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I Sent 25,783,700 franchise emails in 2014. Here’s What I Learned.

I’ll come clean. When I took over FranchiseHelp’s email marketing efforts at the beginning of last year, I would’ve never imagined sending over 25 million emails in a year.

Our email marketing program was in its infancy, and we hadn’t really focused on it in a while. We had a drip that worked fairly well and didn’t take a lot of management. It was the consummate “Set It and Forget It” marketing channel.

If I could boil down my entire experience into a single line, it's the same it always is in online marketing. Allow me to let The Faces say it for me:

But such is life!

That being said I thought it’d be helpful, given my experience this past year, to share a few of my biggest learnings.

1) Email marketing takes time – There’s no such thing as an effective “set it and forget it” email marketing plan. As much as we all want to set up a few email flows and let the $$$ roll in, it just doesn’t work that way. This is for two reasons primarily. First, your audience is dynamic. Not only are they reading your emails on different devices and email platforms every single day, but their lives are changing. The second reason is that there’s a massive opportunity cost o leaving alone email marketing. Simply by focusing some of my time on optimizing email marketing over the course of the year, we were able to see its return grow exponentially. If we had not dedicated time to working on it, we’d be in the same crummy place we were (if not worse!) If there’s one marketing initiative you decide to work on this year, it should be improving your email marketing.

2) Mobile isn’t everything, it’s the only thing – There’s no longer such a thing as designing an email to look good on desktop. It’s just not worth it. Your audience is never more than 2 feet away from their phones. And guess where they first read all their emails? Phone. Desktop email clients have learned to make just about everything look great. Mobile email providers haven’t evolved that fast. Here’s what one of our February emails looks like on my phone:

FranchiseHelp February 2014 Sample Email on Mobile

Now here’s one of our December emails:

FranchiseHelp December 2014 Sample Email on Mobile

When you’re designing your emails, THINK MOBILE AND ONLY MOBILE. No one reads emails on their desktop anymore.

3) Short and sweet– There’s a debate that’s been raging in copywriting circles for years. Essentially, it boils down to whether or not short or long emails perform better. Now, while I’m not in the copywriting hall of fame, I have sent 25 million emails this year. And I’m finally ready to issue my opinion with regard to franchise email copy. Shorter is better. All of our websites are filled with facts, figures, graphics, information, and everything else about franchising. There’s no need to rehash all those details in an email. Plus, who has time to read really long emails anymore? Short and sweet. Get your point across. Get out of there. For those of you who are on our email list, you’ll see that the average words / email has plummeted over the course of the year.

4) There’s no substitute for a bigger list – Most of the email marketing articles you read promote the mantra of not necessarily having more emails but rather having “the right emails.” I get it. And I don’t necessarily disagree. But the fact of the matter is that knowing rather or not you have the right emails is a nearly impossible task. How you would even begin to measure that is beyond me. So in lieu of some sort of enlightenment on the topic, I’m going to be very basic. Grow your list however you can as fast as you can. The returns you see on your email will go up and in a big way. If you don’t have a plan for collecting more emails in 2015 than you did in 2014, then make one. Here’s what our list growth looks like over the past year:

2014 FranchiseHelp Email List Growth

Over the course of the year, we’ve actually doubled our list size. And we want to do even better this year!

5) Segmentation is overrated – One of the buzzwords that got passed around email marketing circles in 2014 is "segmentation." At the highest level, this means sending different emails to different audiences based on some sort of intrinsic characteristic of the recipient. One example may be sending one email to people in California touting California as the best market for your franchise while sending another email to the rest of the list. We ran quite a few tests with list segmentation in 2014, and ultimately we elected not to go down that route on a repeating basis. The reason, the ends just don’t justify the means. It is true that you see a small bump in performance when you segment the list. However, it is nowhere near the amount necessary relative to the copious amount of hours it takes to properly segment a list. Is it really worth half of a person’s time just to see a 5% increase in performance. Unless you’re a massive, massive company, no.

These are only 5 of probably 100 things I learned writing all these emails this year. I absolutely love talking to franchisors about their email strategy, so shoot me a note and we’ll set up some time. There’s no reason that this won’t be your major growth channel in 2015.

So what’s next in 2015? Email automation probably. While humans are incredibly poor list segmenters, machines accomplish the task fantastically. We’ve already started to spend lots of time laying out a roadmap where a computer program handles all of our email sends rather than me. We’ll keep you up to date on how it’s all going.

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