How to send awesome emails using Mailchimp
Let’s start with something really dramatic – email newsletters are dead.
I don’t mean email marketing, I don’t mean email automation, I don’t mean email campaigns, I mean email newsletters.
Check this example – there are tons of calls to action going on there.
There are loads of things trying to grab your attention, and as a result, nothing grabs you. Where do you click first? What do you want me to do? It’s a little bit confusing. What you want instead is to use your emails as the channel to get people through to your website to read more.
You’ve probably heard this already if you’re in marketing, but sending the right message at the right time to the right person is pretty much the golden formula for successful email marketing, I guess for any marketing generally, but specifically for email.
We’ve established what the golden formula is, but what you don’t want to be doing is batching and blasting.
That was the old way of sending email marketing. Now, what that basically means is you get your entire list, and send the same message to your entire audience.
You don’t want to be doing that. You want to have the email so it’s relevant to the person you’re sending it to, you want to understand your audience and segment or group them.
Create the content around your audience. So don’t send, “this is our news” or “these are some awards we’ve won” or “these are some clients we’ve worked with”. Consider the person who’s going to open the email, why should they care? Why should they read this? It needs to be relevant to the person you’re sending it to, not yourself.
What you want to do is define your goal and define your audience, and then define your measurement of success. Now, that may seem like teaching some of you how to suck eggs. It may be obvious that’s what you want to do. Some people don’t do that. So you want to plan and you want to have a goal, you want to know why you’re sending the email, and know who your audience is.
Why are you sending the email, and what is it you want to achieve from that? Could it be a resource download or the sale of a particular product? You really want to know why you’re sending the email, and what the purpose of that is, so that you can actually benchmark and measure the success from it.
Here’s a quick look at a day in the life of an email.
So you’ve gone through all of the effort of putting the email together. You have designed the assets, you’ve written the copy, you’ve put the email together. The email has been sent. The first hurdle is that you want the email to be delivered.
There’s going to be some bounces, but ultimately you want your email to be delivered. Now, once it’s been delivered, you don’t want it to go to the junk folder. You want it going into the inbox. Once it’s gone into the inbox, people have got it in front of them. Let’s move on to the three stages after an email hits the inbox: the email open, email read and links clicked.
Within these, there are some key areas you want to look at, let’s explore these.
So, let’s discuss the fundamentals of email engagement.
So, to have your email opened, you want to send to a target audience. Who are they? Why should they care? Focus on defining the audience, subject lines and preview text. They’re really the gateways to your email.
If you’ve got an engaging subject line and preview text, you’re enticing people to read your email.
Subject lines have THE biggest impact on your email open rates.
Okay, so as you’re about to see below, we’re going to look at a couple of different subject lines that we’ve tested with our clients. Some of the answers might be very obvious. Some of them will just make you pause and think, this is what I’m going to try with my subject lines the next time I send an email.
We want you to decipher whether the personalised subject lines, or the non-personalised subject lines got a better open rate.
So the first one, what’s your flavour? Or *|FNAME|* wants your flavour?
If you guessed the personalised subject line, you’re correct!
The personalised email had the most opens by nearly 4%. So if you, based on this email, take that learning forward, personalise your emails, as you’re going to get a higher open rate.
I would say, again, keep testing for a period of time to see how it works with your audience. We’ve had clients that we’ve tested this on and it hasn’t worked.
Each brand, each email marketing campaign has its own different personality, so it’s worth bearing that in mind.
“Treatments available for this common problem” – statement OR “What’s available to treat this common problem?” – question.
Which one do you think had the highest open rate?
If you thought the question subject line, you’re right.
The question did have a higher open rate, but again, with this client, we’re continuing our test because we’ve had equal wins and losses across the audiences. For some audiences within this brand, it works with a question and sometimes it works better with a statement.
Overall, it’s always good to learn and to test and to try. If you’re sending out an email, I would always recommend to test the subject line because it’s an easy resource to think of. Even if it’s just to test out capitalisation headlines versus sentence case, it’s as simple as that sometimes, but it’s always worth trying something new.
You might recognise this one. I think about half of you might recognise this. I think it went up to a 60% open rate after we put this into the newsletter. So, some of you might already know which one we use, & which one won.
This was our little reminder to say that we’re here. So, “Subject lines, excited for tonight INSERT NAME?. OR “Excited for tonight?” with just an emoji on its own.
