Email Marketing: 10 Rules to Live by
1. Keep your database clean
Email data can quickly go out of date, so it’s important to keep your database clean.
Below are a few things to watch out for:
- Bounces: You should regularly monitor and cleanse bounced email addresses from your database.
- Inactive subscribers: Even if they’re customers, if they’re not opening or responding to your sends, you’re wasting your time/resources sending to them.
- Typos and invalid addresses: Keep your data clean by correcting any obvious typos in addresses. You should also keep an eye out for invalid addresses (i.e. missing a .co.uk, .com, .org, etc. like john.smith@hotmail or with no or too many @ symbols like john@email@example.com).
- Unlikely addresses: If you have any firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com email addresses in your database, chances are they’re not genuine. You should consider removing these from your database or contacting the subscriber to confirm the email address.
2 Use a from name they’ll recognize
It’s often the case that if subscribers don’t recognize who an email is from they won’t open it. To increase the chance of your email being opened use whichever from name would be most recognizable to your subscribers:
- Send from who they know best: Do your subscribers know you personally or do they know your company, brand or product? Whichever it is, send from the one they would be most familiar with.
- Add detail about who you are: If your recipients may not know you, try adding some detail to your from name. This will tell your recipients a little more about who the email is coming from. For example instead of just putting ‘newzapp‘ you could use ‘newzapp email marketing’ or ‘newzapp – UK email marketing provider’.
- Reflect your writing style: If you’re writing in 1st person, don’t have the email coming from Company XYZ. If your subscribers don’t know you personally, try putting your name followed by your company or brand.
3. Don’t be a spammer
To get the best results, and make sure your email will make it into the inbox, avoid any habits associated with spammers that are likely to get your email caught in a filter or junk folder. These include:
- Bold and caps: Using too much bold text (i.e. whole paragraphs in bold) or whole sentences in caps is the email marketing equivalent of shouting. While it may make your email stand out, it might not be for the right reason.
- Font size and colour: Very small or very large fonts can get your email caught in a filter. Certain font colours like red will also score negatively with filters, as well as using a font colour too similar to the colour of your background as it can look like you’re trying to hide text.
- Spam words/phrases: There are many words and phrases used by spammers and these should be avoided where possible. If it’s necessary to use them in your campaign your email shouldn’t get junked as long as they are in context and not over used. Just a few examples are ‘free’, ‘money back guarantee’, ‘no investment’, ‘click here’, ‘credit’ and ‘act now’. Visit http://email-marketing.me/spamwords.txt for more examples.
4. Be relevant
For marketing communications to be effective they need to be relevant to your target audience. There’s little point talking to your recipients about something irrelevant to them. Relevant communications should engage the interest of your recipients which can lead to increased open and click-through rates.
- What’s in it for me?: Whenever you’re asking a subscriber to do something for you, whether it’s opening your email or clicking on a link, it’s likely at some point they’ll wonder, “What’s in it for me?” If your email is relevant to your audience, the benefits of opening and clicking on your email should be clear.
- Use related topics: While the topic of your email must be relevant to your audience, it doesn’t necessarily need to be directly linked to your business. For example a hotel could talk about local attractions and events which, while not directly linked to their business, would still be of interest to visitors to their hotel.
5. Consider your preview pane
Not everyone will have a preview pane or (if they do) will opt to use it, but for those that do it can have a significant impact on the decision to open or delete an email. A preview pane allows your subscribers to move beyond the from name and subject line to see exactly what your email has to offer.
- Large or lots of images: Avoid using one large image or lots of images with little or no text at the top of your email. If you do and your recipients have images disabled you could be missing out on an opportunity to showcase your content and encourage them to open. For example how inspiring is the email shown above when viewed in the preview pane with images switched off?
- Don’t save the best to last: To encourage your subscribers to open your email, introduce the most interesting/appealing content at the top of your email where it’s clearly visible within the preview pane. A brief introduction or ‘in this issue’ at the beginning of your email’s a great way of making sure your recipients don’t miss a thing.
