Ep 169 | Increasing Email Open Rates with Liz Wilcox
You put so much effort into your email marketing that you want. asmany people to open them as possible. So how do you increase the open rates? Some if these things might not be what you think.
What you'll learn:
→ what metrics are important to pay attention to.
→ easy ways to make your emails more personal.
Want to skip ahead? Here are key takeaways:
[7:54] Email Metrics Don’t focus solely on open rates. Track specific metrics over a period of time to see if your audience is actually engaging with the emails.
[13:36] Be Personal Share who you are as an organization to entice your audience to engage with your emails. Provide information on who is behind your organization.
[21:53] Use Personal Names on Emails Send emails from an account using someone’s personal name rather than just using the organization’s name. People are more likely to read emails that have a personal touch.
[25:10] Write It For a Friend Write the email before coming up with a title. When coming up with a title or subject line, think about what you would use if sending it to a personal friend.
The Fresh Princess of Email Marketing, Liz Wilcox is an Email Strategist and Keynote Speaker showing small businesses how to build online relationships, package up their “magic” and turn it into emails that people want to read and, most importantly, purchase from. Learn more. at https://lizwilcox.com.
We love creating the podcast and help you grow your organization. If you like what you learned here please give us a tip and help us offset our production costs.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] What's the point of sending emails if people don't open them? Right? So getting people to open your emails is, you know, sometimes the hardest part of email marketing, but it doesn't have to be that tricky. And the biggest thing that you'll know is that you need to test. So all of the things that you're going to learn today are things that you can test in your email marketing to try to bump up and increase those open rates and not be click baity and spammy, because that's really something that we want to make sure we are not doing that we're being authentic and real and genuine with our readers and the people that we're trying to engage with. So I have Liz Wilcox, joining me today to talk through some ways to think about how we get people to be more engaged and open our emails. The Fresh Princess of email marketing, Liz Wilcox is an email strategist and keynote speaker showing small businesses how to build online relationships, package up their magic, and turn it into emails that people want to read, and most importantly, purchase from. So many good things, good perspectives, and fresh ways to think about it, especially in light of all the privacy changes that are happening and how we can really kind of figure out if it's working, or if it's not. We know that email can be a very, very, very strong income generator, across industries across types of businesses. And so let's maximize that. And the way to increase some of that revenue from your emails is to get more people to open them. So I hope that you'll listen to this episode. And most of the tools and the things that she's talking about, don't take a lot of time, if any, just a different way to think about what you're already doing. So I love that when we can bring digital marketing tools that are not a whole new way of thinking things, just some minor ways to tweak and improve on what you're already doing that don't take a lot of extra time and effort. I'm all about it. I'm here for it. And I'm super excited about it. So take a listen to this episode. And you know, email me, email@example.com. And let me know kind of which tactic you're using and how it's working for you. But before we get into it, this episode is brought to you by the online fundraising virtual summit. The summit takes place on October 24 2022, and runs all week. We'll have 20 some speakers, sessions all day, or all five days, all helping you build your monthly donor program. And you know that email marketing is part of that. So onlinefundraisingsummit.com, you can get all of the information. And I look forward to seeing you at the summit. For now let's get into the episode.
[INTRO] You're listening to the digital marketing therapy podcast. I'm your host, Sami Bedell-Mulhern. And each week, I bring you tips from myself and other experts, as well as hot seats with small business owners and entrepreneurs to demystify digital marketing, and get you on your way to generating more leads and growing your business.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Hey, everybody, please join me in welcoming Liz Wilcox to the podcast. Liz, thanks for joining me today.
[Liz Wilcox] Thank you so much. I am so excited.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, well, and email marketing is one of my favorite topics to talk about. So I'm really thrilled to be here. But before we kind of jump into subject lines or open rates and all the good things that we're going to talk about today, you know, kind of why is email marketing something that you think is an impactful part of an organization's marketing?
