On today’s show we talk with Kate Bluhm of Audigy Group about email marketing and learn some valuable tips to get the most from your email marketing campaigns.
Read the transcript:
Today’s episode of Reach is going to talk about getting results from email marketing. My guest is Kate Bluhm, who specializes in email marketing and graphic design. So she has quite a bit of know-how on the topic.
Hey, everybody. My name is Kate and I am the Email Marketing Specialist here at Audigy Group. And I also specialize in graphic design.
We’re going to talk today about how to get the best results from email marketing. I know that you and I have had a couple of conversations in the past where I’ve come in with an idea. And you said, actually it’s this way. And you’ve been right every single one of those times. So I knew that you were the person that we wanted to talk to about, like, really figuring out the best way to set up and understand these campaigns.
So for the people out there who are maybe thinking about setting up a marketing campaign on email, or they’ve got one going, or something like that, or they just have some, like, super basic level questions, maybe can we start by talking about what is unique about email marketing as a marketing tool, that you don’t get from, let’s say, direct mail or anything else. Like, what makes it special amongst its peers?
One of the main differences with, like, e-mail marketing and direct mail is that, with email marketing, it’s instant. So if something comes up in the industry that you want to let your customers know about, you can do it instant. Or if you have an event that came up last minute, you can send that out to your customers and hopefully try and get them to come to your event a lot quicker, whereas with direct mail you might have to plan that out like months in advance to let your customers know about this upcoming event.
And it’s also great, too, because you can get a lot of insight into your customers. Like knowing the way that they’re interacting with an email, or the content that they click on in an email. You can track that back to those customers. And so you can then target certain content to those customers based on how they interacted with those emails and the content that’s in them, as well.
Well, since I focus on digital marketing for my day to day, those insights are really super interesting to me, too. And it’s funny like how much more granular you can get with the customer experience with those things. There’s tons of different opportunities for that. But you definitely can’t track, let’s say, what’s the first thing that they look at if you’re sending out a postcard en masse.
And it’s beneficial, too, for emails to work closely with the website that the person might have because you don’t want to overwhelm by the amount of content that’s in an email. And so you want to direct them to a website. So making sure that you have that content on a website is beneficial, too. And go hand in hand with email and a website.
Yeah, that leads to, like, setting your goals, and what is it that you’re actually sending this email out for, which is a topic we’ve talked about with a lot of other shows, too. It’s the same situation here. Before we get too far off of, like, the initial understanding of these things– so I’ve seen people who have really, really super small businesses. I’m talking, like, maybe they’ve been open half a year or less. And they will try and do their email marketing in Outlook, or just their Gmail account.
They’ll set up businessABC@gmail.com. And they’ll just send everything out from there. If anybody can write an email easily, anyway, is that fine? Or do they need to be using special tools or services, or what are the considerations and benefits of either of those?
Going with a email marketing program is always your best bet because you’re able to design an email to look like your brand, utilizing your logo or colors. And you can also create different links and images in an email that really capture somebody’s attention and want to hold them, whereas, like, if they get just a plain text email, like you would day to day, like in the office. If you are trying to market something, nobody is going to want to pay attention to that.
But when you use these email marketing programs, you’re able to use those colors and images and to really capture somebody’s attention. And hopefully make them take the action that you want them to take. With email marketing you have less than five seconds to capture somebody’s attention before they either delete your email or just move on. And so having something colorful and bold really makes a difference.
Also with email marketing, too, there’s a lot of other aspects that go into it. Making sure that your email will display properly for on a desktop email, such as, like, Gmail, or Yahoo, or even Hotmail, as well as displaying properly on your phone. Android versus iPhone. Everything displays properly. And most email marketing programs handle all of that for you so you don’t have to worry about all those technical aspects to making sure that your email is going to display the way you want it to.
That’s totally true. I think about it every morning. The first thing I do after I wake up is get my phone and check my emails and delete them. And now I’m starting to feel really judgemental about myself.
Like I should give those marketers a chance at least. Why did I even sign up for this list? But OK.
