A lot of time, energy and resources go into planning, executing, testing and analyzing an email campaign. Even so, sometimes things do fall through the cracks and lead to below-par results. Even with Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC), one of the top providers of digital marketing automation and analytics software and services, email marketers and their Salesforce specialists sometimes have to deal with underwhelming email campaign results.
But what is the root cause of these poor results? Are there any ‘signs’ that tell email marketers they need to change their email marketing strategy? And most importantly, what can they do with these signs to get better results from their email campaigns?
This article discusses these signs and also provides some possible solutions. If you are an email marketer, pay attention to these signs so you can increase your chances of success!
Sign #1: Poor Open and Click-through Rates
Email open rate is the percentage of subscribers who open an email out of all the subscribers.
Email click-through rate is the percentage of subscribers who click a link within an email.
Poor open and click-through rates can be traced to a number of reasons:
i. Ineffective subject lines
An interesting, intriguing and unique subject line can dramatically increase the likelihood that emails will be opened. And subject lines that are personalized, say, with recipients’ names, increase open rates by 26%. A boring or vague subject line can do the exact opposite, since it implies that the email is not worth opening.
Best practices to create great subject lines and improve open rates:
- Keep them brief: 25-30 characters usually work best
- Don’t be afraid of adding emojis
- Use Einstein Copy Insights to create engaging subject lines
- Never use words like “test”, “Re:” or “fwd”
- Authenticate emails so the sending address contains the company name, not something like email@example.com
ii. Irrelevant content
If an email is not relevant to a subscriber, they won’t open it. Why would a Caucasian man in his 60s open an email about hair straighteners designed for African American hair? It’s important to send targeted emails to specific subscribers based on their location, preferences, buying history, recent activities, demographics, etc. Einstein Email Recommendations in SFMC is a good way to observe customer behaviors and build preference profiles in order to create content that’s relevant for them.
Other best practices to create relevant content and improve open rates:
- Segment your audience using data filters or SQL queries in SFMC Email Studio. You can also use Audience Builder
- Create different journeys for different segments with Journey Builder in SFMC
- Create real-time emails with hyper-targeted content to keep messages up-to-date
- Include relevant product recommendations, coupons or special offers
- Create copy with readable font size and optimal use of white space
- Keep the message short and sweet
iii. No personalization
Personalized emails are 22.2% more likely to be opened. The reverse is also true – emails with generic info, and little or no personalization are often ignored and summarily deleted without opening.
Best practices to create personalized content and improve open rates:
- Address the subscriber by name in the greeting
- Use merge tags to insert data from your mailing list directly into your email campaigns
- Include dynamic content blocks, Salesforce email templates and real-time content
- Use Einstein Content Selection tool in SFMC to create personalized content even with pre-written copy, images and links
iv. Missing incentive or lack of urgency
An incentive is better known as “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM). Every day, the average office worker receives about 120 emails. Emails that are too sales-y and fail to communicate value to the subscriber are rarely opened. Ditto, emails that lack a sense of urgency.
Best practices to improve open rates with incentives:
- Include a clear, unambiguous CTA and show it above the fold
- Use words like “limited offer” and “offer valid till…” to create urgency to (gently) guide the user towards a particular action without seeming pushy
- Include a ‘countdown timer’
v. Not sent at the right time
Since every subscriber engages with emails at different times or on different days, there is no one best time or day to send emails to everyone. However, open rates can be increased by finding the best (or most optimal) time for each subscriber. Einstein Send Time Optimization (STO) in SFMC Journey Builder uses 90 days of email engagement data to automatically determine the best time within the next 24 hours to email each contact.
Sign#2: High bounce rates
A bounced email indicates an email deliverability problem. Deliverability is when an email successfully arrives in the recipient’s inbox. It is not the same as email delivery. Deliverability can be impacted by different factors, including Internet Service Providers (ISP), Mail Transfer Agents (MTA), and bounces. An email sent from SFMC is marked as ‘bounced’ when the subscriber’s receiving email server rejects it. Bounce rate is the percentage of total emails sent that could not be delivered to the intended recipients’ inboxes.
Best practices to keep bounce rates down and deliverability rates up:
i. Configure your Sender Authentication Package (SAP)
SAP configuration in SFMC and your DNS ensures that email providers see you and your domain as legit so emails don’t bounce.
ii. Be aware of and manage ‘reputation factors’
Keep in mind these critical factors that can impact your reputation and deliverability:
- Sending frequency
- Subscriber reactions
- Compliance with CAN-SPAM and other regulations
- SPAM trapped
iii. Manage subscriber data
Only email people who have specifically opted-in. Once in a while, create journeys or run campaigns on ‘Inactive’ subscribers to weed out the ones who should not be in your subscriber group. If engagements are low, delete them from the list.
iv. Use Content Detective in SFMC Email Studio
Content Detective in Email Studio simulates content filters in real sends, and flags content issues so action can be taken before sends. This can help keep bounce rates low and deliverability rates up.