[Liz Wilcox] Yeah, so I think especially with nonprofits, sometimes we can get caught up in the nonprofit of that. And think, oh, we have to, you know, it's, it's a slow trek uphill, right, trying to fundraise and things like that. But the nonprofit that can really harness the power of email marketing, and understand like, even if you, you know, even though your nonprofit, when you look at your email list as this, I don't know, I guess money making machine like this place where you can connect, you can drive your mission, but also raise funds. Like that's going to change the game for you. It's the same as you know, when your board decides, Okay, we're going to learn how to fundraise better, like email marketing is one of those amazing ways that you can fundraise on a continuous basis. It's not like, Oh, we've got to have this. I have a friend that has a nonprofit helping women with cancer and she's doing this big like golfing Top Gun theme thing and she's really of course that's pulling that off is really stressful. And I'm like girl, just email your people. I bet you're gonna, you know, if you harness the power of your list, It's so much more low maintenance, and it can still be high dollars. If you're looking at the profit space, people often say like for every dollar you spend with email marketing, you can make about 40 bucks in return. Like, imagine that for your nonprofit, like, for every dollar, like, you know, you're putting on a big event like for every dollar you spend on that event, like, are you making $40 in return? And if that is true, I don't know your organization, but like, how much energy are you putting into that one, you know, end of the year ball or you know, summer Top Gun golf, whatever. But with email, it's just, you know, you do it on a continuous basis, and you keep people, you keep your organization on the top of people's heads, like they're hearing from you, they're seeing where their dollars go, they feel like they're part of the mission. And that's going to drive even more dollars into your organization. And that is the power of email there. I said it.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] That was like all the goodness, like you said, all the things, I love that. And I'm really glad you brought up that stat of $1 to $40. Because in the digital marketing space, there is nothing else that has the same ROI as email marketing.
[Liz Wilcox] Yeah, 100%. And I mean, I'm not, you know, an NPO expert, but I know, you know, if I had an organization, and you know, this mission I really believed in, like, if I knew I could spend $1 and make 40. Like, I'm going to at least experiment, right. And that's, that's what for long term, of course, you're not going to send out an email tomorrow. And, you know, make all the money back from your service provider. But most service providers are relatively inexpensive in the first place. And so you know, you're gonna be able to see some returns. And again, like, what I love about MPOs is they're so like mission and vision driven. If you can get more like, isn't that the whole point to get more people behind the vision and mission. And that's what email marketing does. I won't go on, I've already said it. But that is what I love about email so much. And I'm so glad Sami shares the passion, because it really is about like, hey, I can share my values. I always talk about with email sharing a little bit of personality, the vision and the values. And that is so simple for MPOs that already have that. You have, you know, your vision of the future, you have your value set and sharing that via email is so so powerful.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] So we're here today to talk about open rates. Because if you got all that amazing impact value stuff in your email, but nobody's opening them, then it doesn't matter, right. So, um, kind of if, and I don't want to spend too much time on this, because this is something we can't control. I want to focus more on the things that we can control. But I do want to touch on the fact that when we look at our statistics and our open rates and things, there are some things that just kind of show up that we can't control. iOS has their new updates, privacy policies are always changing. So do you just have like a down and dirty? Like, how might we want to think about our open rate stats currently?
