17 Proven Tips for Improving Your Abandoned Cart Email Program…

  1. Focus on “outside the envelope”  There’s a reason this is first.  If your email isn’t opened, it’s not going to convert and it can’t get opened if it’s not delivered.   Outside of the envelope things that make a difference:  the “to” address, the “from” address, the subject line (you have 24-35 characters for traditional, 12-16 for mobile) and the format..
  2. Use a series of emails, not just one.  There’s not a day that goes by that someone doesn’t tell me that they have an abandoned cart program, when they only have ONE email.  One email does NOT make a program.  Many consultants think three emails works best.  I’ve found that most of the “3 is the magic number” take a cut/percentage of the profits so basically they’ve found 3 is the best way to cherry pick the good names.  Personally, I’ve found that more works better.  I like to start programs with a series of 5 and I prefer that the first two (sometimes three) go out without a discount.  (Sure, you can offer 10% off or free shipping right off but why give away the margin if you don’t need to?)  The goal of your series should be to work your user through an appeal-type process (much like a church would do.)  For example: #1: Did you forget something? #2 Your cart will be emptied soon.  #3 Here’s a special offer.  #4 Here’s an extension of that special offer just for you.  #5. Last chance.  You can also intersperse your series with low stock notices and/or holiday deadline notices.  (These can be very effective if used appropriately.)
  3. Employ a sense of urgency.  Deadlines create urgency and they cause people to focus.  Even if you don’t use an offer, you should have a deadline on your abandoned cart emails.   “Only 24 hours left!”  “Offer expires 9/14 at noon.”  “We need to put this item back in inventory at 11:30 am tomorrow.”
  4. Personalize the email.  Far too many companies are still using “Dear Valued Customer.”  If that’s the ONLY thing you can use, it IS better than nothing, but first name typically doubles (or more) your clickthrough rate.
  5. Be sure not to bounce.  Personalization is important but you don’t want to scare your customers away.  “Bouncing” (which is admittedly a poor word for it) is when you freak your customers out by using too much information.  For example, “Dear Debra, we noticed that you tried to use your VISA at 4:32 this morning and got stuck on the CID field.”  That’s bouncing and unlike Tigger, it’s neither cute nor friendly to your users.
  6. Work your timing.  Timing is one of the most important elements in any trigger email program.  Figuring out when you should mail is key.  The “secret sauce” is different for every company so I recommend you test different intervals thoroughly.  Don’t know where to start?  Send out the first email two hours after your open window.   Then 1 day, 2 days, 3 days, and 5 days respectively.
  7. You’ll also want to test sending at different times of day – and be sure to keep your triggers at least two hours away (either side) from your thrusts, at least at the beginning.
  8. Individual emails work better than batched emails.  This tip is similar to #4, if you can’t send out triggers individually, batching them is better than nothing.  However, they will work better (the timing and the deliverability improve) if you send them out on a person-by-person basis.
  9. Test your offer(s).  A lot of folks default to FREE Shipping or 10% off because they’re both best practice-type offers.  So, start with those if you wish but then test against them.  You don’t always need to give away money/discounts to get people to purchase.  A large specialty food company gives away a PDF booklet of free recipes as it works better for them than a discount or free shipping.  A drugstore chain gives away access to a 90-minute webinar by two famous weight loss consultants.  You won’t know what works best for you till you try it.  (Companies who can’t/won’t give offers, should play around with the timing of their deployment and inventory or shipping deadlines.)
  10. Limit the number of links.  The goal of an abandoned cart email is to get a user to place the order so the big focus should be on the RETURN TO CART NOW BUTTONS.  From a deliverability perspective, the fewer the links (under 5) the better.
  11. Put the phone number all over the place.   Every time I see an abandoned cart email without a phone number, I want to punch someone in the face.  (My yoga breathing techniques aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.)   Who should get the smack?  The dumber-than-a-box-of-rocks-consultants who tell people that folks primarily abandon because they want a discount.  Most customers abandon because they’re either not ready to make a purchase OR they get stuck in the purchasing process.  (Stuck could mean an issue on your end or on theirs.)  MOST customers are not marketers and they don’t even know you’ll offer them a deal.  For the users in the stuck group, it’s not going to help them to go back to the place they were when they first abandoned so pushing them to the phone (or live or v-chat) may be your best solution.  Put a special 1-800# in your abandoned cart emails – it will help you better track the orders and it will allow you to develop a special troubleshooting script, if necessary.
  12. Test taking the user directly to the cart.  This may or may not work for you but if it does work, chances are it will work like gangbusters.  If nothing else, make sure that it’s clear how the user gets back into their cart and that the item(s) that they abandoned are still there.   (Carts should NEVER be cleared.  NEVER as in not in a million years.  If you’re out of the inventory, offer a substitute.)
  13. Work the preview panel.  It’s appalling how few companies work the first two inches of their email. (This applies to thrusts/blasts and triggers.)  Remember, half your users will stop reading after the first two lines of your email so make them count.  Chances are, you’ll also want a big phone number and an action button in the first view.
  14. Show thumbnails of the item(s) the user has abandoned.  Showing picture(s) of what the user abandoned will increase your clickthrough and more than likely your overall conversion.  It also typically allows you to mail your series for longer periods of time.  (For example, if your close date is normally six months, you’ll probably be able to mail 10-12 months with pictures.)  Don’t have the ability to add thumbnails?  Send out your emails anyway.  It’s better to do something than nothing.
  15. Use larger-than-life action directives.  Big, bold RETURN TO CART NOW buttons.  Use ‘em.
  16. Sign the letter from a “real” person and use a P.S.  Trigger emails don’t need to be fancy.  In fact, the more one-to-one they look, the better they usually work.  The P.S. should remind the user of the offer (if you have one) and the deadline.  If you aren’t using an offer, you still want to use a deadline (“we can only reserve the inventory for one more day”.)  Deadlines create urgency and they cause people to focus.
  17. Develop a separate program for your mobile users.  Customers who abandoned their mobile carts often need a separate program.  Most important, they need to know that their cart is shadowed on your traditional site.  And, in most cases, your timing (schedule) should be different as well.

