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Email marketing: 11 ways to make it work for your business

Email marketingEmail 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

1. Use an email marketing service

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.

2. Comply with the Sender Policy Framework (SPF)

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.

3. Avoid spammy words in your marketing emails

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.

4. Content and design of your emails

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 is less formal than one you would use for 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).

5. Email list quality

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.

6. Relevance and interest to recipient

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.

7. When to send your marketing emails

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.

8. Be regular with your emails

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.

9. Use analytics to measure the success of your 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.

10. Follow up your emails

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.

11. Try incentives

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.

Jonathan Rodger is an expert contributor to Start Up Donut and the founder of Message Horizon, an email marketing service for small companies.

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