E-mail Marketing

Part of the “Low-Cost, High-Impact” Smart Marketing Workshop

You probably get them in your inbox frequently: newsletters, announcements, surveys and invitations. In a marketing study conducted by the National Retail Federation, 90 percent of all business respondents identified e-mail marketing as a top priority in their marketing plan.

If you haven’t tried this technique of reaching customers, you should. Not only does it allow you to communicate directly to new and existing customers, there are no printing or postage costs. All you need to get started is a database of customers and their e-mail addresses. If you aren’t already asking your customers for their e-mail addresses, you can ask them to voluntarily sign up for any sales or business news. It’s an easy way to build your own database of customers who want your information and are therefore less likely to treat your e-mail marketing as spam and hit the delete button.

One easy option is to send your marketing message (whether an invite to an event or sale, etc.) from your own business or personal e-mail address. Make sure you place your name and company name in the signature at the bottom of the e-mail so it is clear who sent it.

A more professional delivery option is to use a list management/e-mail distribution software, such as Constant Contact. Some of these software services charge a fee but offer additional services. E-mails can be reviewed to ensure a higher rate of deliverability and tracked. Knowing the number of e-mails that were undeliverable, opened and forwarded can help you fine-tune your marketing plan and make it more effective. These services also typically offer free templates to create professional looking e-mails.

Some simple steps to keep in mind when sending e-mail marketing:

  • Don’t attach files to your e-mail.

Anti-virus software, firewall programs and spam filters can greatly reduce the chance that your attachment will reach the recipient (your customer). Keep your e-mail simple by including your message in the body of the e-mail instead of attaching a word or PDF document.

  • If you have a lot of information to share, put it on your Web site.

Use the e-mail as a teaser including only a small amount of interesting information. Then put a link in the e-mail directing the reader to your Web site where all the information can be viewed. It’s also a simple way to drive customers to your Web site. You also can track how many customers view the information through Web analytics software, such as Google Analytics or Piwik.

  • Don’t place all of your customers’ e-mail addresses in the “To” line of your e-mails.

Hide your customers’ contact information by placing their e-mail addresses in the “BCC” line. This also reduces the clutter at the top of your e-mail.

  • Keep your file size small.

Anti-virus software often will “red flag” large e-mails, directing them into a recipients “junk” folder where your customer may not check regularly. A good guideline is to limit the number of images in your e-mail to one or two that brand or sell the product/service. Don’t just add a picture to fill the space. If you have a larger number of images, create a link to your Web site where reader can easily view them.

  • Don’t Say “Save Big Money!” and avoid exclamation points in the “Subject” line.

Thanks to Nigerian princes and Viagra salespeople, there are certain phrases that triggerspam filters. It’s important to review your subject line for such phrases. If you have concerns about your subject line, there are services (SpamAssassin is one) that can review it. They monitor e-mail everyday to ensure a subject line doesn’t send your marketing efforts to the junk folder.

One of the biggest challenges in e-mail marketing is striking a balance between getting your message out and bombarding your customer. Don’t irritate your customer by sending him/her too many e-mails. Send an e-mail when you have something significant to say or offer your customer, not just to get your name out there. Not sure what your customers want to hear about? Ask them when you request their e-mail addresses. Online retailers will ask a customer purchasing their product to check the box next to the items they want to receive information on, I.e., sales, promotions, news, new products, etc.

Finally, respect your customers’ right to privacy. That means removing them from your list when asked, though there’s nothing wrong with politely asking why they want to unsubscribe. And most importantly, if you pledge not to share their e-mail addresses with others, uphold that promise.

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