than that and will use the full screen to naturally line break your emails.
We’ve tested this dozens of times and emails that have natural line breaks wherever the browser puts them get higher click-rates than forced, short line emails. My guess is that it’s done so often by email marketers that people instantly recognize it as a newsletter and immediately tune out or go to their next email.
We even ignore the template areas in email marketing services that allow you to format your email for shorter lines. It just isn’t necessary anymore and it’s actually hurting your clicks and sales. You don’t write your regular emails to friends and colleagues so don’t do it on your newsletters either.
2. Email is the best place to describe the content or product.
FALSE. Your email message has one, singular, all-encompassing, nothing-else-matters, job: getting the recipient to click on the link. If you need four paragraphs to explain why the recipient should click on the link, you’re doing it wrong, and missing out on a huge number of clicks that you could be getting.
We all know that people have zero patience these days. I personally have -4 patience. Email is a notification tool – not a sales tool. Check that: you are selling something in the email – you’re selling the recipient on clicking the link. You are not selling the content or product itself.
We’re marketers – not information newsletter senders. If you’re sending a true newsletter – the job of that email is to include all the pertinent information in the email itself. But that’s not what we’re doing as email marketers.
Our testing has shown that the link in your email should be the second line of the email and no later than the third line of the email. This does two things:
1) Forces you to get to the damn point of why they should click and to be efficient with your wording you use
2) Trains your recipients that whenever they get an email from you, you want them to do one thing and one thing only: click on that link.
It takes practice to use fewer words than more, but it’s definitely something anyone can learn to do well. Now, I’m not talking about the lazy email marketer’s sick and twisted idea of this. We’ve all seen it:
You gotta see this!
[link to video content]
Shame, on you, lazy email marketer. That may work once – and only once. After that one time, you’ve used up your magic “click this link” potion and you’re going to need to put more work into your first two lines.
What I have seen work, when you absolutely, positively can’t convince the recipient why they should click on the link in one or two sentences, is something like this:
This morning I came across something that truly surprised me. I’ve seen this before but I never stopped to think about it until I saw it presented this way.
If you’re in a hurry, here’s the link: [link to content]
What struck me about this was, blah, blah, blah longer explanation of why they should click the link…
You can use the “if you’re in a hurry” tactic a lot – in fact it trains your recipients that all they really need to do is find that line and click the link immediately – once you’ve convinced them that the links you send are worth clicking!
Lately the email marketing trend has been to have longer emails with the link near the very bottom of the message. If that’s actually testing well and showing those marketers better click-through then it goes against every test I’ve ever done. Nothing is absolute – maybe those emails are for the “People Who Want To Read Long Emails” newsletter, but I bet it’s just because that’s what everyone else seems to be doing and no one is really testing it.
3. A nicely formatted html email newsletter with images is best
FALSE. When was the last time you got an email from a friend or co-worker that had a nice header image at the top along with nicely formatted graphical borders and images between each bullet point?
Plain text is still king. It’s as simple as that. Actually, there is one trick – making your email look like plain text but in html format so that the size and the font are what you want it to be. But it should look the exact same way whether or not images are loaded or not. Almost all browser-based email services (and desktop too) have image loading turned off by default. (Yes I know Gmail recently changed this, but you want to make your emails look readable everywhere)
We put a snippet of html at the beginning of every html email that says the text should be Arial and the font size 12pt.
Why? Because Arial, 12 point font tested best for clicks. Other than that, we use some bolding to highlight the links and a few key phrases, and double line breaks between paragraphs to break things up. But that’s it – an html email that reads like plain text works best.
4. Double opt-in is best.
FALSE. This will likely be the most controversial of the 5 points, but hear me out.
I’ll admit it. I’m a recovering double opt-in zealot. I used to be adamant that a modified double opt-in email list was the best way to go. In other words, my feeling was, “If the recipient can’t even be bothered to click on that very first email that gives them the content they wanted, what’s the point of having them on the list?”
But I’ve changed my mind based on our tests and how the behavior of our recipients is changing.
The “If the recipient can’t be bothered…” argument only works if you assume that your recipient actually glances at the sender and subject line of every message they get. That’s simply not happening.
These days the vast majority of people signing up for your email list are giving you their 2nd or 3rd or even 4th tier emails. You know – that Hotmail or Yahoo or Gmail address they maybe check once per day – more likely every couple of days.
That type of email is being checked like a Twitter stream. They are seeing your email only if it happens to be delivered around the time they are checking that “stream” of email. Sent yesterday or the day before? Forget it – they probably aren’t going to get that far and your email will just be deleted.
