Many Game Studios Fail At Email Marketing, Here’s How You Win

Email Marketing for Gaming

Your email marketing list is one of your best ways to connect with users who are likely to buy your next game or app.

Of course, in order to create the customer relationships you need, your subscribers need to open your email.

The more people who read every email you send, the more potential sales you’ll get.

In fact, the more people you get to open your email, the more likely it is that ISPs will actually deliver your future emails.

It’s one big, virtuous circle, folks.

So today, let’s discuss some ways that you can improve your email open rates.

1. Make Your Subject Short and Catchy

Your email subject header is the most important part of the message.

If users find your title interesting, they’ll click. If it’s too dry, confusing or salesy, they won’t.

To increase your odds, your email titles should have two features:

  • They should be short. Keep them to under 50 characters, and don’t use more than six words in your title.
  • They should be catchy. Ask yourself if you would open an email with the header you’ve chosen. Use alliteration, wordplay or emotion to grab readers’ attention.

Feeling risky? If you have to make your subject long, make it really, really long. There seems to be an early indication that marketers are testing the super long subject as a way to stand out.

2. Experiment with Subject Wording

In addition to making your title short and catchy, you should consider experimenting with how you phrase your subject.

Any subject can be phrased positively (“We are giving away free in-game currency this weekend!”) or negatively (“Don’t Miss Out on Exclusive First Look”). Depending on the gamers you’re talking to, one or the other will motivate them more. Try it both ways and see what works best.

Read this piece from Mailchimp’s data science team on other wording combinations to think about.

3. Use a “From” Name that’s Personal

Most email marketing programs allow you to customize the name attached to your emails.

This is important. After all, would you want to open emails from ABC Game Company?

Instead, use your real name or a name you choose to represent the exclusive club made up of your subscribers. For example, Big Fish Games uses Big Fish Games Splash for its email newsletter. This name helps excite customers and make them feel like they are part of a special club.

When I launched SuperReward’s blog and newsletter, I didn’t call it SuperRewards Newsletter, did I? I called it “SuperRewards Growth Blog” and we started a weekly email called “Growth & Monetization Weekly”. It’s not rocket science, for sure, but alongside that our emails from from “Derek at SuperRewards, not SuperRewards.

4. Avoid “Spam” Words in Your Subject

According to Marketing Profs, words like “Free” or “Act Now” trigger many email programs’ spam filters. A lot of email marketing tools will flag these words to remind you of that.

Your messages may be automatically diverted to users’ junk mail folders if you use these words, guaranteeing that they will never be seen or read. It would obviously make sense to avoid them if you can.

That said, if you’re feeling risky I’d proposed that “free” can be used if it’s relevant to your messaging. In the Mailchimp report we mentioned, in certain industries using the word “free” can be a positive influence on open rates (actually, “freebie” is even better).

5. Don’t (Ever) Use Misleading Titles

Vague or general titles are not only uninteresting, but are also potentially misleading.

If your email contents don’t match what your title promises, users will get the feeling that you duped them in order to get them to play your games or engage with them in some other way. A long-term relationship with users is a delicate thing, and undermining their trust by smoke screening them in their own inbox isn’t the way to maintain common ground.

The rest of your emails will go straight to trash once this happens. Always use titles that reflect what you’re going to be talking about in the body of your emails.

6. Audience Segmentation is Your Friend

Not all gamers play the same games, so some of them will have little to no interest in certain emails.

You’re more likely to stop readers from tossing your emails into the trash bin if you segment your audience. In other words, divide your subscribers into groups based on age, gender, game preferences or other qualities your market research shows are important. Send each email only to groups that you think will be super interested in that emails content.

Check out Hubspot’s hints on segmenting at a high level, and think about the data you have on your own users to find useful ways to segment your messaging.

7. Timing Is Everything, Especially In Gaming

Gamers sometimes keep odd hours.

Don’t send your emails only at 9am on Monday mornings – your audience may not be at their computers then. Do your logs suggest you’ve got a lot of players on the system at 9am on Monday?  If so, I want to know what kind of game you’ve built.

Instead, play around with the times that you send emails. Send some at conventional hours, some at times generally considered “bad” (like 4 PM on a Friday) and some in the middle of the night or wee hours of the morning. This is particular true in the gaming market, and it often pays dividends to be sending emails based on a recipients’ time zones. Most email marketing software will help you deliver at targeted times.

Track which email times result in the biggest open rates, and optimize future mailings to those times. If the best time ends up being a time that you’re normally in bed, schedule it beforehand.

8. Double-Check Your Newsletter Description

If your readers are deleting your emails without opening them, it could be because what they signed up for and what they’re getting in their inbox look like two different things.

Every email from you should be clearly identified as such, with some language outlining how a recipient got their name on your list. Obviously there are anti-spam laws which mandate a lot of this, but it’s helpful to regularly review these descriptions to help anyone who’s confused figure out who you are.

Double check your subscription page as well, if you have one. A lot of times email marketing can evolve, and it may be time to update your signup language.

9. People Don’t Make Friends With Salesmen

One of the purposes of your email newsletter strategy is to bring on more users, or convert current ones into users of new titles.

That’s fine, as anyone who’s receiving email from you will understand that you’ve got a product for them.

That said, if all you’re doing is selling every time you show up in their inbox, gamers will pull the plug on your emails.

Treat their inboxes with respect, and use email as an opportunity to build a relationship with your recipients. Peel back the curtain on who you are and what it takes for your business to be different from the competition. Share content you think they’ll find interesting. Ask for feedback and engage with them offline, at events or conferences. In short, treat them like you’d treat your friends – would you send an email a week to your best friend asking for money?

Sales messages are more effective if you’ve built some trust with your recipients, and the only way to do that is to actually connect with them.

10. Mobile, Mobile, Mobile, Mobile

A sizable number of people read emails on their phones or tablets, and that number is growing every day.

It’s important to design your emails so that they can be read on mobile devices. When I say it’s important, that’s understating it a bit. 90% of smartphone users read email on the device. Up to 65% of email is read on mobile and that’s growing. Almost every number that matters when it comes to mobile email is moving up and to the right. Some more stats here.

It’s extremely important to plan for mobile readers. I’ve personally unsubscribed from emails because they’re impossible to read on my mobile device. Maybe you have too.

If your marketing software doesn’t optimize emails for mobile, find a new service. It’s really that crucial.

Now Go Forth and Send Email!

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