EMAIL MARKETING: INTRODUCTION
A Story of Email Marketing
It’s always important to understand the history of something in order to understand why it’s important!Email began as a communications tool for academic and business purposes, it grew within a short period into a tool for personal communications among friends, relatives and even people who had never met in real life. As people began to spend more and more time using email as their primary communications tool, small marketers realized that email communications were the future of marketing communications and began to shift into using email as a way to effectively communicate with customers.
Email Marketing, even in its earliest days, presented a number of benefits over both postal marketing and telesales as a form of direct-to-consumer or direct business-to-business communications and it has overtime, grown so much that it is a robust portion of any complete marketing plan and has entire industries built around helping businesses of all sizes effectively email market.
Let’s take a look into the first personalities that used Email for marketing communication purpose.Billed as the ‘Father of Spam’, Gary Thuerk, a Marketing Manager at Digital Equipment Corp started the ball rolling for commercial email by sending the first mass emailing.
In 1978, Thuerk sent an email promoting DEC machines to 400 users via Arpanet. What would have then been a complete novelty for recipients resulted in $13 million worth of sales for DEC machines. From the start, email launched itself as an effective channel for direct marketing.
With email, marketers were now given a cost effective, quick way to reach customers. It was seen as a blast all mass marketing solution; the days or spray and pray email marketing began.
Types of Email Marketing
Effective email marketing programs integrate all four email marketing types, typically based on where a user or customers is in their customer life cycle.
- Customer Acquisition and Sales Generating
This is by far the most common type of email marketing. It is email that is designed to directly generate new revenue for your company by either converting non-existing or members to paying customers or by convincing existing customers to make an additional purchase.
Customer acquisition and sales generating emails are the backbone of driving direct revenue and return-on-investment from email marketing. And it uses these basic questions as formats in an attempt to involve a more direct route to generate revenue and sales:
- Who receives a Customer Acquisition or Sales Generating Email?
Typically, your user demographic for an email that is designed to directly generate sales or acquire customers will be one of three groups.
The first group will be a list of potential customers who have a never been exposed to your product before.
The second group may be people who signed up for information about your product or filled out an interest form but have never purchased your product or service.
The final group will be customers who previously purchased or visited your website and who may be interested in a follow-up purchase or visit.
- What Is the Content of a Customer Acquisition or Sales Generating Email?
The content you include in a customer acquisition or sales generating email will be content that will inspire the user to visit your website or take a purchasing action. Typically, this will include a discount or sales offer, but there may be instances where simply providing information about your product, service or website is enough.
- Customer Loyalty and Brand
The major aim of this type of email marketing is to the brand in the mind of your customers, to have your customers feel like they are building a relationship with you and, as a result, to have your customers stay loyal to using your website, product, or service rather than go to a competitor.
These emails may not have any direct revenue value for you, but the the relationship that they are building with your customers and the brand awareness that they are creating means that your customers will remain your customers for longer, spend more money with you over the long term, and are more likely to recommend your brand or company to a friend, family member or colleague.
- Who Receives a Customer Loyalty or Brand Building Email?
Typically, the best recipients for your brand awareness and customer loyalty emails will be your most active clients or your “short-term lapsed” clients. While it may be tempting to send customer loyalty and brand building emails to your entire email database, emails that generate low open rates or high spam complaints can impact your ability to get your email delivered to inboxes in the future.
For that reason, you should target customers and users who want to have an ongoing relationship with your brand and build on that loyalty and awareness.
- What is the content of a Customer Loyalty or Brand Building Email?
The most common type of content in a customer loyalty or brand building email is newsletter content. Providing customers or users with useful information that is entertaining, informative and written in the voice of your brand will cause them to build an affinity for your brand or business. Other common types of customer loyalty and brand building emails include thank you emails, company status updates, holiday and birthday greetings.
- Customer Retention
Customer retention email marketing is any email that takes existing customers and tries to ensure that they remain customers who keep coming back to purchase or visit your website again and again.
In essence, this segment of your email marketing program is the segment that is designed to maximize the actual revenue or page view value of any previous customer or site user.
- Who Receives a Customer Retention Email?
In short, any customer who has ever made a purchase with your or registered at your site and has viewing history of your website should be on your customer retention email marketing list.
For example, if your business is a pet business, you may want to send a different customer retention email to customers who have previously purchased cat products than you would to those who have purchased dog products. The best way to retain customers is to incentivize them to retain customers by putting the most targeted information and offers possible in front of them.
- What is the Content of a Customer Retention Email?
Because a customer retention email is specifically designed to spur multiple purchases from a returning customer, the content of a customer retention email is almost always an offer, sale, discount or free gift. However, it is possible to use content that simply makes customers aware of new products that they may be interested in as a method of retaining them.
- Customer Win-Back
The final common email marketing type is customer win-back email marketing. This is email that is designed to “win back” customers who were once customers or users but have lapsed or otherwise abandoned your product, service, business or website, to take them back as customers or users. It is frequently the email marketing type with the lowest response rate and should therefore be minimized in use so as not to create poor email metrics for you.