Have any other tips you’d like to add?  Please jot them in the comments below or email them to info@amyafrica.com.

P.S.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that abandoned cart email programs ONLY work if you have the user’s email address.  Ask for the email address as many places as you possibly can (perpetual cart, abandoned cart pop-ups, lefthand column, top action bar, righthand column, bottom footer, rotation in carousel, and so on.)   After you have the address, you can use that space for something else.  Till then though, ask and ask AGGRESSIVELY.

Image blatantly stolen from Larry Davis, one of the most brilliant marketing minds on the planet.

This is part 5 of a 5-part series.  Part 1 can be found here.  Part 2 can be found here.  Part 3 can be found here.  Part 4 can be found here. 

8 Proven Tips for Increasing Your Email Capture Rate Using Pop-Ups

Tim writes “I attended your lunch thing at NEMOA and I was very interested in what the guy from The Golf Warehouse said about pop-ups.  I hate those {redacted} but when I heard what you two said about them, especially what the golf guy said about them, I figured I should test them on our site.  What can you tell me about them?”

Hi Tim:

Yes, Brad (the golf guy) was fantastic.  He used to work at Orvis (they’d rather rather go out of business than “sell” someone) so I think www.tgw.com was probably quite the culture shock for him.  (The Golf Warehouse is VERY aggressive, which I LOVE.)

They do a sweepstakes pop-up.

Sweepstakes pop-ups work well because of the offer (obviously) but also because you can do them over and over.  Some folks will come back every month to sign-up again – it’s sort of like FREE ECOA (email change of address!)

Not everyone can do a sweepstakes though so if you can’t, you can offer a free info download (for example, 23 FREE tips for improving your garden!) 

If you don’t want to do anything, that can work too depending on your creative.

The thing about email pop-ups (or any kind of banner for that matter) is that they’re highly dependent on creative.  So if your pop-up doesn’t work it’s most likely because your creative SUCKS.   (Good creative on pop-ups is dependent on the copy and art AND most important, the action directives.)

What else should you know about pop-ups?

Once the user has closed them, keep them closed.  Don’t open the pops over and over on every page, till you’ve tested it.

Test different sizes and shapes.  You never know what will work best for you till you test it.    

You should also test the location.  Sometimes pops work in the upper left.  Others they work in the middle or lower right.  Once you’ve gotten really comfortable with your creative, test the place you put it.

Always make sure the way to close the box is clear.  Some “experts” tell you to bury the close but it’s not the best strategy.  It may work overall – in terms of better sign-ups, but it often impacts your other steps of the sale.

ALWAYS keep a sample of people who don’t get the pop-ups.  It doesn’t need to be a big sample, but you should have one.  Why?  Surprisingly it’s the best indicator when things go wrong with your pop-ups.

Develop 2-3 different pop-ups.  One of the things that folks don’t typically do is deal well with the repeat visitors.  If someone comes to your site and gets one pop-up, the next time they visit you can show them a completely different pop-up to see if they respond to that.  You should also test ONLY showing one pop-up per series of visits.  A series generally lasts 21 or so days.

Work the capture box.  Many email capture pop-ups fail at first because people make the capture box (where you put your address in) too small.  I know that capture boxes aren’t pretty but it’s important that they are big and easy to use.  Don’t forget an action button.

