While email has been around as long the Internet and may not be as “trendy” as the new social media marketing strategies, email campaigns and email marketing are still among the most popular and effective tools in an advertiser’s arsenal. According to a recent study by the Center for Media Research, 56.8% of marketers polled “realistically” plan to use email in their advertising next year.
But even though email may be “old”, new strategies and technologies come along every day that can help you start an effective email campaign, or improve your existing one. Below, I present five new things to try along with five things you really should avoid when planning your next email campaign.
5 NEW THINGS TO TRY
1. Tie-In to Social Marketing
If you’ve done anything online in the last 6 months, you’ve probably noticed the latest buzz, Social Media or Social Marketing. Social Media is buzzworthy for a reason; it is right behind email in popularity among marketers, and it seems that everyone is on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, or some other social network. According to a TechCrunch study, the major social networks combined attracted over 300 million visitors during September 2008. Those numbers have skyrocketed over the past year.
Even if your company has not created its own Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter profile yet, you can still take advantage of your email subscribers’ social networking habits in a couple of easy ways. First, be sure to always include a “Forward to a Friend” link in all of your email campaigns. Most major email newsletter programs include this functionality and will also allow you to track which subscribers have forwarded your email and to whom. Next, be sure to add social media “share” links to your emails, allowing email recipients to post a link to a web-version of your email on their Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or LinkedIn pages.
2. Take Advantage of Reporting & Stats
Most email newsletter programs provide you with a host of reporting and statistics. Have you taken a look lately? Do you take advantage of the information available in order to improve your campaign results? Here are a few things you might want to look at.
View and Click-Thru – Take a look at how many people “viewed,” or opened, the last email you sent out. Next take a look at how many people clicked on the links within your email. Are you happy with the percentages? Do some of your emails fare better than others? Do more successful emails have different content types or better subject lines? Less or more text and photos? Are you more successful on a particular day of the week? Come up with some theories regarding why, then see if you’re right by sending two different versions of your next email. The first email can be sent to the even numbered subscribers on your list, and the second to the odd subscribers. eNewsletters Pro allows you to do this easily.
Interested Readers – You can also take a look at which subscribers found your email interesting by looking at how many times they opened and clicked through on a message. Perhaps you’d like to follow-up with these customers with a secondary message, or even a phone call.
3. Segment Your Email List
Do you have a single email newsletter list that holds all of your subscriber emails? If so, you may not be sending the most effective emails possible. You can increase your View and Click-Thru rates simply by sending targeted information that your subscribers are most likely to be interested in. Having a catch-all newsletter list forces you to send a one-size-fits-all email, when you could be sending emails to:
- Current Customers vs. Potential Customers
- Particular Product or Service categories that subscribers have expressed interest in
- Geographic or other demographic groups that effect your particular customer base
(Perhaps you offer different things to local and out of state customers)
A short word of warning though: resist the urge to segment too much. If you create too many lists, you are less likely to keep up with the multiple email campaigns.
4. Integrate Email with Your Entire Sales Cycle
Who says email campaigns can only be used for marketing to potential customers? Have you considered adding prospects to help shorten your sales cycle, and adding existing customers to continue customer service and maintenance?
Many email newsletter programs allow you to set up a series of scheduled emails in a single campaign that will be sent to a new subscriber at set intervals. So you can automate follow-up with potential customers, remind new customers of the special features of your product, notify customers of warranty expiration and offer extended warranty sign-up, and so much more. Once you set up these scheduled emails, you’ve literally added a new member to your Customer Care team.
5. Clean Up & Build Your Email List
Don’t abandon your email list once you’ve imported your customer email addresses into your new email newsletter program. To make sure you’ve got as many high-quality email addresses in your list as possible, be sure to:
- Remove email addresses from your subscriber list that have bounced too often
- Identify low- to no-click subscribers, and send a personalized message to them
- Be sure there is a benefits-based subscription offer on every page of your website, especially the Contact form, check-out pages, and Home page. Some examples of benefits-based offers include a free gift on their birthday, a chance to win in a drawing, and exclusive offers.
5 PITFALLS TO AVOID
1. “Email Fatigue”
One of the most critical components of your email campaign is balancing the need to send just one more message against the dangers of annoying your valuable subscribers, risking falling Views and Click-Thru’s, and prompting Un-subscribes. Even worse, your company could be added to personal and corporate SPAM lists, risking the delivery of your email even to those customers you haven’t annoyed yet.
Respect your subscribers’ time and attention. They did you a favor by providing you with their email address because they thought you’d send them something useful, so return the favor by delivering relevant information to them on a reasonable schedule.
2. Information Overload
As a close partner to the point above, information overload can cripple the effectiveness of your email campaign. Your customer’s time and attention is limited, so don’t load them down with 15 – 20 offers that they’ll need to weed through. Instead, keep your messages short and sweet. Send only a handful of your most attractive and relevant offers, and you’ll see your click-thru and conversion rates increase.
3. Emailing Without Permission
It is very tempting to exhaust every available avenue in trying to secure higher sales, and that email address you got from a business card at a trade show sure looks attractive. But you do not want your company to be identified by Yahoo, AOL, EarthLink, and other ISPs as a Spammer, or someone who sends unsolicited and unwanted email. Send too many messages that get flagged by “subscribers” as SPAM or Junk though, and that’s exactly what will happen. Then suddenly all of your emails will be routed directly to the Junk folder or will be blocked entirely.
4. List Purchase and/or Rental
This pitfall is related to the one above, where permission is vague at best. As an email marketer you should be aware that when you rent or purchase an email list, most of the newly obtained “subscribers” didn’t knowingly agree to have their email addresses sold. Your company will be exposed to all of the dangers listed above for emailing without permission. In addition, the quality of these leads and the relevance of the message you send to them will be secondary to the email addresses you have collected legitimately.
5. Leaping Before Looking
Now that you’ve crafted that perfect email and avoided the worse pitfalls, don’t just send it out! Always test your email before sending it to your subscribers. It only takes a few minutes, but you’ll consider it time well-spent when you catch a costly mistake – bad links, wrong prices or contact information, misspelled products, or outdated and inaccurate content.
Build a “Test List” that gets the first delivery on all of your emails. Be sure to include your own email address, plus the address of your best proofreader. Then look for volunteers within your organization with the following types of email addresses or email readers: AOL, Yahoo, MSN, Gmail, Outlook, and a mobile device. Proofread your text for spelling, grammar, and accuracy. Test all of your links. Make sure readability and layout are consistent across email readers. Did you include an Unsubscribe, or Opt-Out, link? Are your company name, website address, and phone number prominently displayed? Confirm that your email is perfect, then you’re ready to send.
Have some tips of your own to share? Comment below and let us know what’s worked for you… and what mistakes we can all learn from.