How to Engage Your Email Subscribers

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Do you know why the best academic students take notes during lectures? Research indicates that with more intensive and varied interaction our brain works better. When writing alongside listening and looking at the lecture, it is picked up and remembered more so than when just listening. Now that is interesting. How can a brand apply this principle of intense interaction to their email marketing and increase customer engagement?

 

Engagement matters

Not only do converting subscribers spend more time with your messaging, but they are paying more attention. Marketers agree that higher levels of engagement are important. In the 2014 State of Marketing report 65% of marketers said that increasing subscriber email marketing engagement combined with revenue was a top lifecycle marketing challenge. Engagement can partially predict the likeliness of conversion and next to that, the branding value of your email is impacted by engagement and interaction.

 

Not every open is engaging

It is easy to mistake activity for engagement. A subscriber that opens an email is interacting, but is he truly, intensely engaging with your message? If he takes the second step on the email marketing stairway and makes a conscious decision to read/scan the content and click through; that is a much stronger form of engagement. True conversions are an even higher tier of engagement, like browsing the website, reading an article, a resource download, or buying a product.

 

Looking beyond optimizing email campaign engagement

We know the ways to increase interaction and engagement – per campaign. With A/B split testing, improved copy, stronger CTAs, triggered messaging, and making it mobile optimized a lot can be achieved. A customer engages across all campaigns though. Those extra click throughs can have a long term effect the minute someone converts and becomes a loyal repeat customer or fan. Here are two types of emails for increasing engagement on the customer level you can easily deploy next to your regular email program:

 

1. Survey interests

Especially the relationship focused reader will appreciate an honest survey, when done right it will appeal on the appreciation factor. The reader can be treated as an email marketing VIP if there is a bit of exclusivity, which would read something like this:

“Especially for you as a (frequent, highly valued, yearlong) customer, we would like to ask you as a part of our small group of X customers to express your opinion.”

Surveys are great and can definitely solidify your relationship with your customer.

 

2. Add a surprise personal email

Just ask for interaction to increase the engagement. If you are sending a frequent newsletter or action mails, adding a “surprise” personal email can greatly boost engagement. Customer.io did a very simple personal email which had 17% reply rate. 17% of the people mailed, sent an actual reply.

Of course this tactic isn’t scalable if you need to write them one by one, but it is a good way to start. This will allow you to sharpen the email text and content, because you are spending “quality time” with the concept of the email. While a first version might not be totally right, after sending about 20 / 30 of these personally, you will see that the text gets improved, improved, and improved even more based on feedback.

Finding the right angle or even subject line in these cases, is crucial. Think about the function of the person that email should originate from, should it be sales, account manager, the CEO, an intern, the service department, or even someone with the modern function title of “customer success manager” (yes they exist).

But as mentioned, send each of them one by one is not scalable at all, so you will be using canned (mostly pre-written) emails. As your subscriber base grows, you find that automation through autoresponders or other forms of  marketing automation is the low maintenance, high impact way to go. Modern ESPs will have a triggered email function in place to facilitate this.

 

Action = reaction

Every solid email program should offer enough opportunities to easily engage, of course not every campaign is going to be 100% on the mark for each subscriber. But we are looking for engagement on the customer – not campaign – level. Go through your email program and see if there are any gaps in appealing message types for each customer segment. And if engagement is seriously lagging, think about producing additional campaigns like the ones we discussed to stimulate that engagement.

Let us know in the comments below what you think and what you have found works best for your business!

  • I’ve found that I got the most engagement when asking a question and telling my subscribers to answer the question by replying to my email.

    In fact I’ve done this a few times and managed to make a profit from doing just that. Plus I got to understand why my subscribers needed the most help with, so I can send them emails about what they wanted.

    -Isaiah Jackson.

  • Michal Leszczynski

    Great feedback Isaiah! You’ve killed two birds with one stone there – got to know your subscribers and increased your campaigns’ performance. It’s definitely a good idea and other marketers should try testing it with their audiences. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
    Michal

  • Most people get email marketing wrong. I even got it wrong when I’ve first started.

    Email marketing is more than about sending a few emails and hoping that the prospect will buy.

    It is about building a strategic sales funnel that gets you, the owner

    … from A (he does not know you / he does not trust you) to

    … Z (he considers you an expert and he wants to buy from you).

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