8 Takeaways From a New Email Marketing Report

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Email provider SendGrid wanted to reach donors so they tested an email with three forms of a teachers' thank-you note, hoping to bring people to a landing page.

  • one version included the full thank-you note;
  • one included an excerpt with a Call to Action to go to the site and read more; and
  • one had no thank you note, but a CTA to go to the site and read the note.

Which email do you think performed best? "The clear winner of our test was the second version where we provided the excerpt," they write in their newly released report, The Expert's Guide to Email Marketing. "This version not only drove traffic back to the site, but it also drove donations." Lesson learned: People like to be enticed.

Here are eight more takeaways from SendGrid's report:

1. Test your email templates. "Whenever we create a new template that will be sent over and over to people, we test into it by creating a few ideas and then choosing the one that performs best," writes David Hampian, SendGrid's senior marketing manager. "Once that winner is chosen, we keep a standard "skeleton" template that has a consistent header, logo, tagline, social widget placement, and unsubscribe links. Then, we make those messages feel new by swapping images in and out based on what's relevant."

2. Think simple. "Sometimes email marketers will get caught up in the design and appearance of the messages they're sending," writes Hampian. "The fact is, content drives the click. You want to gain your recipients' trust by providing personalized, relevant messages they want to open. Then you can start tinkering with how messages look."

3. Test your Calls to Action. CTAs should be obvious. "We want recipients to glance at an email and know immediately what's being asked of them," writes Morgan Kazan, SendGrid's director, email marketing. "...Twice a year, we'll do an 'email audit,' where we look at all of our triggered email templates and make sure we can identify the CTA... There shouldn't be any confusion or second-guessing about what a recipient should do with the message they just received."

4. Save the subject line for last, but allow time for it. "Rather than create the subject line and then the message and the call to action, we think about what action we want the recipient to take when reading the message," writes Jill Guest, SendGrid's engagement marketing manager. "Once that's taken care of, we develop a subject line that is descriptive of the email and tells how the message will provide benefit."

5. Use data to challenge your assumptions. "Some of the best gains we've made in email marketing [have come] through testing concepts I never thought would work!" writes Guest. "By testing macro (different types of content, segmentation techniques, and designs) and micro

(subject line, button color, or email signature) strategies and elements of your messages, you can consistently grow engagement rates, as well as your personal knowledge of what your subscribers want.".

6. Use caps in subject lines the same way you would title an article. However, for urgent or account-essential communications, it may make sense to include one or two all-caps words, but more than that and you risk looking like a spam message.

7. Keep personas and segments in mind. If you have the capability, and know who your customer personas are, it's extremely beneficial to write subject lines that speak specifically to those audiences.

8. Use Your content - Oftentimes, recipients can see a small amount of text as a preview after the subject line. Use this to your advantage! You can ask a question with the subject line and have an answer in that text.

Click here to download the full report. And if you attend our Business Information & Media Summit  (BIMS) Nov. 14-16 in Fort Lauderdale, be sure to check out Jeanne Jennings' session: Email: Quit Your Whining, Maximize the Channel!

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…