Few marketing topics inspire as much passion as email marketing. Ranging from “its the ultimate solution” to “its a complete waste of time and verging on illegal activity”. The fact is, your customers love email, they use it every day and done well they will love and respond to your email. That should be more than enough for any marketer to invest the time and money into developing a professional program. However, should you need a little extra incentive, perhaps the fact that email can drive sales at a cost of literally pennies per order would suffice.
Chances are that you are well aware of how important email is and just how tough it is to develop an effective program. For all its promise and efficiency it is a volatile and complex area to navigate. However, focus on a few basic principles and activities and you will be richly rewarded. Just like all good direct marketing, circulation, offer and creative are the secrets to success. But you have to think about them a little differently, read on for some 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 ISP’s.
ISP’s are constantly trying to stem the torrent of email going to their members. They have two tools. An outright block or they will send your email to the “junk folder” just as devastating. Building your reputation score with ISP’s takes time and is an ongoing process. Different ISP’s have different standards you will need to know, adhere to and develop policies around. AOL, Yahoo and MSN/Hotmail are the major web domains but by no means the majority. One of the main benefits of working with an email service provider is that they will have established ISP relationships and knowledge about their requirements.
3. Measure your inbox delivery.
You can’t manage what you don’t measure. The ISP’s have sophisticated spam filters that change regularly. Assume you message won’t go through, even if it went through last week. The combination of your subject line, content, reputation, astrological alignment, tea leaves and other mysterious forces are used to determine whether your email gets delivered. The only way to know if your message got delivered is to measure it and pre-test your emails before you deploy for deliverability.
4. Stay predictable.
Big changes in your delivery volume or sending patterns can raise flags on ISP systems. Big spikes in volume on unusual days can trigger blocks so don’t save those full file mailings deep into your lapsed customer file until your most important drop of the year!
5. Revalidate Your File
Above I mentioned that you should not mail your invalid emails. However, it is a safe bet that 10% or more are probably perfectly good and you are missing out a lot of sales. Work out a program to regularly revalidate these addresses.
6. Images are off
Most email programs now default to have images off and a customer won’t download images until they have decided that the email has something of interest. Make sure your email and its main hooks are clearly understood when viewed without images and in a preview pain.
7. Keep subject lines to the point
Subject lines are critically important and should be heavily focused on and tested. Typically, letting people know exactly what they can get generates higher sales conversions than more vague “teaser” type copy. The teaser may often get more opens and clicks but fewer in market buyers.
8. Don’t get boring
Offer a regular change of creative and offers. Develop a library of templates you can use that reflect the different marketing objectives of the piece.
9. One size doesn’t fit anybody
Email makes it both technically and financially possible to deliver many different personalized messages, so focus your efforts on developing targeted campaigns. For example if a customer just had a bad experience don’t send them your regular email. Segment them out and personalize your communication.
10. Be Relevant
Essentially the same thing as my last point but its so important I felt its worth mentioning twice. The sure fire way to turn someone off to your email is to keep sending them emails that are irrelevant to them. You must strive to find any way you can to be relevant and personalized, whenever you can. Be disciplined and test your concepts before rolling them out. Your most brilliant ideas are worthless if customers don’t care and the only way to know if your customers will care is to test the concept with them.
Email is a vast and dynamic field and takes considerable effort to be done well. These 10 tips are just the tip of an ever changing iceberg that you must continually adjust to. An “autopilot” approach will fly your email program right into the mountain. A rigid focus on maximizing deliverability of your file is a hallmark of every great email program as is a constant striving to be relevant. Constantly pursue these goals and you will be up there with the elite of the industry and awash in profitable sales.