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How to Create, Sustain and Measure Your Email Marketing Engagement

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Becoming engaged – as in the “will you marry me?” meaning of the word – is of course an extremely memorable event. No bride or groom will ever forget that magical moment. This type of engagement is the stuff of countless tear-jerking movie scenes and applause-inducing, bended-knee proposals in candlelit restaurants.

Alas, no such drama is evident when a customer becomes “engaged” with an email marketer. On the contrary, it is something of a non-event. There’s no accompanying crescendo in the soundtrack, and certainly no applause. Engagement…just happens.

Or does it?

Actually, successfully engaging a customer with email takes as much careful planning, preparation and execution as that other, more romantic, type of engagement. And hopefully, the results are also the same – a long, mutually satisfying relationship. And why is engagement is important? Mailchimp succinctly sums its value up: It’s because “engaged subscribers are essential for successful email marketing.”

Mailchimp also cautions that not all engagement is good, noting the differences between “positive” and “negative” engagement.

  • “A subscriber who is positively engaged is someone who opens and clicks your campaigns, or interacts with your brand online. Engaged subscribers are likely to open your emails, and continue to purchase, donate, or support your organization or brand.”On the other hand:
  • “When a subscriber unsubscribes, marks your campaign as spam, or makes a direct complaint, they are negatively engaged. Unfortunately, these people are no longer interested in your email marketing.”

So what are the key things you can do to ensure you positively engage subscribers, keep them engaged, and re-engage them should that become necessary? Read on to find out!

Engagement begins with your welcome email

As in personal relationships, it’s often the first impression that determines how successful an email marketer’s relationship will be with new customers. That’s why the welcome email is so critical.

“Low engagement or high unsubscribes could mean that you aren’t engaging your subscribers immediately when they first opt in to your list,” writes Mary Fernandez at OptinMonster,“ citing research that indicates that welcome emails enjoy 86-percent higher open rates, 196% higher click rates, and 336% higher transaction rates than subsequent messages. “Online marketers have to put a lot more thought into creating memorable and engaging emails from the get-go.
If you don’t, your subscribers will promptly forget who you are, ignore your emails, or completely unsubscribe from your list.”

Fernandez shares seven suggestions for effective welcome emails:

1. Set expectations

“Make sure that prospective subscribers are clear on what they’ll get after they opt in. What is the incentive? What kind of emails will they be receiving? How frequently are those emails distributed? What other benefits will they receive as a subscriber?”

2. Make them timely

“The sooner you send the first welcome email the better. Don’t forget how short attention spans are, and take advantage of that fleeting moment when your brand is top of mind!”

3. Use the right sender name

“As an email marketing best practice, you should always use an actual name in the ‘from’ line, as opposed to an email address such as

4. Nail the subject line

“Especially in a day and age where most people get email on their mobile devices and only see the subject line in the notification, you can’t afford to mess this part up.”

5. Use relatable copy

“Make sure to tailor the content of your email with relatable copy that speaks directly to that individual person, rather than a large group of email subscribers.”

6. Brand them

Branded welcome emails provide recipients with “visual cues to remind them of who you are. If your email has the same branding as your opt-in form, then your new subscribers will be able to recognize it right away.”

7. Include calls to action

“The best way to get subscribers to take the next step in your sales process is by simply telling them what to do next.”

Nurturing and sustaining engagement

Because you have successfully incorporated each of the above suggestions into your welcome email, you have gained a new, positively engaged subscriber. In keeping with the matrimonial theme we introduced at the top of this post, you have now entered the blissful “honeymoon” period of your relationship. Now the question becomes: How do you nurture and sustain it?

According to FulcrumTech, putting the following tips to work in your subsequent messages can help make your brand-new relationship long and meaningful.

1. Convey value in your subject lines

“If subscribers are trashing your emails before opening them, it means that they’re looking at the subject line (combined with the sender address) and determining that the email content is not relevant to their needs. So, be sure your subject line conveys the value of the content in your email message.”