Work your landing pages.  Once someone has given you their email address, make sure to thank them and then tell them what to do next.  The confirmation pages are often as important, if not more important, than the capturing itself.

It’s important to note that email pop-ups work for all sorts of sites – not just ecommerce sites.  They’re good for service sites and blogs alike.  Christoper Penn (aka @cspenn) writes about his personal blog pop-up experiences here.)  To the left, you’ll see the pop-up they use on Blue Sky Factory where Chris is a VP.  This is a VERY solid pop-up, especially the SIGN UP TODAY button.

Have more questions about email capture pops?  Jot them in the comments below or send me an email at info@amyafrica.com.

What are stick emails?

Lisa Blitzer writes: “What is a stick email?  My email guy said our provider is insisting upon us doing one but I looked it up on Google and couldn’t find a thing so they must not be all that popular.  From the way my guy explained it, it sounds craptastic to me.”

Hi Lisa:

Ah…  Stick emails.   You’re right.  They suck.

Stick emails (aka confirms or COE’s) are only called this by a few ESP’s which is probably why you couldn’t find information on Google.  Sticks are emails that you send out to get your subscribers to confirm that they want to be on your list.  Some providers make you email everyone and others make you mail only the inactive names (for example, people who haven’t opened or clicked on your emails within x months.)  Here’s an example of a stick email I recently received.  (For the record, I absolutely adore Carl at TicketPro – he’s one of the ONLY ticket brokers I’d recommend.  The fact that they sent out a stick email has no bearing on what I think of them as a company – they rock.)

Several of the free/cheap providers insist that you do them once or twice a year.

I am not a fan.  From my perspective, they’re terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things as I’ve seen a lot of companies lose 40 to 60 percent of their names by doing them.  In fact, I’ve even seen one company go from about 200,000 names to about 4,000.  Yes, 200K to 4K. 

Are they all that terrible?  No.  But I’d recommend doing things like ECOA (email change of address) instead.  Nobody wants to mail garbage names but there are lots of better ways to skin the cat than making everyone commit again.  Just ask married people if they’d do it all over again and watch them hesitate for a second!

If you must do them (as in your provider requires it), I’d recommend using an offer with a deadline.  I’m not a big fan of giving away money for nothing but you really need to pull out all the stops when it comes to saving your email addresses.  Deadlines create urgency and they cause people to focus.

Which brings me to one of the most frequently asked questions I get about stick e-mails – “my provider says these kind of emails only get rid of the junk names from my list and that they’re perfectly fine, why do you despise them so?”

Here’s the thing.  All providers lie through their teeth about their deliverability.  Yes, even the best ones.  Many of them don’t do this intentionally, the truth is that they just don’t really know what happens to your names once they get to the inboxes.  In other words, if my email is sent directly to your trash – it’s still delivered.  

If you send out an email that the user doesn’t receive, they can’t respond.  Obviously.  This is a big deal for stick emails because they are legal documents.  In other words, if I tell you that I won’t email you unless you say you want my emails, I have to abide by that.  If you don’t receive my stick email and thus don’t tell me?  Sorry about my luck – I technically should not mail you again.  (Thus my biggest problem with stick emails.)

By the way, remember, when you are sending out any email, spend some time on the things that are “outside the envelope.”  (This includes the to address, from address, subject line, format and you guessed it, deliverability!)

Have a question about sticks?  Jot it in the comments below or email me at info@amyafrica.com!

Should I start an e-mail newsletter?

A rockstar blogger asks: “Amy, I am considering starting an e-mail newsletter and I have a few questions.  Such as, how long should it be; how frequently should I publish it; and how long will it take to see results (i.e., interest from potential training/consulting clients?)  Thanks!”
 
I get this question A LOT or as 2.0 (aka the wee terrorist) says “a lot a lot.”
 
First, I LOVE when people/companies start e-mail programs.  I think e-mails (especially triggers) are THE most effective tools you can have in your arsenal.
 
Second, there are no hard and fast rules for developing newsletters.  I will give you some guidelines and places I’d start.  Then, when you’ve got things mastered, you should test them and try new things on your own.   Everyone has different experiences.  My advice is based on reviewing the results of thousands (literally) of companies over time and not from personal opinion.  (For example, we break all the conventional rules with our FREE Eight By Eight Newsletter and the response and the results are still through the roof.  You’ve got to find out what works for YOUR business.)
 