So you can have a lot more access to beautifying it and really personalizing your message. And you can’t do those things without access to these services. There’s got to be some metrics tracking and analytics that I imagine going with that, as well. I mean, Gmail obviously doesn’t have that built into its Gmail service.
Yeah. When utilizing these email marketing programs, too, you’re able to gain a lot more insight into your customers that you’re emailing. You can see how they’re opening emails, what they’re clicking on in emails, as well as even what email addresses that you have might be invalid. Or all of that which helps gain insight into your list that you’re emailing to, and how you’re interacting with your customers.
So we’ve talked a couple of times now about getting insight into the customers. Right? So this would be a good time to really start talking about what kind of insight can we get, because that’s where we’re going to start talking about really getting to see the results.
We can see activity and what’s working for them. But if you’re evaluating the success of an email marketing program, what are the first, let’s say, few things that you are checking? What numbers?
I think it’s different for every business. They need to decide on their own. First, what it is that they want to measure?
Ultimately it would be your open rate. Making sure that you maintain a healthy open rate, which can vary industry to industry. Like for example, within the health care industry, a good average open rate would be like 19% open rate, which seems really low. But for the health care industry that’s actually really well, if you can–
–do better than that. As well as click rate, which is just having people click the links in your email, which means the information that they saw in your email, they felt was valid, and wanted to maybe learn more about that. Or maybe learn more about you. Or schedule an appointment.
And click rates are a lot lower for the health care industry. It might be like– I believe it’s, like, a 2% click rate is really good. And that could just be having somebody click to schedule an appointment. Or wanting to learn more about the content that you have in your email.
You mentioned just now that those numbers might seem really low, but they’re actually really good. I mean, do you have to be sending these to a million people then in order for that 2% to actually amount to anything? Or–
Most of the people we work with are smaller database sizes. And being a smaller business, you’re not going to want to have large numbers of people coming through your door. Like you wouldn’t be able to handle it.
But ultimately, I think it comes down to the goals that you’ve set for this email or that campaign. Trying to figure out what’s important to you. Like maybe one of those few clicks is somebody scheduling an appointment.
They come in and purchase a product. That would probably be more beneficial to you than having a ton of people scheduling an appointment. Or wanting to learn more about some service that you offer.
Yeah, I’m thinking about the different kinds of email lists that I’m either aware of or a participant in, or something like that. And I’m thinking about– if we had sent out 1,000 emails to, let’s say– one of the ones that I read a lot is a hot wings place in Portland, Oregon that I love. And I’m thinking, how many chicken wings do they have to sell in order to make up for the cost of this advertising campaign? Well, that’s probably a lot more chicken wings than it is going to be something like a car for instance, or something that. You really only need one car sale to cover most of the expenses there.
So your click through rate, even though the percentage is low, and it means you’re getting maybe only a few interactions, it’s still making up for that, depending on the product that your having. You just need to know exactly what your intention is before you set it up, right?
What about the actual content of an email? I know that you spend a lot of time thinking about subject lines. And then obviously the actual content that goes into there. The text, and the pictures, and which link, and the call to action.
I mean, maybe I just listed out all the things you’re talking about. Or you’re going to talk about. But, like, what goes into your thought process on developing those? Or is there a process?
Yeah, there totally is a process. Especially when it comes to– you want to think of what’s going to get somebody to open this email. And that leads into your subject line.
The subject line is probably the most important thing of an email because you want people to open it and read your content. And then take all of those other steps. Like clicking on a link, or making that phone call to schedule an appointment.
So that subject line is the most important thing of an email, where that leads them in and is the higher level story of what they’ll interact with within the email. And then following that subject line, more and more email marketing programs are supporting preview text, which is, like, if you look in your inbox you’ll see the subject line. And then there’s, like, lightly grayed out text afterwards. And that’s what the preview text is. And that is really beneficial, too, because it allows you to elaborate on that subject line
Yeah. We were talking about this earlier. And it’s kind of like when you’re searching for something on Google. And it says the name of the practice comes up as your search result. And then below they’ve got the meta description, which says– it’s like two sentences, or two lines of text that says, like, what the page is actually about. It’s a quick description that gives you added reason.
