Ten ways to make email marketing work for your business

A freelance copywriter writing copy for a small business

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 ten 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, complying with the Sender Policy Framework (an email validation system used by virtually all ISPs).

Don't try to use Outlook - 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. Avoid spammy words in your marketing emails

It's very important to reduce the risk of your email marketing messages being intercepted by spam filters. Avoid words and phrases like "FREE", "£££", "Cash", "Be amazed", "Discount", as well as less obvious ones like "Visit our website" and "Click here".

3. 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 if it is free. Consider getting a designer to create your HTML email template, or ask your ESP to help (some include HTML design in their service).

4. Email list quality

The quality of your mailing list is key. Sending to an outdated list will generate a large proportion of bounces, which may affect the deliverability of the rest of your list and will cause your ESP to question how your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 them, so the best lists are of your existing customers and/or those who have opted in to receive communications from you.

5. Relevance and interest to recipient

Once in the inbox, you need to maximise your email's 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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're getting something over and above your standard deal, they will feel more inclined to remain on your list.

Written by Jonathan Rodger of Message Horizon.

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