Keeping Up With The Joneses: Tips On Monitoring Your Competition

Posted by Janelle Pelletier on

“Keeping up with the Joneses” is a familiar phrase which is more and more relevant when it comes to standing out in an overcrowded inbox. You definitely want to make sure you’re keeping a pulse on what your competition is doing and how your subscribers may be engaging with the other guys. Below are some top tips for key areas to concentrate on when you’re evaluating your competition.

Subject Lines
The first step in standing out in an overcrowded inbox is maximizing the impact of the subject line. The subject line is your first, and sometimes only, opportunity to appeal to your subscribers over your competition. According to Convince & Convert, 33 percent of email recipients make a split-second second decision to open an email based on the subject line alone. They also report that an astonishing 69 percent of email recipients will mark an email as spam or junk solely based on the subject line. Keeping an eye on phrases and keywords used by your competition (or other best-in-class senders) can give you tremendous insight into crafting your own subject lines that will keep you from becoming one of the statistics that’s lost in translation.

Some key takeaways to look out for when evaluating subject lines from your competition:

  • Clear and concise—is their purpose clear or do they use vague, nondescript subject lines? Does the subject line convey its message within the first few words? Remember, a large majority of email is viewed on mobile devices and subject lines are often cut off.
  • Themes—do they carry certain themes related to season, products or offers?
  • True to the brand—some brands can be edgier than others based on their primary subscribers and products. Does your competition use twitter hashtags or internet slang words like ICYMI (“In Case You Missed It”) or YOLO (“You Only Live Once”)? Can your subscriber base handle these more trendy phrases/keywords to make sure you’re keeping up with the times or should you stick with the more traditional language?

Use these insights into subject lines for inspiration and testing to help improve your own program. And while the subject line is a key focus for many marketers, it’s important not to overlook the entire inbox experience. The from/friendly from, subject line, preheader summary, and messaging frequency all play a critical role in making your message stand out from the crowd.

Content and Offers
Whichever subject line tactics you use, make sure to follow it up with relevant content and a clear call to action. Don’t go for the bait and switch…that will only work for so long before you start to lose the trust and interest of your subscribers—no matter how enticing the subject line might be.

Some key content areas to evaluate for the competition include:

  • Do they use a consistent template?
  • Do they use a lot of images or a balance between images and text?
  • Is the offer/call to action clear? Included near the top or bottom of the copy?
  • What type of offers do they employ? Always the same % or $ discount? The “big sale” or “clearance”? Member exclusive offers?
  • Do they use personalization (beyond just first name) to target specific audiences?

Onboarding
The sign-up process can be your best opportunity to get to know your subscribers on a more personal level and help you to customize your messaging to drive better engagement. Test out the subscription process for some of your top competitors and top-tier marketers to see what ideas you can incorporate into your own program to drive engagement.

  • Are they collecting information that you’re not—but should be? (e.x., birthday, interests, location, zip code)
  • Do they empower their subscriber with different options (e.x., preference center, message frequency)
  • Is it easy to sign up?

Following the sign-up process, do they have a compelling welcome series?

  • Do they send a welcome message?
  • Do they send it sent immediately after sign-up or some time later?
  • Is the message well branded and easy to identify?
  • Do they include any special offers with their welcome message?
  • How do they set the tone/expectation of what’s to come?
  • Is everything presented in one message or do they use a series of emails to walk the subscriber through all of the benefits of subscribing?

By targeting these key areas, you can make sure not only to “keep up with the Joneses” but to set yourself apart from the Joneses and grab your subscriber’s attention!


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About Janelle Pelletier

Janelle is an Account Coordinator at Return Path. Her goal is to help align Return Path's data and insights from their Email Optimization Tools with her clients' business strategies and help them develop world class email marketing programs. Outside of work you can find Janelle spending time with her family or climbing the Rocky Mountains on her road bike. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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