[Liz Wilcox] Sure. So email metrics, in general, you're going to want to think about what is the main point of email. If it's to raise more funds, you know, there are different metrics you can look at. You can look at your open rate, but there are also other things. Look at the rate in which your email list is growing, making sure you're tracking, are people actually clicking on my links? Not obsessively, so but once a month, look at the people that are leaving your list, right? How many people versus how many actually came on the list. Looking at, you know, how many, what percentage of my email list have actually donated, right? So not just looking at your open rate. But you know, kind of having that broader picture of like, what is actually going on with my email list. I know for me, my number one metric is the number of customers. So yours translated to the NPO would be, you know, number of donors, number of people maybe that we've gotten that we're just friends, you know, hot off the internet streets or at events that haven't donated yet, and have they you know, have they changed to donor status Right. So that I want you to think of your metrics not just as open rates, because like Sami said, you know, while open rates are not dead, MPP mil privacy protection, the Apple iOS updates have changed the game for us. So you want to have a more, just more datasets to look at. So with Sami’s question, I do still recommend looking at open rates, some email marketers will tell you all they're dead, they're unreliable, like, you know, let's go cry in a corner. Because this is, what was our, that was our only way of knowing, right. But for me, the open rates, so what happens and we won't spend too much time. But in a nutshell, if you use Apple Mail, Apple is now just telling people like me and Sami, that you automatically open our emails, if we send out an email, and you open your emails with the Apple Mail, whether on your desktop or your phone, it's going to mark you open even if you didn't, so open rates are actually inflated, they're not going down, they're actually going up. And you can, if your email list is about a year old, you can look at your open rates from let's say, you know, July 2022, to July 2021. and kind of see you can get an estimate, of course, numbers are never accurate. Like, there I said it. Sorry data heads. Numbers are never accurate. But you can get a sort of big picture of Oh, my open, my open rate seems to be inflated about 10% from last year. If you have no data, if you're brand new to the email, don't stress, just know it's probably anywhere from five to 20% inflated. Not that many people use Apple Mail, unless you're a company's selling, you know, Apple apps, you know, it's likely mostly accurate, and it's always consistently so. It's never gonna be, I went to an apple convention and got a bunch of Apple subscribers at once. Over time, every single week, mine is going to be about 10% inflated, right? So it's averaged out. So you can just assume in your head, hey, I've got this, you know, number, it's probably more like, you know, x minus 10. Across the board, I hope that makes sense. That's in a nutshell.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] So it's more about looking at the trends over time. So like if all of a sudden as opposed to worrying about the specific number, right, so if all of a sudden you see your open rates spike on a particular email compared to what you normally have, then maybe that one was more engaging, more exciting, more whatever, right. But it's kind of creating that baseline now for yourself, and then tracking against your baseline as opposed to really paying attention to what that percentage number is.
[Liz Wilcox] Yes, yes, Sami, and I do not want you to obsess about this specific number. But exactly what she said, if there's a spike, you know, up or down, then that's something to look at. You know, and you can always just keep in the back of their head like this is not wholly accurate. But again, going back to that first piece of advice of making sure you're tracking some other data, or even looking at it, right, like we don't have to get out our Excel spreadsheet and be an email nerd like me, like just looking at it and getting a feel is good enough. I just want you to email.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yes. So okay, so let's assume that people are emailing on a regular basis, let's assume that we are actively pulling in new donors, volunteers, we're actively growing our list, let's assume that all of those things are in place. So if we have a healthy strategy for email marketing, the only way to really grow and build and make money off of our donors is to continue to increase those open rates. So kind of what are some tips that you have for people on how to get more people to open and actively engage with those emails?
[Liz Wilcox] Yeah, so this might not be the advice you're expecting. But I really want you to start at the foundation first. It's like, you know, you don't build a wall like you just lay one brick at a time. And those first bricks are the most important, right? Because they're all you know, we've all played Jenga, if at the bottom and get nifty, it's all going to topple down, right? You're not going to get any donors. And so first and foremost, I'll, I'll give you the exciting stuff about subject lines in a minute. But first and foremost, I really want you to take a look at those first emails that you're sending out. Are you sharing the vision? Are you sharing the values of this NPO? And I know this might sound a little strange, but are you sharing a bit of personality? Right? Like we are living in a market. And whether you're a for profit or not, like you're in the marketplace, right. And we are living in a market where people want to know people, and I think organizations have such a, I don't know, a leg up on this where you can really, you know, dig into those values, but show off some personality, whether it's the head of the organization, the Board of Directors, someone on the board, you know, some kind of Chairman, like