What's in this session?

  • 10/10/80 Subject line testing (0:48)
  • Re-send to those that haven't opened with a different subject line (1:56)
  • Plain text emails (4:52)
  • Purge your email list of dead contacts (6:08)
  • Send at the same time of day and week (8:00)

Show notes and resources

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The Transcript

Alex Mills: Well, hey there, and welcome to Pro Church Daily, the show where in 10 minutes or less, you’ll get your daily dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus while we navigate the biggest communication shift we’ve seen in the last 500 years. I’m your host, Alex Mills. I’m joined as always by the boss man, it’s Brady Shearer, and today we’re talking about five advanced tips for boosting your church’s email open rates.

Brady Shearer: Three most important platforms for your church in the digital world. Number one, your church’s website. Number two, email. Number three, Facebook. We don’t talk too much about email. It’s not as sexy as Facebook or your website or Insta, but we wanted to offer five really Pro advanced tips for boosting your overall open rates. Open rates-

Alex Mills: If you can’t get people to open your email, you’re never going to get them to read what’s inside.

Brady Shearer: … That’s really the key, and it starts with your subject line.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: And this is kind of the first advanced tip, and that is to split test your subject line. Determine which one of two options is better, and then send out the rest of the email. So, what we do is we call this the 10-10-80 strategy. You want to send out to 10% of your list the same email with two separate subject lines. A number of different email platforms will allow for this. We use ActiveCampaign which makes it possible, so you can send out two different emails. Let’s say you’re promoting a sign-up for the new Easter egg hunt. You need a bunch of people to pack Easter eggs. You’re getting excited for Easter. It’s a week away. It’s tomorrow.

Alex Mills: Easter’s tomorrow?

Brady Shearer: Easter’s tomorrow. And so what you do is you send out this email and you test two different headlines. And what you do is, depending on the headline that performs best, you send then the email out to the rest of the list-

Alex Mills: Okay.

Brady Shearer: … it’s called 10-10-80 strategy because you send the first headline to 10% of your list. You send the second headline to 10%. You wait an hour or two, see which one is doing better, and then you send the remaining 80% of your email list the headline that was working best.

Alex Mills: Classic AB testing.

Brady Shearer: A classic AB 10-10-80 strategy.

Alex Mills: There you go.

Brady Shearer: Nerd at its finest. Second strategy, resend the same email campaign with a different headline to those that have not yet opened it.

Alex Mills: Okay.

Brady Shearer: ActiveCampaign again allows you to do this. You can go into your email campaign. Let’s say 30% of the people opened it. That’s kind of the industry average across religious email sends. Three percent click rate is also the average. So, let’s say you’ve had 30% opened and you’re like, “Man, I bet we could boost that to 40 or 50%.” You go in, send the exact same email in the afternoon or the next morning. Just change the headline, same exact email copy, just change the headline, you’ll get a ton more opens.

Alex Mills: There you go.

Brady Shearer: We did this a ton with the Nucleus launch. We don’t do this with every email that we send out, but when our emails are more important than normal, like during launch week, what we’ll do is we’ll send out emails with different subject lines just because we’re like maybe you missed the first one. Maybe it came in at 8 a.m. and it was too early, and if we send one at 4 p.m., you’re winding up for your day. You’re more likely to open it. Maybe the first subject line we sent didn’t really resonate with you, but the second one does and you want to read the message that’s inside, but you just didn’t care enough about the first subject line.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: These first two advanced tips have been about subject lines because the subject line of your email is the most important element because it’s what determines whether or not the person is going to open or delete that email.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: And you can spend so much of your time crafting the content of what’s inside the email, but if the headline isn’t great, you’re not going to get it opened. No one’s going to read it at all.

Alex Mills: Yeah. And here’s a bonus tip not included in the five advanced tips, but when I AB test my subject line, I like to have fun with emojis, and churches … Listen, churches, we’re not above using emojis.

Brady Shearer: Never.

Alex Mills: Use emojis on your social media platforms and in your email headlines. You don’t have to use them all the time, but I notice when I AB test, especially subject lines that don’t have emojis versus ones that do, or even just changing the color or whatever, emojis are really helping me in my campaigns with open rates and I notice a lot more engagement. This is not related, but also on social media platforms as well. Using emojis on Facebook, it really helps to stop the scroll because it often stands out, so that’s what we’re trying to do is stop the scroll.

Brady Shearer: Yes.

Alex Mills: People are going through their inboxes trying to sort through ads and junk mail and this and that. If you can stand out with an emoji, then just go ahead and do it.

Brady Shearer: Favorite emoji to use?

Alex Mills: I like the red circle.

Brady Shearer: Ah, the red circle.