- Who Receives a Customer Win-Back Email?
Any customer who was once a regular purchaser or site user should be on your customer win-back email list, unless they have specifically unsubscribed from emails from your company. However, it is often most effective to group these lapsed or abandoned customers into groups based on how long it has been since their last interaction with you.
- What Is The Content of a Customer Win-Back Email?
A customer win-back offer will need to incentivize a customer who has not interacted with you in a very long time to return to you. For that reason, these types of marketing emails must include offers, sales, free gifts, free shipping, or other exclusive opportunities that are not available to the general public and that are incredibly compelling to the user.
Direct Sales vs. Newsletters
A common question people who are new to email marketing typically have is whether their email marketing program should feature a newsletter or a direct sales email or even a hybrid of both. Of course, the most effective email marketing programs will contain a combination of both types of emails. However, it’s also important to take the time to think through what the difference between an email newsletter and a direct sales email is.
With the information that you gained in the previous chapter about the different types of email marketing, their users and the types of information contained in them, you’ll then be able to read this section and begin to visualize what your email marketing program should look like.
From here, we’ll take a look at newsletters and direct sales email in detail. You can then use this information to help determine what type of email content you should send to for the various goals of your email program and to which user lists.
1. Email Newsletters: Content Is Still King
The purpose of an email newsletter is to provide users with relevant information that will accomplish the following goals:
- Cause subscribers to think of, be aware of and build a relationship with your brand
- Create continued exposure of your brand and products in a customer’s mind for the time when they are ready to purchase
- Drive page views to your website
- Create viral awareness of your company, product, or brand through email forwards of useful information
- Generate sales through product features and advertised specials
What is the Typical Content of an Email Newsletter?
While the specific content of an email newsletter will be largely driven by industry, the segment of users on your email list who receive the email newsletter, and your own in-house testing of what content your users respond to, the following is a list of the most common types of content that can be found in an email newsletter.
- Articles about issues related to your industry
- Opinion columns from experts
- Tips and advice columns that will be useful to the consumers of your product
- Question and answer columns
- Product testimonials
- Product reviews, features and announcements of new products
- Upcoming events calendars
- Special offers and discounts
- Featured quotes
- Featured customers or users
- Links to partner websites
- Links to useful sections of your website
- Links to social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube
- A call-to-action to forward the newsletter to friends
Of course, the more creative and unique you get with your newsletter content, the more engaged your users will be. Consider this list a “jumping off point” in order to get you thinking about what the content that your readers would like to see in your newsletter would be.
Email Newsletters and the Types of Email Marketing
When thinking about the types of email marketing described above, newsletters are best for emailing as part of your customer loyalty and brand building email program. They may also play a role in customer retention email marketing. However, they are typically considered under-performing for customer acquisition, direct sales, or customer win-back email programs.
Email Newsletter Best Practices
Here are the top five best practices that you should always consider when thinking about and designing an email newsletter.
- Excerpt Content and Link to the Full Version:
If you are including a column or article, always simply include an excerpt or “tease” within your email newsletter and then link to the full article or column on your website. Not only does this drive valuable page impressions to your website, but it also avoids your email newsletter being flagged as spam instead of going to the inbox because of a questionable word usage in your full content.
- Make Links Clear and Visible & Use Text Links:
Make sure that all links to your website, partner sites or other locations are clear and visible. When possible, default to blue, underlined links for easy user recognition. Though in web design it is often inadvisable to use the words “click here” in a link, in email design it typically is more effective to use the words “click here.” Make sure that your links are text links and not image-based links as images may not appear in all emails.
- Prioritize the Content That Users Will Care About in the Top Three Inches:
In a typical email preview pane, you will have approximately three inches to display your content and allow a reader to decide whether to read the full email or not. Make sure that your most engaging newsletter content appears within these top three inches and do not waste the space with graphic headers or filler “welcome” content.
- Use a “Table of Contents” or “In This Email”:
Because email newsletters tend to be longer and users tend to scan them quickly, use a table of contents or a quick list of what’s in the email near the top so that users can quickly refer to it to see what content they may want to read.
- Allow Readers the Option of Reading the Newsletter on a Web page:
Particularly for users who read their email on their mobile device, the option to click a link and instead see a hosted version of the newsletter on a web page instead of having to read the entire newsletter within their inbox is a huge benefit. Offering this option will significantly increase the number of users who explore your newsletter.
Email newsletters are a great way to provide users with the history, resources and emotional motivation to make purchases or visit your website. Though the time-to-produce an email newsletter can be lengthy, the ultimate benefits are also long term.
2. Direct Sales Email: One Action, One Result
Unlike an email newsletter, a direct sales email has one goal: to drive sales and revenue of your product or service for clicks to your website. How you do this may vary with the specific content or tactic of your direct sales email, but the beauty of a direct sales email is that its purpose is simple.
