1. Permission is not an optional thing
When you send uninvited email, you hurt your brand, your campaign and your reputation. Avoid using marginal (at best) methods such as pre-checked boxes and on-site registration forms to capture email addresses. Instead, utilize a two-stage opt-in process that requires confirmation before the address goes into your database. Ask subscribers who have been on your list for more than 12 months if they want to continue receiving your email, and retain all the permission data on each subscriber.
2. Size may matter, but not nearly as much as quality
Growing your mailing list is important, but not if it means sacrificing quality. While it may look impressive to have a large list, quality names should be your highest priority. Make sure you have defined your key target audience and focus your efforts on adding only those names that fit it. You may not have a large number of names in your database, but careful targeting will mean you have a list of high-value prospects; those who yield better response rates and greater success.
3. Accommodate subscriber preferences
Your recipients want and expect control. If you don’t comply, you’ll surely lose them. Let them determine the format (text or HTML), contact frequency, their content preferences and whether or not they’d like to receive additional information (beyond that for which they opted in). Arrange your lists to reflect those choices. It’s always more effective to contact someone on their schedule and under their terms in order to score a higher response rate. To do otherwise risks developing unwilling recipients and, ultimately, lost subscribers.
4. Design for the Inbox
Poor design and improper formatting put-off recipients. If they can’t readily interpret your email or find the information they want at a glance, your messages will be flops. Your email has to stand out in a crowded Inbox. Here are some design tips:
* Be sure to test sample messages to see which perform best.
* Put your company name in the “from” line for quick recognition.
* Add a “grabber” subject line – 50 characters or less.
* Use teaser text and HTML colors and layout rather than merely an image, so readers can get an immediate “preview, “even if images are disabled.
Put the most important content – your offer, call to action, newsletter contents, etc. – at the top of the message to encourage immediate viewing. You only have seconds to make your case, so make the most them.
5. Check your email mechanics
Don’t forget to check these on a regular basis. Some of the best campaigns fail simply because basic items like response links, the unsubscribe process, co-registration or images fail. It takes time, but each email execution is important. Don’t frustrate your subscribers or waste your time and money by sending out correspondence that doesn’t have its most basic items operating properly. One of the best and simplest methods for making sure of this is to see to it that the mechanics of your campaigns are always optimized.
6. Test for correct rendering of emails on all email clients
HTML emails – with pictures, colors and/or graphics – can look or function very differently when viewed in different email clients. Here are a few ways to test for the correct rendering of your email messages across numerous clients before launching your campaign:
* Send a sample mailing to an account through each of the major providers – such as AOL, Earthlink, Gmail and Yahoo!- to spot bad links, poor rendering or other formatting issues.
* Do the same for any email client that allows the receiver to use a preview pane or review without images – such as Outlook 2007.
* Use an email service provider that helps you see how your email is rendered across clients.
* Design the header of your email to provide the desired outcome regardless of email client. For instance, if you know that there’s a good chance your image-rich.
header will not be viewable in most email clients, use an Alt Tag that “sells” the idea or offer your image header is conveying.
7. Test something every time
Testing is a classic way for direct marketers to refine their efforts to get the best results. If each of your email campaigns doesn’t include a testing component, you’re missing out on an opportunity to improve your ROI. Some elements you may want to test include:
* Subject lines
* Mailing date or time
* A new list, or segment your existing list to compare one segment against another
Your results will provide new ideas for more effective campaigns and help you eliminate offers, lists or content that isn’t working.
8. Segment lists for better results
Use the information you collected when your subscribers opted-in to divide your list into relevant segments, and then deliver distinct, targeted messages to each of those segments. You may also want to segment your lists based on email and Web responses, such as which links recipients clicked on or what actions they’ve taken on your Website. Doing so will make your outgoing emails more meaningful to your subscribers, which will result in improved response and conversion rates. Segmenting also helps you understand results and trends based on demographics and other audience-specific factors.
9. Integrate email into your complete marketing mix
Email marketing works best when it is part of an integrated marketing plan. You’ll get a higher ROI when you incorporate email into your complete campaign, including PPC, social media, mobile, traditional direct mail, telemarketing and trade shows. For instance:
* Design keyword-rich landing pages that will help with your SEO efforts, fulfill the offer within your email campaign and provide deeper information into the product or service you’re offering.
* Promote newsletter content covering multiple marketing points, and post email information to your Website.
* Use social media to increase opt-ins to your email list.
* Utilize mobile marketing. Consider using your email to promote a mobile campaign, or offer your email to those who are already subscribed to your mobile alerts.
10. Tie into Web analytics
Remember that your Web analytics are directly related to your email campaigns. Combining the two can help to produce more highly successful overall campaigns. When determining the best content to include in your email message, check to see which content is most viewed or downloaded on your Website. Review landing pages or shopping cart abandonment stats to determine how to overcome these issues with email. Make sure you don’t silo analytics from other important areas when you’re working on email campaigns. This information, used together, can provide more useful and productive ROI tracking, more effective targeting of prospects and many other benefits. If you will “run with” these tips, you can be sure your future email campaigns will produce dramatically better results.
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