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6 Email Marketing Best Practices…Take It Or Leave It

In 2019, the average email user is expected to receive 96 emails per day. How can you make your company’s emails stand out?

Are you thinking what I am thinking?

Look, emails can be a great way to build customer engagement and drive sales, but all too often this potentially powerful resource is misused and overused (as is expected, we marketers were never really known for taking our economics classes seriously! We just don’t know when to draw a line. We beat the best strategy to a pulp…always. But that’s best kept for another discussion.)

Okay, so where were we?

Yeah, abuse of email marketing, right.

Improper use of e-mail campaigns is not just a waste of your time and money, it can also wind up driving away customers. Take it from an email marketer with “almost” a decade of experience.

Here are six tips to help you get started with successful, productive e-mail campaigns.

1. Start with a clear goal in mind

This is not just the starting point of a successful campaign—it’s the most important part of planning. Without a clear goal, how can you make your message to the customer clear? A clear goal will include what action you want your customers to take, how you will motivate them towards this action, and which group of your current or potential customers you are targeting with your message.

2. Target the right audience

It doesn’t matter how well-crafted your message is if it isn’t reaching the right people. The segment of your current or prospective customer base should be directly in line with the goal you set for your campaign.

Example 1:  Opening a new physical store

If you’re planning on opening a new physical store, you will want to make your customers aware of this – but, which customers will care? If you’re opening a new store in Arizona, sending this news to your online customers on the East Coast will not be ideal as the news is irrelevant to them. An effective target group would include online customers with Arizona based addresses.

Example 2:  Offering a new product

If you’re trying to make customers aware of a new product being sold on your online store, you will want to target the customers most likely to not only buy the product, and filter out any customers who would not be valuable targets. You might consider building your target group around customers who have purchased items of the same brand before, but have not purchased a similar product recently.

3. Take steps to avoid spam filters

Unfortunately, the prevalence of junk and scam e-mail means that part of creating an effective campaign is taking steps to ensure that your marketing message is not assumed to be spam and filtered out before it ever reaches your customers’ inboxes.

  • Keep your e-mail lists clean. Lists with a large number of invalid e-mail addresses are more likely to lead to future e-mails being considered spam.
  • Have a clean subject line. The most common junk e-mail subject lines are: “Act Now” and “Limited Time Offer.” Spam filters tend to use these as red flags to determine if a message is spam or legitimate marketing. When in doubt about a particular subject line, check your own junk e-mail folder and see what phrases are used there. Similarly, avoid typos, using all capitalized words, or multiple exclamation marks in the subject line, as these are also frequently associated with spam.
  • Don’t use too many images. A high text-to-images ratio is very common in spam. Most e-mail service providers recommend having about a 60/40 ratio of text-to-images in your message.

4. Send your e-mail at the right time

Typically, messages sent overnight or late in the day end up being deleted rather than read. The best time to reach your customers will vary based not only on your industry, but your customer base. MailChimp has done a large amount of analysis on this topic and has a helpful article that covers the best times in detail.

5. Create click-worthy content

Once a customer sees your e-mail in their inbox, the battle is only half won. The effectiveness of your campaign now rests on the content of the message. Consider three things when creating your content: an enticing subject line, an easy-to-navigate layout, a clear call to action.

6. Measure the effectiveness of your e-mails

The most common measurements to look at are open rates and click-through rates. These metrics give you an idea of how many people your message is actually reaching and how many of those customers are actually acting on your messages.

As a marketer, you already know that nothing is set in stone. We create. We innovate. We sell.

However, these are the pointers that have kept the marketing campaigns straight and my clients sane and healthy in today’s tough market.

So, you MAY take the pains to keep this in mind.

Why Most Email Newsletters Fail

Tools like Curated, Goodbits and TinyLetter made it easier than ever to start a newsletter. Many people took advantage of these great tools and began building lists and curating content.

The problem?

These tools don’t suddenly make people care about what you have to say. Marketers, the chief offenders of bad emails, took it too far this year. Most newsletters flopped, whether the creators are willing to admit it or not.

Here are a few reasons why most newsletters fail along with some suggestions on sending an email that actually works.

They don’t start at the beginning.

Most newsletters send recent posts to subscribers. Regardless of when the subscriber joins, everyone receives the same information at the same time. Dropping a reader into the content slipstream is the easiest way to send a newsletter, but it’s certainly not the best.

A new visitor to your site lacks context. How has your blog evolved? How do you help people succeed? What do other readers know that they don’t?Answering these questions goes a long way towards earning loyal readers.

New subscribers to the Vero blog receive a six-step campaign. The first email welcomes the new subscriber and shares the Vero blog “Hall of Fame.” These aren’t our most-trafficked posts, they are the highest-converting posts.

Next, we send a series of five emails explaining how we can help them succeed. We offer content as well as tips for using our app to send better emails. Within the first few days of subscribing, we send four emails. We want to provide the most useful information we can while the reader’s curiosity is piqued. After this campaign ends, subscribers simply receive our normal weekly newsletter.

Our strategy isn’t perfect, but it’s worked well. More than 50% of the early emails are opened. That’s more than double our weekly newsletter.

New readers need different information. Tailor their initial experience with a simple campaign to get them up to speed as quickly as possible.

There is a disconnect between the audience and the content.

This problem isn’t unique to email marketing, but it’s the reason many newsletters go unread. People subscribe to newsletters for information that will help them succeed in their work or personal life. Promotion, therefore, falls on deaf ears.

This is the exact reason email can’t be viewed as a channel. Email can be used to build relationships at scale, but it requires that marketers move away from a “channel” mentality and towards a “user experience” mentality. That may seem like a subtle difference, but it results in completely different messaging. Marketers that view email as a channel gravitates towards blast emails and promotions. They burn through lists without regard for the subscribers’ needs or wants. Marketers that focus on user experience deliver content that helps the subscribers succeed. They, in turn, are rewarded with loyal customers.

It’s what ad man Bob Hoffman calls “brand babble”:

Modern marketing is operating under the delusion that consumers want to interact with brands, and have relationships with brands, and brand experiences, and engage with them, and co-create with them.

Sorry, amigo. Not in this lifetime.

Make sure the content of your emails is what your readers need. Without empathy, your email is doomed to fail.

It’s sent too often or not often enough.

Creating a publishing schedule is a positive constraint that results in big wins for your business. This starts by setting an expectation during the signup. If you promise an email every day, you better send one every day. And if you promise one every month, you can’t send one every week.

A schedule is a key to creating habitual readers. They must know when to expect your emails or your results will be wildly inconsistent. If you plan to test subject lines and calls to action, send time is a variable you need to consider. Make a promise to your readers and keep it.

Users don’t actually ask for them.

Email marketing is the pinnacle of permission-based marketing. This means you have the privilege, not the right, to communicate with prospects, leads and customers. It’s the #1 reason we see email marketers fail and the #1 reason we see them succeed. As Seth Godin says, it’s all about building trust and earning respect.

It recognizes the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.

If you’re sending your newsletter to trial sign-ups who didn’t explicitly request your emails, you’re breaking that trust.

Respect the inbox, deliver value and you can succeed.

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