A client of mine, Stark Industries, was having difficulties getting their emails read and acted upon. For the most part, Stark’s sought after action was for the email recipient to click-through to a website where they’d take further action.
However, people just weren’t clicking-through. Their open rates were good (upwards of 80% to current customers), because who wouldn’t open an email from Stark Industries? An open is only half the battle though: engagements, measured in this case by click-through rates, was truly lagging. This company would get excited over a 5% click-through rate. While some companies are okay with a 5% click-through rate, my opinion is that if you’re sending content that only appeals to one in twenty of your prospects or customers, the content you’re sending isn’t truly helpful to them and your email should be classified as spam.
Note: Stark Industries is not an actual client of mine. The client represented in this guide agreed to let me share the methods we pioneered with them but did not want me to divulge their name because they don’t want their competitors to benefit from these same techniques.
How did we help Stark Industries increase email click-through rates?
With email click-through rates, just like everything in life, there are no magic bullets. No get rich quick schemes. No easy way to long term success. We applied several measures that worked in unison to increase email click-through rates. I’ve outlined several of those measures in this earlier article on little used email marketing best practices. That said, there is one technique that drove the greatest increase: the reply to.
If you’ve done much technology software purchasing you have likely already been a recipient of an email utilizing this strategy. Sales and marketing teams for technology software companies generally are more sophisticated, have larger budgets for fancy sales software, and employ more senior employees. Hence, if you’ve purchased from these companies you’ve likely seen this technique without even realizing it.
How it works is, on day one you receive an email solicitation to take an action. Often that action is to click a button, reply to an email, or make a call and the action you take usually results in you talking to a salesperson. Most educated buyers understand that will happen, so they don’t engage the first email: even when the email is like the one in-line here, where Stark Industries’ email is attractive, well put together, and benefits from a strong call to action.
On day one you don’t click-through the email, so the marketing system being used by Stark Industries queues up another email that will go out on day three. This time, it utilizes the reply to format. In this format, the objective is to apply a little guilt through making the recipient think the account manager assigned to them personally sent a reply email to the first one, asking them to take action. See the below email for a sample of how this is done.
In the case of my actual client, they were trying to solicit an online review from past customers. They wanted reviews so they could know how they were doing, identify customer advocates, and create a positive brand impression for prospective clients that were in comparison mode. Before we contracted with the client on this project, they were getting an average of 8 reviews a month. After implementing the common email best practices, as well as the reply to format for a follow-up email, they immediately began to receive an average of 66 reviews a month: an 8x increase.
As I mentioned, we implemented many email best practices and many of those contributed to help increase email click-through rates, but the number one increase came after the iteration where we put in the reply to email.
Where’s the proof?
My client said they were okay if I shared the actual numbers, since I’m not giving away their company name.
Before our improvements
- Average open rate of 48% (higher than average because emails are going to customers)
- Average click-through rate of 3.7%
- 8 reviews a month
After our improvements
- Only a slight increase in the number of customers being sent this email – less than a 10% increase
- Average open rate of 64%
- Average click-through rate of 24.1%
- 66 reviews a month
Again, I must emphasize that while we made many improvements, the single most beneficial improvement to increase email click-through rates came with the reply to email. The one piece of proof that speaks the loudest to this fact, is found in the comparison of the two new emails.
- The first email, pictured above, has a pretty button, strong call to action, and succinct nature to it. This email has an 18% click-through rate.
- The second reply to format email, pictured below, is a basic text only email but has an industry average crushing click-through rate of 24.1%. That’s 34% better than the first email.
One important element to note is that the above email plays up the guilt factor, every so slighty, if sent from the right person. In my client’s example we sent the reply to portion of the email from the sales associate that had just helped the customer make their first purchase.
We actually had an employee of the client come up to us when we were in the office and let us know our second email, which was sent automatically (with no interaction on the sales associate’s part), had tricked his wife who had recently purchased from my client. His wife was concerned and felt guilty that she hadn’t left a review yet and the guy that helped her with the purchase had emailed her directly asking for it.
That seriously made my day. The email marketing campaign we set up passed the Turing test.