Sometimes, with little warning, life closes a door. When Evan Diaz was apprenticing with an email marketer, his mentor suddenly encountered some serious health problems and had to shutter the business.
But instead of waiting for a window to open up, Evan challenged the adage. “I figured, ‘Hey! I know how to do this,’” he remembers. “‘Now, I’m going to strike out on my own.’”
And so in 2010, Evan started his own agency in central Florida—Lucky Red Pixel. But he quickly learned that building success out of hardship has its own set of challenges, especially when it comes to email.
“Email’s oftentimes the best money maker and has the highest ROI, and people know that, but it’s often the intern that does it,” Evan says. “Or if someone important is doing it, they’ll do it tomorrow or the next day. And they really do a good job of putting it off.”
That, he adds, cultivates a lot of issues. To help address them, Evan dissected really good email. Here are some common mistakes—and how to fix them.
Set expectations early
An automated welcome email can help answer frequently asked questions after a customer has made a purchase—or deliver an anticipated coupon for signing up to the email list.
“You have to send that and you have to send it right away, because a lot of the time people are waiting for that before they buy something,” Evan says. Otherwise, a customer might get frustrated and not complete the purchase, which can leave a bad impression of your brand.
Don’t ignore preview text
“Preview text is a really big deal,” Evan says. “Apart from the subject line and the sender name, it’s the thing that people will see and read the most—especially on mobile devices.”
Lucky Red Pixel has seen people rely on default text, leave it blank, or make it too short, which allows technical stuff to populate the field. “There’s not much that can hurt your open rates and click rates more than thinking this came from a robot,” he says.
Have a friendly reply-to email address
“Something like hello@ or werelistening@, that kind of thing is great,” Evan says. Having a monitored reply-to address is not only helpful, it’s friendlier than a cold noreply@. “These companies at any other time would pay a lot of money for that type of feedback, but if they just made themselves more available to listen to their customers when their customers are wanting to engage, they’d have that feedback. And not only that, it feels better to get an email from hello@ than noreply@. Noreply@ is: We’re not listening, we don’t care.”
Stay top of mind
“Very rarely are small businesses sending enough emails,” Evan says. “They’ll put a lot of time and money into winning a customer’s business and get the email address and then completely forget to use it. Or they’ll send an email every 3 or 4 months. By that time, the user forgets who this company is and why they signed up, and will mark it as spam.”
Instead, Evan recommends emailing at least once a month to stay top of mind so that users don’t forget about you. “They’re seeing your name in their inbox and they’re thinking about you,” he says, even if they don’t open the email.
Keep headlines and buttons text-based
Emails that are mostly images tend to perform much worse than completely text-based, Evan says. They chew up users’ data if they’re on their mobile device, he adds, and a lot of people don’t know to click display images. Plus, sometimes images that look great on a desktop may prove too small on a phone.
“People just delete it if it doesn’t work immediately a lot of the time,” he says. “The latest stats I saw on that are more text-based emails have 17 to 30% more clicks than image-based emails, so that’s a true substantial difference there.”
Image-heavy emails also aren’t searchable in inboxes, and you can’t copy and paste important text like coupon codes, either. “So if you’re not mindful of what your email looks like when images are off, and it’s not actionable when images are off, you’re losing out on a lot of clicks and a lot of engagement.”
Keep segmenting simple
Sometimes clients segment too narrowly, Evan says. In other words, they’ll target customers with a product that’s typically purchased only once in a while, like a battery, which lasts a long time. “Just because someone bought this one thing doesn’t mean they’ll never buy anything else from your store,” he says. Try emailing about similar, complementary products instead.
Wait for the right moment to send
“Another thing that we almost always tell our clients is when they might put 5 or 6 hours into building an email, when they’re finally done, they’ll be so excited to have it off their plate that they’ll just mash send,” Evan says.
The time of day, the day of the week, and proximity to a holiday all have a huge impact on open rates and click-through rates. Generally, Evan says, avoid sending on Mondays and Fridays—and sending anywhere near a holiday (unless the email is related to it, of course, or otherwise time-sensitive). Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday tend to be best, and the 2 times a day Lucky Red PIxel recommends are around 5 or 6 a.m. or before lunchtime. That way, the email is waiting for users when they wake up in the morning, since the first thing a lot of people do is check their email, or while they’re eagerly waiting to eat.
There are exceptions to these rules, of course, Evan says. Sometimes a really early email on a weekend can outperform other days because of the lack of volume. The key takeaway? Test, test, test to see what works best with your customers.