Yeah, exactly. It just allows you to continue that story that you’re telling in the subject line. And a last chance to capture somebody’s attention to have them open your email.
And with the content inside, it all depends on your messaging that you’re wanting to do. If it’s a e-newsletter– I like to think of e-newsletters as educational and maintaining and building that relationship with your customers that you have. So you want to have, maybe, lists of important things that might be beneficial. Or it could be a new product or service that your business is offering.
Something that just keeps your practice, like, top of mind for your customers. Or if it’s event based, making sure you hit those points of what’s in it for the customer. Why are they going to want to come to your event or register for that event?
So, OK. So these are important things. But how do you actually gage their success? I mean, I know that there’s A/B testing for these. But, like, what can you change? And, like, how do you know what to change?
Especially with, like, hitting on the A/B testing– A/B testing is really important to understand your customers and what might capture their attention. So you can A/B test with subject lines, seeing how and what captures people’s attention to make them open that email better. And what’s happening in the industry. Like making sure the content is relevant.
So working with your digital team that maybe you run Google Analytics for your website. Or just having that understanding of what’s relevant for the current time or within the industry. And developing content around that.
So this is, like, you talk about industry trends and seeing what’s working well. And something that comes to mind is– everybody remembers that zeitgeist when Buzzfeed hit the interwebs. And everybody started changing all of their articles to like, Top 10 Best Toenail Polishes, or Five Reasons to Leave Your Man on a Wednesday, or something like that.
And even in email marketing, I’m starting to see that. Well, we’ve seen for a while now that that continues to be the case, too. So there must have been some A/B testing that showed that just by changing the subject line from– I don’t know, We’ve Got Toenail Polish to Best Top 10 Toenail Polishes That We Sell Right Now, or something like that might be the changer.
Yeah, especially using lists in emails. It’s really easy to because it’s digestible. It’s quick, easy. Like, you can scan it really fast and pick up the main points.
But sometimes, too, you want to have those longer form articles, too– that are maybe more, like, research based. Or about a new product or service that you’re offering. It just all depends on what’s relevant that you’re wanting to share with your customers.
I started the show off by saying that you and I had had some conversations where you showed me the way that something really was. And this is a great point of this– how I was making a recommendation at one point that we should trim the fat on the content because I was, like, well, it’s too long. People only have a little bit of time before they lose interest.
And you were pointing out to me that we can do that. But we don’t necessarily want to make it like a simple short email. And that scrolling is actually the norm for things right now, right?
Trends are changing with the like touch phone, smart phones. We scroll so much in our day to day that when it comes to emails, it used to be a best practice to make sure your calls to action and all the important information was above the fold. Well that’s not really the case anymore.
With scrolling, we’ve become creatures of habit when it comes to scrolling, whether it’s on a smartphone or a tablet, or even on your desktop computer. Like you can have long emails. Just making sure that maybe you have that call to action in the top, as well as in the bottom for those people who do make it all the way to the bottom. Then they have that call to action below to take action on.
So does that mean I should just add my phone number to the top and the bottom? Should I also be duplicating, like, click here to buy now buttons, or whatever I’m writing in, at the top and the bottom? Or do I just want to have opportunities of some kind just strewn throughout? Or is there a consistent best practice for this?
There’s not really a consistent best practice. Once again, it all depends on your business and the goals, and what you’re trying to achieve. Maybe it is trying to just get somebody to schedule an appointment. Or if you’re wanting to promote a product. Or if it’s both. Maybe you have one, like, view more information about our product at the bottom. But maybe up top it’s a button where they can fill out a form to schedule an appointment. I think it all depends on the goals of your business.
I’ll bet. Have you ever encountered a situation where you’ve had to make a really minor change and seen huge result changes? Or do you know what I mean?
Yeah. Sometimes. Sometimes it can be just the formatting of an email, too.
And that’s where playing around with A/B testing is really good, too. Because you can try different designs. And the way maybe a call to action is called out or designed. Even sometimes having things on the left side versus the right side. All of that can change the way somebody interacts with an email.
