November 21, 2013

5 Tips to Get the Highest ROI from Your Email Templates

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If you're a Contactually user, we hope you've taken advantage of our email templates feature by now. Email templates allow you to supercharge your email marketing, as you can efficiently engage your contacts with the powerful messages that you've elected to keep handy for future use.

However, keep in mind that email templates are only as powerful as the message they contain, so it's important to continually test and tweak your templates in order to maximize the ROI on your email outreach efforts. Here are 5 tips to make sure that you consistently get the most from your email templates.

1. Leverage dynamic fields

Thanks to a neat little tool called dynamic fields, Contactually can help personalize your email templates once you've selected its recipient without requiring you to remember any of the fine details yourself. Dynamic fields can pull almost any piece of data from your contact's profile -- including first name last name, email address, job title, the month in which you last spoke, and even more -- and insert it directly into the message body for each recipient.

In short, email templates and their ability to make your messages more personal will allow you to reach a much higher number of prospects in a day, while keeping your tone conversational and expanding your brand recognition. In turn, you'll notice higher open and response rates across the board.

2. Manually add personalized information for more personal and relevant messages

While dynamic fields give you a great start when it comes to making your emails even more personal and relevant, you'll need to put a bit more effort into your message to truly make it stand out. But, don't worry -- it's easier to personalize these messages than you think!

Fortunately, once you've selected a recipient for your email template, you can add, delete or edit the message content without worrying about changing the master template. Looking for ideas to make your emails resonate more strongly? Try referencing what you spoke about during your last interaction, mentioning something that they included in a recent social media post, or asking about their families, to name a few. However, a word of caution: make sure that you don't overstep your bounds while doing this. Nobody likes a creep.

3. Test your template against different email providers and clients

If you're looking to include more than just text in your email template, you should know that not all email clients treat HTML email templates and graphics equally, meaning that they often render them differently. A template that you send to a Gmail user, for example, may not look the same for another recipient using Yahoo! Mail, and also may look differently on desktop email clients like Outlook, Thunderbird and Mac Mail. You'll run into additional problems once you throw mobile phone email clients into the mix.

There are a few things that you can do to make sure that you won't have problems due to your email template's layout. For example, make sure to use HTML tables, which are read the same across all email clients. If you're including any CSS styling, make sure to write the code in-line. Last but not least, you can avoid problems with rendering by sending test emails to yourself, a coworker, etc., with different email platforms to ensure that your message is received and displayed as intended.

4. Add graphics

...but make sure you utilize them properly. Make sure you only include a small number of images so your email doesn't become too crowded. It's also a good rule of thumb to keep image (and email body) width to 600 pixels or less for improved compatibility with different screen sizes.

Additionally, images aren't meant to replace text content in emails, but rather supplement it, which becomes especially true when reading an email in Gmail, or another client that often blocks image loading without the recipient's express consent. Make sure that you take advantage of alternate text (a.k.a. alt text), a feature that displays a string of text in place of hidden or unavailable images.

5. A/B test

Once you have a few templates on hand and ready to go, it's time to start fine-tuning the process by creating a simple A/B test to measure the efficacy of different aspects of your templates. You can do this by cloning your template and changing only ONE aspect of the clone, effectively creating a control and a variation (think back to your middle school science experiment days). For example, try shortening your subject line or adding a personalized dynamic field, experimenting with different images or color combinations, changing your call-to-action, just to give you a few ideas.

Once you've created your test, you can use a variety of metrics at your disposal to measure your results and determine which version demonstrated the highest ROI from email templates. You can look, for instance, at open rates, click-through rates, reply rates and more to evaluate your success. Once you've come to a conclusion, start over again by creating a new A/B test that experiments with a different attribute to make your email template as effective as possible.

What are your favorite strategies when it comes to crafting great email templates? What did we miss here? Tweet us @Contactually or let us know in the comments.