Let’s be real. There’s a very good chance most of your customers never even glance at your emails. After all, their inboxes are no doubt overflowing with promotional emails that either sit in unread limbo or go straight to the junk bin. According to a 2018 survey, 58.9% of emails sent are classified as spam.
In fact, our inboxes have become so flooded with marketing messages that deleting enough spam to reach “inbox zero” is equivalent to achieving nirvana status.
So how can it be that year after year, business publications proclaim the death of email as a marketing channel––and year after year, email proves them all wrong by continuing to be the single most powerful source of leads and sales?
How can it be in the age of social media, email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter?
According to marketing pro Stuart McKeown, the magic ingredient in effective email marketing is one simple (but elusive) factor: engagement.
As the founder of Gleam.io, a business growth platform that provides a suite of marketing apps focused on giveaways, rewards, and user feedback, Stuart knows engagement when he sees it. In little over three years, he’s grown his business to over 5,000 paying customers. And he owes much of his company’s rapid growth to a highly engaging email strategy.
Today, we’re sharing Stuart’s key ingredients to increasing engagement with your marketing emails so you stop getting sent to the trash bin and start seeing awesome conversions. Check out the video below and read on as we further unpack his advice:
Gleam.io Founder Stuart McKeown’s Secret Ingredients of Engagement
According to Stuart, deliverability is simply your ability to reach a person’s inbox. It makes sense that this would be the first ingredient because people can’t engage with emails that never get to them!
There are many reasons emails fail to reach a recipient, but the primary reasons for deliverability failures are when an email goes to the spam folder (aka the point of no return) or was blocked by an internet service provider (ISP). Either way, the digital email guardians are treating your email like the Balrog in Lord of the Rings.
According to Stuart, two simple steps can help ensure that your emails will get past electronic gatekeepers:
Set up SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Email)
Authenticating your email with SPF and DKIM proves to the ISPs that you really are who you say you are and are worthy to send email.
These are specific tags that you can put inside your Domain Name Server (DNS) to make sure that the mail can be verified as coming from your server. Your email provider should be able to provide you this.
Need a quick guide on improving your email deliverability? Look no further:
Move to a Dedicated IP Address
Generally, if you’re using MailChimp or some other service, you’ll probably share an IP address with a whole bunch of other users. And that will impact your ability to get to people’s inboxes to a certain extent. One of the things that you can do is you get onto a dedicated IP address that’s only owned by you. That way, it’s only your own reputation on that IP address once you get into somebody’s inbox.
2. Catchy, Relevant Subject Lines
With over 199 unread messages sitting in the average person’s inbox, you better believe your subject line needs some extra sparkle. But don’t resort to using trickery like clickbait. According to Stuart, personalization is key.
“You’ve got to make it relevant for the user,” Stuart says. “One way to do this is to make it targeted for their needs and their preferences. If you know that I like specific football team, you might play on that in the subject line. You might tailor it to me if you know what products I purchased before or if you know that if I’ve left something in my shopping cart you might say, ‘Hey Stuart there’s something in your shopping cart waiting for you.’”
Discovering user interests and buying behavior is easier than ever with tools like Google Analytics. You can also do research by searching for keywords on Facebook and Twitter to see how people are talking about certain topics or trends. And you can never go wrong with spending time interviewing and sending surveys to your customers.
Want to learn more about making your subject lines more personal?
3. Meaningful Email Content
Once somebody has actually clicked and opened your email, you need to think about what sort of value you’re providing them. Stuart recommends that you chuck your fill-in-the-blank sales email templates and do the work of researching what your target audience cares about.
“As a business owner, I get maybe five or six cold emails every day from people wanting to sell me things,” Stuart says. “And the majority of them get put in my spam bin because they’re generic sales templates that no one actually uses.”
Instead, he advises, start to dig into the communities where people are talking about the problems that you help to solve.
“The technique that I used…was to make it super super targeted,” Stuart says. “As a giveaway platform, I would go on Twitter and I would look at companies running giveaways that were using a platform that either wasn’t us they were just using Twitter. Then I would recreate their campaign from scratch in our software and I would send them the campaign and say here’s what your campaign would look like if you were running it with us.”
Stuart’s hyper-personalized approach may seem hard to scale, but when you’re first starting out, that level of human-to-human value can lead to client relationships that drive substantial growth in the long term.
“I was engaging with them by creating this sort of bond that I knew that they were running a campaign already,” Stuart says. “But I was showing them how they can make it better. And I had a crazy-high response rate—close to 100% of people that I was actually able to get through to with those emails because it was super-targeted. I’m sending only maybe 10 per day, but I was providing value.”
Here’s a guide to writing persuasive email copy that demonstrates unmistakable value so your customer will be sure to respond:
4. A Clear Call to Action
Ask anyone who has ridden on an elevator with a 4 year old: When you see a button, you want to push the button. It’s basic human psychology.
That explains why “click here” buttons are so popular in marketing emails. According to CampaignMonitor, including a call to action button instead of a text link can increase conversion rates by as much as 28%.
But Stuart McKeown says that a call to action is about more than a colorful button. To create an irresistible, crystal clear call to action, you need to answer one question:
What is the outcome you want to achieve?
According to Stuart, there are essentially two outcomes that a call to action can lead to: branding or sales.
“If your outcome is branding related, you might just be happy with him reading the email or reading one of your blog posts. If it’s sales related, you might want to click for this specific product and purchase,” Stuart says. “So you have to think about once you are in that inbox, what’s the action that you want the user to take?”
The 4 Keys to Engaging Emails: Deliverability, Personalization, Relevance, and Clarity
Email marketing pros like Stuart McKeown believe that successful emails aren’t about numbers. They’re about building relationships using authentic communication, inspired by genuine customer needs. They’re about sparking human conversations that can take your business further than you can imagine.
What was the last truly engaging email you received from a marketer? Pro tip: Start keeping a swipe file of the marketing and sales emails you respond to so you can take a few lessons from them on why they work.