Why you should ALWAYS test your emails

One of the most important lessons I have learned while working in the digital media industry is test. Test, test and test again.

For example, say you are a busy marketer and a client has asked you to deploy an email using a brand new template. The template has been coded and initially tested. But then something more urgent crops up and you don’t have time to test it as thoroughly as you should have. The email is scheduled and it turns out one of the links goes to a 404 Error message page. Then the feedback from customers starts coming in and you wonder why this wasn’t picked up.

Every single email you work on should be 100% accurate and thoroughly tested, as even one broken link could affect opens and clickthrough rates, conversions, or even your reputation.

It is so important to test all features of any project, whether it be an email campaign, a brand new website or a video ad. This article on the Litmus.com blog gives some classic examples of why you should be continuously testing with eDMs.

Email clients drop support without notice
This is crucial especially when it comes to inbox testing. Sometimes different email clients can drop support for HTML and CSS. It doesn’t matter if you have the most beautiful email in the world that will exponentially grow your database and clickthrough rate. If the HTML and CSS is not rendering correctly, it won’t matter in the slightest. Make sure you set up test accounts in different email clients and test them across different browsers – including earlier versions as some of your customers may not have upgraded their software.

Broken or incorrect links
Because most URLs are added to a CTA button or an image, from a design point of view, it’s hard to confirm whether the link is correct unless you test them first. Make sure every link goes to the correct page (whether it be to a new product, your About Us page or a mailto link for an RSVP list).

Spelling and grammar errors

Always check for spelling errors

Unfortunately, once you’ve hit the Send button on your campaign, there is no way to recall it if you suddenly spot a spelling mistake. You know the feeling – you’ve checked the copy and all the links, you send it out, and you immediately recognise that your subject line should say ‘Get it NOW!’ when it actually says ‘Get it NOT!’. If you find yourself in this position, the best thing to do is to send out – as quickly as possible – an apology email to your database.

BUT to make sure you don’t have to resend your email, you should always proof-read your email – multiple times! But then also get a colleague (or three) to check it as well. An extra pair of eyes could spot a spelling mistake that you may have overlooked because you’ve read the copy too many times. Also, how about putting your copy into Word which will detect if any words are incorrectly spelt?

Broken images and missing/incorrect alt text
The alt text is crucial for email marketing – it is the text that customers see before they download the images (this could be their email client’s default setting or just a personal preference), so this needs to make an impact. When you add in new images to replace placeholder images, make sure you insert alt text. When you get a colleague to check your email before it’s deployed, get them to check the alt text on their machine and amend if need be.

Missing or no plain text
Plain text is critical for email marketing, and you need to be aware of how many customers from your database have signed up to just receive this version, rather than the HTML email. This plain text version needs to always include a link to view the HTML online in a browser, so they can see and click on the links. With plain text, you need to ensure that any characters you have (including $, !, ‘ or ” etc…) are typed out, rather that copied and pasted from a secondary source – these will not be supported otherwise.

As with your HTML version, send yourself a copy of the plain text to check all the links and any personalisation you might have (like a first name).

Broken dynamic content
Dynamic content is a great tool to use as you are able to personalise your emails by segmenting your database and providing different pieces of content for various customers. For example, if you’re a pet store, you could send out an email to all your customers, but include an additional section to all customers who have dogs, to let them know dog food is on special. Make sure you do multiple tests with different blocks to check the right customer gets the right section. There is nothing worse than finding out once your email has gone out that some criteria has changed and you didn’t test it properly.

These are just some of the things you should look for when you are testing your emails, but there are, of course, so many more. What specific things do you test for? Do you have a checklist of things to tick off before the email can be scheduled to deploy? I would love to hear from you!

Why do customers unsubscribe from your emails?

I recently came across a great article from GetResponse.com around some of the reasons why customers unsubscribe from your emails.

Every single company will lose customers from their mailing list, it is inevitable. This is one of the facts of email marketing, that no matter how hard we try, people will unsubscribe from your emails. With regards to what is an “acceptable” unsubscribe rate, this post confirmed that as long as your unsubscribe rate stays below about half a percent, you’re not doing too bad. I have been told that if yotur Unsubscribe rate if 1% or under, you’re doing pretty well, so don’t get despondent if your customers are unsubscribing!

You have worked hard to get those people on your list and you would like like to keep them. Below are a few of the most common reasons people unsubscribe, along with what you can do to counteract each one.

1) Information Overload
They simply get too many emails from you.

In email marketing research studies of why people unsubscribe, the #1 reason is usually “too many emails”. Sending emails too often is a sure way to drive people off your list, so send frequency is definitely something to consider when trying to grow your email database.But how often is too often? This actually all depends on the size of your list, but there is some general data available. MarketingSherpa recently asked 2,000 U.S. adults about their email frequency preferences (I will do a separate blog post on this over the coming weeks) by asking them this question: How often, if ever, would you like to receive promotional emails (e.g., coupons, sales notifications) from companies that you do business with? The graph below shows the responses:

Graph on how often you would like to receive emails

The general concensus of the study was that customers want to hear from companies via email roughly once a week or once a month – email marketing best practice recommends emailing your database at least once a month and here’s why: any less and people will forget who you are.It can be hard to say how often is too often to send, but here are a couple of points to remember:

  • Twice a day is way too much – this is a sure-fire way to drive your unsubscribe rate up.
  • Once a day is probably too much. If you’re a B2C company, selling products to customers, and you pitch something for people to buy, do it no more than once or twice a week. There are, of course, obvious exceptions to the rule – you should do some testing on send times, days and frequencies to find out the optimal send frequency for your particular database.

You could also do a dedicated opt-down email when you send out an eDM to your entire database giving them options, like the example below:

Fewer emails

This is an excellent way to maintain some of your customers.

They get too many emails in general.

Some of your subscribers may have chosen to opt out simply because they get too many emails. While this may sound like a legitimate reason for customers to unsubscribe, it’s really just a surface cause. If you lose a subscriber because they’re getting too many emails overall, you’re actually losing them because your emails aren’t good enough to make their list of enewsletters they want to receive. They won’t unsubscribe from every email they receive, they’re just cleaning up their Inbox, thinning out the herd a little bit. Unfortunately, your emails are one of the messages to be cut.

The second reason why your emails might not be good enough for subscribers, is actually also the second most common reason people unsubscribe.

2) Your emails are just not relevant

Customers will cull your emails if they are not what they want or are interested in. But the most effective way to get around this is segmentation. Here are some ideas of data segmenting:

  • interests people select when they sign up
  • which links people have clicked in your emails
  • online resources (such as ebooks, on-demand webinars or whitepapers)
  • participation in online events (like a webinar)
  • how often people click on your emails (aka frequency of interaction)
  • geography
  • overlay data (like income level, psychographics, etc)

Data segmentation can help you to deliver more relevant content to your customers but bear in mind that sometimes people just gotta go, because their interests change.

So, what about you – what is the main reason that you’ll unsubscribe from emails? Have you done any unsusbcribe testing? Let me know by leaving a comment below!