whoever, or just the person that writes the emails, like just having a actual person, write the emails versus like, Oh, this is from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, right? Like, having an actual person behind the organization is going to make it personal. And email, I want you to think of it like the actual mailbox. You're going to open from people you feel like, you know, like, of course, you know, we all get the coupons and the commerce and maybe you got some Etsy shops that send you some stuff. Like, if you can be an organization, with real people behind it with some personality, not only am I connecting to the mission, like, you know, yes, we're gonna eliminate drunk driving, right? That's, that's my charity of choice. So that's the example I'm going there. If I know the story behind it, if I know the people on the board, I'm going to get more on board with you, right, I'm going to donate more money, or I'm going to share with friends that I know, you know, have disposable incomes, things like that, if I know like, oh, you know, Sami is going to email me once a month, you know, with updates on the mission, what progress they've made. That's, that's really, really going to stand out. So back to how that applies to open rates, doing that in the welcome sequence, welcoming them with a real person. And again, whoever it is saying, you know, for me, of course, I'm not an MPO. So I say something silly. Like, you know, as much as I love the idea of, or as much as I love NSYNC, I love the idea of you making my email more. So think about what's a one liner, that's whoever's writing your email, if you're writing, you know, as much as I love this, like, you know, I love the idea of you being a part of this organization even more, right, like something like that. And it just shows a little personality, right? Maybe even just something as simple as putting a picture of your board in one of the welcome emails, or a picture of yourself, you know, working on a project, right? That's really going to help you sustain email longevity, right? That subscriber is going to stay on instead of oh, this is this nameless organization, I donated five bucks to because my friends shared it on Facebook, or I went to now they have my email. Instead, it's like, oh, wow, these are my dollars at work. And you know, Liz is super cool. Like, wow, she's actually doing XYZ, whatever it is. So making sure your welcome sequence shows off a bit of personality, right? Shows a little bit of person even. showing the values and the vision, I'm sure you already have something like that. But making sure it's very clear, right, and not, you know, hoity toity, this is, I copy and paste in my about page or, but like really putting a bit of passion behind it, which should be relatively simple for you. And then sharing your values. You know, there are all sorts of, I'm thinking of my friend, on to nonprofit, called the octo nation. And it's like, ocean conservation under the guise of educating people about octopuses. And he has very specific values set that is different from other ocean conservations, right. He's not talking about save the whales, like he's doing it from an interest entertainment space. And he puts that forth. These are our values. This is what you know, we're trying to get young people into this where another might be trying to get, you know, older people with money, right or something like that. And so really just being very specific in your welcome sequence about what it is you value, the type of projects, you know, you value and you like to do. Things like that are really going to set you apart.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I was just gonna say that welcome sequence. The reason too, like, it's so critical because the open rates on that initial email are going to be much higher than anything else that you send. So if you don't maximize on that opportunity, to your point, like you've lost that momentum to continue to get them to just be more emotionally engaged.
[Liz Wilcox] Yeah, 100%, the first, that first email, like Sami said, that's going to have the highest open rate that you could ever hope for. Right? And so looking at that, right now, like, you know, going into your service provider, what is that first email, that second, third, maybe even the fourth? And how can I give him what Liz just said, you know, adjust this to, you know, get it 5%, higher, you know, even 1%, if, you know, let's, let's get the bar low, right, and get it up, up, up. Because if you can get those up, like, let's say, your first email is 80%, then it goes down to 60, 50, 45, whatever. That is going to set the bar for your newsletter for those broadcasts that you send out once a month, twice a month, whatever. And so really looking at it instead, like, oh, how can I improve my subject lines right now? Going in and, you know, tweaking that welcome sequence for it to get it higher, looking at your subject line is it like, you know, is it just, you know, here's your guide, or thanks for the donation or whatever? How can we, you know, change that to get more people to open? How can we change the second email? How can we use the first email to get people to open the second. Right? Something like that. And then we can get into how to tweak subject lines and things like that in the broadcasts, and then newsletters.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, and if you want the formula for how to create a welcome sequence, we do have that in episode 122. So you can go to thefirstclick.net/122, and get a deep dive into welcome sequences, which is super awesome. So definitely check that out. Um, but I also want to touch on, you kind of mentioned earlier, you said something like, you know, if I'm getting an email, like welcome sequence from mad, um, you know, do you have any kind of thoughts on who that from name is? Like, should that be personal? Or should it be an organizational name? Like, how do we kind of play with that piece, so that people know what's coming from an organization, but then also still have that personal touch?
