4 Signs Your Email Marketing Is Less Effective Than It Should Be

I think we all can agree on one thing: Our inboxes are overflowing. In fact, the average employee sends 10,000-plus emails per year and gets three times that, thanks to CC and BCC fields. Whether we like it or not, we’re in a daily battle for inbox attention. But did you realize that your email’s efficacy and ability to claim some of that attention can go so far as to help your business fly—or flop?

After almost 15 years of owning and driving in-the-cloud email companies (and dealing with billions of emails), I’ve identified the top four signs your email is less effective than it should be.

1. Your email is not always making into an inbox (which means your IP reputation is likely substandard).

Let’s get the geeky stuff out of the way first. The number one reason that emails fail to land in their intended recipient’s inbox is due to poor IP reputation. IP reputation is the behind-the-scenes score that email services use to see if your company is a “good” emailer or a bad one (e.g. spammy, sending campaign emails, etc).

What most people don’t realize is that it’s not hard to get a bad IP reputation. The main culprit is poorly configured SPF records (another behind-the-scenes record that gives email sending services authority to send on your behalf). Google in particular punishes poorly configured SPF records harshly.

Another way your IP reputation can get damaged is if someone in your company regularly sends bulk emails from your standard email service. Bulk marketing emails should be sent from a dedicated email marketing service that specializes in bulk email campaigns, never via your business email service. I’ve also seen companies with sending reputations in tatters because they’ve been sending phishing emails inadvertently (thanks to a lack of border security and policy).

The Fix: The good news is your IP reputation doesn’t have to be a mystery. I recommend using a tool like MX Toolboxto view your reputation score. If it’s poor, then there is a good chance some of your emails aren’t making it into your intended recipient’s inbox. If this is the case, you’re going to need to review your company’s email practices and make some changes—fast.

2. You’ve gotten feedback that your emails display strangely when viewed on mobile (which means you’re not engaging in mobile-friendly branding).

Almost 60 percent of emails are opened on mobile devices. If your email branding is not responsive to small form factor devices (mobile phones and tablets), that can detrimentally affect how the text in your email is displayed. This can be frustrating for the recipient, and will often result in people not properly reading your email.

The Fix: Since there are many combinations of display sizes and clients, you need to check that your branding works on all of them. Litmus.com is a good starting point, but remember that the landscape is constantly changing with updates so you can’t just check and forget.

Remember that the emails you send via your mobile should be professionally branded also. I highly recommend going with up-top branding (like the logo on traditional paper letterhead). We ran an analysis with Microsoft Azure and found that emails sent with up-top branding can yield up to a 12 percent increase in response rates to your email on mobile devices. Remember perception is reality, so if your emails look unprofessional, they (and you) may be treated as such.

3. You’ve noticed that a lot of people receive your emails, but hardly any of them respond (in other words, you’re getting ghosted).

If your recipients are ghosting you, it’s clear your emails have lost effectiveness. If you’re not a Millennial (I’m not, but I hire plenty) and don’t know what ghosting is, it’s when someone is receiving your messages but chooses not to reply to them.

The Fix: Better email analytics, as they will help you identify ghosting. The best analytics tools use an algorithm that calculates the send/open/reply times over a certain time period. This will help you spot a decreasing trend and nip it in the bud early.

If you don’t have an email analytics service, I’d recommend running a basic query on your most important recipients. This won’t get you all the key inputs, but you can get a decent feel for what’s happening with your emails by reviewing your send and respond times over the last 20-plus email interactions.

4. Your emails are longer than 150 words (also known as TLTR).

Since people get far too many emails every day, it’s critical that yours are punchy and to the point. If your emails are regularly more than 150 words, you are almost certainly falling into the TLTR (too long to read) category.

You can guess with a reasonable degree of accuracy whether an email is TLTR when observing a colleague reviewing an email on their smartphone. Typically, they’ll do a couple of quick thumb swipes and then put their phone down in defeat!

The Fix: This is an easy one. Keep your emails short, and always include a clear call to action. If someone is interested in what you have to say, they can always ask you for more information later.

For many companies, email is their primary form of business-to-business communication, yet too many people still simply send away and hope for the best. This is not a strategy, and will end up failing you (and your recipients). Instead, it’s time to be email smart. Not only will your email efficacy improve, but so will your relationships with the people you’re trying to reach.

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