5 Must-Follow Email Marketing Best Practices
September 11, 2013
By design, I receive 150-200 emails a day during the week. They arrive in all sizes, formats and lengths from different audiences: suppliers, distributors, publishing companies (in and out of the industry), clients, prospects, membership organizations, credit card companies, banks, marketing companies, technology companies, vendors we use, vendors I’ve never heard of, and colleagues.
The good news about Email Marketing is that with a bit of trial-and-error, customer support, and patience, anyone can create and send emails using a service like Constant Contact, MailChimp or Campaigner. The technology is relatively user-friendly and cheap. The bad news is that scores of emails get deleted or dumped into a Spam Filter before they are even viewed. But many of these emails could generate a return if the creator had simply followed best practices.
If you’re new to Email Marketing, follow the best practices explained below for best results. If you’ve tried Email Marketing but gained little from the experience, try it again and follow these practices. And please let me know how these suggestions work for you.
Balance graphics and copy. I know it’s difficult to do justice to all those mouth-watering food gifts and the array of colorful and appealing products in the marketplace without showing super large images in your email. Still, if you don’t pay attention to the balance of your email layouts, more of your emails will land in Spam Filters. In addition, many people no longer automatically download images in their emails, which means if yours are built with one huge image (such as a jpg copied from a suppliers’ email) it’s likely buyers will see only an empty frame when they preview or view the email. Not much of an enticement to open the email.
Personalize your email. There’s a misconception when it comes to promoting a small business via email: namely, that sending emails from The Company – as opposed to John Jones, an employee of The Company – makes the business look bigger. All it does is make your company seem less approachable. You wouldn’t set up your personal email account in Outlook or Gmail and omit your name, right? Don’t do it with HTML emails where it’s even more difficult to reach your target audience.
In the “from” field include your first and last name and company name. Use a personal email address (not info@ or another role address you have set up for your domain). And where appropriate, include your signature, head shot, direct-dial and personal email address in the body of your emails. This approach is far more likely to entice recipients to reach out to you. (If a client or prospect ever tells you they were put off by the personalized approach, please let me know. It would be the first time I’ve heard this complaint.)
Remember to include links. It’s a given that you’ll include a link to your personal email and one or more to your homepage. Don’t forget to include links to individual products as well as case histories and other content-rich pages on your site. You’ll find the behind-the-scenes data of who clicks on each link (provided by the Email Service Provider’s technology) invaluable when it comes to planning the content of future emails.
The Campaign Resend. We’ve relied on the Campaign Resend to generate additional opens and clicks for clients for nearly four years. Here’s how it works: a few days after the release of an email, prepare a list of the people who received it but didn’t open it. You’ll then resend the email to this group (and only this group) with a different Subject Line. The new Subject Line is key; it will resonate with some buyers who ignored your first one. This practice also works because you’re hitting the inboxes of some contacts at a quieter, calmer moment, when they are more apt to open a non-essential, non-transactional email. (FYI - Some Email Service Providers make the setup for a resend easier than others, but even if it takes 15 minutes it’s worth your time.)
Mail at regular intervals. I’m sure every email marketer intends to email its target audience on a regular basis. But when you wear 22 hats it’s tough to stick to a schedule. One problem with mailing inconsistently, however, is it suggests that you’re desperate for business since you haven’t communicated in four or five months. Another concern is that you’ll be compared to distributors who do keep in touch at regular intervals. Your best bet is to develop an editorial content plan (here's a previous post on this topic) and do as much legwork in advance as possible.
Cathy Cain-Blank of CC Marketing is a periodic contributor to the Maple Ridge Farms blog. Her company creates email communications and online resources for promotional products distributors and other small/midsize businesses.