My inbox currently has 1,496 unopened emails to trawl through.
Every time I look at my phone there is that horrible red balloon quietly mocking at me from my homescreen, reminding me that I should be clearing out my emails, not scrolling mindlessly through Facebook.
How does your inbox compare?
My husband is one of those smug ‘inbox zero’ people who breaks out in a cold sweat if he has more than three unread emails… so he finds it hard to understand how I can function knowing I have so many to go through.
But I have a system. Leave me alone.
My system is… wait for it…… skimming.
99% of those 1,496 emails will be deleted. They’re from companies that I subscribed to (probably to get a discount), who are now persistently selling me more stuff that I don’t need.
Or they’re from Facebook telling me that someone has posted in a group that I joined last year.
Or they’re from Twitter telling me that someone has retweeted me.
There’s a lot of noise in there, and most of it I ignore.
If this is something you can relate to, you’re not alone.
We each receive, on average, 147 emails every day – that’s an insane amount of content to keep on top of and it goes some way to explaining why some people have been predicting the end of email marketing for the last ten or twenty years.
E-marketing is still at least six times as effective at driving sales as social media. That means if you post something on Facebook and you email it to your list, you are six times more likely to get a sale from your email than from Facebook.
Although online communication has changed since the explosion of social media in the early 21st Century, emails continue to be top of the list for marketers in terms of return on investment.
Relying entirely on Mark Zuckerberg for your leads is a risky business – it’s like building your house on rented land – Facebook can change its algorithm at any moment, losing you your audience overnight.
E-marketing happens on your terms, which has to be worth a second look, right?
HURRY! BUY NOW!
Don’t use that as your email subject line – with its shouty tone (ALL CAPS, ANYONE?) it gets deleted from my inbox quicker than you can say ‘Free postage and packaging’.
Emails that help me solve a problem, now they have my attention.
That problem might be how to look good on my next holiday, or where to stop for lunch on the way to my hotel, or which beaches to add to the must-see list next time I’m in Devon.
They’re all topics that would capture my attention, particularly if I’m planning my next holiday….
The email subject line is the most important part of the email, and if you get that wrong, you’ve lost them before you even start, so think differently when creating yours to really give them something worth reading.
Building a list is one of the biggest challenges with email marketing – when I first got an email address (in 1999 – ahem) I was thrilled each time a new email arrived.
Someone is writing to me?! Who could it be?!
But now things are a little different and we protect our email addresses as fiercely as we protect our children, and think twice before signing up to anything.
Once someone has signed up to your list, it’s tempting to settle back into a routine of sending messages every time you’ve got something new to sell.
Can you see the problem with this approach?
Every email has to have (it’s the law, so no clever workarounds here) an easy unsubscribe link in the footer – so anyone who receives it can easily remove themselves from your database without too much effort.
And they do.
The average unsubscribe rate in the UK is below 0.12% but this easily adds up if you’re not constantly growing your list – constant effort is needed to maintain a good sized list of email subscribers, through growing your list but also through providing content that they’re going to enjoy reading, week after week.
Attention spans have never been shorter (SQUIRREL!) as the epidemic of FOMO (fear-of-missing-out) and SOS (shiny-object-syndrome) sweep through the population at an alarming rate.
If you’re reading this on a smart phone (which most of us are), there is the constant distraction of social media notifications and news alerts popping up – it’s quite a challenge to focus on one thing at a time.
But email remains a very personal form of communication. Get the subject line and the content right, and your emails will break through all that competition to capture your readers’ attention every time.
Since May 2013, Gmail has been sorting emails as they arrive in our inbox. When an email pops into your inbox, it is automatically placed into one of three tabs:
The Primary tab is where I spend most of my time – this is where emails from clients, friends and people who I’ve met at business events are filtered. These emails are personal, they’re meant for me and they get most attention.
The other two tabs are where my 1,496 unread emails sit.
So how do you get your emails into the Primary tab?
If you’re on my email list (and if you’re not, you can join here) you’ve probably noticed I keep them pretty simple – no flashy graphics, no logo, no embedded images… plain and simple text, with a link or two to a relevant article or new resource.
This is no accident. I like to think of subscribers as friends and I am forever grateful to them for allowing me a little bit of space in their crowded inbox – so I write to them like I might write to a friend.
No CAPS LOCK. Just an informal note to let them know about something I’ve found or created that might help them out with their online marketing.
The number of outgoing links, formatting and style of my emails helps them end up in the Primary tab of Gmail.
If Netflix has taught us anything, it’s that if we like something, we can’t get enough of it.
If you’ve ever binge-watched a box-set of Mad Men, Breaking Bad or Peaky Blinders over eight hours you’ll know that we can take a lot of content in a short space of time – as long as we enjoy that content.
Emailing your list every week, even every day, is fine as long as you are providing consistent value.
The moment I discover a report or research study that tells me that Mondays are most effective for e-marketing, I find another one telling me to send my marketing emails at the weekend.
Unfortunately there isn’t one simple rule that applies to every industry and every business.
What works for me might not work for you.
The only way you can discover the best time to send your emails is to experiment. Test sending emails in the morning, in the evening, during a lunch hour, on a Sunday….. test different days and times to discover which day and time works best with your readers.
So we know email marketing is still big – we know it works, and with conversion rates consistently higher than with many social networks, it’s not going anywhere soon.
But it only works if it’s done well. I’ll shortly be publishing the Ultimate Guide to Effective Email marketing to help you to start taking advantage of the amazing opportunities of email for your business.
Subscribe here to get a copy as soon as it’s published, or check back next week to read the full guide.