9 Ways to Increase Your Sales From Your Emails
If you haven’t put a lot of effort into email marketing, it can be very disheartening to start. There’s just so much stacked against you. People receive dozens or even hundreds of messages every day, and depending on their interest and time, they open very few of them. Open rates can be downright apocalyptic for some industries, ranging from 14% to 30% depending on topic. From there, click rates are even worse, averaging around 2.5%.
On top of all of that, you have to contend with the amount of time it takes to create and send your messages. If you’re doing it personally, and it takes 5 minutes to compose and send a message to a customer, what happens when you have 100 customers? 1,000? How many of them do you need to contact each day, to keep the flow of sales going?
Many businesses turn to auto-responders or template messages to solve this problem, and those are valid solutions. That’s what this service is all about, after all. The thing is, you need a more robust solution than basic templates and canned responses. When you send a canned response, your customers know just how much you matter to them. They know it’s not you sending the message; it’s a robot you’ve programmed to respond to them, wearing a poor mask of your face. You know, digitally.
I’m not trying to tell you not to use an auto-responder, obviously. What I’m telling you is that if you’re going to use one – or even if you aren’t, and still have the time and energy to compose messages yourself – you need to use it properly. What I’ve compiled for you are nine excellent tips for improving your email discourse.
One thing you’ll note is that these aren’t tips to improve your open rate. Open rates are their own beast. They depend highly on your industry, on your product, on your sales funnel and on your subject line. I have a few tips for those, too. Consider them a freebie.
- Make sure your subject line is as appealing as possible. I’m talking almost clickbait levels of curiosity. You need to draw interest immediately, so your message isn’t shunted into the archives or deleted unopened.
- Make sure your subject line – and the rest of your message – is directed at one person. Sure, you might use the same format for all of your customers, but at its core, this is a 1 to 1 discussion. Obviously, make sure you’re not openly CCing other customers.
- Personalize your return address. A user is a lot more likely to open a message from RobertCEO@yourcompany.com than they are to open one from firstname.lastname@example.org or, worse, email@example.com.
- Avoid the terms, keywords and phrases that trip spam filters. Unfortunately, many of these words are also great promotional words, so it makes it very hard to compose a solid hype email without using them. Just check out this list and try to avoid them as best you can.
- Audit your mailing list from time to time. Your open rates will improve if you do a few simple things, like stop sending messages to broken email addresses, addresses with typos, or addresses that hard bounce.
Of course, you also need to do all this while complying with local laws. The United States CAN-SPAM law is the most applicable, so read up on its requirements and what you need to do to avoid the spammer label, and subsequent filtering.
Think about what makes you want to open an email message you find in your inbox. What drives you to open it?
- It regards an issue you care passionately about.
- It’s communication you’re expecting.
- It offers you some value that makes it worth your time to open.
The fourth option is that it’s from a close friend or family member, but that doesn’t matter for business communications. Chances are it’s not your brother sending you a message from a business.
Keep these three core principles in mind as you read the list of tips I’ve prepared for you.
1. Make Sure Your CTA Link is Prominently Visible
Your CTA link is the link leading to the action you want your user to take. Every email should have a purpose, even a basic “thank you for subscribing” message. There should always, always be a next step for the user to take. Since you can’t really ask for a two-way communication through an autoresponder message, every action you want to get the user to take is an action that they take through your website. That means, of course, a link.
Making this link a prominent part of your message is important. You might want to test out different formats and positions, but the central point is always the same. It needs to be visible, it needs to clearly be a link, and it needs to lead the user to the next step of the conversion process, whatever that might be.
This is easier if you have a very well developed email template, but those are something of a double edged sword. I’m always skeptical of an email message with fancy borders and boxes, social sharing links and blog post digests and all the rest. That’s all well and good for a newsletter, but it’s a little impersonal and reeks of a canned response when it’s used as part of a sales campaign. Which you use is up to you, of course.
2. Use Trust-Building Language and Personal Perspectives
This plays off the tip above, about sending from a personal email address rather than a corporate address or no-reply address.
You want to make it look like your messages are coming from the personal account of a sales rep dedicated to that customer, so they have a direct connection with someone important. It can even be your actual email address, so long as you have the appropriate filters set up to make sure you’re not flooded with meaningless replies.
In your message, you also need to use a specific type of language, and this is why I prefer non-newsletter messages. I find that a good old-fashioned plaintext message often seems the most personal, and thus has the highest click rates. From there, of course, it’s all about the landing page and the conversion funnel.
What do I mean by a specific type of language? This will be familiar to sales specialists. You’re making the user feel personally important. You’re making them feel valuable. You want them to think that you’re willing to bend over backwards for their custom, even if you’re just sending templated responses and you don’t really know who they are. Try phrases like “We’ll take good care of you,” or “You’re a VIP and we intend to give you true VIP service.” Even something as simple as “We’re excited to work with you” can go a long way.
3. CC Your Team to Show Customers the Scale of Their Support
This is a simple and subtle way to encourage trust and make a user feel important, though many users might not know why, and many more might not even notice.
The idea is to establish a team of people working on behalf of the customer. This team should be made up of dedicated staff, and perhaps a few fake accounts that redirect to your inbox – or the inbox of the representative contacting the user.
Once you have this team list, CC – not BCC, you want them to see this – those people in your communications. Don’t draw attention to it. Make sure that it’s clear by the email addresses alone that these people are part of your company, not additional customers. You accomplish this primarily with more @yourcompany.com email addresses.
