I have a confession to make: I love robots. Yep. As a little girl, I sat wide-eyed watching Star Wars, A New Hope as C-3PO grandly introduced himself: “I am C-3PO, human-cyborg relations.  And this is my counterpart R2-D2.” From then on, apart from suffering from a severely nerdy love of all things sci-fi, I also understood the incredible utility of technology. Not only is it highly useful in space travel (“Punch it Chewie!”), but also in the modern professional world.

As many marketing professionals have discovered, automated marketing is a vital technological tool in today’s business climate. With platforms like SharpSpring, marketers now have the ability to track web behavior, collect and analyze helpful data, and build forms, email templates and landing pages with ease. These and many other features are just part of all that marketing automation can do, but one of its most crucial components is email automation. Automating mass emails to prospective customers is a surefire way to increase your bottom line, right? They’ll be knocking down your door for business, right? All the leads you’ve been wishing for will open an automated email and suddenly realize that you’re the only business for them, and you’ll ride off into the sunset together in a fashion that would make Nora Ephron weep, RIGHT???!!

Wrong. Just because email marketing is a powerful tool, it doesn’t mean you can simply wind it up and let it go without an effective strategy. The content of your emails is absolutely critical to your success. And the voice behind the content is as, if not more, essential. If a communication feels too robotic, some of the fire is extinguished from the conversation. I mean, I love C-3PO, but I wouldn’t want him writing emails to my clients. So here are some great tips for adding a bit of humanity back into your automated email campaigns.

  1. Subject Line

Think of your subject line as a first impression – and you know what they say about first impressions. Here is an interesting tidbit: 35% of email recipients open email based on the subject line alone. That is significant, because an email open is the proverbial foot in the door with a potential client. But what makes a good subject line? And for that matter, what makes a human-sounding subject line?

The SharpSpring marketing team has been collecting data on our emails, and I wanted to share some of the information we’ve discovered. Firstly, short and concise subject lines are more likely to be opened by the recipient. Our analytics reports showed a three word subject line outperformed a ten word subject line by 13.2%.  

Something else that we realized was that a subject with familiar language was more likely to be opened. For example, when we sent out email invitations for our workshop events, the subject lines “Drinks this week?” and “Lunch on us?” scored 37.19% and 37.01% open rates respectively. In both, there was a clear emphasis on connecting in person, and the reader had a clear preview of the email’s content. By contrast, our subject line “Can we grab lunch and talk lead conversion this week?” only scored a 23.99% open rate. The difference here is that this subject line was clunky and awkward, something that wouldn’t flow naturally in a conversation. Also, it came across as more “salesy,” which is not necessarily a bad thing, but when the sales aspect becomes the focus in the subject line, it removes a bit of comfort for the recipient. Your subject lines should start a conversation, not a sales pitch.

  1. Style

Much can be said for a beautiful email design, and a striking template can be quite effective in certain cases. However, when an email template is too streamlined and doctored, it can take away from the personal factor. A plain text email is more likely to bypass email filters, which means that your message is more likely to go straight to your lead’s main inbox, instead of the spam folder.

Aside from this basic advantage, the plain text email suggests that the sender typed the message out from his or her own computer, which is more likely to establish a connection with the recipient. From our own email data, we have seen that the click-through rate of a plain text email is on average almost double that of an email with a decorative template. That number is indicative of a higher level of interest and trust in the personalized appearance of plain text emails. While the templated email might be aesthetically pleasing, the recipient will more likely focus on the content when the email is plain text. It’s the internet equivalent of a handwritten note.

  1. Segmentation

Anyone familiar with marketing automation realizes the importance of segmenting emails. But I want to emphasize the importance of segmentation from the personalization standpoint. If you have the tools to track your leads’ web behavior, geography, and other activities, it would be foolhardy to leave that information on the shelf collecting dust.

It’s easy to picture the embarrassing incident of someone opening an automated email with incorrect or irrelevant information. Not only does this highlight the robotic and detached nature of the email, but it also makes the recipient feel less important, since it is clear that no effort was taken to create content tailored for their specific needs. Remember: there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” email strategy, or at least not a successful one.

According to the Lyris Annual Email Optimizer Report, segmenting emails resulted in a 39% higher open rate. It also resulted in a 28% lower unsubscribe rate. These statistics are indicative of the importance of establishing a connection between the sender and the recipient, which in turn makes the recipient more willing to further that connection. The specific content delivered through an efficient segmentation strategy communicates on a personal level, which will always be attractive to consumers.

For SharpSpring users, it’s very easy to segment your emails. There are a couple of great tools in the platform that can help. For one, you can use the dynamic email content feature, which will send unique content to each recipient based on his or her demographic profile, interests, and behaviors. This can be done from a single workflow, which saves you the task of manually customizing all your emails regularly. Another useful SharpSpring tool is the custom merge variable, which can be used for any custom field in the platform. Combine this with our “after-the-click” behavior-based email tracking, and you have everything you need to effectively segment your email lists.

Hopefully these tidbits offer some insight into spicing up your email game. It’s human nature to go through the motions, but when those motions turn into mechanical, ineffective business emails, it’s time to think outside the box. Remember, your clients are just people, and although it’s important to focus on data and statistics about those people, it’s even more critical to connect with those people. I’ll leave you with a phrase I hear pretty often around the office: “The best marketing automation is the kind that doesn’t feel like marketing automation.”

Koertni Adams