Sign#3: High “Marked as Spam” Rates
When subscribers mark emails as spam, they’re still going to receive them, but they’re never going to open them. Some emails also get marked as spam automatically, without the subscriber taking any action. Either way, emails marked as spam affect open rates and also impact the brand’s perception among its target audience. It might be difficult to get subscribers back on board after they label emails as spam. But there are some things email marketers can do to avoid this happening in future.
i. Avoid using ‘spammy’ words
Avoid using certain words in content that may trigger spam filters. These include:
- big bucks
- Earn $
- Save $
- Money at home
Use Content Detective in SFMC Email Studio to identify and remove these words before sending the email. Make corrections in both HTML and text versions.
ii. Get the timing right
Send emails only when you know your customers are going to see them, but not interfere with their work schedule. Einstein STO is very useful in this regard.
iii. Add a human touch
Emails go out to human beings, not robots. Unfortunately, not all emails consider this reality. Add a human touch to every email, even if the process is automated.
iv. Warm up your IP address
If you send an email to every prospect right away, it will raise a red flag for spam filters. Build a reputation by starting with your best lists. Keep sending volumes low during the first week or two, and then increase gradually until you reach your goal.
v. Set up email authentication
Email authentication protects your brand’s reputation from spammers. Set up rules to determine how your emails will be sent, so fraudulent senders can’t imitate you. Use systems like Sender Policy Framework, DomainKeys, or DomainKeys Identified Mail to do this.
vi. Don’t include attachments
Avoid attaching files or images in emails. Also make sure that you only include links from credible websites, including your own.
vii. Make unsubscribing easy
No email marketer or Salesforce specialist wants to lose subscribers. But emails that make it difficult to unsubscribe are often marked as spam. Provide an easily accessible unsubscribe button. This can help avoid spam filters, lend credibility to emails and also satisfy CAN-SPAM laws.
Some more best practices to lower spam rates:
- Use merge tags to communicate that you know the person receiving the email
- Ask recipients to add your email address to their address book
- Use Salesforce email templates in SFMC. They contain the correct in-built coding so you won’t have to do your own coding or risk making mistakes that may trigger spam filters
Sign#4: High Unsubscribe Rates
This is another major red flag that something is not right with the email marketing strategy. Here are the top reasons people opt out of a brand’s email marketing campaigns:
i. They never signed up, or didn’t realize that they signed up
People hate unsolicited email, so adding them to the list without their explicit consent or confirmation is a sure-fire path to unsubscribes.
Solution: Clearly communicate to recipients that they’re subscribing to an email list. Provide opt-in checkboxes. You should also include a “double opt-in” so a person has to confirm their subscription in an email to receive more.
ii. Too many emails
Email marketers often under- or overestimate the frequency at which subscribers wish to hear from them. Bombarding people with emails is not the way to ensure Salesforce customer retention!
Solution: Ask subscribers to submit their email frequency preferences, either when they subscribe, or later, via an email preference center. Periodic surveys are also a good way to understand subscribers’ send frequency preferences. Use Einstein STO to determine the optimal send time and Einstein Engagement Frequency to identify the optimum number of email messages to send.
iii. They can’t view the email properly
Emails that don’t load quickly, or images that don’t render properly are two common reasons for unsubscribes. Also, a majority of email recipients view emails on mobile devices, so emails that are not mobile-optimized are also a turn-off.
Solution: Make sure that emails render correctly across all devices. Do A/B testing to confirm that copy, images, CTA text, links, etc. load properly and quickly. For subscribers in areas with low or poor Internet connectivity, send text versions of emails.
iv. Emails look cluttered or unprofessional, and have no clear take-away
No one likes to be overwhelmed with information, and this is exactly what a messy email does – it overwhelms. Moreover, if there’s no clear take-away or purpose to the email (“What am I supposed to do with this information?”), people will leave.
Solution: Send the email to a test email address. How does it look? Is the formatting off? Are there any typos? Proofread the email and fix these errors. Does the email look aesthetic or dated? Use customizable Salesforce email templates and ensure that the email conforms to your brand’s design and copy guidelines. Also maintain a text to image ratio of 60-40, and avoid using too many links in the body copy.
v. The email is too aggressive or sales-y
Many people unsubscribe because every email from a brand is a hard-sell advertisement with too many pushy words, capital letters, exclamation marks, etc. Such emails come off as aggressive and unsubscribe-worthy.
Solution: Provide helpful information and original, relevant content. Follow the 80/20 rule: 80% emails with helpful tips, strategies or resources such as free ebooks, links to interesting blog articles, or registrations for free webinars. The other 20% can be sales-related.
vi. They did not receive auto-triggered emails when they expected to
Automatically triggered emails are sent after a subscriber takes some action. For example, once they make a purchase on an eCommerce store, they should immediately receive a thank you email with the receipt and information about expected time of delivery. If you don’t set up auto-triggers in SFMC, they might receive this email late, or not at all. This is not a good sign for Salesforce customer retention.
Solution: Create behavioral triggers in SFMC Journey Builder to ensure that emails are sent immediately in response to some action.
General Best Practices
In addition to the tips discussed above, you should also track emails to see who opens your email, how they engage with it, which links or content they click on, etc. This information can provide useful inputs for future strategies. In SFMC, Email Studio has a tracking feature so you can:
- View critical metrics like email opens, clicks and undeliverable messages
- Capture forwarded emails and how many new subscribers each forward generated
- Track subscriber and list performance over time
Other useful analytics tools in SFMC:
- Analytics Builder: Provides insights into subscriber behaviors and interests
- Standard Reports (Email Studio): Tracks campaign effectiveness
- Einstein Engagement Scoring: Target the right customers to maximize engagement and conversion
In the real world of email marketing, there is no one thing that can make or break a campaign, but a mix of different factors. If any of these factors are not performing, they raise red flags and signs. Luckily, a powerful “Salesforce customer success platform” like SFMC provides the tools that enable email marketers to read these signs and take the necessary actions. This article discussed these signs and actions. We hope you find it useful.