by Lyndi Lawson
In some ways, Email Marketing can be considered the founding father of eMarketing (that’s why I have now written two sets of tips on getting it right). In the good old days, before spam was illegal, before people started caring about piffling things like privacy and permission based marketing, it was easy. There were three steps: buy a database, throw together a directly self promotional message and email it to 100 000 people and then wait for a response.
Oh, how things have changed. These days, successful eMarketers do things differently, and in an ideal world, evil spammers like the notorious Reginald Tsktsk are thrown into an eternal hell of internetlessness.
You must carefully consider any communication you send to someone's inbox.
Fortunately, there’s more to email marketing than spam and if you’re just starting out, here are some guidelines to keep in mind.
1. Plan Strategically
Like most things in life, you need to know what you’re trying to achieve before you actually achieve it. The more impulsive among us might be tempted to jump right in and send that first mail, but without clearly defined goals, you’re unlikely to benefit from it in any way at all. In fact, it may actually do more damage to your future endeavours than good.
Start by deciding on some broad goals. Are you trying to ensure that your customers are in regular contact with your brand? Or are you trying to promote a specific campaign? Generally, knowing what you hope to achieve with your mails is a good starting point. Are you hoping to encourage your readers to buy something, download something or simply get in touch with you for further information? Making these decisions will narrow down the scope of your campaign and should guide the process going forward.
2. Test, Test, Test
Planning your campaign around your goals isn’t really enough. You need to test your emails before you send them. The reasons for this are twofold. In part, testing is important because you need to ensure that your mails will bypass the spam filters. Filters like this are in place to ensure that I don’t have to read about buying generic Viagra on a Monday morning. They can however be tricky to navigate for any email sent to a large database. The other crucial reason to test your emails is compatibility. Consider the large number of browsers and email clients that are used – theoretically it’s possible that while your mail may look fantabulous when sent to gmail, it might resemble something that my dog threw up when viewed in Outlook. You need to check this in advance to prevent looking like a tool.
3. Get Your Emails White Listed and Improve Your Reputation Score
According to eMarketing: the essential guide to online marketing (the source of all reliable eMarketing information :) ) an email white list is “the list of contacts that a user deems are acceptable to receive email from and should not be sent to the trash folder.” There are a number of ways to do this, one of which is to give specific instructions in your newsletter that explains to your users how to white list your emails. This benefits the user, because they won’t miss important mails. It also benefits you, for obvious reasons.
Reputation score determines whether or not your email is regarded as spam. Reputation score is generally determined by the ISPs, so in order to arrive in a user’s inbox, your message needs to meet their standards. Tips for doing this include allowing for users to unsubscribe, maintaining your database and removing addresses that result in hard bounces. Also make use of sender authentication standards like sender ID.
4. Integrate Your Campaign With Other eMarketing Channels
I know it's something that I (and indeed all of us, quirky QuirkStars) say a lot but; a holistic approach to eMarketing is crucial to your success. Using a whole lot of tactics, without a unifying strategy and integrated goals is fruitless. Whenever you’re starting something new, decide where it fits into your overall strategy and ensure that your marketing and overall business goals are aligned. This will ultimately ensure your success.
5. Learn From Your Experiences
I know that I have rabbitted on about planning and goal setting bla bla bla - and while this is super duper important – often the only way to learn is by doing. While I am in no way advocating a rash approach to your campaign, it is beneficial to sit back and reflect after each send, particularly the early ones. To quote my favourite textbook once again, “tracking, analysing and optimising is key to growth.” After your send, look at the stats and analyse the results. This information will ensure that you reach your audience effectively, achieve the goals you set for yourself and don’t get yourself labelled an evil spammer like our good friend Reginald Tsktsk.