Despite historic associations with spam, email marketing remains a vital platform for communicating with new and existing customers alike. The affordability and immediacy of email are matched only by social media updates, though the introduction of non-linear timelines has made platforms like Twitter and Instagram hit-or-miss when it comes to promoting a brand.
An effective email marketing campaign delivers relevant and timely information to willing recipients, but this can only be achieved with a number of common attributes. And while some of these will be more visible than others, the ten points below all play significant roles in building stronger (and more profitable) customer relationships…
#1. Maintain a tidy database
Proactive database maintenance involves removing duplicate listings and deleting lapsed or canceled subscribers. If people continue to receive messages after asking to unsubscribe, they’ll mark future emails as spam, hindering your ability to send legitimate missives to more willing recipients. An effective email marketing database should also include differentiation fields, supporting demographic targeting on the basis of location, gender or other key criteria.
#2. Use an automation tool
Microsoft Outlook lacks certain attributes required for a successful email campaign, like the ability to incorporate Unsubscribe buttons. It’s also a manual process that soon becomes very time consuming and laborious. It’s far better to use an automation tool like MailChimp or HubSpot for distributing messages in response to customer actions, topical events or even periods of account inactivity. Automation tools measure click-through rates, unsubscribe levels and open rates, providing valuable information about a campaign’s impact (or lack of impact).
#3. Treat everyone as an individual
There are many reasons to contact the members of a marketing database, from onboarding missives and promotional adverts to transactional or cart abandonment reminders. It’s vital to ensure that each recipient feels a particular communication is unique to them, rather than BCC’d in an unspecified number of other recipients. Account activity emails are an obvious example. Each one must address the recipient by their first name and reference something they did (or didn’t) recently do.
#4. Conduct A/B testing
A mobile-optimized template should be used for every outbound communique, ensuring a consistent aesthetic across desktop and handheld devices. However, its contents require regular tweaking and experimentation. Identify optimal tactics by conducting A/B testing, where different emails are sent and response rates are compared. Email service providers support A/B testing on anything from the sender’s name to the time of distribution. On a related note, optimal open rates are generally recorded on Monday mornings.
#5. Avoid spam associations
We referred to database management earlier, but this is only one element of the process. Firstly, avoid trigger words like ‘free’ and ‘guaranteed’, as they are commonly associated with junk mail. Send messages one at a time or in short batches to distinguish your campaign from a generic spam bomb. Use a reliable email service provider, and ask recipients to add this particular address to their sender whitelist. Moderation is advisable; a weekly marketing message should be sufficient if there isn’t a specific reason to get in touch.
#6. Use a compelling subject line
Modern email packages may not display the opening line of a message, which means recipients might have to judge a message’s relevance or importance based entirely on who sent it and what the subject line is. An attention-grabbing title is a real challenge, especially given today’s growing list of inadvisable spam words. Try to distill the message’s essence into ten words or less, and don’t be afraid of minimalism. “Thanks for ordering” or “We miss you” often suffices.
#7. Add a dose of humor
As any comedian will ruefully acknowledge, humor is very subjective. However, a bit of self-deprecation never goes amiss, and wordplay can make people smile if they get the joke, without offending them if they don’t. Many successful brands incorporate a conversational tone to their communications, which naturally includes emails. Messages are seemingly written by a named individual (identified by anything from the sender’s display name to the use of terms like “I”) establish a subconscious sense of connection between sender and recipient.
#8. Lead with a strong message
When someone sees the first line of an email or clicks ‘open’, the sender has a matter of seconds to pique their interest. Some software packages only display the first 50 characters of a message, making brief statements like “we’re cutting our prices” or “new product lines launching tomorrow” advisable. Having baited the hook, go into the specifics of what’s being offered or discussed. Attention spans are very short nowadays, so keep the email body concise. Bullet points and numbered lists are eye-catching, as are infographics and captions.
#9. Conclude with a call to action
So you’ve successfully held the recipient’s attention throughout an email, and they’re approaching the bottom of the message. Now they need to do something – complete a survey, register their details or make a purchase. The actual mechanism for doing this has to be unambiguously presented, such as using a large colored button or bold hyperlink that takes them to the correct destination page. People quickly migrate away if they have to begin navigating through a website, and rapid departures damage a site’s SEO ranking.
#10. Make opting out easy.
Every email message should contain a prominent invitation to unsubscribe while leaving the door open for important account communications. Ensure unsubscribing is a one-click affair, ideally followed by an optional “can we ask why you’re leaving” form. This links back to point one above – keeping marketing databases neat and tidy – but it also shows good faith. Customers who find it easy to unsubscribe will be more likely to return at a later date.
Of course, there are many other things to think about besides these ten points – using captions and placeholder text in case images are blocked by mail servers, for instance. However, adhering to these tips should ensure any email marketing operation is well managed and well received.