So, how long should your newsletter be?  I’ve seen 25 page newsletters, one paragraph e-mails and everything in between work.  Most of the success of your newsletter will come from “outside the envelope.”  (By the way, that link really does gives you the biggest secrets, be sure to click on it.)  In other words, the length is NOT the critical issue for the user.  You don’t see people not responding or unsubscribing because the newsletter is too short or too long — they take those actions because the content isn’t what they want.  Need a gauge anyway?  Strive for 1-1.5 page(s) printed out.  And yes, that “printed out” part is important because there are large groups of people who still print out stuff — especially CEO’s.  So be sure your newsletter is printer and mobile friendly. (Such a strange gap but alas…)
 
How frequently should you publish it?  Again, this depends on your goals and there are all sorts of formulas that work but I would strive for at least bi-weekly.  Weekly is better but if you can’t do it, try for every couple weeks.  Monthly can work but it’s often tough to build momentum. 
Over time, companies who have built really strong newsletter programs find that consistency helps.  So, if you are writing every Tuesday, try sending it out at the same time as well.
The thing that is super important to remember is that if you’re lucky (read: good), only a quarter of the people will even open your e-mail.  I won’t depress you by telling you how many folks will actually read it because the truth is that it’s all a numbers game and you can make anything work as long as you have the right numbers.  With that said, just remember that if you have 100 people, you have to mail about 6.8 different times for them all to receive just one of your messages.   (And no, you still wouldn’t get 100% but when you factor in the passalongs and such, you should be about even.)
 
How long will it take to see results?  The great thing about e-mail is that you will get an indication if what you’re doing is working immediately — as in your very first e-mail.   In terms of results?  Like everything else when it comes to e-mail, it varies depending on what you’re looking for.  If your goal is to get consulting business from your newsletter, you’ll need to have a good list (meaning not just your sister and your best friends) and you should likely commit to about six months.  (This is also an average but it is a good benchmark.)   The BEST news is that, as a blogger, you already have TONS of content that you can reuse/recycle.
 
Other things to keep in mind –
 
You need an unsubscribe message at the bottom (not at the top, at the bottom.)  Keep it simple.  If you can offer alternatives (i.e., increasing/reducing frequency, specifying content), do it on a page, not in the body copy.
 
Seed your list.  Deliverability is key.  Unfortunately every service tells you they have almost perfect deliverability – that’s why you need to seed your list.  More on e-mail seeding found here… 
 
Ask for FGAF’s (friend-get-a-friend.)  Everyone knows someone just like them and that person may be interested in what you have to say too!  So, in every second or third newsletter, make a push to get your subscribers to forward the e-mail to a friend or a colleague. (Yes, some consultants suggest that you do this in every e-mail.  Having tested it multiple times with multiple clients, I don’t.)
 
Use social networking icons, as applicable.  I say “as applicable” because this is where a lot of folks screw up.  Using the icons WILL help you IF you use the services.  For example, at Christmas, a lot of companies added Twitter-sharing icons to their e-mails, which would have been great, except they weren’t really using or updating their Twitter accounts.  Bottom line: if you use the services, it’s ok to promote them.  If you don’t use the services, save the traffic for yourself.  (As an aside, Facebook like-icons work like gangbusters for many consultants.)
 
Measure what matters.  Look at open rates, clickthrough rates, passalong/sharing rates, unsubscribe rates, bounce rates, and most important, action rates.  Putting together a solid e-mail program is a lot of work.  You’ve got to know what’s working and what isn’t so if you’re not going to read and react to your results, don’t even bother.  With that said, the thing that you’ll get the most out of measuring is the action rate — what action(s) folks take after reading your e-mails — you need to know if they buy something, request a quote, fill out a poll/survey, read more of your content, and so on. 
 
Sounds simple?  It is but this is the area where a lot of folks outside of the e-commerce world really miss the boat.  When you’re selling a product, it’s easy to know if your e-mail worked or didn’t.  When you’re selling a service, it’s a little trickier.  Your e-mails, just like your website, should be full of action directives and you should track them accordingly.  So, if your goal is to get more clients or speaking engagements, one of your overall goals would likely be to rank your readers’ propensity to hire you for training.  Therefore, in your newsletters/e-mails, you should have action directives to get people to use you (“click here now to book your training.”)  You should also have (or at least consider having) an alternative choice for people who are interested in your training but might not be ready quite yet.  That action directive could come in the form of a poll or survey, an ask-and-answer (the user writes the question and you respond, sort of what we’re doing here), a sign-up for a free whitepaper or podcast, etc. 
   
This information may sound a little dated (it’s been around forever) but there’s still a big difference between an e-mail and a newsletter, mostly in terms of measurement/response. Folks often mean different things when they’re talking about a newsletter so it’s important to note what it is that you mean.  Generally speaking, a newsletter goes out to a group of people.  Newsletters may be personalized but they typically aren’t (unfortunately).  Newsletters can have one topic or multiple topics per issue and they’re generally written for the average customer.
 
