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Jeff Matlow
December 13, 2017

3 Steps To A Better Email Response Rate

Let's talk about email marketing and why you're not getting the best response rate.
You know those videos that show an atom and then a person and then an elephant and then continue to pan out to show the country, the earth, the solar system, the galaxy and the universe - and then at the end of it you feel like your life means nothing?  Well, let me give you the email version of that:
  • 269 billion emails are sent every day - on average.  That’s billion, with a “b”, and day, with a “d”.  269 BILLION emails every DAY.(1)
  • There are more than 8.4 TRILLION (with a "T") emails sent in December, the most popular month for email sending.(1) 
  • More than 50 TRILLION spam emails are sent every year (49.7% of all email is spam)(1)
  • On average, every person has 1.7 email accounts.(1)  (To put it in perspective, I have 7 email accounts that I check regularly).
Simply put, your email is like a person in the universe.  It’s very easy to get lost.
pitch.jpgSending an email is like a baseball pitcher trying to throw a strike.  It involves much more than just tossing the ball in the right direction and hoping you succeed. Instead, you have to understand who you’re pitching to, what they are most likely to respond to, what is happening in the game in general, and what type of action you put on that ball in order to get the right reaction.
(If you’re not a baseball fan, thanks for getting through that.  Truth be told, I started with an archery analogy but got off on a tangent and when I ended up writing about Robin Hood - and, hence, Shrek - I decided to pick another sport. Anyhoo….)
Recipients are more picky than ever about what emails they open and even more about what they click.  Which means your job is more challenging.
No need to worry, I’m here to help (you can probably see where the Robin Hood analogy was going)
First of all, no need to be all aggro about it.  I’m not lecturing you, I’m just sharing my thoughts. You can take what you like and ignore the rest.
ROI button.pngSecondly, we send a lot of emails at imATHLETE.  We have 2m+ members who continually show high responsiveness to our correspondence.  Our imATHLETE average email response rate is significantly higher than the industry average.  In fact, some large organizations who use us for email marketing have claimed that we provide the highest ROI of any of their marketing initiatives. 
So when we see emails from event directors that are…. well…. not so great, we want to help fix them. But since we can’t help rewrite every single email, I figured I’d just put the main pointers in one place and you can read them.
So grab your favorite pencil and let’s discuss.
The good news is that there are only three key factors important to creating a high-performing email.  Sure, each of the three key factors may have a variety of sub-factors underneath it, but that’s for another conversation.
Key Factor #1:    Know the purpose of your message
Key Factor #2:    Know the mindset of your recipient
Key Factor #3:     Ensure the elements of the email are addressing Key Factors #1 and #2
Let’s break these down.
You need to know the sole purpose of your email.  This may seem obvious to many of you, but if it does, it’s not being represented in all of your emails.
Your email can have only one purpose.  Not two.  Not three purposes.  Just one.  
If you insist that your email has two purposes, you've got two different emails. There - poof! - one purpose.
There are two basic purposes you can choose from:
  •     get people to do something (call to action)
  •     infom participants about something (no call to action)
Whatever it is, determine that single purpose BEFORE you write the email and make sure that purpose is clear.  Write it down on your white board. Put it on a post-it-note. Tattoo it on your forearm (temporary tattoo is recommended.)  Just remember it.
Sending an effective email is like doing the tango:  it takes two.  One has to send the email, another has to read it.  Both people need a reason to be engaged or else you just trip over each others feet and it gets really annoying until the point where you just don't want to hear from each other anymore.
mindset.jpgAssuming you’ve adhered to Key Factor #1 and you know the single purpose for your email, it's time to think about the mindset of your recipient. What’s going on in their life?  Why they would want to open your email as opposed to the hundreds of others they've received?
You may have read my piece about being personal, relevant and timely.  I've already talked about being personal, but relevant and timely is another thing.  Here are some questions to ask yourself:
  • Are you trying to get people to purchase something in the middle of the holidays (when they have the least amount of disposable income)?  
  • Are you reaching out to people who have never done your event?