Which one do you think won?
In fact, the name personalised one saw nearly a 15% increase. So again, that’s a pretty big metric difference, worth taking on for next time.
So, subject lines. You’re competing in a very competitive environment. Someone’s phone, it can display six or seven emails. How do you make yours stand out? Try different things. That’s ultimately what you can do with it. Whether that’s personalisation, whether that’s an emoji, whether that’s the length of it, all capitals, some capitals, questions or anything.
Any other factors that you can think of? Those are the ones that we typically use, one versus the other. See what works, take it forward.
In addition to the subject line and preview text, you’ve got the from email and name that takes up a big space in your inbox.
You have probably seen so many emails that are “no-reply@”, and that is where we’d like to start off.
Please don’t do that. It puts a barrier up immediately between you and your audience. This person doesn’t want to talk to me. This is clearly not a relationship. This is a dictatorship. They’re telling me stuff and I can’t reply. It’s not an email marketing relationship that you’re able to nurture, because immediately there’s a narrow window.
Email marketing is all about nurturing the relationship you have with your contacts. You want them to know that they’re special to you. But you know, that’s not possible on a one-to-one basis. So we have to make it as easy as possible.
Give your brand a name, give your person an identity. Allow that person to be your contact’s point of contact. If they have a problem, if they have an issue, it’s what builds your relationship over time. Again, you can test this in Mailchimp – You can test whether a male name over a female name works, whether a personal friendly name over your business brand name works.
It’s all about testing it and finding what works, and what has the impact on your open. So again, below the section where you’re testing, where you’d put in the different subject lines, you’ve got the option to change.
Send day and time.
This is the elusive thing that we’re always looking for. When is the best time to send our email, to ensure it’s going to get a reaction?
When are we going to get the engagement that we want? Again, spoiler, there is no science. There’s no absolute that’s going to work all the time. There is research out there, there are hundreds and hundreds of studies based on billions and billions of emails and it’s all quite average across the range.
Your business will be different to the ones included in the study, but it’s a good guide, and it’s a good benchmark for what you’re going to do going forward.
So typically, Tuesdays and Thursdays get the highest open rates based on generalised email marketing, but your business might purely be a weekend thing, you can only find it out yourself.
A technique we use with some of our clients is we resend the email from the weekdays, on the weekend. Basically, we send the original email during the week, then send a resend on the weekend, or vice versa.
This just means that we collect and scoop up those people who might miss us. You might send an email to one person, and you just grab them at the wrong time, where they could be doing a clear-out of their inbox.
You can have the best subject line ever and it still doesn’t get engagement from some subscribers. You have to get the right time and it’s not always going to be the same time. There are 24 hours in the day, how are you supposed to find the right time to get someone’s attention for your message?
If you’re sending those targeted messages, reports show that it is mostly during mid to late morning when people are checking their emails. You know, I personally don’t, I’m working very hard in the middle of the day, so I wait until the end of the day to check mine.
What works for your business is not going to be necessarily reflected in the reports we give you. You have to try different things. That’s ultimately what we would advise.
You know, these reports are all well and good, but if you do exactly what these things say, you won’t necessarily have a greater impact on your open rates.
In the background, they use that to figure out when’s the best time to send it based on the audience you’ve selected. What I would mention here is that if you’re testing on a 4-hour limit, subtract that time from the optimised time.
For example, if the optimised time was 6 pm, we’d send the email at a specified time of two o’clock because we were testing the subject line for four hours.
So, we’ve talked to you about how to get your emails opened, and now I’m going to go into a bit more of the fun stuff of how we can get people to click on your email.
Now it’s time to talk about the design of your email. So first up is the copy length and structure. Going back to a little bit about what Doug said as well earlier on, he said that newsletters are dead. You don’t need to send emails like this out anymore. There’s too much. There’s too much stuff to read.
They say that the average time spent on an email is about 11 seconds. So you’ve only got 11 seconds to grab their attention before they swipe and get rid of it, or save it for later on (Or they go in and read more).
So you need to create a bit of intrigue, don’t give everything away, otherwise, there’s nothing for them to click onto.
If you tell the whole story in an email, then what’s the point in clicking through to find out more? So really, it’s keeping copies short, and also basically having one button, one main CTA, where you really want them to go.
On the newsletter example above, they’ve got four buttons, they’re all green and they all say the same thing.
Where do you want them to go?
