10 tips for email marketing

Given that this claims to be a Digital Communications blog, I should really be giving advice on more than just social media, so here is another in an occasional series of Stuff I Have Published Elsewhere. Enjoy:

Email marketing seems like a simple idea. You have something you want to say to your customers, you have their email address and you know how to write an email. Couldn’t be simpler right?

Well, on one level it really is that simple but there are some other things that you should consider:

How will you know who has opened it or read it?

Who’s going to respond to all the feedback you get if it’s a success?

Were your customers happy to receive it?

Were you operating within the law?

It may seem simple but when it comes down to it there are few things more stressful in online marketing than sending out an email to your customers. No, I can’t make it any less stressful but I can offer you some tips so that you know what you are letting yourself in for.

1/ Get permission
You may have a list from your sales guy of leads, or maybe you’ve archived emails of customers who have been in touch but that’s not enough. If you send people marketing email without their consent, not only is it annoying. It’s illegal. Whether you buy a list or make your own, everyone on it must have opted in.

2/ Belt and Braces
It’s lovely to be sending out image rich HTML emails, they are on brand and make you look sophisticated but the bottom line is that not everyone is capable of receiving them. There are a lot of different email applications out there on different platforms so make sure you offer a text alternative to whatever you send.

3/ Use e-marketing software
It’s vital that you are able to track basic stats such as how many customers opened the mail, how many addresses bounced and who wants to unsubscribe. There are a number of companies offering web-based services, just Google “e-marketing software” and pick one that you think looks good.

4/ Call to action
There is no reason for you not to encourage your customers to do something on receipt of your message. Make sure the copy and the structure leads them towards clicking that link back to your site or calling that number.

5/…and track them
And when they have been called to action. Make sure you know that they did it after reading that carefully constructed email you sent them. You can do this on your website by checking your logs for referral information. If you don’t know what that is, find someone who does.

6/ Test different creatives
The real beauty of direct marketing is that you can get to the bottom of what works very quickly. Use different approaches to the same message to send out 2 or even 3 different versions to different people on your list. Then use the analytics to work out which one was the most successful.

7/ Look after your list
You will waste a lot of money sending out messages if you don’t keep on removing those email addresses which consistently bounce, if it fails to deliver 3 times then bin it. Also, make sure your unsubscribes are definitely gone before you send out your next one.

8/ If you can, segment your list
Find out as much information as you can about your customers. It’s a good idea to use surveys to do this. Then, with this data you can send different messages depending on what you have learned. For instance, there’s not point in sending Vegas clubbing deals to your ‘more mature’ customers.

9/ Think about when you send it
Studies have shown that the best time to send your marketing email is midweek. Tuesday and Wednesday constantly show the best open and click through rates. This has been proven through research, don’t let that little voice which says “they might want to read it on the weekend” change your mind.

10/ Get the tone right
Similarly to when you are writing website copy; writing email copy requires a delicate approach to tone. Keep it friendly, remember you’re invading their in-box and they are giving up precious seconds of their own time to read it. Don’t bully then and never try to sell them anything.

And there you have it. Once you’ve sent a few the stress will start to dissipate. Much of the worry comes from knowing that when you press that little green button there’s no way to bring it back, it’s gone. Make sure you’ve checked the spelling, and when it’s checked, check it again. Then do the same with all the links. There really is no room for error. Get into the habit and your stress levels will soon drop from red to amber. Just don’t get complacent.

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