What is the Typical Content of a Direct Sales Email?
With a direct sales email, the content will often be driven by seasonality, industry, the segment of your email database that is being sent to, internal sales goals, and revenue targets. However, the following are typical types of content and promotions that you may see in a direct sales email:
- New purchaser incentives
- Percentage discount off (automatic or via coupon code)
- Dollar amount discount off (automatic or via coupon code)
- Free gift with purchase
- Buy one, get one free
- Free shipping
- Free shipping upgrade (to priority or expedited)
- Clearance item notification
- Bonus dollars or bonus points offers
- Refer-a-friend offers
- Free trails
- Sample products
- Exclusive VIP offers
- Seasonal products
- New product announcements
- Product testimonials and reviews
- Celebrity endorsements
Direct Sales Emails and the Types of Email Marketing
When thinking about the five types of email marketing described previously, direct sales emails are best for customer acquisition, revenue generation and customer win-back. Direct sales emails may also have a role in your customer retention plan but should not be used as the exclusive means for retaining customers via email communications. Direct sales emails should not be used at all for customer loyalty and brand building email efforts.
Direct Sales Email Best Practices
Here are five key best practices for direct sales email that should be practiced.
- One Call-to-Action:
Though you may feature multiple products in a direct sales email, do not ask customers reading the email to do anything other than purchase as you will distract them from the intended goal. Do not clutter your direct sales emails with content links, information links or even social media links.
- Use Equal Amounts of Text and Images:
Though it is important to use images to show your product or engender emotion, always remember that many email clients do not display images. Always make sure that there is an amount of text equal to the amount of space taken up by images so that users can know what the offer or product feature is without having to load images into their email browser.
- Be Careful of Spam Words In Your Text:
We’ll talk about common spam words later, but a direct sales email has a higher risk of using words that may trigger email provider spam filters. For example, words like “free”, “sale” and “discount” can result in your email going to spam if not used properly.
- Make Links Clear and Visible & Use Text Links:
Make sure that all links to your product purchasing pages are clear and visible. When possible, default to blue, underlined links for easy user recognition. Though in web design it is often inadvisable to use the words “click here” in a link, in email design it typically is more effective to use the words “click here.” Make sure that your links are text links and not image-based links as images may not appear in all emails.
- Put the Best Offer at the Top and In the Subject Line:
Offers are what sell products, so be sure that if you’re making multiple offers or promoting multiple products, your best offer is not only first on the list, it’s also featured in the subject line.
Direct sales email is a key method of driving and increasing revenue, sales and page views. Any email marketing mix will include them. Simply always be aware to be tasteful, aware of spam issues, and do not overwhelm your email subscribers with too many offers.
Whether you decide to emphasize a content-driven newsletter or more direct-sales driven emails, your ideal email marketing mix will include both used at appropriate times. Take some time to think about the different versions of emails and how they fit into your email marketing goals, the size and content of your email database, and your own in-house resources. Now you can begin to fully visualize the types of emails you may want to send.
SETTING UP YOUR EMAIL MARKETING PLATFORM
What Should Your Email Marketing Platform Do?
At base, your email platform needs to be able to send email! However, when you’re talking about sending email to a large group of people, the solution may not be as simple as hitting a send button (even if it appears that way from your user-interface end). Here is a list of the basic functionalities that any email marketing or newsletter platform should offer you.
1. Ability to Deliver Reliably to Users’ Inboxes
This is perhaps the most important part of selecting your email marketing platform provider. Your email program will only be as effective as your ability to get your emails into your subscribers’ inboxes. You want to thoroughly research your potential email marketing platform candidates to make sure that they maintain a high sender reputation with the various internet service providers (ISPs).
If you are considering building an in-house email marketing platform, you should be sure that you understand how to maintain a high sender reputation yourself.
2. Ability to Pre-schedule an Email Send or Instantly Send
You will want the flexibility to either pre-schedule an email send based on a date and time that you feel is the best time to send or to send instantly for time-sensitive situations. Either way, the best email marketing platform for you will allow you to choose from pre-scheduled sends or instant sends.
3. Ability to Define Which Email List to Send an Email or Newsletter To
You won’t always want to send your email or newsletter to your entire email marketing list. The best email marketing platform will allow you to determine which portion of your database or pre-defined list you are sending to.
4. Ability to Test Send an Email Prior To Mass Sending
Finally, you’ll absolutely want the ability to send the email you are about to send to your larger list to a smaller, internal seed list before you send it to the entire email list. This allows you to check inbox deliverability, display, and even do a final proof before you send your masterpiece to the entire world!
Sending email is the most basic part of email marketing. The four features above are critically important to your success, so ensure that your email marketing platform supports them!
· List Management Capability Features of an Email Marketing Platform
The health of your email and contact database is at the foreground of the success of your email program. A bad, un-pruned database can lead to a decline in email metrics as well as potential deliverability issues and even legal issues if you do not honour CAN-SPAM and privacy laws. Your email sending solution should, without fail, offer the following capabilities.