Here’s one from Uber which is much better. Obviously it looks more modern, and they’ve used some images. But more importantly, they’ve got fewer things to read. They’ve got CTAs.
As you can see, they’ve got their main blue CTA in an easy to notice position.
That’s really where they want you to go. After that, they have obviously given you a few ideas of some of the other services and products they offer.
You might notice some small links there as well, so if you go there, brilliant. But they really want you to go through the big CTA, the one about their safety.
So make your email well balanced, a nice little bit of text, a nice big title with what you want your message to be, and some nice imagery. Make your emails mobile-friendly, obviously. As we all know, mobile has kind of taken over, so make sure that you test and preview your emails before sending.
Make sure they work well on mobile. Send them to yourself, or you can use the preview tool in Mailchimp, which I’m going to go on to in a minute as well.
41.9% of all email opens on are on mobile, which is more than webmail or desktop. So again, just make sure that your emails are optimised for mobile.
Always double-check, make sure everything reads right, make sure it doesn’t scroll left to right. Make sure everything works, and ensure the images are loading.
Gmail and iPhone get the most opens of all the email clients, with a combined share of 56%. In Mailchimp, you’ll be able to see if your audience is opening through a certain email client, and work out whether they are on mobiles, or on desktop.
You need to just look into that and say: “If most of my audience is on mobile, then I’ll need to predominantly look at mobile”.
Also again, we saw how effectively using personalisation, the F name or any kind of personalisation in emails really works. Obviously they’ve already opened the email now, but it does add a nice touch. It adds a little bit of personalisation.
As you can see above, Mailchimp allows you to preview how your emails look on desktop and mobile. The image above is obviously a desktop view. So always just double-check, and toggle between the views.
If you are using personalisation, always use the little enable live merge tag toggle in the top right corner, and it will put the email recipient’s name in the title.
You can scroll through a few samples too, so you’ll be able to see how different names look, as well as how your images and colour look.
So we’ve got two emails here, one from Harry’s and one from Apple. They look great, they look really nice aesthetically.
Remember that it is always good to consider your images. If you are sending to people and their images in the email client are turned off, you’re going to get scenarios like this, where the Apple email is completely gone.
Harry’s, however, has done quite a good job, because although they have implemented images to make it look really nice, they’ve also got their nice big shaver there. Everything looks perfect.
Even with the images off, it still works. Everything the reader needs is at the top. They’ve got their texts, their buttons, and they’ve even used that alt text in capitals that replaces the logo, which kind of still looks like their logo.
So you can still tell who that is and what they’re doing. You can tell it is a new razor and that you can go and buy it, whereas Apple, on the other hand, is no good. Make sure that you use your images. Don’t be too reliant on them. Make sure they’re there but have a nice balance.
Buttons. Here are the most popular button colours.
So, as you can see, blue is by far one of the most popular button colours followed by green, which is personally my favourite, but blue is now my new favourite.
So, if you have red, yellow or black buttons, I suggest you go home tonight and change them. We only say this because you might effectively increase your click-through rates.
So these are obviously better colours to have your buttons. Men’s, women’s favourite colours. Again, blues coming out on top heavily with men, and still pretty much with women as well.
So just make sure that you’ve got these colours in your email. Obviously you can see how many men you have in your audience and how many women, so you can even tailor the colours to that as well. If you’ve got a lot of women in your audience, you can make the emails a little bit more feminine, you know, you can add some pinks and some purples and some yellows, and if you’ve got more men, you can have some more blues and some more darker colours.
So we’ve got two buttons here, and as you can see, they’re both blue.
We have got option A, which is start your 30 day trial, and B, start my 30 day trial.
Who do you think is going to win?
If you thought B, you’d be right. Having your content buttons set in the first person can result in a 90% increase in click-through rates, and again, this adds to that personalisation we were talking about.
Once they see it has landed in their inbox. They want to get their free trial, get my plan.
Using urgency statements like start my plan today creates an element of intrigue, a bit of urgency, you know – I’m not going to save it for later, I should do it now.
The fold line and inverted pyramid. So the fold line is the green line as you can see. That’s the end of the screen.
So again, we can go back to the 11 seconds thing. Anything above the fold line is the first thing you see. So as soon as you open this email, you’ll see this part without having to flip and scroll and touch the mouse.
So make sure everything that is important i.e. Your main message, your main CTA, & your main button, is above the fold line.
