No one ever wants to talk about deliverability of their email newsletters. It's just not as sexy as content marketing or social media. The last time I tried to bring it up in conversation with a marketer --a marketer who had single digit opens and double digit bounces for their newsletter I might add-- I got a frown and a swift topic change back to content.
But the thing is, it doesn't matter what content you are producing if no one reads it.
Start Off on the Right Foot
If you have a huge opt-in email list and a tiny open rate on your email newsletter, that may suggest your list members didn't realize they were signing up for your email newsletter. One way to set that expectation up front is to have a welcome email trigger that sends out the most recent email newsletter and a request that your new subscriber adds you to their safe senders list upon list subscription.
This welcome email should let new subscribers know how frequently they will be receiving the email newsletter, and what content it contains. Better yet, it should link out to their user profile and have content preferences to allow them to customize what content appears in their newsletter. Ideally, a welcome email will prime them for receiving the newsletters, and help increase the number of them that actually hit their mailbox.
Perform Regular List Hygiene
Email marketers owe it to themselves to set up a business rule to automatically unsubscribe inactive recipients from their newsletter subscriber list after 6 months. Those disenrolled subscribers could be moved into a list that would receive a re-engagement email campaign series, that in the end would ask them to re-subscribe to the newsletter.
Mailing your newsletters over a long-term basis to subscribers who are not interested in your content could, in the worst case scenario, lead to them marking your emails as Spam which in turn could adversely affect your deliverability. Many users will spam report something rather than open and scroll to the bottom of an email to find the unsubscribe link (and many folks don’t believe that clicking that link will actually get them off your email list.)
Test Your Subject Lines
Now that you've gotten your list cleaned up, and a welcome email in place, you can start thinking about your most basic and fundamental piece of content: your subject line. Take a hard look at your most recent email subject line. If you didn't work for your company, from the subject line, would you know what content would be inside your newsletter? Would you be compelled to open?
Many newsletter subject lines try to be playful or witty in the hopes of catching their subscribers' eyes. But the thing is, your subscribers probably get hundreds of other emails each day that are plying those same tactics. Try testing subject lines that vary based upon your subscribers content preferences or their most recent purchase or activity on your website. If you can tailor your subject lines to reflect their relationship with you, and how they can benefit from the content inside, that may help you boost your open rates.
To get a better idea of what's working well, try additionally segmenting your A/B test lists by engaged subscribers (have opened/clicked in past 3 months) versus disengaged subscribers (everybody else) so you can see if different subject lines work better for your most engaged subscribers versus those less likely to open
- The Beginner's Guide to A/B testing on the Kissmetrics blog
- Email List Segmentation Starts with a Welcome Campaign on the Lyris blog
- How do I Know if I am Writing a Good Subject Line? on the mailchimp blog
- Email List Hygiene -- Definitely Worth it on the mailigen blog