1. Ability to Log and Remove Unsubscribed Members from Individual Lists or All Emails
Absolutely the most important thing that your email marketing platform must be able to do from an email list management perspective is effectively and accurately remove unsubscribed members from either the individual list that they unsubscribed from or from all future mailings. Whether you allow users to choose a list to unsubscribe from or unsubscribe them from all future emails of any kind should be based on your individual business needs.
2. Ability to Prune Email Addresses from List after a Number of Undeliverable Sends
When you repeatedly send email to an email address that is ultimately undeliverable, it can impact your sender reputation. Therefore, an effective email marketing platform will automatically prune email addresses from your active list after a number of undeliverable sends.
Typically, that number is set between three and five undeliverable sends to account for situations where a user may be away from his or her email for a period of time and experience a full inbox that creates undeliverable sends.
3. Ability to Allow You to Select Either a Single or Double Opt In for New Subscribers
When we discuss building your email list, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of a single-opt in subscription or a double-opt in subscription. A single-opt in means that once a user signs up for your email, he or she immediately begins receiving email.
A double-opt in means that once a user signs up for your email he or she will need to hit a confirmation link in an email sent to his or her email box before receiving any future email. While the right solution for subscription is based on your own business needs, a strong and robust email marketing platform provider will offer you both options.
4. Ability to Allow You to Create a Subscription Form with Confirmation Email
Obviously, you want to be able to create a simple email sign-up box on your website, and an email marketing platform provider should not only be able to provide that feature but should make it easy. Similarly, a standard part of the program should be the generation of an automatic welcome email after signing up.
5. Ability to Collect Data Other Than Email Address
Ideally, you’d like to be able to collect some data with your email subscriptions beyond email address, particularly a first name or a user name on your site so that you can personalize email sends. What data you collect should be based on your own business needs. However, you’ll want to ensure that your email sending partner supports the ability to collect additional fields of data and relate them to the email address.
6. Ability to Allow You to Upload Existing Email Contacts
Chances are that you have an existing email database that you will want to continue to work with, so it’s important that you find an email marketing platform that allows you to upload those clients to your contact list.
However, almost any email sending solution will have limitations on contact uploads to prevent against the upload of spam addresses. Be sure to do your research about what your provider will or will not allow.
7. Ability to Segment Email Sending Lists and Create Different Lists
As you grow your email marketing program, you’ll have fewer and fewer instances where you want to send an email to your entire list and far more instances where you want to send to a smaller sub-list or segment of your list. Make sure that your email marketing platform provider supports having, creating and keeping track of multiple email lists.
8. Ability to Allow You to Search and Query Your Contact Database
Finally, you want to be able to search your user database and not only take actions but also see data. You’ll want to be able to find a user by email, other data, sign-up date, or more and be able to unsubscribe or remove them manually or see data about their email engagement activity. Be sure that your email marketing platform provides you with full visibility, access and ability to search of your contacts list.
Your email list is an asset to your company, as is the ability to effectively send to it. Don’t overlook important list management features to focus on email design features. Maintaining the health of your list is one of the most critical parts of email marketing.
Choosing Your Email Platform Priorities
· Email Platform Choosing: Step One – Set a Budget and an Estimated Revenue Goal from Your Program
Everything you do, even if your email program is entirely designed to simply improve brand loyalty, starts and ends with a budget. The very first thing that you need to determine is how much you are willing to spend on your email platform. Don’t forget when doing this to also include the cost of employee hours to develop, learn, or create emails with your email platform.
If your email program is designed to generate revenue, also set key performance indicators (KPI’s) to determine what a successful email program should deliver in terms of revenue generation. Then, you can easily include or eliminate email platforms based on their costs, which can range from entirely free to a high monthly licensing or subscription fee. Be sure when researching services that require payment that you also find out if you will be locked into a long-term contract or if you can exit at any time.
You’ll also want to make sure that you’ve paid attention to any price increases that some services may charge you as your list size increases or the frequency with which you send email increases.
Now, you have a starting point, which is a list of email platforms that fall within your budget. That narrows the process immediately.
· Email Platform Choosing: Step Two – Make a List of Email Programs that You and Your Staff Would Like to Emulate
As with many marketing programs, there’s no need to entirely re-invent the wheel when it comes to email marketing or newsletters. Have you and your staff collect emails from brands, websites, or services that you and they subscribe to.
You’ll want to use these later on when determining how to design your email program as well as some of the email subject lines and sending times, but for now you’ll simply want to make a list of features that appear in the email. Do you love the way the email lays out? Are there great social sharing features in the email? Make a list of what you’ve seen other companies do that you would like for your company to emulate.