Again, Harry’s have done quite a good job here (I don’t work for Harry’s, by the way!)
They’ve got everything they need above the fold line. When you scroll down, you can then see that nice shiny shaver. They’ve got the main message, their logo and the button, which is ultimately the most important thing. That’s where you want them to click. You want them to go and shop and buy this razor.
So keep everything that’s the most important above the fold line. You can keep some other fancy things down below.
The most important thing needs to be at the top…
The inverted pyramid – This is obviously an email from GoPro as you can see.
They’ve pretty much nailed this. The email is structured like an invisible triangle that leads you to the button. So as you can see, your eyes get drawn to the top first with the logo.
If we took that green triangle away, your eyes would still be drawn to that big checkout now button.
So again, this is a little trick, make your buttons look like you want your readers to click them.
Let’s make a quick recap to finish off, just before that, we can’t reiterate that once you’ve done all the hard work with the subject lines, preview text and everything else to prepare, that’s half the battle now. You still need to get them to click. So there’s no point in doing all the hard work and having a poorly designed email on the other end.
There needs to be some consistency.
Here are just five key takeaways for you:
It’s a no-brainer really. You want to plan ahead for your email campaigns.
My old friend Benjamin Franklin once said, “if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail”.
I’m a little bit cheesy to bring that up, but you know, it’s true. You need to have a plan. You need to know what you’re sending when you’re sending, who you’re sending it to, which is pretty much a recap on what we said earlier.
So, defining your goal, why are you doing it generally for your email marketing? Just understand that. Understand who your audience is and create segments of that audience, and measure the success, so you know that it’s working for you.
Just like we said earlier, do a lot of split testing, so you can start to learn what’s working.
So now, when you create the campaigns, you can go in and invite your team and have a conversation, and start to gather assets.
We’re developing this tool and are constantly adding things to it. So watch this space.
#2: Keep It Relevant
So the second lesson really is to keep it relevant. So we’ve mentioned relevant and relevancy a few times. Again, about the second position, the person who’s going to receive the email – It isn’t about you and your message and what you want to get across. It’s about them. Why should they care? Successful marketing starts with the “what’s in it for me?” mindset.
So what’s in it for the person you’re sending the email to? You know, why should they care? Why should they open the email? If you think from that second position and create the content around the person you’re sending it to or the group of people you’re sending it to, then you’ll be onto a winner.
#3: A/B testing
As we said earlier, A/B test every email. If you’re not sure, just use a slight variant in a subject line, examples include an emoji, personalisation or just a word change, using a capital, phrasing the subject line as a question etc.
If you start to learn what’s working for you, then that’s a great thing. You know, we’ve gone through benchmarks, industry averages, and there’s loads of reports out there.
Always think about the best time to send an email, the best day, all the things that you should benchmark, industry averages, that’s all key.
#4: Setting YOUR own benchmarks
You want to be setting your own benchmarks. You want to learn what is working for you, and why.
So if you do a resend, then you can have that second bite of the apple as well. As we mentioned, resend is basically sending the same campaign, just with a slight variation on the subject line to the people who didn’t open the first email sent out.
It just gives you another chance to get some engagement.
Remember, your own average is not the industry average or the averages across the board.
Consider your subject line formula. You know, do emojis work for you? They might not. They might do. Learn what works…
How long does your subject line need to be? What kind of keywords have you used? Top email clients? Desktop or mobile?
Could it be Outlook? Could it be Gmail or mobile?
Just keep an eye on where people are opening your emails, and make sure that your email is actually responsive.
#5: Less content, more often.
The last lesson is less content more often. Just going back to these really pretty emails.
Where do you click? What do you want me to do first? My brain hurts. There’s too much going on.
Send less content within your emails, it’s a no-brainer.
Here are a couple of Mailchimp examples that they’ve sent out over the years. Look, they’re really colourful, engaging, bright, short, with a single message.
They’re not trying to tell you everything in one email and then waiting another month before they send you the next one. They’re going to be sending more frequently.
Here they’re talking about the Google re-marketing ads.
They’re talking about a guide – Single focus emails. You’ll get a lot more engagement if you send less content in them, and plus, if you’ve got a lot of content, you can then send more emails as well later on, giving you more chances to get some more engagement.
So if that’s the single takeaway you can learn from this post, then I would say that’s a good thing.
Here’s some more cheesiness for you – But lastly, just remember that you’re awesome!