2. Personalize your content and offers

“Personalization is one of the most important ways to keep subscribers opening and engaging with your emails. In addition to using the subscriber’s name, segmenting your email list based on such factors as demographics and purchase history can help maximize the relevance of your email content and offers for each subscriber.”

3. Create calls to action that convert

“The calls to action in your emails are the entrance to your sales funnel. Can your subscribers easily spot them? Does the button copy motivate a click?”

4. Optimize for mobile

“If you’re not using responsive design to optimize your emails for mobile, then your subscriber engagement metrics are likely suffering.”

5. Automate your emails

“Marketing automation combines strategy and software to help you create more relevant and personalized email campaigns. A/B testing, personalization, and dynamic content are just a few examples of automation features that can be used to help boost email engagement.”

Re-engagement techniques

Of course, sometimes, despite your best intentions and hard work, the honeymoon period just doesn’t last. Despite your focus on creating and sustaining engagement, not every customer will remain a regular reader. But all is not lost. It might not be easy, but it is possible to bring unengaged customers back into the fold. Daniel Faggella, writing at Marketing Land, shares five ways to re-engage customers:

1. Educate and sell your customers

“If you aren’t supplementing your offers with benefit-driven content, you’re likely to lose the attention of your readers. If you’re delivering value that matters to customers, a much larger portion of your readers will want to learn more from you.”

2. Offer exclusive promotions

“Host a live webinar that encourages your subscribers to interact with you personally; offer product discounts to both your prospects and customers; market personal coaching to your list; give away free samples or free demos of your product or service.”

3. Push your best stuff…for free

“Don’t be apprehensive about giving away your best content for free. It’s absolutely paramount to garner the trust of your email list before you ask them to buy anything from you, and the most efficient way to do this is by ‘pushing the free line’ in your content.”

4. Ask for replies

“One of the best ways to enhance the engagement of your list is by simply asking them to reply to your email; this is a small gesture that can go a long way. Subscribers to your email list have already demonstrated that they enjoy your content. Why not take it a step further and interact with them personally? Ask direct questions in the ‘P.S.’ section of your email, such as: What is the number one goal that you’re looking to achieve? What are the obstacles that are preventing you from reaching your goal? What is the number one frustration you’re dealing with, and how can I help you?”

  1. Use cliffhangers in your copy

“Cliffhangers elicit curiosity, one of your most powerful ongoing tools as a successful marketer. Using cliffhangers is a powerful strategy that can enhance the engagement of both your autoresponder and broadcast messages. Subscribe to the authority brands in your niche, and see what types of cliffhangers they use in their emails. Be creative and start testing in your own copy as well.”

How do you know when you’re engaged?

When it comes to the matrimonial meaning of “engagement,” there’s usually a shiny clue on the bride-to-be’s left hand that indicates she’s heading for the altar; however, In the case of both grooms and email marketers, it takes a little more digging to determine whether or not engagement has occurred. The folks at FulcrumTech have shared a few metrics that can help email marketers determine how engaged (both positively and negatively) they are with their customers:

Positive Engagement Metrics

  • Opens — Keep in mind that your email will only be counted as opened if the images are downloaded by your subscribers who have their images automatically turned off
  • Clicks – Number of subscribers who click links in your emails
  • This Is Not Spam Data – When subscribers indicate that they want to receive your emails by clicking the “This Is Not Spam” link
  • Saving emails to folders – Moving an email from the inbox to a primary folder.

Negative Engagement Metrics

  • Unsubscribe rate – The number of subscribers who click the Unsubscribe button on your emails
  • Spam rate – The number of subscribers who mark your emails as spam
  • Delete without opening – The number of subscribers who instantly and repeatedly delete your emails before opening them

Keeping an eye on these numbers will help you understand just how well your engagement is going, and when it’s time to switch into “re-engagement mode.”

The bottom line

Customer engagement is key to success in your email marketing efforts. The suggestions above can help you engage new customers, sustain their engagement and, if necessary, re-engage them. We wish you long, happy and mutually satisfying engagement with all your customers!

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