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How to improve email response rates easily, cheaply

What are the easiest things you can do—without adding significant costs—to improve email response rates right now? First, focus on increasing the number of "sends" for a singular offer. The majority of marketers are still relying on one-time email sends to a specific audience for a specific offer. This is no longer the recipe for success. Three to five sends to the same group of recipients promoting the same offer is going to yield the best results. The key is to have each send build on the previous one. Creating a sense of urgency related to the offer and its availability is what makes this method successful. Next, utilize preheaders—the text that is displayed at the top portion of your email right above your graphics—in a more sophisticated way. Often, marketers use preheaders for "add to safe-sender" lists or "display Web version" links. Using preheaders for offer-related information will improve overall email open rates by more than 17%. Marketers can and should view preheaders as extensions of subject lines rather than just a throwaway portion of the email message. Preheaders continue to grow in relevance as the use of mobile email explodes because preheaders have increased visibility on mobile devices. Another area that is simple and yet often underused is styled "alt text" (alternative text). More than 67% of all email messages receive block images by default. However, in many cases, instead of seeing the images that are included in the email, the recipient will see alt text, which is copy controlled in most cases by the email sender. Marketers have the option to use styled alt text, allowing for the alteration of the text font, color, size, style and weight. This styled version will display in the majority of email recipient inboxes instead of the images that are most often not getting displayed. Testing the copy and styling in this area is important because more recipients may ultimately see this information. Lastly, consider time zone-adjusted email deployments. Time of day matters more than ever in driving email performance. Acquisition email campaigns that are delivered after noon see a 26% drop-off in performance compared with those delivered earlier. Thus, setting your send schedule based on the time zone of the recipient is critical. The optimal window for performance is to have your acquisition email delivered between 5:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. within a specific time zone. To focus on just one time zone is doing your campaign a massive disservice. Jay Schwedelson is president-CEO of acquisition marketing company Worldata (www.worldata.com), the parent company of email solutions group SubjectLine.com (www.subjectline.com). He can be reached at jays@worldata.com.

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