· Email Platform Choosing: Step Three – Make a List of “Wish-List” Features and Prioritize
Now, using the list that you derived from your competitor research, the list of must-have features that have been provided in the eBook, and any additional features that you’ve been dreaming of, make a final list of everything that your ideal email platform would be able to support. That list is going to be very large, and most likely will contain some elements that just aren’t feasible or reasonable.
Go back through your list and prioritize which features are essential to you and which features you can live without. You may want to consider using a ranking system of one-to-ten or one-to-three. After you’ve completed your prioritized list, compare it to which email platforms offer which services.
You may find that almost all services offer most of the features that you need, or you may find that several services just don’t have the capabilities that you’re looking for. Either way, you either know that you have many choices or you’ve narrowed your decision dramatically.
· Email Platform Choosing: Step Four – Ask Other Professionals about Their Experiences
Now that you have a short list, before you contact or sign-up at any one service, ask your professional colleagues what their experience has been with any email platforms that they use. Nobody will be able to give you more real-world answers than customers who actually use the platforms that you’re considering. If you don’t have a robust group of colleagues to ask, there are plenty of online reviews or industry message boards that you can visit.
· Email Platform Choosing: Step Five – Ask for a Trial
Ideally you’ll want to try a service out before you commit to it. With a responsible service provider, this should be relatively simple. You do, whatever, if at all possible, want to be able to see an email platform in action before you commit to it.
· Email Platform Choosing: Finally, the Big Decision!
After you’ve taken all of those steps, you’re finally ready to make your big decision. By this point, you should be confident that you’ve chosen the right email platform for your company or business because you put the time and research in to do it right. Now you can move on to the next exciting part, which is launching your email platform. Of course, there is one little testing step that you should take before you unleash your email marketing program onto the world!
Testing Your Email Marketing Platform
You’ve now selected the email marketing and newsletter sending platform that you’ll be using and gone through the steps to set it up. However, in order to save yourself headaches and extra work later, it’s advisable to go through a few simple email marketing platform testing procedures to ensure that everything is working the way that you want it to before you unleash your email program onto the public.
· Email Subscription Test
The first thing that you will want to do is to test the subscription process using seed accounts. To do this, you’ll want to set up “test” or seed accounts at the major ISP and email providers. Essentially, you’ll want a Hotmail address, a Gmail address, a Yahoo! address and an AOL address. As email programs can launch quickly, you may also need another email address. You’ll also want to sign up using at least one email that is delivered to an Outlook inbox.
Now, sign-up using your new email subscription form with each of these emails. Then, go back to the inbox in which you check those emails and make sure that you have received your confirmation email and that it went to the inbox instead of the spam folder. If you are using a double-opt in email subscription process then be sure to click the confirmation link in your email as well.
Now, go do your email sending platform’s back end administration interface and make sure that all of the new email addresses (and any other information that should have gotten captured, such as first name or user name or email list preference) is recorded and in the database.
· Send an Email to Your Test List
The second test is to send an email to your test list using your email marketing platform and using the same email template that you will later use for your mass sends. After you send the email, log into your test accounts and check for all of the following:
- Was your email delivered to the inbox or to the spam folder?
- Did the email include an unsubscribe link as well as your physical mailing address?
- Did the email display in the inbox as you wanted it to, or did the html or design break (Remember, your images may not show up. Images that do not display do not mean that your email is broken.)
- Is the “from” name and email address correct?
Test the Tracking on Your Test Email
You have opened your email using all of your test accounts. Now, also click various links using your test accounts. Make sure to keep track of what links you clicked and how many times you clicked.
After you have done that, log in to your email marketing or newsletter sending platform’s administrative back end and go to the tracking and reporting feature. You may need to wait up to twenty-four hours to do this depending on your service provider. Some email reporting features are not instant.
Make sure that the number of emails opened is at least close to the number of emails that you actually opened. You may not experience 100% accuracy with this metric. Open rate is most commonly tracked using a pixel (an image). Because not all email programs load images, some of your opens may go untracked. However, your tracking should be reasonably close.
Make sure the click-through tracking count is accurate, and, if your email sending platform tracks which individual links are clicked, make sure that that number aligns with what you clicked. Be aware of whether your email sending platform tracks clicks by an individual or total clicks basis so that you understand what the number should look like.
· Unsubscribe from Your Email List
Finally, you want to be sure that when people unsubscribe from your list that process is handled correctly. Go back and unsubscribe from your email list using at least one of your test accounts. Then log in to your email marketing or newsletter sending platform and confirm that the email you unsubscribed with has been removed from the proper list, Again, this may not be instant.
Know what the time frame for managing unsubscribes is from your provider and be sure that any email addresses that you have unsubscribed with have been handled within this time frame.
Once you have completed these four tests, you can be assured that your email marketing or newsletter sending platform is optimally operational.
BUILDING YOUR EMAIL LIST
Why Build Email List?