Alex Mills: Yeah. Shamelessly. At first when I started using it, it’s like is this too on the nose? It’s just a bright red icon, but it works and so I love to use it. I also love using like thematic ones so for Easter, I just sent out a campaign and it had a tulip on it, and the headline was, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” so I also used a music note to kind of connect with somebody so that they start singing that song in their head, but it’s not Christmas, it’s Easter so I kind of create that curiosity, get them inside the email.

Brady Shearer: Wow.

Alex Mills: You like that?

Brady Shearer: You should start an email service for churches. Third tip, advanced tip. Plain text emails. Churches love to send newsletters, love to send rich HTML, images, banners. Don’t do it. Hurts your opens. It is much better to send a plain text email as we always do at Pro Church Tools because it feels like it’s coming from a friend or a family member. It doesn’t feel like it’s coming from a brand, and if you’re sending an email from a church, also we always want … send it from an individual. Send it from alex@lifeabundant, not from Life Abundant because now it’s coming from a person, you’re more likely to open. Send a plain text email. It just feels like Alex is sending me an email which is what is happening. Don’t clutter your stuff with banners.

Alex Mills: That one seems a little counterintuitive sometimes because especially free services like MailChimp I’m sure a lot of us are using. They do really offer some really nice stylistic templates and you see emails from … and very similar to Squarespace, you can spot a MailChimp email when you see it because they just have that bold style, just looks really good and you can make something that’s really, really beautiful, but like you said, there’s no personal element to it. It feels like an advertisement. It feels like a newsletter, but when you see an email come through that the From line says it’s from Pastor Rick, and like you said, you just see plain text, there’s an emotional connection almost there, a relational aspect that is really important.

Brady Shearer: Fourth advanced tip and that is to every year, maybe every six months, purge your email list of dead contacts. We did this right before the Nucleus launch. We were noticing that our open rates were down, and we have an email list of about 50,000, but we’re noticing that our email open rates are down. Normally, we’re right around the 30% mark with a four to five percent click, and we were down at like 20%. We’re like what is this? And we went in, and we had the ActiveCampaign cleanup features, and we’re like okay, can we remove contacts that haven’t opened in like 12 months?

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: And it was like 5,000 people on the list, and I was like-

Alex Mills: Russian bots.

Brady Shearer: … Whatever it was, it could be people that once were really connected with you and just have stopped opening and it’s like people are not going to be listening and wanting to open, it’s like I don’t want to bother you, and so you can put them through a re-engagement campaign where you send a bunch of different stuff saying, “Hey, we’re going to remove you from this list. Are you cool with that?” And most people will be fine with that, but you’ll re-engage a couple which is great. You maybe don’t want to throw out everybody, throw out the baby with the bath water as it were, but what this will do is it won’t just make sure that you’re not sending emails to people that don’t care, but the way that email deliverability works is that the IP addresses are looking and they’re looking and and they’re like okay, or the ISPs … I could get the acronym wrong here. The email people, the email gods are looking and they’re like, “Hmm. This list is being not opened by this many people. This list probably is not that great. We should send it to less people.” That’s how email deliverability works. It’s not as simple as you have a thousand people on your list, a thousand people are going to get your email.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: It doesn’t work that way, shockingly. And so, if you are sending to a bunch of people that aren’t opening and they don’t want your email, that’s going to hurt your overall deliverability.

Alex Mills: Wow.

Brady Shearer: So, it’s not just like oh, I delete 500 dead contacts and now my email deliverability goes up proportionally. It actually can go up exponentially because of the way that these things work.

Alex Mills: Awesome.

Brady Shearer: It’s kind of magic.

Alex Mills: Cool.

Brady Shearer: Fifth advanced tip, send your emails at the same time of day and week. We like to send it Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 a.m. eastern. People are used to seeing an email from Pro Church Tools, they’re more likely to open. If you start sending sporadically, it’ll be like, people are like, “I’m not used to getting an email on Saturday. I don’t want to open this.” And that can also hurt your open rates. Be consistent. Same time, same day of the week. It seems kind of counterintuitive because when you want to mix things up, but not with email. Consistency is helpful and it works.

Alex Mills: I like that, and it kind of takes the pressure off you instead of trying to play the game trying to figure out when’s the best time and what’s the best day to send this email to get people to open it. Just create that expectation that on Tuesday at 8 a.m., there’s going to be an email here and people become conditioned to that and it could become part of their Tuesday morning routine.

Brady Shearer: These have worked for us. These are best practices, but make sure that you’re testing. Do the AB tests. Figure out what’s working for you, what may not work for you and use those strategies. That’ll do it for today’s episode of Pro Church Daily. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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