[Liz Wilcox] Yes, I love this question. It should definitely have a person's name. And it can change, right? Like if so and so, you know if Max is writing it today, but Edna writes it next week, it can change. And so I would have your, you know, your name or the person's name. And then what's that I always forget the name like that line that horizontal, I'm sorry. That vertical line, you can Google it and just copy and paste it, and then your organization's name. And because here's the thing, another missed opportunity in email marketing. A lot of people, again, think it's about the subject line. But if you can get it to where someone is searching for your name, right, they see your name, they see your organization's name, and they know they want to open it right. It's way more effective than trying to, you know, write click bait subject lines every single week. Right. And so it's the same as, like I said, the inbox is like the mailbox. If I go out to the mailbox right now. Oh, that's a bill. I know. You know, I know. I don't have to open that until the 12th. Oh, gosh, that's for John. He moved three years ago. Oh, my gosh, Sami wrote me something. I'm gonna open it right away. Right. If she sent you something, you feel like, oh, my gosh, my favorite podcast host. I'm gonna open this right. And so how can you get the inbox like that? How can you be that in the inbox? So I think it is important to put your name, you know, you know, Liz, from octonation, or, you know, whatever, right. And, or just have the line because it makes it again, it makes it personal. And it's like, Oh, I love when Sami emails me, let's see what she has to say. And if you can do email the right way, most people will just see the organization name and open it because they love the emails. They want to see, you know, they donated last month, and they want to see what the heck you're doing with the money. Right? Or, you know, they want to know, where you know where you're at with building your new building or whatever it is right. And just coming from a person, it just means so much more. We all get those automated emails. We all get those like please donate now. Oh, you know, lawmakers have la la la. We need money. But if you can be a real person, be a real person.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I agree with that. And let's talk about this because you've mentioned clickbait and subject lines. And but let's talk about kind of the subject line and the preview text, and kind of ways that we can use those to our advantage to get people to open the emails without it being like, over the top, like, how can we pull our personality into those things so that it's still engaging? And then how can we, this is a whole lot of questions all in one, but like, how can we use the subject line and preview text together to kind of build on the impact that's in the email?
[Liz Wilcox] Yeah, great question. So I think with the subject line, what you have to know is, write it for a friend, right? Write it for that effect of, oh, my gosh, Liz emailed me, Michelle emailed me, Sam emailed me like, whatever, right? And so I would suggest writing the email before you think, if you've got like, oh, I want to write about this topic. Let me think of a title basically, don't do that. Just write the email. And as you're going through rereading it, if you were writing to me, or Sami, right, an actual friend, or, you know, picture whoever your, your buddy, what would the subject line be? And write that. It doesn't have to be click baity. If you have something clever, sure, go for it. But if you can't think of anything, just remember these words, like write it for a friend. So if I was, you know, I'm trying to think. So my buddy Warren with his octonation, right, if something just happened, they just discovered another, like, plastic in the ocean Island or something. I, you know, my subject line might be something if I was writing it to Sami. You know, I can't believe this happened again, I would literally write that to her. Right. And without even trying, that is intriguing. Right? Or, you know, another plastic Island, you know, that is not click baity. But if I know, okay, I see, you know, Warren from octonation. If I know like, oh, he's the octopus guy, right? Oh, another plastic Island. What? Right. And so using those together is really important. As far as preview text go, I don't want you to stress too much about it. You know, you can pick again, write your email first. And I think the preview text will sort of pop out at you. Write your email, think about the subject line. And then the preview texts last. I personally have never used preview text, I've had three businesses, I've written probably a million emails by now. I've sent a million I've probably written probably around 5000 emails, with different subject lines, I have literally never used preview text. So I don't want you to stress about it. It is a powerful tool. But if it is too much for you right now, right? Just let it be what it is. But if you want to use it, I would recommend just looking through your email, thinking about what subject line you picked. So for Warren, you know, another plastic Island, maybe the preview text would be that first suggestion I had, like, I can't believe this is happening again. Something like that. Or, you know, are you as pissed as me, excuse me, you know, something like that, whatever your, again, that's showing personality, or not every NPO would say that, right? I'm using it as a way to make that personal connection. Drive that mission, I think is really, really good.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I think that's great, too. Because even if you have a donate call to action, or you have a call to action in that email, you want people to open it and hear your story. So I kind of like how you're pulling this all together full circle, and that it's like, let's just be humans, and have conversation and that conversation can happen one on one with donors. It can happen on social media, but it can also happen in email. And if we show up authentically, then doing that all the way around is going to be impactful. But like we don't want the subject line to be something like Donate now. That's not going to get people to email or to open it. But if your content in your email is this story is authentic, is vision focused first, then that helps us create those tools to get people to open the emails, which gets them to care more, which then gets them to donate. So it's kind of like, like whole circle. I guess that wasn't a very eloquent way of saying it, but I think you get what I'm saying.
