There are a number of things that can go wrong when attempting to use email as a strategic marketing tool for promoting yourself or your business. I can’t even begin to count the number of trashy, repetitive, useless nonsense I’ve received via email – sometimes from nationally known brands. I want to discuss a few things that can help you in your current or coming endeavors with email marketing.
First, if you are directing the email marketing efforts of your company, I would strongly recommend that you learn basic HTML (HyperText Markup Language). There are several books available, some of which even include tutorial CD-ROMs. It doesn’t take long and isn’t that hard to get a grip of. Knowing the basics of this language will prevent many headaches when attempting to build emails that contain something other than text; it will also help you overcome what I call “ghosts of code”. These ghosts will randomly slingshot a line of text or an image to the other end of the world and you will need to know how to go into the code and kill the ghost to fix the problem. Trust me, it is valuable knowledge.
An important thing to know before launching any email marketing campaign is the rules for proper email etiquette. Most third party design and distribution tools will not even let you import a list if you do not provide explicit proof that each contact willingly requested information from your company via email. To qualify for using these tools and to ensure your email isn’t marked as junk or spam, be sure to offer an UNCHECKED box on the contact portion of your website encouraging the visitor to “opt-in” for open email communication. Your emails are 82% more likely to be opened if it is something your subscribers are expecting to see. Here is an example of the one we placed on our site:
Next, it is very important to properly manage your subscribers and monitor activity. There are a few tools available but I suggest using CampaignMonitor. This third party email design tool is immaculate. There are a number of options that will help ensure proper email delivery including a “design test”. The test will send your email to dummy accounts they have set up for most major email service providers and allow you to see how it will be displayed. Another great tool that it provides is the ability to track how many emails were opened, bounced and marked as spam. You can even dial into the report and see WHO did what. These things are very powerful for properly executing a successful email campaign. Use this data to learn when the best time to send an email is and if your content may include something that filters could potentially mark as spam.
I send a series of emails every month to our customer/prospect database. Each is distributed at a similar time frame and serve their own purposes. The second week of every month we distribute our monthly eNewsletter containing industry related articles, tips, testimonials and specials. This is my ‘lite’ email. The last week of every month I distribute an email campaign entitled “mailMAX” that includes direct mail ideas for our customers. This is a little more sales focused but is presented as an idea generator. Ultimately, we get the most clicks and traffic to our website from this email and it still provides useful content to the customer. Every other month I will send an announcement or press release regarding new developments with our company and its products.
WARNING: It is imperative that you do not send multiple sales-heavy emails in an attempt to push increased sales. I’ve always considered email marketing as a way for you to stay in front of your customers and pique their interest with useful information. If you are sending 5+ emails to your customer list each month, you will most likely be marked as spam and your messages quickly ignored. I can promise you that the reporting will prove this.
Finally, your subject line can make or break your email. Regardless of the contents – a subject line can throw your email to the spam sharks and can even discourage a customer from opening. Make it short and meaningful, not obnoxious. The general rule is to keep it under a total of 30 characters. There is a long list of words to avoid but some may include “sale”, “special”, “buy” and “from”. Your subject line must leave a reader wanting to know more, consider that when writing it.
Here is a quick list of basic rules to help you get started-
1 – Always include an UNSUBSCRIBE link in the footer of your email. Make it easy to understand and easy to access. I had fun with ours, listed as follows: “We’d hate to see you go but if you must, click here to unsubscribe.” (“here” serving as the link.)
2 – Engage with useful content that tease the reader with helpful information and link them to your website to read more. The result is increased website exposure.
3 – Use minimal imagery so that the email loads quicker and is less likely to be caught in spam filters. Make it pretty, don’t bedazzle it.
4 – Start small. Learn the system, what works and what doesn’t. I suggest taking 5-10% of your email addresses and testing your first series of emails. It took me nearly a year to nail down what works perfectly for our target audience – learn from your reporting.
5 – No email is ever the same. Make your email brand consistent but always update the content to keep the reader interested.
6 – Make it personal. Depending on the tool you are using for design and distribution, you may be able to insert a simple line of (HTML)code that will reference the name associated with the email address. The header of your email could read “The time is now, John Smith”. This will greatly improve your reader’s emotional response.
I know it is a lot to swallow but if executed properly, you can really swing a killer email campaign and impress the boss with detailed reporting!