On the other hand, you could also send out an “e-mail” to your customer.  (Sadly, this generic term really does apply.)  Your e-mail would likely be personalized (which often helps with response) and would be written as a one-to-one communication.  It could have multiple topics or just one.  In a lot of cases, “e-mails” are more casual and less formulaic.  They may share a similar look and feel but they are not likely as templated as a “newsletter.” 
 
And yes, you may be asking if this a semantics type of thing?  Sort of but I mention it because there is a difference in your users’ minds and you should test which one works best for you.  Especially in B2B, your promotional response will vary so I’d test different banners and different pitches to determine which one gets you more sign-ups.  (FREE tips and/or FREE deals works best for some people.  For others, it’s just the offering of “FREE Newsletter.”)
 
Any more questions?  Jot them in the comments below or send me an e-mail to info@amyafrica.com.  Thanks for writing!

The Silent, Yet Deadly EBOSI

Triggered E-mails Based On Selected=When folks talk about their trigger e-mail programs,  they’re often talking about the usual suspects: abandoned cart e-mails, thank you for your catalog requests, order confirmations and the like.  Most companies don’t send out the EBOSI, which is a shame because it’s often one of the best performing trigger e-mails you can have in your arsenal.

An EBOSI – E-Mail Based on Selected Interest – alerts the users to things they might be interested in based on their browsing patterns.

For example, here’s an e-mail I received from Amazon after looking for robots for the terrorists.   (Speaking of which, EBOSI’s work really well for non-ecommerce sites too. The example below is from Amazon, THE e-commerce site of all e-commerce sites but don’t let it stop you from using an EBOSI if you don’t have a shopping cart-enabled site, ok?  Ok… )

From: vfe-campaign-response@amazon.com
Sent: 12/25/2010 5:02:09 A.M. Eastern Standard Time
Subj: Amazon.com: WowWee Robosapien Humanoid Toy Robot with Remote Control

 
Are you looking for something in our Electronics for Kids department?  If so, you might be interested in these items.

In this message:
* WowWee Robosapien Humanoid Toy Robot with Remote Control
* Mini Robosapien
* WowWee Tribot Talking Companion
* Wow Wee Mr. Personality Multi Personality Robot
* Mini Robosapien Electronic Robot
. . .
* WowWee Robosapien Humanoid Toy Robot with Remote Control
  
by WowWee
   http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000161RFA/ref=pe_vfe_x1
Price: $117.18
. . .
* Mini Robosapien
  
by Wow Wee
   http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00068XRS8/ref=pe_vfe_x2
Price: $19.98
. . .
* WowWee Tribot Talking Companion
  
by WowWee
   http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0016CC284/ref=pe_vfe_x3
List Price: $99.99
Price: $87.49
You Save: $12.50 (13%)
. . .

* Wow Wee Mr. Personality Multi Personality Robot
  
by WowWee
   http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001ALOYR8/ref=pe_vfe_x4

List Price: $299.99
Price: $127.38
You Save: $172.61 (58%)

. . .

* Mini Robosapien Electronic Robot
  
by wow wee
   http://www.amazon.com/dp/B002ZI0EUQ/ref=pe_vfe_x5

Price: $32.49

. . .

See even more similar items:

http://www.amazon.com/sim/B000161RFA/2/

If you already own or have experience with the items shown above, please let us know by using the link provided near the item.  For problems unrelated to this e-mail, please contact customer service.

Thanks,
Amazon.com

The main key to sending out an EBOSI is timing.  You’ve got to test it to find out what works for you – it’s different for every company.  (A lot of it has to do with what industry you are in – for example, software companies tend to have the most successful EBOSI’s when they send out the e-mails within a couple hours.)

Other things to know about EBOSIs:

  • You don’t necessarily need lots of pictures and graphics in your EBOSI e-mails.  It’s worth testing but a lot of companies make their programs work with purely text e-mails. 
  • Don’t put too many items in the e-mail and don’t put too few either.  4-6 featured items is a good number for EBOSI’s.  If you don’t have four items, add a little copy to the descriptions, so they’re a bit more robust.
  • Keep the e-mails short and sweet.  Personally, I hate when consultants tell you how long your e-mails should be because in the end, nobody knows what works best for you till it is tested. With that said, for an EBOSI to work best, the user needs to click very quickly back into the site.  Not to mention, the best performing trigger e-mails typically look like they were written from me to you (one-to-one).    
  • As always, the subject line is critical.  Definitely reference the product the user was looking for — and yes, in this case, it’s more important than the deal but if you can list both (the deal and the offer), that’s great too.
  • Amazon uses a terrible “from” address – it’s meaningless.  (It’s so long that “Amazon” doesn’t show up in the box.)  Use a “from” adddress that your users will immediately recognize.
  • It’s not included above (I cut it to save space) but you need unsubscribe and copyright messaging at the bottom. 
  • EBOSIs work for non-ecommerce sites too.  In fact, a lot of times their statistics are better because the navigation tends to be weaker so the user needs more direction.