I was reading some stuff about that for website design recently, too. I imagine it’s similar, where there’s factors like, people start reading things on the left. And then they read to the right. Kind of the way we read a book in the Western world.
And I think it was said something about, like, an F shape is the way that we read search results. And I imagine that there’s a pattern that’s like that was effective to email marketing, too.
Yeah, it’s exactly the same story– people scan things in the F pattern. And even sometimes, like for example, like a logo. In print, a lot of the time you want that logo to be in the upper right hand corner, just because that’s the way, like, where your eye goes to immediately.
But with an email design you want it on the left side. People interact with it and register that logo being on, like, the left side versus the right side. Something simple like that that kind of goes against what you might typically think would be right. It surprises you and can be the opposite.
Yes. I’ve been very surprised by email marketing several times. Once somebody is reading your email and you’ve got your call to action at the top and the bottom, and you’ve done your formatting and stuff like that, are there any other things that you can do to really try and push the click through rate up? I mean, you obviously are setting this up with purpose. So what do you do that optimizes this so that you’re getting the best performance?
Especially using buttons. Buttons are a great way, too, especially over just a link. Especially with such high number of people viewing emails on, like, smart phones or tablet devices.
Sometimes trying to click on just a hyperlink text is really hard to click on, where a button gives you a larger surface area to click on. So making sure that it’s clickable. It’s easy access.
But it also even goes into back to your basic design of colors and using colors of a button that trigger those psychological emotions. So like using a color of, like, yellow, which makes you anxious. Or, like, makes you want to take action on.
So if it’s something you want them to interact with, and like, register now for an event– making it, like, a yellow, bright color. Like, that makes you anxious a little bit. Like, oh I’ve got to do something about this. Might help.
It’s a very seriously email you’re sending out here.
Hey, we’ve got to get people to come to our event. Or even if it’s wanting people to schedule an appointment with you. Making that button a blue color because blue invokes trust.
And so then you want them to be able to trust you. And so having that be a blue button, they feel comfortable like, OK, I can do this.
It’s funny. I mean, that’s such a seemingly small change. But there’s a lot of studies that show that this is the case. We talked about this with an earlier podcast, too, in a different format, where there were different colors that you can do on a landing, for instance. And have the same kind of results and effects. That makes sense. That makes sense. Is there anything else aside from just–
And even sometimes the wording that you use, too. And your links and buttons. Letting people know what’s going to happen when they click on that. Like, is it, like, you’re downloading a PDF? Or that you are viewing a video? You want to help guide them so they understand what it is. Like, the action that they’re about to take.
Yeah, you want to be hyper specific and only show exactly what the result of clicking that is going to be.
You don’t need to be as specific as, like, click here. But maybe it’s just like, view website. So that way they’re aware of what is going to happen by clicking on this button.
That sounds good. Let’s talk a little bit more about the formatting of these emails. And what you can do with that.
Garret Jackson was a guest on a previous show and we were talking about how things are trending towards optimizing for mobile first experience because more people are viewing the mobile web than they are getting on a desktop, for instance. So how does that factor into the way that a designer might build out an email campaign and how it looks?
Yeah. Fortunately using a lot of these email marketing-like programs and platforms is they do all the work for you. So you just have to design your email once and all of the emails that are created in these programs are automatically responsive.
So they will format properly and render for a smartphone or a tablet. So you don’t have to worry about handling any of that extra work. It does that all for you.
If you aren’t using one of these services, and let’s say you’re doing this by hand in the Gmail or whatever– there’s a chance that these emails might render differently, right? So it doesn’t show up the correct way.
When it comes through on your smart phone, it might come through being the full display size that it should be for a desktop email service. And so then the user who gets that email is going to have to scroll over to be able to read your entire email instead of it coming through already formatted to fit your smartphone screen.
One thing we’ve touch base on so far has been database size. We haven’t really talked too much about how to cultivate that, though. And once you have it, how do you protect it, too?
