Clients frequently ask us how to get better results from their email marketing campaigns… Maybe it’s because we’re always extolling the virtues of email marketing tools like Act! eMarketing and Mailchimp integrated within our CRM solutions, or maybe it’s because the word has spread that we’ve trained over 1,000 businesses in email marketing best-practice… Either way we’re happy to share, so we asked our email marketing evangelist, guru, trainer and chief eNerd Will Ingleby to list the secrets of success! Enjoy…
1. Develop a digital strategy: Crystallise a simple ‘strategy’ in order to understand how email marketing will contribute to your business. Be clear in your own mind about how it will work. Be realistic about how much time you
will dedicate to developing your email marketing capability
2. Get permission: If you send unsolicited email, you can damage your brand, invalidate your campaign and hurt your sender reputation. Work hard to build opt-in lists and don’t base your campaigns around lists that contain targets who have simply not opted out.
3. Understand the law: Permission is the key to all deliverability. In the UK, the legal requirement is that you get the subscriber’s permission by them taking a positive action, which is fully informed and freely given before sending an unsolicited commercial email. The so-called ‘soft opt-in’ is the exception to this rule.
4. Deliver value: Once people have subscribed to your newsletters, your work begins! It’s imperative to continue to deliver value in every subsequent communication that you send. The first email that you send which includes repeated or irrelevant content will possibly be the last email of yours that they open.
5. Make quality a priority: Provide clear visibility of who you are. Enable easy opt-out. Don’t send too many emails or poor quality emails which will generate too many spam complaints. Manage unsubscribe requests effectively, monitor and resolve spam complaints. Use a double opt-in process.
6. Manage frequency: Don’t confuse the ability to send mass emails at the press of a button with hounding. If you abuse the facility, your clients/subscribers will demonstrate their annoyance by deleting your mails on sight, moving them to the junk mail bin or even worse, reporting as spam.
7. Consider timing: It makes sense for you to try to ensure your emails hit the recipient’s inbox when they are sat at their computers. If you are able to do this, you have a greater chance that the email will be opened and read as it is not competing with other emails in the inbox for the recipient’s attention. If you can get the delivery time right, you’ll earn a far greater response and also your ‘trust relationship’ with the recipient will have a better chance of developing.
8. Cleanse your data: When you send out email blasts to an opt-out (or implied consent) audience, you might waste half or more of your spend by sending to email addresses that don’t exist anymore. Address churn on a typical email list is 20% to 30% a year on average. So, if a list is two years old, more than half of the addresses could have gone bad. The worse case scenario is that if you deliver emails directly from your own systems and a great number of them ‘bounce’, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) may block your email altogether. Try to implement some means by which you can check or cleanse your data.
9. The ‘From’ line: Your email has to stand out in a crowded inbox. Put your company name (or description of your service) in the ‘from’ line for fast recognition. In a Forrester study, the two main reasons participants said they opened commercial emails were because they recognised the sender as a company they signed up with (40%) and because they recognised the sender’s name (52%).
10. Craft a good subject line: The subject line has to grab the reader’s attention in a fraction of a second. Try to avoid long words or being cryptic; don’t make the reader work too hard to understand what the email is about. Include a clear and unambiguous description at the beginning of the subject line and get the key value in the first 30-35 characters to avoid truncation in the Inbox.
11. Design for the inbox: Design the top of your email to be ‘preview pane’ and ‘disabled images’ friendly. Use teaser text and HTML colours and layout rather than an image so readers can get an immediate ‘preview’ of your email even if images are disabled. Finally, put the important content – the offer, the call to action, newsletter contents – up at the top for immediate viewing.
12. Personalise your message: Personalisation uses recipients’ own information to create highly relevant messages, which boosts your value. Email marketing software typically enables you to personalise at the individual recipient level, with email that recognises each one by name, buying history, content, format, etc.
13. Use a strong Call To Action (CTA): The first time a recipient opens your email is the single best chance you have to invoke a response. Make it very easy for them engage with you, perhaps in a number of ways so that they can choose the one they feel most comfortable with. Recipients usually make a decision whether to engage within a fraction of a second. Tip the decision balance in your favour.
14. Use html but keep it simple: You can format messages in HTML (‘hyper text markup language’ – the stuff web pages are made from) or plain text. By creating HTML-formatted email messages, you can create visually appealing campaigns that look similar to web pages. By creating text email messages, you can include minimal formatting and display only text and hyperlinks.
15. Test for Mobile: More than 50% of email messages will be read (at least initially) on a mobile device, and this percentage is growing continuously. Use ‘responsive’ templates that optimise the presentation of content to suit the device that is being used to read them. Your emails need to effectively communicate your value proposition and earn a response wherever they are read, so don’t overlook the importance of multi-platform testing.
16. Don’t assume delivery: One of the key issues around email marketing is deliverability. As hard as the creators of emailing software are working to achieve greater ‘penetration’, the developers of spam filters are striving equally hard to protect the recipient and prevent spam from getting through. Use spam checking software that enables you to test your email templates before distribution. The test applications use the same SpamAssassin-type checks to discover whether your email is likely to get through to the inbox, scoring the mail and providing suggestions in terms of how you might improve your chances of success.
17. Use the proper tools: Many people send bulk mailings from their own standard email client – such as Microsoft Outlook – via their own ISP (Internet Service Provider). Whilst this is
very low cost and easy to do, there are some potential pitfalls that might make dedicated email marketing systems worthy of consideration. For example, managing Opt-outs, avoiding email server overload, ISP blocking and response tracking. Using standard email tools relies heavily upon the broadcaster consistently implementing manual checks and adhering to policies and processes that ensure the campaigns are successful, and that legal compliance is maintained. Automated email marketing tools help manage these aspects automatically.
18. Create good landing pages: While enticing email creative is very important in order to attract click-throughs and website visits, effective landing pages are vital in order to “close the sale” and encourage your visitors to take the action you want them to take. Where possible, the landing page should be customised very closely to reflect the email advertisement (or ‘Call To Action’) which triggered it. By adding a parameter to the landing page “URL”, advertisers can measure the return on investment of their email marketing campaigns based on relative ‘click-through’ rates.
19. Viral email marketing: Viral emarketing uses pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes. The goal of viral marketing programs is to identify individuals with high Social Networking Potential (SNP) and create Viral Messages that appeal to this segment of the population and have a high probability of being passed along. If successful, you can extend your reach beyond your own contact database exponentially.
20. Integrate with other channels: The digital environment has exploded into a vast global communications phenomenon through the collaboration of users. This ‘Web 2.0’ culture enables email marketers to complement and extend their campaigns through the use of multiple marketing communication channels. These might include blogs, feeds and Social Media platforms as well as traditional and hard copy alternatives. Email becomes one element of a diverse range of tools which combine to draw the recipient into a rich and interactive environment. Explore this modern landscape and determine how it can interact with your email campaigns to derive maximum return on investment from your marketing effort.
And finally: Be aware of the laws concerning not only email marketing but the maintenance of databases that hold customer/prospective client information that you will use to build your opt-in contact lists:
• Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) (Amendment) Regulations 2005
• Rules applicable to email marketing in the Electronic Commerce Regulations 2002;
• The requirements for email marketing in the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing;
• The Communications Act 2003 (provisions prohibiting “persistent misuse” of electronic communications networks)
• Ofcom Statement of policy on persistent misuse of electronic communications network or service