Make sure that these people are aware that they’re part of this team, but also make sure that all of your email communication goes through one representative. “Hi, Amy told me you messaged her about an issue, and I’d like to help you resolve it.” Amy might have referred that message, or auto-forwarded it. Amy might not even be real. It’s a way to make your team look larger and instill more confidence in the customer.
4. Make Sure Your Signature is Professional
Your email signature is attached to every message you send to your customers, and as such, it’s a big part of what they know and see about you. You don’t want to drop it; that’s a sign of a canned email or an unprofessional communication. Instead, you want a professional signature. Here are some guidelines for your signature.
- Include essential information. This is typically your name, your job title, your company name and URL, and a phone number at which you can be reached. Include your company logo, but don’t go overboard with graphics. Don’t make it entirely an image; people will want to copy and paste the information or click the links.
- Avoid a signature that stretches too far vertically. If necessary, you can combine lines of information into one line, such as Firstname Lastname | firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Avoid any unprofessional details, like a strange customized font or a color other than a dark blue or black. Consider this to be similar to corporate letterhead for official communications.
- Avoid unrelated information, like motivational quotes, personal information, or strange details.
- Consider a link to social media, but avoid linking too many platforms at once. The longer and denser your signature is, the more your response looks like a canned email designed to get them to click those links. They’re an accessory, not a focus.
5. Avoid Over-Templating
If your email can look like a MadLib when you strip out your name, company name, customer name, and product name, your email isn’t personalized enough. You need it to look like you learned the details of the customer and have sent them a customized message. Thankfully, these are simple changes to make.
- Instead of “Dear Sir or Madam,” use the name they used when opting in to your sales funnel. Preferentially use their first name, rather than a Mr./Mrs. Lastname.
- Address them directly, as if you were talking to them on the phone or in person, rather than using stodgy corporate language and impersonal dialogue. No “We’re excited to work with all of our customers.”
- Don’t surround your email with graphical borders, and don’t include a ton of extra information. These are sales emails. They’re quick, personal communications. You can save all the rest of all of that for your regular newsletter, which you signed them up for at the same time.
Finally, and this isn’t quite related, your email messages should be sent quickly, but not instantly. If I click to opt in to a sales contact, and it’s already in my inbox before it loads, I know you’re using a template and that I’m not important enough for a personal contact. If it takes a few minutes, it looks like you were notified and wrote it. If it takes hours or days, I’ll have lost interest. Find the right balance.
6. Keep Emails Brief and Properly Written
I’ve mentioned the newsletter template thing a couple of times, but there’s a related tip to give as well. Your messages should be very brief. Include what you need to, but whenever possible, direct the user to your website for information they need. If it’s further reading, if it’s more value, if it’s the next step in the registration process, whatever; it shouldn’t be in the email.
Why? People don’t want to spend a lot of time reading their email. For most of us, it feels like a diversion, a distraction from the other things we want to do. Many people even resent the minor delay in registering for a website when they have to go to their inbox to verify their account. The less time you can take up in the dark cave of their inbox, the less they’ll resent being there in the first place.
Plus, by directing users to your website for various additional steps and extra information, you’re giving yourself a lot more leeway with what you can include. This goes for both information and for CTAs; you have a ton of space and flexibility on a well-designed web page compared to what you have in a plaintext email.
7. Avoid Mistakes, Errors, and Keywords that Prevent Deliverability
I already mentioned the list of spam-flag keywords and phrases. Obviously, you want to avoid them as much as possible. Of course, it’s difficult in a sales message to avoid all of them, particularly because spammers keep evolving to use new words and phrases, growing the list. Sooner or later there will be an email revolution, but until that day, you just have to make do.
In addition to avoiding those kinds of keywords, you want to avoid errors. I’ve spoken out against newsletter templates, but if you still want to use them, you need to make sure they work. Errors in code just won’t cut it. Likewise, the email still needs to work if the images are blocked, which many prominent email clients do. A “view on the web” link isn’t good enough. Ideally, you shouldn’t need it.
Of course, you also need to make sure that your message is free of typos, incorrect homophones, poor word selection, inappropriate innuendo, and any other language snafu that can kill your relationship with a new customer. This is an ongoing first impression, so to speak; make it count.
8. Offer Additional Value to Treat Customers as VIPs
When I talk about telling users they are VIPs, I don’t mean to make baseless promises you won’t live up to. I mean, yes, your service should be good enough and your product should be high quality enough to make the customer feel like they made the right choice. More importantly, though, you should provide them with extra value.
I don’t necessarily recommend stacking up this value. Rather, spread it out. Your “thank you for your interest” initial message can have further reading, a more in-depth landing page with benefits of your product or service. You can move on to offering exclusive content just for them, like an eBook or video series.
You can offer additional value in terms of upsells and discounts later on in the process, if you haven’t converted them by then.
9. Test Variations to Optimize Phrasing, Formatting, and More
You had to know it was coming somewhere; testing. Testing is the lifeblood of any good sales funnel. It’s how you optimize every bit of your conversion process, and your email communications are no different. The beauty of using an email template service is it makes it easy to test variations on your messages to different segments of your audience. You can test broad changes to your audience as a whole, or you can segment them by certain demographic information you collect – like company size, industry, etc – and customize different types of messages for different types of contacts. It stands to reason that you’d want to address a small business customer differently than a high profile enterprise customer, after all.
Test everything, all the time, forever.