I mean, there’s privacy concerns. You and I work in the health care industry. So HIPAA compliance is a big deal. Maybe we can touch base a little bit about building them and then also just maintaining them so that they are secure.
Yeah. Especially when it comes to building your database. You want to make sure that you have that confirmation from your customer or patient or whoever it might be. That they’re OK with you sending them emails. And by having that OK, then you’re free to go about emailing them.
It might be maybe you have a sign up form on your website. Or as people come in and they fill out a form, you just make sure that they verify that they’re fine with you emailing them. And more and more email marketing services are becoming HIPAA compliant. So they won’t take your database and sell it to a third party. Like they protected it, they respect that they are your customers and don’t want to–
Share your information. It’s not going to get strewn about the internet like free information.
Yeah. Like they won’t go and sell it to anybody else. Like, they respect that that’s your personal database and aren’t just going to go selling it to other parties.
Yeah. And you pointed out that the trust there begins with actually getting the contact information, too. You can’t just secretly record their email address and then toss it into your database and then watch the money come rolling in. You really have to develop ways to earn that trust from them and have them provide it to you. Right?
So you mentioned maybe having a sign up sheet on your website. I know a lot of business, small businesses especially, will have a sign up right at the, let’s say, the front office. Or they’ll make a request if you want to do it. Or they will have it elsewhere. Are there other things that you might recommend for building those numbers up?
Those are all great. I think it depends on your business and how you’re going out there. Maybe you’re going to an event. Like, a very large event where you’re meeting and greeting people. And maybe somebody gives you their business card and say, they want to hear from you more. It could be as simple as that.
But you just want to make sure that you have that confirmation from them that they want to hear from you. Which is also important, too, because on the flip side of that, by not having that confirmation from them, you risk having larger unsubscribe rates, which at the end of the day is the last thing you want. Because once somebody unsubscribes, you can’t email them ever again.
And a great way, too, to maintain that trust with your customers is being upfront with what they can expect from you. Like how often you’re going to email them. Maybe giving them a sample of the content.
Could be product reviews, educational articles, or upcoming events. Different things like that. As transparent as you can be with those customers, the better off you are
Another thing that comes to mind, too, is sometimes you can– maybe not just buy these things up, but you can say, hey, if you let us email you then we’ll give you something. So for instance, I’ve worked events for some brands where what they’ll do is they’ll say, you want to win this great prize? All you have to do is enter and all you have to do to enter is give us your contact information. And we’ll add you to our mailing list so you can be involved with this product. But we already presume that you like our product. Otherwise you wouldn’t want the prize.
So you can be a little bit transactional in that way. You probably don’t want to just hand them $20 and say, we’ll be emailing you shortly. But there are lots of ways that you can do that kind of thing.
OK. Well we’ve covered a lot of ground. And I think we’re going to start wrapping up the show. So in true Reach format, we’re going to start talking about the top three takeaways. What are the most important three things that people who are listening should remember from your vast well of knowledge on email marketing?
I think the number one thing is making sure you’ve clearly defined those goals. And what it is you’re wanting to measure with the emails. Like, what is going to be an effective email for you and your business?
The second one I would say is making sure that the content or emails that you’re sending to your database is relevant. Like, why are they going to want to hear from you? You’re more likely to get somebody to unsubscribe if what you’re sending them isn’t relevant to them. So making sure that all your content, or the emails you’re sending is relevant and makes sense for them.
And lastly, I think making sure that you don’t over-saturate your database. You don’t want them to start thinking of you as being spammy. Or not a trustworthy business.
Like, at the end of the day you want them to come back to you. And so maintaining that– hey, I’m here– relationship. Like, hitting them every once in a while so you’re still come to the top of mind, but it’s not too much. Like, oh, I’m hearing from them again. But just making sure that you’re maintaining that trust and that they want to come back to you when they need to.
I hope everyone heard that one because I’ve got way too many emails to go and delete when I get back to my inbox. Kate, thank you so much. It’s been really fun. As always you’re my go to person on this topic. So I’m really glad that you made the time for us.
Yeah. Thanks for having me, Dan. It’s been fun.