Think of your recipients email inbox as an actual river and your message is a boat. If they are standing by the riverside while a boat is going by, they’ll see it. If they aren’t by the river during that time, they won’t.
We found that double opt-in gives your recipients a single chance to be by the river when your email comes by. Single opt-in will give them multiple chances to be by the river and see your boat come by. When we used single opt-in our list was bigger, but I’m not concerned about the size of the list. The important point is that our open and click rate were higher too. People were missing emails, of course, but they were clicking when they were by the river and seeing our boat.
Most email services will automatically delete “hard bounce” emails anyway every 30 days, which solves the “what about bad emails” issue. We just clean our list out about every 6 months now instead of every year. If someone hasn’t clicked on any link we’ve sent in six months, we say good-bye and unsubscribe them. Remember, the single goal of my emails is to get the recipient to click and if they aren’t doing so in six months, then it’s time to show them the door.
Which leads us to a bonus myth:
4.5 Never send to your list more than once per week
FALSE. Once you think of your recipient’s inbox as the river of mail, can you see why this is false too? If you’re only putting your boat down the river once per week, what do you think the chance of them being by the riverside at that time?
I recommend sending to your list at least three times per week – even every other day if you have enough content, information and promotions to support that. It doesn’t mean send crap to your list just because you need to send them a message. It takes hard work to make each email you send worth opening and clicking. But do that hard work and you’ll find your clicks and sales going up as you increase the volume of email you send.
You’re unsubscribes will go up – but so will your sales. If you’d rather have no “unsubs” then just don’t email your list at all. Of course you’ll have no sales, but you’ll feel the warm glow of seeing your email list grow and grow for no purpose at all. (Yes that’s sarcasm.)
5. Don’t sell to your list too soon.
FALSE. Oh. My. Goodness. Bloggers and website owners love to talk themselves out of making money. Your list doesn’t hate when you want to sell them something. You know what your list hates? When you sell them something and they weren’t expecting it.
The more free content you give them, the more free content they will want. Set the tone right up front that, while you’re going to be giving them some great information, you’re a business and a business sells stuff.
You want to be loved and feel nothing but love from your list? Great, get comfortable working for free.
I don’t work for free. I deliver great content and information and I sell stuff too – and the recipient knows this from the very first email they get.
Here’s a snippet of the first email our recipients get:
We’re going to be emailing you ideas and tricks we use but never publish on our blog. And we’ll explain it in a step-by-step way that you’ll be able to understand and use them on your own website right away to make some coin (or euros, pounds, dollars, pesos, etc.).
That’s what makes our list so valuable to subscribers.
But we’re also going to introduce you to products and services we think are top notch and worthy of your attention and dollars – things we’ve bought ourselves.
In other words, we’re going to ask you to buy stuff too.
So if capitalism, grandma’s apple pie, or marketing offends you, you’ll want to find that unsubscribe link at the bottom of this email and put yourself out of your misery right now. Go ahead, we’ll wait…
Yep. You read that correctly. The first email they get asks them if they want to unsubscribe. Very few people do.
But we set that tone and we’re just getting rid of non-buyers sooner in the follow-up chain. Which is A-OK by us. If there is no chance they are ever going to buy something then the sooner they are off the list, the better.
Don’t wait until auto-responder #24 to sell something (your own product or an affiliate offer) thinking that because you’ve sent them 23 emails of nothing but great, feel-good content that they will now throw open their wallets to give you their money out of pure gratitude for all the free stuff that has come before.
Kiddo, I hate to tell you this, but it doesn’t work like that. In fact they get weirdly upset that you are not giving them freebie email #24.
The trick to keeping subscribers on your email list, even while you are pitching something, is to set the stage early and simply tell them to expect it – then pitch early – email #3 at the very latest. It’s a simple idea. Manage your subscriber’s expectation right up front and when the sale pitch comes, they won’t be surprised.
It’s a bit like how Zappos.com offers new employees $2,000 to quit after the training program. They end up with committed employees who understand what they are getting into.
The corollary to #5 is that people think that if you promote anything other than your own stuff, they’ll be less of your stuff.
Simply. Not. True.
The Internet is a big place, and if you think that your email recipients stop visiting all the other sites out there once they join your newsletter, you’re kidding yourself. People do all kinds of research and join all kinds of newsletters. Don’t be afraid to promote other products. Your subscribers probably already know about them so you might as well get paid to make the introduction. They’ll meet those folks whether you open the door or not!
Now go out and tell those experts their wrong.
And go re-do your funnel!
Tim Bourquin is the Co-founder of AfterOffers.com, a tool that helps website owners build their email list and monetize their opt-in paths the moment someone joins your list.