Few marketing topics inspire as much passion as email marketing. Ranging from “ultimate solution” to “total waste of time and illegal activity”. The fact is, your customers love email, they use it every day, and when done well, they love and respond to your email. That should be more than enough for any marketer to invest time and money in developing a professional program. However, if you need a little extra incentive, perhaps the fact that email can increase sales for literally pennies per order is enough.
Chances are you’re well aware of the importance of email and how difficult it is to develop an effective program. For all its promise and effectiveness, it’s a volatile and complicated area to navigate. However, focus on a few basic principles and actions and you will be richly rewarded. As with all good direct marketing, circulation, supply and creativity are the keys to success. But you have to think about them a little differently. Read on for tips on how to make sure your email gets delivered and read.
1. Actively manage your email file.
2. Jealously build your email reputation with ISPs.
ISPs are constantly trying to stop the flood of e-mails going to their members. They have two tools. Outright blocking or them sending your email to the “spam folder” is just as devastating. Building your reputation score with ISPs takes time and is an ongoing process. Different ISPs have different standards that you need to know, follow, and develop policies for. AOL, Yahoo and MSN/Hotmail are the most important domains, but by no means the majority. One of the main advantages of working with an email service provider is that they have established ISP relationships and knowledge of their requirements.
3. Measure your mailbox delivery.
You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Internet service providers have advanced spam filters that change regularly. Let’s say your message doesn’t get through, even though it went through last week. A combination of subject line, content, reputation, astrological alignment, tea leaves, and other mysterious forces are used to determine whether your email is delivered. The only way to know if your message has been delivered is to measure it and pre-test your emails before they are delivered.
4. Stay predictable.
Large changes in delivery volumes or delivery patterns can raise flags in the ISP’s systems. Large spikes in volume on unusual days can trigger blocks, so don’t store perfect mailings deep in your stale client file before the most important drop of the year!
5. Verify your file again
I mentioned above that you should not send invalid emails. However, it is safe to say that 10% or more is probably perfectly fine and you will lose a lot of sales. Design a program to validate these addresses regularly.
6. Pictures are off
Most e-mail programs have now disabled images by default, and the client will not download images until they have decided that there is something interesting in the e-mail. Make sure your email and its key hooks are clearly understandable when you look at it without images and preview pain.
7. Keep subject lines specific
The subject areas are very important and should be heavily focused and tested. Typically, telling people exactly what they can get generates more sales than more vague “teaser” type copy. A teaser can often get more opens and clicks, but less among market buyers.
8. Don’t get bored
Offer a regular change in creativity and offers. Develop a library of templates that you can use that reflect the different marketing goals of the piece.
9. One size does not fit all
E-mail makes it possible, both technically and economically, to deliver many different personal messages, so focus on developing targeted campaigns. For example, if a customer just had a bad experience, don’t send them your regular email. Segment them and Customize your communications.
10. Be relevant
Basically the same thing as the last point, but it’s so important that I felt it worth mentioning twice. A surefire way to turn someone off your email is to forward them emails that aren’t important to them. You must strive to find any way to be relevant and personal whenever you can. Be disciplined and test your concepts before implementing them. Your greatest ideas are worthless if your customers don’t care, and the only way to know if your customers care is to test the concept with them.
Email is a large and dynamic field, and it takes a lot of effort to do it. These 10 tips are just the tip of an ever-changing iceberg that you must constantly adapt to. “Autopilot” directs your email program straight to the mountain. A strict focus on maximizing the deliverability of your file is a hallmark of any great email program, as is a constant drive to be relevant. Keep striving for these goals and you will reach the elite of the industry and be full of profitable sales.