Do you have any more tips for EBOSIs?   If so, please add them to the comments!

Who The Hell Is No Reply & Why Is He Writing Me? E-Mail Worst Practices: Mercedes-Benz

There are many things that influence the success of your thrusts and triggers. Most of those things happen “outside the envelope.” (In other words, before the user opens your e-mail.)

One of the most important is the “from” address. Things like format have an impact on deliverability, but users don’t understand things like format. They only know that their images are broken. (Translation: they can’t see them.) What they do understand is to whom the e-mail is addressed, who/where it’s coming from and the subject line.

Mercedes makes a lot of errors with their “from” address. First off, it’s noreply@mbusa.com. Seriously, no reply? It’s bad enough that it’s mbusa.com but no reply? What kind of name is that? He must be related to Pig Will and Pig Won’t from Busytown Mysteries.

To add insult to injury, in one of the first lines of their e-mail, they state “Ensure Delivery: Add Mercedes-benz@mbusa.com to your contacts. Yeah, so if you are going to ask me to whitelist you, you might want to use the address you want me to whitelist you for. I mean really. (No, it wasn’t cloaked or redirected.)

Bottom line: “From” addresses are important. You should use a “from” address that your users recognize and would like/expect to hear from.

BONUS TIP: If you are going to test your “from” addresses – you should test ONLY mailing new-to-file names first. Then, you can test the winner against the control.  Otherwise there’s too much bias.  You can account for it, but it’s way more difficult than it appears and seldom worth the drama.

10 Proven Tips for Making Your Trigger E-Mail Program a Success!

These days, everyone and their brother has a thrust e-mail program but surprisingly, very few folks have triggers.

Trigger e-mails, also known as good dog e-mails, are sent to individuals based on actions.  The action could be good (thanking them for an order), bad (when they abandoned a cart, for example) or indifferent (confirming a vote in a poll) but it’s always a happening/event/instance.  Triggers are successful because they have higher response rates, better deliverability and improved LTP (lifetime profit.)

So, how do you make a trigger program work for your business?   Here are ten proven tips…

  1. First things first.  Like most e-mails, the majority of your success will come from outside the envelope – in other words, make sure to spend some time perfecting your “from” address (works best if it comes from a “real” person);  “to” address; subject line (you have 24-35 characters because that’s what fits in most inboxes); the first two lines of the e-mail (statistically over half the people stop reading after the first two lines); the format and the deliverability.
  2. Inside the envelope, work the top two inches of your e-mail.  A lot of companies really blow the “preview pane” of the e-mail – they stuff in a bunch of irrelevant copy (for example, an unsubscribe message, which should NEVER go at the top) or even worse,  they’ll leave the first two inches blank, just a meaningless blob of white space.  The best e-mailers know that “you need to work your window” – meaning make sure that whatever you want the reader to know is right up top.  For example, if you have an offer and/or a deadline, it needs to be in that space.  If you’re featuring new products, make sure you have an “xx new items” headline at the top. 
  3. Implement your trigger program in stages.  Lots of folks wait till they can do all the triggers, which isn’t the best strategy as some are so much more difficult than others.  Figure out which ones you can do easily and start with those.  Some ideas would be abandoned cart, abandoned search, abandoned site, EBOPP (e-mail based on past purchase), EBOSI (e-mail based on selected interest), we’ve missed you, a celebration (happy birthday, congratulations on the new baby), ask the experts (tips, case studies, podcasts, webinars), surveys, and automatic reactivation promotional programs.
  4. Start simple.  Is the list of e-mails above overwhelming?  Then start by improving your order and shipping confirmations and/or your thank you e-mails.  Make sure you have nice thank you e-mails for everything that the user does on your site – signing up for your FREE newsletter, requesting a catalog, registering at your site, filling out a request for quote, and so on.  Look carefully at each of those e-mails and figure out what you can do to improve it – what it would take to make someone want to click on it and do/buy/view more?  Does every e-mail you send out look like it’s from a real person?  Is it written like a letter you’d read?  Does it have things of interest that they haven’t seen before?  Will it make them want to click?
  5. The magic formula for triggers is all about the timing.  Reward them for what they do right (and wrong), at the perfect times.  Always and often!  For example, using one abandoned cart e-mail is ok but using a series of five (or more) is fantastic and really makes a program.  You need to keep in contact with them till they take another action – finish their checkout, add to their order, complete their lead form, request a quote, register for a webinar and so on.   The more you ask for what you want, the greater the chance you have of getting it.   In about 95% of the cases, the first trigger in a series should be sent out within two hours of the action.  So, in a perfect world, if a user goes to your site, puts stuff in their cart and then abandons it, they will get their first abandoned cart e-mail within a couple hours (the sooner the better as long as it’s not in the repeat window.)  If you can’t deploy those e-mails one-by-one and you simply must do a batch process, do it.  It’s not the best choice, but it’s far better than nothing.
  6. Use an offer with a deadline.  Deadlines work because they create urgency and cause people to focus.  Can’t give anything away?  That’s ok but figure out how to incorporate a deadline anyway – there are lots of choices — limited quantity/limited supply, a limited-time sneak peek, etc.
  7. Personalize as much as you can.  If someone abandons a cart on your site, show them what was in their cart in the e-mail.  Make it easy for them to complete their order.  Never press though – pressing is knowing too much about someone (for example,  “you were at our site at 12:03 this afternoon and you were looking at…” – that’s just too much and users typically don’t respond well to it.)
  8. Don’t spend a ton of time nitpicking the creative.  The best trigger campaigns are not always the ones that are the most aesthetically pleasing.  In fact, they’re usually the ones from the companies who have the timing and the message down right.  Mailing the right offer (message) at the right time is far more important than having everything just perfect.  (Remember, e-mails are meant to be clicked on, not necessarily to be read or printed out and hung on your wall!)  That’s not to say that the visuals are not important because they are critical – people see things in pictures online – however, it is to suggest that you don’t need to make your designer go through 111 versions of a trigger to get it just right. 
  9. Don’t forget the buttons.   Triggers, just like thrusts, need very solid action directives – big, red, CLICK HERE NOW buttons that get them to click to your site, cart, lead form, or wherever else you want to put them.  Make sure to include at least one button in every view. 
  10. The person with the most e-mail addresses wins.  You can’t send a trigger e-mail out to someone if you don’t have their e-mail address.  So, if you’re going to commit to a trigger campaign/program, you need to collect e-mails anywhere and everywhere you can on your site.  Make sure your e-mail captures are on every view of your site – not just along the bottom.  Try using pop-ups on exit, especially for abandoned carts and searches.  (Don’t think pop-ups work?  Try them.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised.)
  11. BONUS TIP:  Track.  Track.  Track.  It doesn’t matter what you do if you’re not measuring it properly.  When it comes to triggers, look at open and delete rates; clickthrough rates; page views/user paths; AAUS (active average user session) and time spent on launch; drills/actions; passalong rate, action rate (carts opened, lead forms completed) and item sales (be sure to include feature items and items that were not in the e-mail.)   Build on your success.  If something works, keep doing it and keep improving it.

