E-mail marketing is an effective tool it can help your business engage with customers and prospects and, therefore, increase awareness of your service offering and generate more leads and sales. The success of an e-mail campaign isn't just based on the design or even the message. Rather, it's a combination of several critical background components that help you improve deliverability and avoid being flagged as spam or considered irrelevant and a waste of time by your subscribers. So I've come up with a list that will help you get the most out of your e-mail marketing campaign. Run through this list before you hit send!
For your e-mail campaign to be a success, it is not just the pretty design template or even the message content alone. However, it's a combination of several components, such as preventing your email from being flagged as spam or considered irrelevant and a waste of time by your subscribers. So I've come up with this list of rules that can help you get the most out of your e-mail marketing campaigns.
1. Avoid spam words
Mail servers and e-mail clients scan the subject lines and content of your e-mail messages, looking for phrases and sending techniques that indicate spam. That's good for reducing junk e-mail, but it could hinder your legitimate e-mail marketing campaign if you're not careful about how you craft your message. To ensure deliverability, avoid using spam words in your content, especially in the subject line. You may think that since you're not sending spam, you would never use spam terms. However, using the word "free" or all uppercase letters with exclamation points could land you on the wrong side of the spam filter. For more info on writing effective subject lines, read 3 Tips to Better Email Marketing.
2. Create a sender policy framework (SPF) record
An e-mail gets routed through several other mail servers on the Internet before it ultimately arrives in your recipient's inbox. To ensure that your message doesn't get trapped in these relay or delivery servers—or with third-party services like Postini—create an SPF record for the sending domain (firstname.lastname@example.org). If that's not feasible, your best bet is to let your e-mail services provider specify a "from" address on your behalf.
Microsoft has provided a wizard to help you create an SPF record for your sending domain.
3. Use the right techniques for sending to multiple recipients within the same organization
Sending legitimate messages to multiple recipients within the same organization can be tricky. When these messages arrive in short bursts over a few seconds or minutes, they get tagged as spam. If you find yourself in this situation, try the following:
If possible, contact the company and inform them of the messages so they may make an exception.
Throttle your e-mails by sending them over a period of time in multiple bursts.
4. Comply with CAN-SPAM
In 2003, the U.S. Congress passed the CAN-SPAM Act. What's that got to do with your e-mail messages? Basically everything. Among other things, the law requires that every commercial e-mail message include an unsubscribe link and the physical address of the sender, publisher or advertiser. So make sure you comply!
5. Take a litmus test
Let's face it. E-mail clients are quirky and content can appear different, depending on which client is displaying it. Before you send your e-mail out to the universe, take some time to run it through Litmus, an awesome e-mail compatibility checker. It lets you preview your e-mails as they'll appear in different e-mail clients (Outlook, Gmail, Hotmail, etc.), across different versions of browsers and on mobile e-mail clients. I'm sure tablet previews will follow soon. I am not suggesting you test every e-mail client, but at least shoot for the most popular, depending on your target audience.
6. Don’t forget text e-mails!
Text-only emails are often overlooked when creating and deploying email campaigns. Although you’ll get a better ROI sending HTML emails, it’s important that you create a text version and send it in tandem. Depending on the recipient's ability to receive such e-mails, the correct format is automatically delivered. Just remember the following for text-only e-mails:
Hyperlinks and special HTML characters (copyright, trademark) are not supported.
The default line break appears 76 characters, so restrict your line-width to conform.
Include a physical address and an unsubscribe link.
Note: It’s tricky to test a text-only version of your e-mail even with the most sophisticated testing tool, like Litmus. We suggest using a plain-text e-mail client, like Popcorn, to test such e-mails. Although the e-mail client is no longer supported by its creators, it will still do the job.
7. Understand bounces
A bounce actually means that your message was received by a mail server for further handling. This is generally a good thing, since it's the last step before delivery. A bounce indicates that the mail server that received the message has sent it back for one or more reasons. Refer to the chart below to understand the types of bounces.
8. Tell readers where your email is coming from The law focuses on honesty. The “From,” “To” and “Reply to” labels need to tell the recipient where the email comes from. In other words, these fields should contain the person’s name or the business name sending the email.
9. Write an honest subject line Your subject line should reflect what’s in the email. You can’t be deceptive here. In other words, don’t write “Claim your $500 gift card” in the subject line just to get people to open an email that’s really about a new product. Here`s a snapshot of a few to the point subject lines:
10. Recognize you’re sending an ad Acknowledge that the email you send is, in fact, an ad. This isn’t necessary if everyone on your list has given you permission to send emails. We strongly suggest that you get permission from all of your subscribers before sending emails. And most email service providers, like VerticalResponse, require you have permission prior to sending any email through their service.
