Email marketing can be very effective — if you get it right. Making sure you reach the right people, ensuring that they open your email and prompting them to buy is the name of the game. Jonathan Rodger has 11 key tips to ensure your email marketing pays dividends
Make sure you use a reputable email service provider (ESP) for your email marketing. An ESP is a company that manages your mailing list, delivers the emails and tracks the responses. Don’t try and use Outlook on your computer, it will get you in trouble with your ISP and you may inadvertently break the law. ESP prices vary a lot, so look around.
As a minimum, you should ensure that the domain you send your email marketing from is set up with a SPF record that allows you to send emails from your ESP's mail servers. Your ESP will help you set this up, and it costs nothing to do. SPF is an email validation system used by virtually all ISPs, therefore compliance is critical to ensure that you don't fall at the first hurdle.
It’s very important to reduce the risk of your email marketing messages being trapped by spam filters. Avoid words like “FREE”, “£££”, “Cash”, “Be amazed”, “Discount”, plus less obvious ones like “Visit our website” and “Click here”. There is a useful list of spammy words here.
Avoid HTML emails where there is a high ratio of images to text, as these will often fall foul of spam filters. And if you are marketing to consumers, you will need an email design that will be very different and less formal compared to a mailing to business people. Remember to check how it appears in all email client software.
Avoid using an off-the-shelf template even though it may be free. Consider getting a designer to create your HTML email template, or ask your ESP to help (some include HTML design in their service).
The quality of your mailing list is key. Try to avoid sending to an old list as it will generate a large proportion of bounces and that may affect the deliverability of the rest of your list and will cause your ESP to question how your list was obtained.
Unsolicited marketing emails are unlawful unless the recipient has in some way consented to receive the email, so the best lists are of your existing customers or those who have opted in to receive communications. Once in the inbox, you need to maximise its exposure.
Make sure the message is relevant to your recipient; include personalisation in the subject line and the salutation, and segment your list into different interest groups for greater relevancy.
Research on this subject is often conflicting. The only way to know for sure which time is optimum for your list is to experiment with a mixture of different days and times. For a consumer list, weekends are surprisingly successful for click and open rates. Your ESP should allow you to schedule messages to send at a given time so that you don't have to wait by your PC.
Sending marketing emails regularly means your audience gets to expect communication from you. Experiment with the frequency. Ideally pick an ESP providing a service that allows unlimited emails.
For most businesses using email marketing, the ultimate gauge of success is not just clicks and open rates, but actual conversions. Besides Google Analytics for measuring traffic stats. your ESP software should measure traffic and sales generated by each email campaign. You can even measure the performance of each individual link within the email to judge which is best.
Recipients may read the email and follow a link with the intention to purchase, but not complete the transaction for various reasons. Most email marketing packages will allow you to download a list of such recipients so you can follow up individually.
It may sound obvious, but give your recipients a compelling reason not just to open the email, but to make a purchase too. Think of using limited time offers, competitions or free delivery. If your email subscribers feel they get something over and above your standard deal, they will feel more inclined to remain on your list.
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