Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Email Marketing Is The Cinderella Of Digital

CM Comment: Some very good ideas to keep in mind ...

May 21, 2009: summarized from Econsultancy -- There's so much buzz about social media, web 2.0, online PR, Twitter and Facebook at the moment that it's easy to overlook how powerful Email Marketing can be. Which is surprising when you realize that for many of your customers email is still the primary communication tool they use when online.

And judging from the record turn-out we had for the Econsultancy session I ran, I thought it would be useful to share 10 top tips for improving your email campaigns....

1. Only send useful content
The key word in email marketing is, 'relevancy'. Your subscribers will only open and read your emails if the content you send them is relevant and has some value to them. For example, think about where they are in the buying cycle and only send content that is useful for them at that stage. If you don't think it's relevant content then don't send it!

2. Segment for success
In order to personalize your emails, you need to be able to segment your subscriber base. In order to do this you will need to gather information about your subscribers. Do this as early on in the relationship with (soon after sign-up ideally) and keep asking. Remember though, if someone is going to give you their personal information - where they live for example - then you had better keep it private and use it!

3. Design your emails carefully
Think how your emails will look in the preview pane of the most common email clients (such as Outlook). You need to design your emails to be effective within that confined screen area with your most powerful calls to action and images displayed. And on the subject of images, many of your subscribers will have 'images off' as the default setting in their email clients too. So make sure your emails work without images by balancing the text you use against the images (try a ratio of 30% image and 70% text).

4. Increase your open rates
Your emails won't work if they're not opened and read by your targets. Putting aside the fact that your open rates may be skewed by your emails being opened in the preview pane (see above) you can improve your chances by experimenting with the 'From' field. Why? Well, if your subscribers aren't sure where the email has come from, they're less likely to open it. Have a look at your 'From' field in your emails and change them to be more helpful. Include your brand name for example or even try using a real person's name as the person sending the email (this has been shown to improve Open Rates).

5. Improve your Subject Lines
After the From field, the quality of your Subject Line is crucial to improving your Open Rates. Many email marketers struggle to come up with clever and witty Subject Lines. Don't. What you should do instead is to simply use the Subject Line to explain what the email is about. Don't confuse or baffle your subscribers. They won't thank you for it. The best Subjects 'tell' what the email is about rather than, 'Sell it'!

6. Add Zest to your copy
OK - so you've got them to open your precious email and to read more of it than just in the preview pane. Well done you! But don't spoil this special chance you've got by boring your customers to death with dull, dull, dull copy! Work hard at your email copy and give it some life! Employ a professional copywriter if you have to but make your emails read as though they've been written by a human being and not a corporate robot. You don't need to win the Pulitzer Prize but at least make the email interesting and engaging. What's the best way to do this? As with many things online, less is more. Follow Jacob Nielsen's (Link to Writing for the Web pages) suggestions and cut your copy by 50%. Make your email copy scannable with clear benefit focused headings and sub-headings. One very important, no crucial, element is to make sure your Calls to Action are highly visible and obvious. If you don't ask your subscribers to do something then you won't get will you?

7. Improve your delivery rates
Improving delivery rates should be a strategic decision. It starts by signing up the right people in the right way (setting expectations at the start, asking people to add you to their 'Safe Sender' lists and so on). Something you must do is to cleanse your email lists on a regular basis. Get rid of addresses that bounce permanently and have never responded to you. The more times you send to bad email address the more chance you have of the ISPs classing you as a spammer. You wouldn't want that would you?! Monitor your delivery rates and badger your Email Service Provider to give you guarantees that your emails are actually getting through. As with Open Rates, if your emails are being delivered then they not doing you much good are they?

8. Are you a spammer?
Well, are you? Of course not. You don't send people anything that isn't useful, relevant and targeted do you? That's good. Because in addition to the boolean filters and corporate firewalls you have to get through, the toughest and easiest to trigger spam filter is the mind(s) of your subscribers. They'll give you, at best, 3 chances. If your emails start to become irrelevant and boring then they'll hit that 'Spam' button on their Inboxes quicker than you can say, 'bounce rate'!

9. Measure, test and tweak
Every single email campaign you send is a chance to improve. But improve you won't unless you're learning. The way you learn online is by monitoring all that lovely data that digital gives you. Track your open rates, delivery rates, forwards, bounces and click-throughs. Establish your benchmarks and move forward from there. You should also establish a regular email test routine. Do this by organizing simple A/B testing of your emails from the Subject Lines through to the images you use, layouts and length of copy.

10. Stay within the law
Email marketing laws are clear and simple to understand. In order to send emails to people, organizations must have explicit permission from the subscriber. They must also make it clear who they are and provide a reliable method for the subscriber to opt-out of the mailings in future. Of course, different laws operate in different lands. There's also the requirements of the Data Protection Act to comply with. Obviously, you're all OK with this because this is covered in your up-to-date Privacy Policy. Isn't it? A regular review of these policies by a lawyer with specialist knowledge of Internet law is ALWAYS a good idea...

Email as part of your 'touch strategy'

To be truly effective, your emails have to be integrated into your wider customer communication strategy. Think how you're going to use email to stay in touch with your targets and provide them with relevant, useful and valuable communications and you too may go to the Ball!

Read more at: http://tinyurl.com/qf3thu

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