11. Give an address Each email must contain the postal address for the person or business sending the email. It helps to show your business is a credible one, and offers another way for your recipients to opt-out of your emails if they need to.
12. Every email needs an easy opt-out option Your subscribers must be able to easily opt-out (or unsubscribe) from your messages. You have to give this option to your subscribers in every message you send. At the bottom of the email, you can provide a link to unsubscribe. The process should be easy too; that was one of the additions to the law in 2008. Here`s an example of an opt-out option.
13. Honor opt-outs quickly If a subscriber wants off your list, you have 10 days to do it. You can’t charge any fees for this service, ask for any personal information, or sell the person’s contact information to another company. Most email service providers will manage this process for you which is another plus to using an ESP. . Monitor what others do for you If you hire another company to manage your email list, you will still be held responsible if the company breaks any of these rules. The law is all about using good judgment. We know you’ve got that. But when you set up your next email campaign, it doesn`t hurt to check it against this list of rules to make sure everything is legit. If you’d like more information, The Federal Trade Commission offers a compliance guide on its site to help small businesses comply with the CAN-SPAM Act. Want more marketing tips and tactics? Sign up for the free VR Buzz.
14. Monitor what others do for you If you hire another company to manage your email list, you will still be held responsible if the company breaks any of these rules. The law is all about using good judgment. We know you’ve got that. But when you set up your next email campaign, it doesn`t hurt to check it against this list of rules to make sure everything is legit. If you’d like more information, The Federal Trade Commission offers a compliance guide on its site to help small businesses comply with the CAN-SPAM Act. Want more marketing tips and tactics? Sign up for the free VR Buzz.
15. Think Retention, Not Just Acquisition
On average, email promotions are three to five times more effective when they are sent to your existing customers, rather than prospects? Why? Your current customers already know you and your products. They have already committed to you psychologically and financially. In most cases, the best use of email marketing is to increase loyalty and repeat purchases from your current customers.
16. Be Realistic
Regardless of what you’ve read or heard, email marketing is not likely to transform your business. Be realistic about your expectations for your email efforts. If you are sending an email of value (coupon, special offer, etc.) to a loyal group of current customers, 5-10% of the recipients might click through the email to your Web site. If you are sending a promotional message to a purchased list of theoretically receptive consumers (based on demograhics, etc.), you should expect results in the 1-3% range.
Email marketing is good. Sometimes very good. But it’s not magic beans.
17. Think Frequency
One of the keys to successful email marketing is developing a relationship with a customer or prospective customer over the course of several messages. Before you send out an email offer to thousands of people, create a multiple message campaign strategy that uses this first email as a beginning – not an end. Consider what you’ll send to people who respond to your first message. What, if anything, will you send to people who don’t respond? What will comprise your next promotion?
18. Test Whatever You Can
The speed and digital nature of email makes it extremely easy to test and optimize for success. If you’re not testing your email approach before blasting it out to a large list, you’re fighting with one hand tied behind your back. Here are just some of the aspects of a campaign that can be tested.
– Recipient Demographics
– Subject Line
– From Line
– Body Copy
– Day of Week Delivered
– Hour of Day Delivered
Make sure to track results of each test cell independently (using separate URLs, usually). If you determine via your test that a particular Subject line works better than others, it’s a snap to change it. Try that with your next direct mail piece or TV ad.
19. Measure Conversion, not just Clicks
Most companies measure their email efforts (and other interactive marketing) based on response rates. These numbers are often called click through rates because they represent the percentage of recipients who “clicked through” the email promotion to get to the company’s Web site. The trouble is, using click through as the sole measure of success is like determining the viability of your store based on how many people look at your window display. Click through measures your ability to lead a horse to water, but making it drink is where you make money. In addition to click through, always measure conversion (the number or percentage of people who actually bought something, entered your contest, etc.). You may be surprised that your lists or test parameters that generate high click through don’t necessarily provide equally high conversion – and vice versa.
History repeats itself. Email should continue to be an effective tactic for at least another 18-24 months. After that, the amount of email promotions – whether good or bad – will probably become too numerous, triggering a consumer backlash. At that point, response rates will fall dramatically (just like with banner ads), and we’ll be right back here writing a column on the five rules for effective cell phone advertising or instant messenger promotions or telepathic marketing. After all, something’s always the next big thing.
Get personal – get to know your database. You have to get personal.
Segment your database using different criteria such as age, gender, location, company activity, interests etc.
Integrate email database with social platforms such as Facebook, twitter, linkedin youtube.
Keep your email list clean. Keep it fresh. Remove bounced emails.
Always give users opt in and opt out options. Never add a contact to your list without their permission.
Encourage your users to add you to their safe senders list.
Personalise the subject line.
Make sure you send the right email, to the right person, at the right time.