First, Shoot All The ESP’s…

Becky Tesh asks “I’m hoping you can help.  E-mail is a huge part of our success online and this year our results are tanking.  (We’re over thirty percent down on e-mails but up on SEO/SEM sales.)   Our opens are down…  our clickthroughs are down…  and it keeps getting worse.  What can I do?  Our provider says that our deliverability is 98.5% and that it’s not their fault.  He recommends we do a survey but my boss is not in favor of sending out additional e-mails that don’t make money at this point.  We’ve tried every creative thing we can think of – there must be something else we can do…  Otherwise, I am going to need to cut at least one person from my department.”

Look, I don’t care what your ESP says or how good they are, they don’t have 98.5% deliverability.  It’s kind of like delivering mail to the ghetto.   As Chris Rock says, “I’m sure the postmen do a phenomenal job but some sh*t gets lost and some sh*t gets stolen.”

If bills and Verizon rebate cards can vanish into thin air IRL just imagine what happens in cyberspace.

Yowza.

So, what do you do?  If you’ve tried playing with timing, format, subject line, and all the other “creative stuff”, you should consider sending a percentage of your names to an ECOA (email change of address) provider like Fresh Address.  I’m blown away by how much these type of services have improved over the past couple years (although Fresh Address has always been good.)    If your file is huge, you don’t need to send it all, just the percentage of it that will give you an indication of what’s going on.  (Please, I beg of you, start with the good names.  Your 2010 buyers are way more important than 1972 inquiries.)

Second, and yes, I must say this, MONITOR DELIVERABILITY AND SEED YOUR FLIPPING LIST.  Either use a service that helps you with this kind of stuff (Return Path is one of my favorites) or do it yourself.  It shocks me how many companies do not do this.   Catalogers and direct mailers are especially notorious for not seeding their lists, something they’d never NOT do in the real world.  Again, you can buy a service or if you don’t have any money, set up one on your own. 

Get addresses at Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, and anywhere else that’s appropriate for you. 

Assign each box a read or not-read status.  For example, if you are going to get eight boxes at Gmail, four of them you should never read (do NOT even open them) and four of them you should.  This will give you a quick indication of what’s working.  (Yes, this can make a VERY BIG difference.)