  • Are you reaching out to people who have never done your race distance?
  • Are you trying to send need-to-know information to existing participants?
Readers need to know what’s in it for them.  For instance, if you're sending out a "register now" email between Black Friday and Christmas Eve, unless there is some super special holiday discount that understands disposable income is going to gift buying, you're not going to get an optimum response rate.  
So you need to put your mind in their inbox.  You can be 100% clear on your purpose, but if it doesn’t resonant with the recipients, it doesn’t matter.  It'll just be deleted.
Key Factor #3:  THE ELEMENTS OF YOUR EMAIL (and how they relate to Factors #1 and #2)
Ok, you know the purpose of your email and you know the mindset of your recipients.  Now it’s time to write that bugger.  (If you’ve read this far, this is where the real payoff begins.)
Your Subject Line
The only purpose of your subject line is to get somebody to open your email.  That’s it.  If you remember nothing else from what I say, remember that.  In fact, let me repeat it.
The ONLY purpose of the subject line is to get the recipient to open the email.
Look at your inbox (or, better yet, your spam box).  Look at all the subject lines.  Which are you most likely to click on?  Here are some tips:
  • Character Count = <70
    • Keep your subject line to less than 70 characters and, ideally, less than 50 characters. Most mobile email apps don’t show more than 50 characters in a subject.
  • Type the subject in lower case
    • When you get a message from somebody you know, the subject is usually in lower case.  Whether you recognize it or not, lower case subject lines create more of a personal connection.  (Yes, it's ok to capitalize the first word)  
  • Remember, the only purpose is to get them to open the email
    • Subject lines that get the highest open rates:
      • How To’s    (e.g. how to run the course to get your PR)
      • Lists      (e.g. 3 things you need to know about _______)
      • Questions      (e.g. can you _____?)
      • Panic      (e.g. it's your very last day to _____)
By all means don’t limit yourself to these types of subject lines if they don’t fit.  The most important thing is just to remember that your sole goal is to get people to open the email.  Try out different subject lines for the same email and see what type of response rate you get.
Your Email Body
Just as the only purpose of your subject line is to get them to open your email, the only purpose of the first line in the email is to get them to the second line. And the only purpose of the rest of the email is for them to click the Call To Action.
Here are a few tips to help you in constructing it:
  •   Pictures speak louder than words... except when they actually have words
    • Use images in your email.  That's good.  It delivers emotion.  But remember, many email providers don’t automatically display images.  That means if you have your words (or your main call to action) on your image, those words won't be seen by many recipients.
  •   Pictures still speak louder than words... but offers speak louder than pictures
    • People like saving money (see this for more on the subject).  If that’s the angle you want to take, make sure they know what the offer is.  Be clear.  Be direct. Don’t hide it. 
  •    Be brief.  
    • You’ve got <5 seconds to get somebody to click.  If you’re writing a long paragraph you have less of a chance to succeed with your sole purpose.  Write whatever you want to say, then chop it in half.  Then chop it in half again.
  •     Make sure your CTA is clear.  
    • Your call to action needs to be very clear.  It also needs to be above the fold (top 1/3 of the email).  In fact, it should also be at the bottom of the email.  And if the email body is long enough, put it in the middle as well.  Be very clear on what people need to do and how it benefits them.
When To Send
Yes, there are good and bad times to send your email.
    Best day to send:  Tuesday (best open + click rate ratio)
    Second best day:  Thursday
    Third best day(s):  Monday or Wednesday
    Worst day:               Saturday
Best time to send emails:(2)
  1. 10am (really, 8am - 10am)
  2. 8pm
  3. 2pm
  4. 6am
So when you combine these two, the best days and times to send emails, in order of bestness(2)
  1. Tuesday 10am
  2. Thursday 8pmcalendar.jpg
  3. Wednesday 2pm
  4. Tuesday 6am
  5. Thursday 10am
  6. Wednesday 8pm
  7. Tuesday 2pm
  8. Thursday 6am
  9. Wednesday 10am
  10. Tuesday 8pm
  11. Thursday 2pm
  12. Wednesday 6am
At this point you should know what to say in your email, how to say it and when to send it. 
There's a lot more to say about this, but I've rambled on enough for now so I'm going to shut up.
Give it a shot and, for goodness sakes, leave comments below to let us know what you experience!

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