email marketing optimization

Did you know that email marketing has an average ROI of 4,300% for US businesses? To get a similar return from your program, you’ll want to optimize your deliverability, click-through rate, and open rates. You’ll also want to make sure you’re tracking your email marketing ROI. Today we’re going to cover email campaign best practices, as well as how to boost your click-through and open rates. These email marketing optimization tips will help you:

  • Learn how to find the perfect send time
  • Improve your results through testing
  • Calculate your email marketing ROI

Email Campaign Best Practices: When & How Often

One of the most common questions we’re asked is how to find the best time of day to send an email. Open rates and click-throughs are significantly impacted by the time of day and the day of the week your email lands in your recipient’s inbox. For example, one study states that average open rates at 6 am are nearly 4x higher (12%) than at 4 pm (3%). However, another study claims that click-through rates between 6 pm and midnight are at nearly 9%. What gives?

There are a number of factors that play into how open rate correlates with time: are you sending to a B2B customer, or B2C customer? Are you sending an email related to a product or service that could be considered part of a recipient’s hobbies? If you’re looking for email benchmarks, make sure you’re looking at statistics from a similar industry.

Finding the Perfect Send Time

So how do you pick the best possible send time for your emails? Well, as you may guessed, there isn’t a “perfect” time to send an email; it depends on your audience.

email marketing optimization tip - find the right send time

The best answer is that your send strategy and scheduling should be driven by your audience’s email habits. For example, most marketers typically avoid sending an email on Monday for fear of it being deleted by busy readers jumping into their weekly workload. However, Monday could be the perfect day to advertise if you’re a cleaning service, personal assistant, or organizer, as overwhelmed recipients may receive your email with a sigh of gratitude.

If you’re just starting out, you may have to start with some educated predictions, and then watch the behavior of your readers. For example, if you send an email on a regular basis – such as a weekly newsletter – try sending it on different days or times each week to see which send gets the highest open or click rates. Or if you plan to send the same email more than once to the same marketing list – an event invitation/reminder, for example – vary the days and times for each email send and evaluate the results.

Keep in mind that if your emails contain different content (i.e. two different weekly newsletters), the content and subject line will also have an impact on the click and open rates. According to email campaign best practices, you should try out a few different times, revealing a preference for your audience over time.

Keep an Eye on Trends

Through a little observation and testing, you should be able to get a feel for when your emails have the most impact with your readers. For example, mobile open rates are steadily increasing, meaning your emails may be opened later at night or during the weekend as readers are interacting with their smartphones. It may also be helpful to watch social media to see when your followers are the most active. Your readers may be likely to interact with an email sent during the same window of time.

Email Campaign Best Practices: Email Marketing Optimization

How do you get better results by optimizing your email marketing? Beyond just time of day, there are a number of other variables that you can test and tweak to increase open and click-through rates, reduce unsubscribe rates, and ensure a high return on investment. The true key to optimization is to test, test, and test again.

Tests to Try

Your email marketing best practices should be dynamic, being adjusted and tweaked based on what you learn. Each time you send an email, make a few small changes. They could have a big impact. Consider testing:

Sender names and/or email addresses

Compare emails sent from “Customer Service” vs. “Jennifer Smith.” How does the sender influence your open rates?

Subject lines

Try different versions of your subject line to see what words or phrases resonate with your audience and trigger better open rates.

Times of day or days of the week

Try sending emails at different times and compare open/click rates. Are your customers in different time zones? Perhaps split your marketing list by region and send the email at times that are optimal for each location.

Frequency

Are you sending emails too often? Not often enough? Watch trends in your statistics to see how the frequency of your emails affects your statistics, particularly unsubscribes.

HTML vs. text-only

Send two different versions of your email – one in an HTML format and the other as text-only. Depending on the campaign and your audience, one style may resonate better than the other.

Content

Try different discounts or offers. Rearrange the content in your newsletter. Include more or less product images. There are a million ways to test your email content – be creative!

