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Email marketing makes connecting with potential and existing customers as simple as sending an email. Despite that simplicity, deciding what content to include in an email can still be a challenge for businesses looking to gain the benefits of email marketing.
Wikus Engelbrecht, a writer at email marketing company GraphicMail, which has worked with such well-known companies as Shell and Siemens, has a number of tips for businesses on how they can not only take the guesswork out of their email marketing, but also how they can maximize their efforts. The tips are:
- Choose the best ESP for your needs
"Before you start emailing, it’s vital that you choose the best email service provider (ESP) for your business," Engelbrecht said. "An effective service provider should offer both online and telephonic customer support and training, and provide all the tools and tutorials necessary to help you easily create a campaign. Your ESP should also offer a pricing plan that fits your budget, and have a reliable sending infrastructure with multiple high-speed connections and hardware redundancies, so you can send at any time or volume."
- Build a relevant list of contacts
"The mailing list is the most important element in the success of your email campaigns," Engelbrecht said. "Responsible email marketing is based on permission, and a permission-based list built by yourself always yields the best results since you’re providing people with content that’s relevant and interesting to them."
- Leverage contact data for better targeting
"Sending irrelevant or generic emails can be risky, as these may provoke recipients to ignore your messages or mark them as spam," Engelbrecht said. "Since subscribers have individual likes, as your list grows it becomes important to identify groups that share similar interests and use segmentation (the practice of clustering addresses) to improve your results, by sending appealing content targeted to their specific wants
Businesses can improve results by combining email marketing with social media profile data.
"This in turn is likely to increase your open and click-through rates, improve website conversions and even sales derived from promotional mailers," Engelbrecht said.
- List hygiene increases delivery rates
"Internet service providers expect senders to keep their email lists 'clean' or clear of non-existent or defunct addresses and full of real, active email addresses," Engelbrecht said. "It's a sign of a 'good' sender, since spammers typically don't trouble to update their lists. The higher the proportion of emails you send to “dead” addresses, the more your sender reputation suffers."
Engelbrecht recommends businesses keep an eye out for simple typos in email addresses. Additionally, businesses can remove contacts that bounce from their list to improve delivery rates.
- Design newsletters with mobile In mind
"With email inboxes more crowded than ever, at least half of the battle is in finding ways to stand out from the masses with the quality of your design," Engelbrecht said. "With the growing number of people checking emails on mobile devices there is also an increasing need to optimize emails for the small screen."
Businesses targeting mobile users must be sure their designs to fit with mobile devices.
"Accommodate mobile subscribers by having single-column-design layouts, tighter subject lines, bigger buttons for links and an overall narrower message width that allows for easy up-down scrolling," Engelbrecht said. "And, of course, test to make sure the email renders on popular mobile devices."
- Write appealing subject lines and increase open rates
"Writing the subject line is a mission-critical element of your communications strategy that you shouldn’t leave until deadlines are looming. These first few characters are the doorstep to your emailing success; since it’s all you have to entice readers to open your message," Engelbrecht said. Since a subject line should distill the essence of an email, consider writing it first, as this will help keep your content from straying off topic. You need to create a sense of urgency with your subject lines, but without offering what you can’t deliver."
- Test, test and test again
"Testing different subject lines or email content prior to bulk sending can help you increase your open and click rates," Engelbrecht said. "Especially if you’re dealing with a large list of contacts, it’s advisable to run A/B split tests on a small group of recipients before sending to the full list, to see which variants will produce the best results. Once you’ve figured out which one was more successful, you then send the top-performing newsletter to the remaining percentage of your mailing list."
Engelbrecht also recommends senders identify spam words to ensure their emails are not caught by spam filters.
- Time your newsletter sending
"Send the right message at the right time," Engelbrecht said. "This means you have to listen, you have to educate and you have to guide subscribers on their conversion path — all at the right moment in the purchase cycle. Many marketers try to bypass this by relying on urgent calls-to-action bound to everything they send, which can easily backfire."
- Add a clear unsubscribe link
"Spam complaints can have a disastrous effect on your sender reputation," Engelbrecht said. "Unfortunately, even when people have explicitly signed up for an email they may still use the "report spam" button. Some readers even use the report spam button instead of going through the proper unsubscribe process, since both tactics have the same outcome for them."
To avoid having emails reported as spam, Engelbrecht recommends that all campaigns have a clear and accessible unsubscribe link.
- Keep emailing
"To keep your list current, make sure you send messages to your subscribers at least once every 90 days," Engelbrecht said. "While it certainly does depend on your industry and what type of products or services you offer, if the waiting periods between messages are too long, your bounce-rate will increase due to people changing addresses or forgetting who you are — and maybe then assuming your email newsletters are spam."
Successful email marketing campaigns can also keep their audience interested by adding auto- responders and triggered emails to enable further communication, Engelbrecht said.