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How to Make Your Emails Go Viral

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@chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail We tend to associate ‘going viral’ with social media—in part because it’s relatively easy to see and measure the noise of social sharing.


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However, the much quieter email forward is often a much more powerful influencer. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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The 1-to-1 or 1-to-few nature of email forwards makes them much more personal and much more trusted—and therefore more likely to drive action. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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Chad White @chadswhite Research Director at Litmus Author of Email Marketing Rules Written thousands of posts and articles on email marketing Quoted in over 100 publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today


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Justine Jordan @meladorri Email critic and popular industry speaker Directs all things marketing at Litmus Recipient of 2015 EEC Email Marketing Thought Leader of the Year award Organizer of The Email Design Conference


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To better understand the quiet, often invisible influence of email forwards, we used Litmus’ Email Analytics to analyze the forwards generated by more than 400,000 email sends with at least 500 opens between Jan. 2013 and March 2015. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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To reduce the impact of list size, we normalized forward activity by calculating the forward-to-open rate—that is, what percentage of opens generated a forward. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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And to understand the drivers of email forwarding, we analyzed more than 200 emails from among the top 1% of viral emails and another 200-plus emails from around the 50th percentile—looking at tactics, topics, and other email elements. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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You’ll receive a copy of The Viral Email Report, slides, and a recording following the webinar. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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Benchmarks for Forward-to-Open Rates


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The median email (50th percentile) produced a 0.27% forward-to-open rate. Put another way, the middle-of-the-pack email generates 1 forward for every 370 opens. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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The 99th percentile of viral emails was 17.6 times more viral than the median, generating 1 forward for every 21 opens. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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Tactics that Affect Forward-to-Open Rates


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Tactics we’ll explore… Audience Size Segmentation & Triggered Emails Personalization “Share with Your Network” Calls-to-Action @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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Audience Size Does an email sent to a small audience or a large audience have more viral potential? @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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Small audience! The median email among those with 500 to 50,000 opens was forwarded 90% more than the median email among those with more than 50,000 opens. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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And it’s even more stark among the most viral emails @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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Segmentation & Triggers Are segmented emails and triggered emails more or less likely to be forwarded? @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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More likely! The emails in the 99th percentile were 4.3 times more likely to be segmented and 2.9 times more likely to be triggered than emails in the 50th percentile. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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San Diego Magazine segmented these event promo emails to attendees of last year’s event and to attendees of another event they held. Both were among the top 1% of viral emails.


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Personalization Are personalized emails more or less likely to be forwarded? Note: We ignored first-name merges and other superficial forms of personalization. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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More likely! Emails in the 99th percentile were 4.5 times more likely than emails in the 50th percentile to include personalization. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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‘Share with Your Network’ CTAs Are emails that include SWYN calls-to-action more or less likely to be forwarded? @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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More likely! Emails in the 99th percentile were 13 times more likely to include a “share with your network” call-to-action than emails in the 50th percentile. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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This highly viral email from Chevy Safe & Fun included a photo taken at an event, as well as prominent “share with your network” links. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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Recipients of this segmented email from JustGiving were very happy to spread the word that they were among the top 1% of fundraisers during 2014. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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Topics that Affect Forward-to-Open Rates


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Email topics we’ll explore… Promotions/Deals/Discounts News/Helpful Content Events/Webinars Transactional/Account Change/ Action Required @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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Promotions/Deals/Discounts Are emails about promotions, deals, and discounts more or less likely to be forwarded? @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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Less likely! Promotions were the most common topic among emails in the 50th percentile and were 67% less likely to be the topic of the most viral 1% of emails. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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News/Helpful Content Are emails about news and helpful content more or less likely to be forwarded? @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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Less likely! Although very common in the 99th percentile of viral emails, news and helpful content was slightly more prevalent among emails in the 50th percentile. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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Promotions and helpful content are staples of email marketing, so subscribers are only driven to forward those that are truly great. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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Plan your email content calendar so that you’re occasionally sending an awesome deal, exclusive news, or similarly impactful content. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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A really good deal—combined with the announcement of store closings—made this email from Home Decorators Collection highly viral. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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Presented as an infographic, news that GameChanger’s app had tracked 800 million pitches for amateur teams went viral. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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Events/Webinars Are emails about events and webinars that require registration or an RSVP more or less likely to be forwarded? @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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More likely! Emails in the 99th percentile were 3.2 times more likely to be about an event or webinar than emails in the 50th percentile. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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An exciting, controversial topic and a compelling speaker propelled this event email into the top 1% of most-forwarded emails. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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Transactional/Account Change Are emails about transactions, account changes, and required actions more or less likely to be forwarded? @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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More likely! These emails were 4.6 times more likely to be among the 99th percentile of viral emails than among the 50th percentile. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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Two Types of Email Forwards… Social forwards build awareness and start others down their own funnels toward conversions. Advice-seeking forwards help the forwarder decide whether to convert. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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@chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail Whereas most forwards raise awareness and help convince others to convert, the forwards of this triggered transactional email from Glo primarily helped the forwarder convert.


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Final Thoughts


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When your subscribers forward your emails, they expand your reach, increase conversions, and boost your email engagement metrics—which is good for branding, revenue, and deliverability. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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Forwards are a powerful indicator of the overall health of your email program; they’re a sign that you are fulfilling your subscribers’ needs at the highest level. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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If your monthly forward-to-open rate is in the bottom quartile (less than 0.11%), then your email program is probably not delivering experiences that are deeply relevant. @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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How to track forwards Litmus Email Analytics detects ‘natural’ forwards—those made by clicking the ‘forward’ button in your email client. More insight than using ‘forward to a friend’ @chadswhite @meladorri #ViralEmail


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litmus.com/giftcard + coupon code VIRALEMAIL Track forwards, prints, and geolocation. Litmus Email Analytics


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litmus.com/giftcard + coupon code VIRALEMAIL See how long each subscriber spent reading your message. Who read, skimmed, or just glanced at your email? Engagement


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litmus.com/giftcard + coupon code VIRALEMAIL See who opens in mobile, tablet, desktop, or web-based inboxes. Device Usage


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Works with any ESP 1 2 3 litmus.com/giftcard coupon code VIRALEMAIL


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Questions? The slides, a recording, and copy of the full report will be sent via email to everyone who registered. Submit questions via the Q&A panel


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litmus.com/giftcard Coupon code: VIRALEMAIL Free 14-Day Trial


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