Just like salesmen love to use ambiguous phrases like ‘touch base’, ‘boots on the ground’ and ‘putting lipstick on a pig’, marketers love to use buzzwords. Throughout the evolution of marketing we’ve seen hundreds of buzzwords come and go, but among some of my personal favorites include ‘freemium’, ‘smarketing’ and ‘wantraprenuer’. Pretty much any time you can conveniently jam two unlike words into a turducken-like catch phrase, the marketing community will eat it up (pun very much intended).
All joking aside, one of the most recent buzzwords to surface in the digital marketing community, and for good reason, is email conversion rate optimization. Email conversion rate optimization, which is more commonly referred to as email CRO, is a term used in internet marketing to describe a system for increasing the percentage of recipients that convert into a customer, or more generally, take any desired action on a marketing email. And although the phrase itself is starting to lose meaning due to chronic overuse, the concept remains invaluable.
Traditional Hacks for Increasing Conversion Rates
While traditional approaches to email CRO often consist of arbitrarily inserting a personalization token, changing the time of day an email is sent and leveraging broad list-segmentations, the unfortunate truth is that these ‘hacks’ are no longer enough to drive quality conversions. On top of that, marketers hoping to increase email conversion rates using these tactics often don’t focus much, if any, of their efforts on performance analysis and optimization. And although marketing is commonly recognized for its creative influence on an organization’s sales efforts, today’s marketers can’t afford to ignore the analytical side of their efforts.
Instead, a more granular approach to email marketing must be taken in order to truly be effective in today’s digitally-driven business landscape. For example, rather than celebrating the fact that a certain email received a 20% click-through-rate marketers need to ask themselves why 80% of recipients chose not to click through their email. By taking the time to understand why an email was or was not successful, marketers will be able to better identify weak points in their email marketing funnel, determine the factors that are causing the funnel to narrow, and perform hypothesis testing in an effort to increase engagement among recipients.
Sustainable Strategies for Achieving Conversion Rate Optimization
Unlike so many marketing philosophies, data-based decision-making isn’t just a fad, it’s absolutely critical to staying relevant in today’s digital marketing era. And as it relates to email marketing, data-driven systems, strategies and processes allow marketers to identify the best user experience for their contacts, deliver said experience, and reap the benefits (in the form of conversion rates). Listed below are a couple of ways to transform short-term, unsustainable email marketing hacks into strategic efforts used to increase quality conversion rates:
Targeted List Segmentation
Segmenting your contact database by lifecycle stage, though undoubtedly an example of list segmentation, does not count as targeted list segmentation. Why, you ask? Because segmenting your contacts by lead, MQL or SQL is like saying that every person that walks into a Target is there to buy the same Massimo clothing, Eos chapstick and Archer Farms chicken breast; it’s completely unrealistic.
The same goes for email marketing. Just because you have a handful of contacts listed as an SQL, it does not mean that they’re all interested in the same product or service offering. Instead, marketers should be using relevant properties, like premium offer form submissions, product and/or service inquiries or previous purchase history, to create more targeted communications. Though lists will likely be smaller and more concentrated, the effectiveness of using more focused list segmentations will far surpass anything that can be achieved from general, blanket-style communications.
Contrary to popular belief, A/B testing can be used to affect more than just email open rates. Though improving elements like subject lines, preview text, day of the week and time-of-day can be used to increase open rates, which are indicative of improved click-through-rates, there are subsequent elements where A/B testing can prove valuable. Making small adjustments to an email’s body copy, design and/or layout, images, calls-to-actions, or email signature can greatly affect the click-through-rate and, hopefully, the conversion rates generated from a given email campaign. And although it may seem somewhat elementary, when used correctly A/B testing is an extremely powerful methodology that drives significant results within email marketing campaigns
Though a variety of hacks exist for improving email conversion rates, what really determines successful email conversion rates is a marketer’s ability to grab the attention of recipients and provide them with relevant and engaging content once they’ve showed interest. To achieve this, marketers must remove their own assumptions and opinions, and use the performance data they’ve gathered about their audience through A/B testing to guide their email creation process to increase email conversion rates.