The most obvious reason to build your email list is to maximize the value of your customers and your company revenue. A high-performing email list can give your company additional revenue opportunities by giving you the chance to sell advertising space in your email products or send sponsored emails on behalf of partners or advertisers. You’re not just building your marketing channel when you build email list. You’re also building your company’s total value. That’s why it’s worth your time to build a quality email list over time.
Channels to Build Your Email List
· Visitors to Your Site
The most obvious and logical place to find interested email subscribers is on your website itself. If users are visiting your website (regardless of whether they purchase or make a transaction), they have an interest in the information or content that you’re providing. Every page of your website should include an email sign-up box that allows users to join your mailing list. However, every visitor to your website is a potential email subscriber.
· Customers Who Purchase Goods or Services
Customers who visit your website but don’t make purchases or transactions are important email marketing leads. However, customers who do make a purchase or transaction are even more valuable email marketing leads because they’ve shown a willingness to purchase from you or entrust you with personal or financial information.
Ensuring that you make it easy and inviting for users to opt-in to your email program when they purchase or transact with you will help you build not only a large email list but also an email list of valuable users with proven purchasing history.
· Your Social Media Outlets
Social media is becoming an increasingly prominent form of customer retention and brand awareness. With the right motivation and a properly designed email sign-up box, social media leads can often be solicited to become higher converting email marketing leads. When we discuss the best practices for designing an email capture box, we’ll discuss specific practices to use when encouraging users to sign-up for your email marketing program via social media outlets.
· Websites That Have Similar User Demographics
Growing your email list can be quite similar to advertising your business as a whole. Websites that have similar content or user demographics to your website can be great places to prospect for potential email list leads. You can do this in a number of ways. Ideally, you can cut a deal with the website on which you want to collect emails to promise them advertising space in any email that you send. This will save you from having to pay to advertise for your email list.
Also, advertising your email list on websites other than your own site can be a great way to grow your email list. In fact, it can often be more profitable than simply advertising your website. If you can give users a compelling reason to sign up for your email (such as free offers or discount codes), it is a much lower barrier to entry for most people to sign up for an email list than to make an initial purchase. Just be sure that you understand how much you can afford to spend per email address and that you have a plan in place to identify which emails came from which advertising sources.
· Search Engines (Organic and Paid Search)
Similar to the process of advertising to build your email list on other websites, using search marketing to build email list can be equally effective. Build email landing pages specific to your email list and then optimize for organic search engine placement or paid, click-based search engine advertising. Again, however, if you do this, be sure that you have a handle on how much you can afford to pay per email sign-up as well as a way to track where email sign-ups came from.
If you’re not well versed in the marketing areas of search engine optimization or search engine marketing, you may want to consider hiring a professional to help you since both of those areas can be complicated to learn. However, many successful email lists have been built using search engines as the primary method for recruiting subscribers.
Build Email List Location 7: Purchasable or Rented Lists
If you need to grow your email list quickly, there are a number of services that will allow you to rent or purchase email names. However, doing so comes with several risks. Most list purchases or rentals are somewhat expensive, and you may not make your money back as quickly or as regularly. Additionally, a rented or purchased list means that you are buying email addresses of individuals who have not been exposed to or shown an interest in your brand or product.
This may mean that they are less likely to respond to your email, and may even mark your email as spam. This could create domain reputation problems for you with future email sends. Finally, if you do choose to rent or purchase a list, be sure to use a credible agency. If you rent or purchase a list that includes a high number of bad email addresses that will bounce or be undeliverable, you will incur sender reputation penalties that will impact your ability to email market moving forward. While buying or renting an email list can help to quickly grow your email list and show returns, proceed with caution when soliciting and buying lists.
How to Maintain a Clean List
Once you’ve acquired email addresses and perfected your unsubscribe and opt-out process, there are a number of other activities that you’ll want to ensure are happening in order to maintain a clean email list and an successful email marketing.
Here are the steps that you have to follow in order to keep your email list in its best shape possible.
· Managing Bounces and Bad Email Addresses
No matter how much you monitor emails as you collect them and attempt to keep your email list clean and ensure that no bad addresses make it into your email list, addresses will eventually go bad or “atrophy” over time.
Users may shut down their email accounts, move on from corporate jobs where their email was hosted, or just abandon an email account until the inbox becomes full and can no longer accept messages. When you attempt to deliver an email to an email address that, for whatever reason, is a bad or invalid email address, the send is registered as a “bounce” (as in the email that you tried to send bounced back and was undeliverable).
The more bounces you receive when you send an email, the more your sender reputation will be impacted. This is because most email service providers assume that responsible email senders remove bad addresses from their lists regularly, known as “pruning” the list (similar to “pruning” your hedges). Spammers, because they do not want to allocate resources or time, will often have high bounce rates. That’s why it’s important to ensure that all of your bounced or bad addresses are regularly removed from your email database.
Another example might be if, on the day you sent your email, the email service provider that your subscriber was using was having technical problems and many inbound emails were undeliverable while they corrected those problems. In that case, if you removed the email from your database after just one bounce, you’d be giving up your right to communicate with the subscriber based on a temporary technical failure.
