Email marketing is a cheap, quick way of reaching thousands of potential customers. The best emails create a dialogue with readers and enhance your brand; the worst can put someone off a company for life.
1. Know your readers
Make the most of any information you have that could improve your understanding of who your customers are. Get the data quality basics right: junk addresses build up in any large database over time, so clean your list regularly.
Whether it’s looking at the email domains in your database, comparing click-through rates for different email features, or using online surveys, good customer information will help you target your mail to its audience.2.
2. Personalise, don’t generalise
Successful emails are targeted to a clearly defined audience – general, catch-all communications don’t work nearly as well.
Automatic personalisation is a powerful tool that should be used carefully, where it has real user benefits – selecting special offers based on buying history, for example, rather than just adding “Welcome John!– at the beginning of a mail.
3. Subject line = open rate
The subject line of an email has a huge effect on open rates. It’s also the easiest part of the mail to change, so remember:
- Keep it short: 60 characters maximum.
- Test different approaches: split your mailing list or compare two separate mailings.
- Include specifics: put the special offer, new feature or membership benefit in the subject line.
- Front-load: put the important words first.
4. Optimize your copy for e-mail
The e-mail format is unique: it’s immediate, personal and potentially intrusive. It always pays to tailor your copy to the format: with e-mail, this means:
Remember the “three-second rule”. Three seconds is often quoted as the time a reader will give an e-mail from an unknown sender before deleting it. If you’re going to tell your audience why your email deserves reading, you’d better do it fast.
Write for the preview window. Many e-mails are read in the preview window first. That postcard-shaped top section of the email is vital real estate, so make sure it contains meaningful content.
People reading your email are either scanning to see if anything interests them or looking for detailed information (on prices, for example). Clear, concise and relevant text helps both these types of reader.
5. Don’t behave like a spammer
If you don’t want your mail to go straight into the junk folder:
- be honest and make sure you can deliver on claims
- be clear about who the mail’s from. Use “from–, “to– and “reply-to” addresses to help readers identify your organisation
- make opting out easy...
… and honour all opt-out requests as quickly as possible.
6. Be integrated
Make the most of other channels to promote your email. Print ads, point-of-sale marketing, direct mail response – every contact with a customer is a chance to build your database.
Keeping all your marketing channels in mind will also help maintain brand continuity – it’s easy to fall into the trap of ignoring established branding practices because you’re working in a new medium.
The most obvious form of integration – but an easy one to overlook – is to include links in your email that drive traffic to your website.
7. Be interactive
Give your readers an incentive to respond with competitions, surveys and special offers. Ask yourself what action you want them to take as a result of reading your mail, and focus ruthlessly on that goal.
8. Design for usability
Usability efforts are often focused on websites, but if anything the need is greater in e-mail marketing. The number of different email clients available, each displaying your mail in a different format, makes the problem of cross-browser testing look trivial – so always make sure subscribers can choose the format that suits them.
Don’t send image-only emails. These aren’t just awkward for users: many e-mail clients (including Outlook) default to blocking images from unknown senders, meaning that even if your mail does get through it won’t be seen except as a broken image link.
9. Set goals and test against them
When you set about an email marketing campaign, define your goals in advance, and test progress against them. It may be a percentage increase in traffic to your website, a defined clickthrough rate, or an increase in sales of a particular product – but defining your success criteria in advance is the only way to find out what’s working and what isn’t.
10. Email only when you really have something to say
However relevant, usable and targeted your e-mail is, the most loyal customer will eventually get irritated if their inbox is dominated by your messages. Concentrate your best sales messages into less frequent mailings. In short, be restrained.