6. Have a great call to action
Encouraging your subscribers to respond to your email can be difficult sometimes, so here are a few tips on how to create a stronger call to action:
- Don’t settle for ‘click here’: ‘Click here’ is uninspiring. While it may be a clear call to action, it doesn’t tell your subscribers what to expect beyond the click. For example, ‘Register your Interest online today’ is much more informative and encouraging than ‘Click here’.
- Make sure it’s compelling: Tell your subscribers exactly what you want them to do and more importantly, why they should do it. Whether the benefit is knowledge (‘Take a look at more great tips on our website’) or a deal on a product they’re interested in (‘Email us to take advantage of this exclusive offer’) make it clear.
- Ensure it’s visible: If your subscribers don’t see your call to action they can’t follow it. Remember subscribers may not necessarily read your whole email and will often flick around different areas so don’t just place a single call to action at the bottom of the email or article. Place a number of calls to action throughout your email to increase its visibility.
7. Be succinct
If you overwhelm subscribers with too much information you run the risk of your message being lost in the clutter or (worse) losing your recipients interest or attention before you get to your point.
- Don’t say more than you need to: Always remain focused on the purpose and intended outcomes of your email campaigns. If something isn’t adding value, consider whether it should be in your campaign.
- Link to further information: If you’ve a lot to say in a single campaign avoid making the email too long. Use landing pages and links to more information to reduce the length of your email and make it easier for your subscribers to navigate to the information they’re interested in.
- Use bullet points: Bullet point are a simple way to present information in a concise, precise and scannable format which is ideal for email communications.
8. Get your timing right
Timing can be key to successful email marketing, both in terms of timing of the content and delivery of your message. Below are some tips on timing:
- When to deliver: Research suggests the best time to send a business to business email is Tuesday – Thursday between 10am – 4pm. For business to consumer emails it can be more varied depending on your industry and target audience. In both instances you should test to see which days and times you get the best results.
- Topicality: When dealing with topical content you need to strike while the iron is hot. Your message is likely to be less effective if the content is perceived to be out-dated or yesterdays news. Where possible prepare your content in advance (for example a sports retailer could prepare a campaign about The Olympics in advance of the games) however for unexpected/unforeseen events you should react as quickly as possible while the topic is still relevant and current.
9. Test into a variety of email clients
Every email client (such as Outlook, Hotmail and Yahoo!) will render email campaigns differently. As such it’s important to test your emails into the all the major email clients to make sure they’ll look as good as possible. Below are some best practice tips to ensure correct rendering:
- Resize your images: Always resize your images to the correct size you want them to appear in your email at source as some email clients will ignore resizing done inside the email/HTML code.
- If you’re copying and pasting, go via Notepad first: If you copy and paste from an external source such as Microsoft Word or a website you could be bringing additional coding into your email. This can cause your email to misrender in some or all email clients. Paste your copy into Notepad first (Start > All Programs > Accessories) and this will strip the copy of all coding. You can then copy and paste from Notepad straight into your email.
- Avoid background and .png images: Not all email clients will display background or .png format images so to ensure your email will render consistently it’s best to avoid using them in your campaigns.
10. Evaluate your results
It’s easy to fall into the habit of sending out campaigns without ever stopping to see if they’re working. Your results can tell you what’s working and what’s not and can help you create more targeted campaigns in the future.
- Testing for success: Use your results to identify areas that can be improved. For example, if you’re getting a great open rate but few clicks, consider what you can test to see if you can improve this (such as image vs. text links or a short vs. long email). There are many elements you can test to help improve your campaigns from different styles of subject lines to sending on different days and times.
- Segmenting and targeting: You can use your results to help create more targeted campaigns. You can see who’s opened which emails in the past and target them with similar information. Likewise you can use information on who’s clicked on which links to follow them up with more information on the link they clicked on or other related topics they may be interested in. This can help you send more targeted and relevant email campaigns.
Takeaway: Doing email marketing right isn’t algebra. Follow some simple best practices, keep testing and stay relevant.