After you’ve set up the boxes, look carefully at trends.  How long are your e-mails taking to arrive in the in-boxes?  What do your e-mails look like?  (In other words, are they being tagged with security warnings?)  Is the mailing being “delivered” to the SPAM folders? (Sadly, that does count as delivered for most providers.)  Some of the wackadoodle free services (especially the European ones) even deliver stuff directly to the trash can.  As if that’s helpful.

I spoke with a client recently who has been having trouble with Yahoo for about a year and they just now found out that their provider was not assigning domain keys.  (Yahoo requires them.)   Sadly, this ESP also shows over 94% “deliverablity” on average.

Becky – in your case, you are mailing to a lot of schools – it’s easier to get a date with the Pope than to  get e-mail delivered at some schools.  Consider calling some of the biggest schools on your list (where you have the most names) and asking them how you can best communicate with them.  A lot of times their tech guys will tell you EXACTLY what you need to do. (It often has to do with timing – meaning when you send them.)  Yes, the process is time consuming but it’s worth it.

Carrie Stiller Says: "Are You Smoking Crack?…

emailgirlYou always ask that question to other people so now I ask you, ARE YOU SMOKING CRACK? You told my boss that we shouldincrease the number of e-mails we send out? You were joking, right? You know our company. We can barely do one e-mail every other week and now you want us to dosix times that? SHOOT ME NOW.”
Dear Carrie.
Nope, not smoking crack although I must say that it should accompanymany clients’ first payments these days. (“Here’s your retainer fee and a little something extra for the stress we know we’re going to cause you…”)
As for SHOOTING YOU NOW, I know where you work. That’s torture enough for you.
The problem with your company is that youfolks approach every e-mail like you are creating the next Sistine Chapel.
Last I counted, there are eight departments and over thirty people involved in every e-mail and that’s BEFORE it’s deployed. I get that you are a REALLY big organization and that a lot of people need to be in the loop. However, I’ve also seen the comments that go to your creative team and most of them are nit-picky, “move this 1/64 of an inch so it lines up exactly” scrawls written by some wackadoodle-run-amok that feels they need to mark their territory like a dog, er, with a red pen.
A couple quick facts about e-mail –
E-mails are meant to be acted upon IMMEDIATELY, not saved and/or printed out to read later. The cold, harsh reality is that e-mails have a very short shelf life (typically less than 48 hours) so the faster you get thereaderto your site (or on the phone, if that’s your preference), the better. That requires strategy, not the random navel pontification of design tangents.
E-mails are NOT meant to be wall art. I know. I know. Your dreams of millions of customers printing out your e-mails, framing them and hanging them over their fireplaces have just been shattered. Spending days and days developing and honing the “perfect” e-mail is a complete exercise in futility. People who feel the need to change the red burst from cherry to fire-engine colored should be shot public-execution style. Period.
Most of your e-mail success will happen outside the envelope. The majority of your e-mail success will come from the To, From, Subject Line, Format, Deliverability and the first 1-2 inches of your e-mail. In other words, perfecting the “guts” (aka the body of the email) is often a colossal waste of time. I’m not saying that creative isn’t important — IT IS — but you’ll likely get more bang from your buck by getting the six things I listed above right.
If you focus on what’s really important, getting out e-mails will be so MUCH easier and as an added bonus you’ll reduce your need for bullets and/or cocaine.
Please note: the six times frequency that Carrie describes above is not meant for all companies. It could be more or it could be less for yours. If you need help figuring out how many times you should be mailing, write us today at info@amyafrica.com.

Trigger E-Mails

Jessica Kelley says: “I finally figured out thrust e-mails and now you are talking about triggers. H-E-L-L-O Amy Africa. You are not nice.”

Jessica.  Jessica.  Jessica.  Haven’t you ever watched Jeopardy?  That was not properly phrased as a question.  (And if the question was about me being “not nice”, well, we have even bigger issues.)

Perhaps what you meant to ask was “what are trigger e-mails?” because EVERYONE is talking about them.  (Ok, that’s a lie, very few people are talking about them and even fewer people are doing them which is a complete shame because they are unequivocally one of the easiest things you can do to improve your site TODAY, without spending a lot of money.  But I digress…)

Trigger e-mails, also called “good dog e-mails” are sent to individuals, based on actions.  (On the flip side, thrust e-mails are deployed to everyone and their brother based on YOUR whim/fancy/schedule.)

The action could be good (thanking them for an order); bad (an abandoned cart or search form) or indifferent (confirming a vote in a poll.)  But it’s always a happening, event or instance.

Triggers are successful because they typically have higher response rates, better deliverability and improved lifetime profit.
If you’re interested in triggers, keep coming back to this section for more info.  Triggers are one of my all-time favorite things to do online and we’re going to spend a ton of time on them.