Email marketing

Utilizing email marketing to your best advantage

We’ve all received the ubiquitous pornographic emails, or those promising riches if you open an account for someone in Burundi. Maybe that’s what keeps many of us from pushing our businesses online—pushing our way into others’ inboxes is often akin to a telemarketer’s call during dinner. It’s either ignored, or they might respond unhappily, right?

The truth is, no. Email marketing is on the rise: A survey of retail marketers by Forrester Research showed that messages sent to customer house lists yielded a 10 percent click-through rate. Of those who click, 2.5% buy. Unlike its print and web cousins, email marketing offers some possibilities that you may not have thought of, and an unprecedented way to reach potential and current customers alike. What’s more, it can reach those folks you spoke to ages ago, but haven’t had an opportunity to contact, with a legitimate and—if done well—engaging message.

Print vs. web
As a designer with strong roots in print, I’ll never deny the power of a great printed piece. Whether direct mail or a leave-behind brochure, it’s a physical reminder of your business. However, sheer cost often denies us the chance to send out monthly or weekly communications—which means our prospect lists are lying dormant. And that can equal thousands of dollars of business that passed you by, because your contacts simply weren’t reminded of you. You can also see the results of these campaigns quickly, within hours and days of the first mailing. For mere cents on the dollar, individually addressed and targeted emails can reach your clients. Some examples:

  • A restaurant sends out offers to its customers for slow-sales nights;
  • An architect shares his latest buildings with past clients to spark repeat business;
  • A school sends its new course offerings to past students.

Reach your market—wisely
You can create various messages and emails that will reach specific target markets—former clients, potential ones, or those within certain demographics, such as new home buyers or new businesses in certain zip codes.

But what do you say?
More than anything, you may worry about content. What can you say that others may be interested in? Even in an email, content still is king. Share pieces of interest relevant to your company [and your client base], or write articles that show your expertise in your field. Offer a deal to customers, or just share some personal anecdotes to which your clientele relates. Purchasing lists also has its own issues: If you buy one without knowing where it came from, you may inadvertently be contacting people who do not wish to be contacted. They may have signed up on a list, unaware that the company was reselling their contact information. Or, there are old addresses that bounce back, since the company hasn’t “cleaned” their list in a while. Hence, you may run across some unqualified leads with some choice words for you and your business. It’s important in these instances to know more about your list seller so you reach the right people, at the right time.

And how do you say it?
The question often comes down to text vs. email. The newsletter you may have received that led you to this article is both HTML and text, making it both readable for all viewers, and attractive to those who can view the design. Yet if you can’t see the graphics, it doesn’t become a liability to the message. This is the most important thing when communicating with your customers in any media: Let them know you can reach them, and tailor it to them.

The final pitch
Right now, it’s probably not an issue of if you can do it, but when you will. Remember that Forrester Research statistic from above? Email marketing can yield a 10% click-through rate; on some lists, that number can range from 4-20%. What will that translate to for your business?

I won’t deny the obvious pitch in this article. Forrester Research also showed in a recent survey that marketers who turn to email service bureaus with specialized expertise achieve purchase rates four times higher than marketers who keep all their email operations in-house. So our abilities can pay off not only in the long, but also in the short run, since results are often quickly visible.

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Lisa GhisolfUtilizing email marketing to your best advantage

Tips for better email marketing

I’ve written on the many great uses of email marketing, but since you may send emails now or are hesitant because of CAN-SP*M laws, I’ve created a quick primer on what could be holding back your mailings:

Taking effect on January 1, 2005, the CAN-SP*M Act of 2005 was meant to drive down dreaded sp*mmers. Very little email is complying to this law, but if you comply to the rules now, you’ll not only keep happy subscribers, but avoid any possible government action. The main aspects of the law are:

  • Banning of false or misleading header information. Always identify the person initiating the email, the “to” subscriber’s information and routing information, meaning the domain name and email address.
  • Subject lines cannot be deceptive. The subject of the email and the content must match up.
  • Recipients must have an opt-out option. You must provide a return email or another internet-based response mechanism that allows a recipient to ask you not to send future messages to that address, and you must honor the requests. You must process opt-out requests within 10 days after you send your commercial email. It’s illegal to sell or transfer emails of those who choose to not receive yours.
  • A commercial email must be identified as an advertisement [if it is indeed an ad] and must in.clude your physical mailing address.

Penalties for violating these laws include fines up to $11,000, but deceptive advertising can also fall under false or misleading advertising. Other fines can be levied for harvesting emails off of web sites, especially those that prohibit transferring emails in this manner.

Of course, you can do all this and still not get past sp*m filters. I have no more than 6-8% bounceback on my list, and the numbers are improving. I stick to these guidelines:

  • Pick a good broadcasting service that will not allow you to send emails without complying to the above rules.
  • Try to get “whitelisted.”
  • Check that you aren’t using words like “sp*m,” “sp*cial,” or “fre*” [of course, they are ok if not used in full, as I just did] anywhere in the email, including the from line.
  • Write your subscribers directly and tell them to put the email you send from in their address books, or to set up a rule to specifically let it through. I recently received a text email from a provider saying that my emails have bounced back as sp*m [not spam, it’ll bounce back to you!] and to add them to my address list if I want to receive theirs.
  • Read your bouncebacks carefully, because some may have changed emails or exceeded limits. Finally, test out your email’s content with ContentChecker before sending.

It also doesn’t hurt to work with someone who understands the laws and can help you put your best foot forward with content and design. In that case, my contact information is below!

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Lisa GhisolfTips for better email marketing