Conventional wisdom has it that email as a communication tool is becoming obsolete, increasingly replaced by texting and social media platforms. The truth is that 91% of the public still checks email daily—and for marketing purposes, email is still way more effective than social media.
Email still rules
According to a 2014 study by McKinsey & Company, email marketing works better than social media at generating revenue and getting people to take action. In fact, email is nearly 40 times as effective as Facebook and Twitter as a tool for gaining customers. This study also notes that buyers are at least three times more likely to make email-prompted purchases than purchases spurred by social media, and the average value of purchases made through email prompts is 17% higher.
Our recommendation: Make email the lynchpin of your marketing strategy while using social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and other relevant channels to build brand recognition and keep in frequent touch with your constituents.
Particularly if you have a broad consumer base, social media can be useful for letting your customers know that you’re constantly working to bring them great things. It’s also a good way to show the personality of your organization. For triggering action, though, email still works best.
Communications evolve quickly, and a couple years from now we may be recommending another mix as social media tools become more adept at turning “Likes” and “Follows” into purchasing consumers. For now, though, it’s smart to keep a focus on email in addition to keeping an eye on your social media strategy.
With that in mind, here are five simple steps to gain the most from your email marketing.
1. Add links to spur action
Use multiple links in an email to direct readers to content on your website. That is not to say that you should link every third word or add non-relevant links, but where your site offers something useful, add a link to it. It’s OK to link to the same web page more than once if the email refers to it in different places. In fact, research shows that the more links in an email, the higher your click-through rate.
2. Use the subject line to increase your open rate
Tell, don’t sell. There is a lot of great research on creating effective subject lines, but the advice we like best is summed up by email marketer MailChimp: “The best subject lines tell what’s inside, and the worst subject lines sell what’s inside.” Avoid using a murky sales pitch as your subject line; instead, tell readers exactly what they’re going to find in the email. (For more on this topic, including some examples of great and not-so-great subject lines, read the MailChimp article.)
Say who you are. People get a lot of email, and much of it is spam. Including your company name in the subject line not only lets the recipient know the email is legitimate, it also increases your open rate and builds brand recognition.
3. Plan a workaround for image-blocking settings
Images in emails are often blocked on the receiving end, meaning the recipient sees a question mark or some other unhelpful symbol instead of the image. You can keep this from being a liability by creating “alt text” (short for alternative text), which appears in place of an image so readers will know what’s there. For screen readers used by those with visual impairments, the alt text is read aloud.
Alt text can help enhance your message, just as the image would. With your logo, for instance, create alt text with the name of your organization and your tagline, if you have one. Doing so gives you the opportunity to raise brand awareness and provides a richer meaning to the email for those who don’t have the time, inclination, or ability to allow the images to show.
How you add alt text to an image depends on the email marketer you use, but it’s usually a field you fill in as part of the image-loading process. MailChimp refers to it as “alt”; Constant Contact refers to it as the “description.” If you’re not sure how your email marketer handles the alt text, it’s best to query the company or search the FAQs to find out.
4. Link images to web pages
Studies on web user behavior show that people like and expect images to be linkable. Linking images to a web page is, in fact, considered a best practice in email marketing.
Your logo should link to your home page. For a photo supporting an article, link to the full article. For a product image, you’ll want to link to a page where readers can purchase or find out more about the product.
5. Study your open rates
MailChimp, Constant Contact, and other email marketing companies have excellent reporting features that will tell you everything from what time of day most readers opened your email to who opened it, the most popular links, and more. You can also see how your open rates compare with those of your industry peers. Use these features to glean information for improving your future email campaigns.
Incorporating email marketing in your communications mix is a must for most organizations. From consumers’ point of view, email is appealing because they get information that’s targeted to their needs while having complete control over the interaction, including whether and when to open the email, what to click on to get more information, and whether to “opt out” of the subscriber list.
From a communications standpoint, email is a great way to spur your recipients to action, whether it’s to buy a product, register for a conference, or go to your website to learn more about what you have to offer. Although you won’t rack up “Likes” with email, the instant feedback you get from recipients’ behavior can help you improve your marketing strategy and build your business.