4 Email Coaching Tips to Win March Madness Marketing

basketball over empty brackets for march madness marketing

This month, 68 college basketball teams entered basketball’s biggest competition — the NCAA tournament. Over 70M U.S. sports fans will tune in for a full month of madness, hoping their team will make it to the coveted final rounds!

With basketball, every move presents an opportunity to win or lose. Similarly, every email campaign presents an opportunity for marketers to get noticed by prospective customers and generate revenue.

To help you create a winning March Madness email campaign, here are some tips and tricks to help you increase your shot percentage and make it to the finals.

1. Get off to a fast start with subject lines

The subject line of your email is the first part of your email strategy your readers will see — think of this as the start of the game or the tip-off.

The average email campaign receives an open rate of 19.6%, but with a little creativity and proper timing, you can increase your open rate by tapping into the March Madness spirit.

During March Madness, I recommend sending your emails later in the afternoon — right when people need a little distraction from work and around the time the big games are starting.

Klaviyo data shows that companies that send an email around 4 pm receive an open rate 61% higher than the average. In fact, we ran a recent test ourselves and saw a 1.5% increase in click-rate when sending at 4 pm.

A few examples of well-crafted March Madness subject lines include:

  • Let the Madness BEGIN!
  • It’s tournament time. Madness sale!
  • Slam dunking into your March inbox with a Madness sale!

2. Make the easy shots with automated flows

There are shots in the game that you have to make because they’re the easy ones that go a long way to winning the game — think of these as your free throw shots.

These email marketing free throws are your automated emails, or what we call flows. Here is how you can make the easy shots with your automated flows:

Welcome series

Email welcome series receive an average open rate of 44%, with a revenue per recipient (RPR) of $1.68. They perform well because you’re passing the ball to a rookie — meaning they’re excited to get some play time and have the highest upside.

When a new subscriber signs up for your newsletter, send them a fun March Madness themed welcome series. This creates an excellent opportunity to ask what their favorite team is while offering them a discount if they provide you with an answer.

Abandoned cart

Abandoned cart emails are one of the highest revenue generating emails — making companies an average of 5.81 cents for every email sent. This is because you’re reaching out to an extremely engaged customer. They’ve made it all the way to checkout, they just need to be given the opportunity to take the shot and score.

Add a March Madness twist by using a creative subject line like “Second chance to hit the game-winning shot.” Tailor the content around a discount that they receive if they hit the shot (purchase.)

If you’re going to use a discount, I recommend using a dollar-based discount. This type of offer saw a significantly higher RPR than percentage-based and free shipping discounts.

Win-back

Win-back emails are designed to bring players out of retirement — or past customers back to your store to purchase. These emails might not be as sure of a shot as your welcome series or abandoned cart but are worth the effort of setting them up as they receive an average open rate of 32%.

Help bring these players back by offering a March Madness discount.

3. Study your opponents to personalize your plays

Every player and coach in the NCAA tournament watch hours of film to learn everything they can about their opponents — giving them the best chance of hoisting up the championship trophy come the end of March.

You might not consider your audience as “opponents,” but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn everything you can about them. Knowing your readers will help send targeted, segmented email campaigns.

My favorite segment for March Madness is targeting people based on their location. Using their location, you can make an educated guess as to what team they’ll be rooting for. For example, create a segment of everybody who lives close to Durham, North Carolina and send them emails with a Duke University theme.

If you don’t have their location, send out an email asking them who their favorite teams are in this year’s tournament, then segment based on their answer.

4. Optimize your game

If you run the same play over and over again, your competition is going to catch on and you’ll start losing games. A/B testing your subject lines, preview text, and email content will help you optimize your email strategy to help you send winning emails game after game.

Some things you can test:

Subject lines

The subject line of your email is a great place to start A/B testing, because it is the first part your audience sees. Getting off to a good start can make or break a basketball game. In the subject line, you can test a lot of different approaches, like;

  1. Personalization vs. non-personalization: Personalization can be looked at in two ways, it could come off as personable or creepy. Test using your reader’s first name to see how it resonates with your audience. If they’ve abandoned a product, try adding that specific product into the subject line.
  2. Emojis: Using emojis in your subject line adds personality to your emails. Try testing to see if a basketball emoji works in your March Madness campaign.
  3. Discounts: Are you running a March Madness promotion? If so, try testing to see if adding a discount to you subject line helps increase open rates.

Promotions

Adding to what I said above, including a discount to your emails can be the difference between someone purchasing or not. It’s also good to A/B test the different types of promotions in both your subject lines and your content to see which ones get readers to open and purchase.

Try testing the following promotions:

  • Dollar-based discount
  • Percentage-based discounts
  • Free shipping
  • Free gift(s)

Content

March Madness gives you a unique opportunity to test creative, fun, singular content.

Highlight a big play or a crazy upset that everyone is talking about. If you know your readers’ favorite team, create content that is dedicated to that team — adding another layer of personalization that will have you crush the competition.

With these key strategies in your playbook, you’ll be well prepared to take your email campaigns to the Final Four. Creating eye-catching subject lines will help you win the tip-off, while hitting the easy shots, studying film, and optimizing your play will help you finish strong and win the big game.

 

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2 comments

  • Hi Phil, the subject line examples you gave in your March Madness article seem to be in violation of NCAA trademarking: http://www.ncaa.org/championships/marketing/ncaa-trademarks. Just flagging in case you want to update.

    • Hi Alyssa!

      Thanks for bringing this to my attention! I’ll make the necessary changes.

      Best,
      Phil

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