May 17

8 things you need to know about emailmarketing

Posted by Tim Bertens on 17/05/2009

Emailmarketing is an essential part of your marketing mix, send your nicely layouted message to your subscribers and monitor the results.  Some essentials you need to know about mailmarketing.

1. Addresses

The best basis for a successful emailcampaign are highly interested subscribers. You want to inform your subscribers and not bore them with an irrelevant message or be perceived as the next spammer in line... An organic built subscriber-list is your best guarantee to have an involved audience, but it's much harder to reach some volume compared to rented or bought addresslists.

Although quantity is not your main driver, you'll have better results with a conversion percentage of 2% through 20000 members (400 conversions or in general terms: things you want your subscribers to do after they received your mail) than a conversion percentage of 3% through 5000 members (150 conversions).

So to reach volume you should be constantly building your subscriberslist... with every contact you have, you can ask for the emailaddress and the permission of your client, prospect or supplier. Some ideas: if you have a shop, ask for emailaddress of your client on every sale. If you're meeting prospects and suppliers, ask for their businesscards or exchange emailaddresses. Put a subscription-form on your website. If you're organising an event, put a guestlist at the door and ask your guests to sign this. Upload all these emailaddresses into your mailmarketing software. Don't forget you're legally obliged to use opt-in subscriber-lists and you have to provide an opt-out on every mail you sent out (using a link to unsubscribe directly)

2. Layout

Like all your marketing material (offline and online) the look-and-feel should be consistent and recognisable. There are a few additional measures you need to take with your emailcampaigns however:

  • first of all, make sure you don't need to layout your mailcampaign each and everytime. Use a system that stores the layout in templates that on your next campaign you mainly need to deal with your strategy and the actual content
  • Email requires a specific format as your main message should be viewable as soon as your subscriber opens or previews the mail. In general we use the first 1/3 to 1/4 of the mail to make the main message viewable.
  • As much as we all hate, it the reality is that email standards have taken a giant leap backwards in recent years ( . So if you need to do anything more complex than a single column, you will find you need to use structural tables. Outlook 2007, for example, has little support for floats. A simple table will keep everything together…how very 1998! Since there are many mailclients available on many different platforms (e.g. outlook 200x on Windows, Mail on iPhone or MacOS, gMail or HoTMaiL through your webbrowser, Evolution on Linux and many, really many many other flavours). Just like you need to test the layout of your website on many browsers and platforms, you need to do the same for you mailcampaigns.
  • Don't forget that image blocking is very common feature in mailclients. Mails that only consist of images, will be displayed as an empty mail at first... Some mailclients are just not capable of displaying HTML-formatted mails, so you'd better provide a full-text version available too.

3. Content

If you don't have anything to say that can interest your subscribers then shut up, just kiddding... Of course you're trying to convert subscribers into customers, fans, enthusiasts or anything else, but they won't move an inch if you cannot grab their attention and/or provide the things they actually care about. Providing relevant content is the way forward and this can be anything, some ideas: interesting articles, specific information that cannot be found elsewhere, breaking news, free stuff, a voucher for a next purchases, promotional actions, ... but it can also be a very practical message e.g. renewal of a service, welcome message, etc.

In most cases you'll only have 2 seconds to grab your subscribers' attention: that is with the subjectline of your mailcampaign. Needless to say that this is probably the most important sentence of your email, don't wait till 5 minutes before delivery to come up with a decent subjectline.

Make sure you don't trigger spam engines with your content. Although the rules set of spam engines are constantly changing avoid CAPITALS, repetition of words and some obvious keywords like "sex", "for free", "click here", "click below", "SPAM", "!!!!", very large fonts and many others

4. Test, test and test again

This one can’t be emphasized enough. Every email client has different levels of standards support and most are going to display your campaign ever so slightly different. While reviewing the current email client standards is a great start, nothing is going to beat actually testing your campaign in as many clients as possible. The last thing you want is to have your beautiful creation horribly broken for a large percentage of your subscribers and for you to be completely unaware of it until the CEO starts shouting!

Platforms like BeneMailer have a design and spam testing tool to test your display in most major email clients and even different displays within the same clients (e.g. preview panes and images off).

Before you deliver your mailmarketing campaign to your subscribers, have it read by someone that was not involved in the creation process. You cannot guess how easy it is to be blind for your own stupid mistakes: let them check every element of your mail: spelling, from address, the unsubscribe link, every link in the mail, etc.

5. Segmentation

As said before if you don't have anything to say that is of interest to your subscribers then be quiet, this might also mean that it is relevant for some of your subscribers but not for others... this is where segmentation comes in. A few months ago I wrote a specific article on this subject, you can find it here 'Going for the masses or for segmentation in emailmarketing'

6. Automation

As my grandmother used to say: "Nothing in life that matters comes without effort". The same goes for emailmarketing but it is good to know that decent mailmarketing platforms offer a lot of automation like: API's for managing subscriberlist so you can link your website or internal applications to the subscriberlists, automated unsubscribe functionality, automated bounced email handling, automated result reporting, templates for layout consistency and much more.

Use this automation to the maximum extent as you want to focus on the actual content of your mailmarketing campaign. The level of automation should lead to an increased frequency of your emailcampaigns. Although as said quantity is not your main driver, I think it makes sense to say that a monthly email newsletter will provide better results (more conversions) than a yearly one.

7. Built for action

You built your mailcampaign to trigger action from your subscribers, so make sure you can handle the responses in typically the first 2 to 3 days after the campaign was delivered. This can be anything: visits to your website (have decent hosting to cover the load), questions via phone or mail (have enough people available for a short response time), people visiting your store (make sure you're open those 2 or 3 next days), requests for free stuff you're providing (make sure you have enough items in stock).

8. Review results

The internet is fantastic tool when it comes to measureability of your actions, use it as it might change and improve your future campaigns. One of the KPI's of mailcampaign are the Open Rates. Open rate is a measure of how many people on an email list open (or view) a particular email campaign. There is a complete article on this site about 'Understanding Email Open Rates'

Other KPI's are the bounce rate, the unsubcription rate, the clicked links rate, forward-mail KPI. Based on this information you can improve your results by e.g. changing the delivery time of your campaign, providing better content, use better and more segmentation.

The beauty of mailmarketing is that the cost is very low compared to direct mail, this means you can experiment without going broke!


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