To keep your email list clean, most email senders suggest a threshold of three to five bounces before you remove an email from your email marketing database.
Removing Inactive or Non-Engaged Users
The first step to maintain a clean email list is to determine what you consider to be “low activity.” If you send one email a week, then you may think that somebody is an active customer if they only open one email a month. If you only send one email a month, then you may consider somebody to be an active user if they only open one email every three months.
The next thing for keeping your email list clean is to query all of the email addresses that meet your criteria out of your email database and put them on a separate list. It’s not that you don’t want to ever email these individuals again. You simply want to limit how much you email them.
The third step to clean email list is to try to identify individuals who may be looking at your email but not registering as an opened email because they don’t load images or use only the preview pane. Generate a group email to everybody on your low-usage list letting them know that you’re doing periodic email maintenance.
You’ve noticed that while they still receive your emails, they haven’t opened one in quite some time. You may be going to their spam box or folder, or they may no longer be interested in receiving your regular emails. If they are interested, provide them with an email address or a simple confirmation box or link to check and return them to the main list. If they do not respond, then keep them on your secondary list and only email them during important revenue or traffic times.
OPTIMIZING YOUR EMAIL MARKETING CAMPAIGN
How to Optimize Your Email Campaign
When looking at optimizing your email marketing program, there are three components that you should consider. The first is simply to audit your email marketing program against all of the email marketing past practices detailed within this eBook. You may find that you’ve inadvertently overlooked a common best practice that could dramatically or even just marginally, improve the performance of your campaign or overall email program.
The second two methods include; List segmentation and A/B testing.
· What is List Segmentation?
List segmentation is breaking down your larger, main email list into smaller segments so that you can present targeted offers and messages to them. This can mean simply splitting your list into two separate halves, or it can mean having many smaller lists. You can permanently segment your email marketing list, or you can create different list segments as needed with each email send or time frame.
· What is an A/B Test?
An A/B test is any time that you test two different components of an email against each other while no other factors are changed. For example, you may randomly split your email list down the middle and test two different email subject lines to see which one gets a higher open rate. Or you may test two different offers against each other.
In short, any time you test one element of an email (element A) against a different version of it (element B), you have an A/B test. Continually testing will mean that, eventually, you will have completed enough tests to have a usable best practices list for your own email marketing program.
· Next Step of Email Optimization: Adopting a Process and Making a Plan
Before you proceed with using either of the techniques, remember that the most important part of your email optimization work is to use a systematic approach. Make a list of the items that you’d like to test, the portions of your email list that you’d like to segment, and ideas that you have for offers and messages that may work better than your current email content.
Then begin to test and segment in a systematic way. Never attempt to run more than one test at a time. Your data will become jumbled and it will be harder to draw conclusions. Also, be sure to track and log all of your data. That doesn’t simply include the results of a test or segmentation, but also the time, date, spam complaints, and full range of data associated with the email send.
If you simply begin testing at random and trying list segments simply for the sake of testing list segments, you won’t be able to draw complete conclusions. An organized effort to improve your email marketing program is the best effort.
Using the Email Data That You Collect
Now that you’ve run all of these email tests, what should you do with the email test data you’ve collected? A good email testing strategy is only as good as what you do with what you learn.
What’s the Goal of Email Testing?
The first thing that you need to ask yourself, of course, is “What was the goal of all of that testing?” Obviously, the main goal was to improve your email marketing program, but was it to improve your open rate? To learn more about your users? To make specific action items?
In truth, these are questions that you should have asked yourself before you began testing, but even if you didn’t, your ongoing email tests will have provided you with enough email test data to make meaningful and measurable changes in your email marketing program. What do you do now? We recommend the following three steps to taking your email test data and turning them into email marketing and newsletter improvements.
· Compiling Your Email Test Data
The first thing that you’ll need to do is to compile and pull together all of your email test data. It’s possible (and even likely) that the email test data you’ve collected may live in many different locations. Your database may house all of the demographic and content information. Your email marketing platform provider may have all of the email response rate and engagement activity.
Your ecommerce solution may have all of the revenue and ROI information. You may even need to go to your social networks to manually try to figure out information about email sharing and viral impact. So, the first step is to allocate a person or team to compile all of the data that you need and put it together for you.
· Putting Your Email Test Data into a Usable Format
You’ll need to find a format that helps you to look at your email test data and make determinations. Excel is the most common way to compile and review email test data, but you may prefer more charts and graphs to lines and numbers. Take the time to meet as a team, make sure that you are all on the same page about what information you are trying to determine, and then develop a reporting format that clearly shows you the lines between the email tests that you ran and the response rates that you got. This report format, however, will be entirely driven by your company and your preferred way to share information.
· Reviewing Your Email Test Data
Next, take real time to review your email test data. Ask yourself questions based on what you can tell for sure from the email test data you’ve collected as well as assumptions that you can make based on trends and variable. Look at anomalies. Really dig in and consider other elements that may have impacted the data. Make it a group discussion.