Calls-to-action

If your open rates are good but click rates are lagging behind, your call-to-action may be lackluster or buried in your email. Change the location, appearance, or phrasing of your primary call-to-action.

Personalization

Compare email templates that include elements of personalization to those that don’t. Does having the recipient’s first name in the subject line increase open rates?

Determining ROI

email marketing optimization tip - find your email ROI

Monitoring open rates and click rates will help you analyze what is and is not working in your email campaigns. Higher click rates typically lead to higher conversions, and higher conversions lead to higher sales.

The ultimate goal, however, is to tie a revenue result to your email program. Ultimately, marketers want to know that the money they spend on email marketing will generate a high return on their investment.

It is an email campaign best practice to determine your return on investment (ROI). This can be done by subtracting your total spend from earnings and dividing by total spend:

(Earnings – Spend) / Spend

Most marketers define earnings as either sales or revenue. If you have a very direct sales and marketing process, it may be easy to calculate ROI. Add up what you spent on your email marketing (email service provider, staff hours, etc.) over a period of time and compare that to the revenues that were generated from the email marketing campaign during that same time period.

For many of us, it’s not quite that easy. The tricky part is determining what sales were directly influenced by the email marketing campaign.

Measuring Sales Influenced by Email

For businesses where sales are completed offline (retail, restaurants, dry cleaning, etc.), you will need a way to track onsite sales back to your email campaign. For example, you could:

  • Ask the customer to present the email
    The recipient either prints the email or shows a copy of the email on their mobile phone at the time of purchase. Emails are collected and/or tallied as customers use them.
  • Use a coupon code
    The recipient is given a word or phrase that they must use to redeem the offer from the email (i.e. “Grocery50”). Each code is unique to a specific email campaign, so it is easy to track the effectiveness of each email.
  • Create a unique offer
    Create a discount or offer that is only advertised via your marketing email campaign. Any customers that ask about the offer clearly learned about it from the email.

Each of these methods requires the business to somehow link the email directly to the purchase on the backend. This will be unique to each business based on its method of processing sales, handling receipts, tracking point-of-purchase information, etc.

Online sales are easier to track. Marketing automation tools can combine email marketing with web tracking to get a clear picture of what actions were taken by the customer after clicking a link in the email. The key is to make sure your tracking links contain all of the information needed to associate an email click with a campaign, and then track any conversions generated from that campaign consistently through your sales cycle in your CRM for Small Business (lead – contact – opportunity – account). For more information about creating URL parameters for web tracking, visit https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1033867.

Calculating ROI

The best email marketing optimization tip we could give you, is to calculate your email ROI. Whether sales generated from email marketing are tracked online or offline, gather the following data before starting your ROI calculations.

Cost of email

Include any relevant costs such as email service provider fees, the time it took to put the email together, etc.

Total revenue generated by email

The total dollar amount allocated to all email marketing (or to a specific email campaign). If needed, this number can be estimated by multiplying the number of sales generated by the email by the company’s average revenue per sale.

Profit margin (optional)

ROI can be calculated using either total sales or profits depending on your preference or business purpose.

(Revenue – Cost) / Cost = ROI

or

Profit / Investment x 100 = ROI

For example, let’s say that a cleaning service spent $2,000 last year on email marketing. This included email service provider costs and staff time used to create emails. The store tracked sales in a CRM using a campaign called “Email.” Total revenues generated from sales associated with the Email campaign totaled $12,000. Using those numbers, last year’s email marketing ROI was:

  • Costs: $2,000
  • Revenues: $12,000
  • ROI: 500%

That’s a pretty good return! A high rate of return is one of the appeals of email marketing. It is easy to reach a large number of customers at a fairly low cost.

What’s Next?

In the past few weeks, we’ve covered everything from how to avoid typos in your emails campaigns every small business should be running, and simple email deliverability tests.

Are these email campaign best practices and optimization tips helpful for you? If so, download our recent eBook, Email Marketing that Works for Small Business. It covers everything you need to know to set up your email marketing program for success.