Email Marketing is Not Spam! (If It’s Done Right) – Part II
How to Launch a Successful Email Marketing Campaign
Just like any other marketing initiative, a successful email marketing campaign requires careful planning, implementation, and evaluation after the fact. Don’t make the mistake of thinking Just because it’s “only” email it doesn’t require some best practices. Follow this guide for your email marketing campaigns for optimum results.
Plan the goals you want to achieve with your campaign. Keep in mind as you’re planning that there are basically two types of marketing emails:
1. Promotional: these are obviously “ads” and are meant to convince the reader to take some specific action – click here, call today, sign up now, etc.
2. Retention based: often written as an e-newsletter, but not always. They may or may not contain promotional messages, but their primary goal is to provide information of value to the reader that will cultivate a relationship with that person.
You need to identify the type of email you’re sending in order to establish your goals. Be realistic, and build in ways to gauge results.
Use the right mail list
For the best results, you need to send your email to an opt-in database, or list. “Opt-in” means that the person receiving the email has already given some form of permission to hear from your company, even if it is only implied. Make sure that your email gives the recipient the option to “unsubscribe” or “opt out” of receiving future emails from your company.
The best database is one you have created in-house, over time. It would contain people who have given you their information at trade shows; prospects your sales team has spoken to in person or on the phone; current and past customers; people who have contacted your company through your website; and anyone and everyone that your employees know through association in your industry (Remember, the cost to send an email is zero if you have built the list yourself. There’s no need to worry about a limit on the number of emails you send.)
If you do not have an in-house list, there are many trade magazines that will “rent” their subscriber list for email campaigns. Policies and rates vary from publication to publication, but most will ask for your email file and distribute the email themselves. This is obviously the more expensive option; however, if you’re working with the right publication, you can reach out to a much more focused group of potential customers that you may not have had contact with in the past.
Create the right content
The key to sending emails that get read is to provide content to the reader that has value. Whether it’s alerting them to a product or service they need, or informing or educating them in an area that has relevance, create content with the reader in mind. Don’t write content that contains what YOU want to say; write content that the reader will want to hear.
Make the design user friendly and functional
Keep these things in mind as your direct the design of the email:
1. Keep it short and sweet – unless you capture your readers’ attention in seconds, your email will be deleted. If you have multiple articles, or topics, it’s usually best to include only the title and a short intro. Keep the most important information in the email in the upper portion so that it appears to the reader without a scroll down.
2. Structure the email for easy scanning. You want the reader to be able to quickly navigate the email without a lot of complication. Short lead-ins, with key phrases highlighted through bolding and color, as well as the use of bullets and borders all contribute to a well-structured email.
3. Test your design on different email clients. Testing the email in the most current email clients will ensure that the email displays correctly in as many different platforms as possible. Don’t just assume that everyone who receives your email uses Outlook.
Think through the submission process
The biggest challenge you have in email marketing is getting past all the various spam filters and into your readers’ Inbox. Test your email for its “spam level” to ensure the greatest results. Techies have ways of testing that are beyond the scope (or desire to learn) of most marketing people. Have no fear: there are still ways you can gauge your email’s probability of outmaneuvering overzealous spam filters.
If you use one of the more popular mailing list services or online email marketing platforms, there’s probably a spam test feature already built in. Check the help documentation for further details. Keep in mind that some of these testing mechanisms can be very bare-bones; but they are at least a starting point.
There is also software (most quite inexpensive) that you can purchase that will do a better job than your email marketing client’s built-in feature. Just do a search for “email spam test” and you’ll get plenty of options. Decide what’s right for your needs and budget.
Another thing to consider that is very important is the day of the week and time you choose to send out your emails. Think it through: would most of your readers be likely to be sitting at their desk with time to read a marketing email at 10:00 on a Monday morning? Probably not! Regardless of industry, Mondays are usually hectic days. Likewise, do a lot of your customers take off early on Friday afternoons? There’s no point in sending your email at 5:00 pm on Friday afternoon if that’s the case. These are the questions you need to ask yourself in determining a good submission time for your email. When I’m sending out emails on a regular basis for a client, I like to experiment a bit to see what submission time pulls the greatest numbers of “opens” and “click-throughs” (to the website.)
Tracking and reporting
There are LOTS of options available to help you gauge the effectiveness of your email campaign. The online email marketing platforms have built in analytics and there is also analytics software you can purchase. It just depends on how deep you want to go in tracking your results. Some of the information you can track:
1. Who opened the email: obviously the most basic bit of insight to have. Even if this is the only information you care about, it will still help your sales team as the campaign progresses. If you’ve sent five emails to the same person and they’re opened every one of them that should be a pretty big clue to the fact that they’re interested in what you’re saying. Turn that lead over to the sales team!
2. Click-through rates: Within the body of your email, there should be links liberally placed that take the reader to more in depth information on your website. When a reader clicks through to one of your web pages, this can be measured as a percentage against the number of delivered and opened emails. By analyzing these results, you can determine what content or promotion pulled the greatest results (and was therefore of most interest to the reader.) This will help you improve and fine tune the content in future emails.
3. Subscriber growth vs. decline: if you’re managing your own database or list, keeping an eye on your list numbers is a good indicator of whether or not your emails are meeting your readers’ needs. A drop in subscribers means your content is not hitting the mark. Likewise, if readers are passing on your email to others and your list grows, however slowly, this is an indication that your content has value. If you’re working with a publisher and do not have control over the subscriber information, you still may be able to get feed-back from the publisher about the list numbers. Just ask!
4. Feedback from your readers: this is probably the BEST way to gauge the impression your emails are making on your readers. If you build in a “feed-back” or “comment” feature within the email, they can easily send you their comments. If you are receiving regular, positive feed-back, it’s a good indication that your emails are of some value to your readers. Another way to evaluate what your readers think is to ask for comments on your website, or on your company’s social media pages like Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. ASK your target audience if you’re doing a good job with your email marketing, and they’ll probably tell you!
Failure to plan in any marketing initiative will often deliver disappointing results. Take a more strategic approach to email marketing and it can be one more powerful tool that provides opportunities for building brand recognition, credibility, and relationships with prospects and customers.