Now take the time to be sure that you know what those tests mean and what they have shown you. If you speed through reviewing your email test data, you’ll speed through what may be the most important part of the process. While email test data and sending can be almost instantaneous, thinking about what your email test data is informing you of should be a long-tail event.
DESIGNING YOUR EMAIL TEMPLATE
What Makes an Email Template Successful?
Here are the most important ways to determine the success of your email template design before you evaluate its ability to generate activity for your site.
Are Your Subscribers Opening Your Email?
Open rate numbers are typically not one hundred percent accurate due to the image pixel method of tracking email opens (not all email service providers load images automatically, so not all opens are automatically tracked). However, at the most basic level, you need people to open your email and see your template in order for it to be successful. If your email is not being opened at an open rate that you feel is adequate, then you should examine the following elements of your email template design:
- Spam Content and Coding: Is your email template well designed to get into your subscribers’ inboxes, or are you going to the spam or junk folder? While some spam issues will be due to the content contained in your email template and the quality of your email database, html coding in your email template can also impact your deliverability rates. Before you assume that users don’t want to open your email, be sure that they are actually receiving your email
- Value of Your Content to Your Subscribers: At the heart of user engagement with your email program will be the value of the content that you’re providing to your subscribers. Make sure that your content is both well written and is the content that your subscribers actually want, not what you think they want!
- Quality of Your Database List: The quality of the names and addresses in your email database may also be an issue. Make sure that your list is up-to-date, fully opted-in, and optimally pruned and cleaned regularly.
- Time and Date of Email Sends: The day of week and the time of day that you send your email can also impact how many subscribers open it. Knowing how to choose the best day to send email can easily turn your email campaign from good to great.
Are Your Subscribers Staying Subscribed?
Your email template design, and your email program, are successful if your subscribers neither unsubscribe from nor mark as spam your email messages. While it may seem as though the number of users who unsubscribe or file spam complaints is entirely related to the content that you choose to include in your email, there are other elements that you’ll want to consider as well.
- Placement of Content in Your Emails: When your subscribers open their emails from you, do they see content that will immediately engage them? You may be taking up too much room at the top of your email or high visibility areas of your email with hard sells, images, or meaningless introductory copy. Making sure that your subscribers see the content that interest them will keep them active and engaged with your emails and your brand for longer.
- Visibility of All Content in Your Emails: Much like the most important content should be immediately visible, the remaining content in your email should be easy to find. Is there an easy-to-see table of contents or listing of what’s in the email near the top? Are you using too many images and people can’t see the value of your email content? If you’re losing users from your subscriber base, make sure that the content of your email is easy to see and find.
- Quality of the Content in Your Emails: Of course, at the end of the day, what it all comes down to is the quality of your content. They say that “Content is King” for a reason. If your email is too sales-driven for your users, is full of grammar and spelling errors, uses boring, “content-farm” style content, or just isn’t interesting, users will eventually unsubscribe. Worse, they may mark you as spam. You need to deliver a product that your users will want in their crowded inboxes.
- Frequency of Emails: The frequencies with which you send emails can also negatively impact your database by encouraging unsubscribe requests or spam complaints. Make sure that subscribers know how often they’ll be receiving emails from you. Also, be sure to test sending less emails if you see an increase in unsubscribe requests and spam complaints.
Auto responders are one of the most popular and (if done correctly) effective email marketing techniques available currently. The following best practices will help you in crafting a successful and robust auto responder email program.
- Use Basic Email Design Best Practices!
The first thing you’ll want to do is to design a great email template with great content that leads to a great landing page! Auto responders are no different from any other type of email marketing when it comes to the application of best practices for content, design, landing pages, formatting, subject lines, and spam protection.
- Be Sure That Your Content is Timeless
You’ll never be able to tell when and where a user may get your auto responder. For that reason, it’s absolutely critical that you ensure that the content contained in your auto responder isn’t time or date specific. Even if you haven’t changed your auto responder text for two years, users should still feel as though your content may have been written that very day. Avoid references to trends, slang, current events, or pop culture references. Use events, references, language, and images in your auto responders that won’t date the email content. Avoid images that include fashionable clothing that may trend out of style. Don’t reference seasons or holidays. The basic rule of thumb is to create content that can be read on any time or date and will be relevant and important to the user.
- Timeless Means No Offers with Expiration Dates!
Remember when you’re developing your auto responders that you can’t use offers and promotions that have expiration dates or that feature products that you have a limited amount of stock of or will not be carrying for the long term. It’s easy to believe that you will regularly update your auto responder content, but the reality is that most email marketers turn their auto responders on and then forget about them Any time an offer goes out that isn’t actually available to users, you risk alienating customers as well as damaging your brand through press, viral, word-of-mouth, and social media. Only include offers, promotions, and products in your auto responders that will be available no matter when a user reads the email.