happy little biz

A post about email marketing... wait, what?

You might be thinking: wait, Candice, you're a web developer. Why are you writing about email marketing?

Well, you wouldn't be wrong to be a bit confused, but bare with me here, I can explain!

Bill Murray is confused...What the heck is going on here?

Part of my job is to help businesses figure out how to use technology to help them grow. This means I advise folks on using things like Twitter, Facebook, and yes, email marketing, to reach new clients or help remind previous clients about their services. While I don't actually manage their Facebook/Twitter/Email accounts, I can help them figure out what could work for them.

There is one exception to this: I do volunteer work for a non-profit, and part of my job is to help manage their communications, including their fundraising and member newsletters.

Recently this non-profit decided to try an email campaign for their annual fund drive for the very first time. Usually they did things the 'old fashioned way': sending out paper mailings to people on their donor list who they had a physical address listing for. This usually yielded reasonable results, but was also not terribly time or cost-effective, as producing and mailing for even a small campaign cut a significant chunk out of their proceeds.

As I put together their campaign, I realized I was going to have to do some careful planning to make the most out of each email and hope that as many people as possible not only read it, but (for those interested) followed-through on making a donation.

In the process of doing so, I confirmed something I had read many times:

Timing Does Matter.

In examining their email list and read rates, I found:

  • Folks are way more likely to open an email sent on a Wednesday or Thursday;
  • Folks don't often read emails sent in the evening, and
  • Emails sent on Friday or Monday tend to get lost in the shuffle.

This makes a lot of sense, really. Mondays are often spent getting caught up from the weekend, so new emails can get lost in that shuffle. Fridays, and the entire weekend really, people are planning their errands, have dates with friends, are taking kids to events, and so on, so emails might get glanced at but never read. Evenings are often reserved for personal or family time, and like the dreaded telemarketer calls, emails are not really a welcome interruption.

But Wednesdays and Thursdays? Generally work is a bit quieter those days, or folks have handled enough of the 'backlog' from the weekend that new emails might get more than a passing glance.

But what about the email subject?

If you've read anything about email marketing or fundraising, you've probably read that the subject of the email is crucial.

In looking at the list stats for this non-profit, I would say that is 100% true.

When emails go out with really generic subject lines, the read rates drop. But if an email goes out announcing something new or interesting, read rates skyrocket. I'm not kidding: the rate of opening of their emails increases 15-20% when the subject line is something more interesting, such as announcing a new service or event. But if it's the usual monthly announcements? People don't open them right away, or don't at all.

Another important takeaway is that the email subject should, as one expects, actually describe the subject of the email. That might be a no-brainer for many people, but you're going to quickly lose people's interest if you're continually sending out emails with subject lines that have little (or nothing!) to do with the content of the message. Really, you want to compel people to read your email, not just open it.

Of course all of this info should be taken with a grain of salt; every email list is different, and every business is different. But I hope this information will be useful. I highly recommend taking a look at your own email stats to see where you stand, so you know the best times and days to send out your own email campaigns.

Happy mailing!