[Liz Wilcox] I think for me, it's use the donate now. You can have those subject lines, but use them sparingly if every single email is a pitch, you know, for your next project, you know, donate now, you know, of course, like, technically, you are a charity, but nobody wants that all the time. Right? They start to feel guilty, like, oh, I don't have money. Oh, I can't, you know, now's not the time. You know, da da da da da, right. And so use those sparingly for when, like, you're doing a big push, like, you know, you're having your Top Gun golf tournament. And for the people that couldn't come, right, like, maybe it's, you know, a subject line, like, can't make it in person, question mark, and then the preview texts like, you know, donate online instead, something and that's so much more gentle, but it's so much more human. And but you can save up those Donate now buttons for when you really are doing a push, when you're really doing a drive or whatever. But every single month or every single email, again, think about it from the donor perspective, like, not everyone has money to donate every single month. And people might, you know, it might take them years to donate, like they believe in the cause. But you know, everybody's got their own money issues. That's a separate episode, right. And it might take them, you know, a year or two to donate. So using those sparingly, being a real person behind the organization is going to set you so much further apart, and get you more donations in the long run to grow the organization and the mission.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I think you've given people a lot of things to think about when it comes to how they just kind of rethink what they're doing. I mean, at the end of the day, just starting to send emails is critical. Just start sending emails. But I think this episode is going to be great for folks to come back to, as you just kind of start to continue to grow, elevate, and like you said, increase those open rates based off of the core. If there's kind of like one last takeaway about getting people to open your emails or just email marketing in general, kind of what would you want to leave listeners with?
[Liz Wilcox] Yeah, if you can come at writing your emails from a fun and simple perspective. And people will look at your emails as fun and simple. And you'll get much better open rates.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah. Short, sweet. I love that. Liz, if people want to know more about you and learn from you, how do they do that?
[Liz Wilcox] Oh, Sami, I'm so glad you asked. Thank you. Wow, she's good, folks. Let's leave her a five star review. Well, okay. So you can go, of course, I'm an email marketer, right? So I want you on my email list. Come check out how I'm making this fun and simple. I know, email marketing seems complicated, I want to uncomplicate it for you. And I really truly mean that. So I want you to go to lizwilcox.com. In the top right hand corner, you're gonna see a hot pink button. You can't miss it, it says free email swipes. So I know Sami has a separate episode and her own resource. But I also have a welcome sequence that's already written, you can take it and make it your own if you'd like that copy and paste style. But I also have three newsletter samples for you, that are designed for three different purposes. Number one, to get somebody to click. Number two, how to get people to reply. And number three, how to make sales. In your case, how to get donations, right? And those are already written. Those are templatized. And I give you examples. So you can see what it would look like. It's not just a Mad Libs thing, you can see both. And then I'm going to give you even though I said like don't worry about subject lines, you'll also get 52 subject lines completely for free. So you're going to see how I write a welcome sequence. You're going to have three newsletter, not only samples, but templates you can take and make your own right now. And 52 subject lines, so you never have to think of a topic from scratch. Because that sucks. That's completely free. Go to lizwilcox.com. Hit that hot pink button.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] That's so great. Amazing. Thank you so much. And we'll link all that up in the show notes also so you can find those at thefirstclick.net/podcast. So we will make sure that that's easy for you. Liz, this was amazing. Thank you so much for joining me today.
[Liz Wilcox] Thank you so much and thank you for listening. I can't wait to see what you do with email.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Big thank you to Liz for joining me today. I am so thankful for all of the tools and resources that she shared, you can go to thefirstclick.net/169 to check out the show notes from this episode, and get all of the crazy information that she shared. Crazy good information. And I hope that you'll make some of these tweaks and that maybe this will help you re-engage and get excited about email marketing again. For now make sure you subscribe wherever you listen so you don't miss out on a single episode. We have new episodes coming out every Tuesday and head on over to thefirstclick.net/YouTube. If you want to check out these in a video format. Leave us a five star review. We'd really really appreciate it and thank you so much for listening. We'll see in the next one