June 14, 2013 remembergroup

Email Marketing Best Practices

email-marketingIf you’re anything like me, you may spend well over an hour a day reading emails.  Email has easily replaced the phone as the primary form of communication on a daily basis.  It is one of the most powerful vehicles there is in terms of communicating with friends, colleagues, clients, and vendors.  You can leverage this power in an effort to strengthen your customer base and increase your bottom-line.

In this article, I will discuss what I believe to be “Best Practices” in email marketing.  Everything mentioned are practices that can easily be implemented by the Arrow ® Email Marketing department at re:member group.

re:member group Arrow® Email Best Practices

Determine Your Format.
Most sources say that HTML emails are the best selection for emails.  This allows for a concise format, where you can hyperlink and include images to deliver the most relevant, succinct message.  While HTML emails are preferred, text emails can be designed in a favorable format.  Ideally, you will want to use both and a tool that can determine which version to send the customer, based on the client they are using.

Create attractive emails.
Use plenty of space around text, use unique colors for links, use images that are pleasing to the eye and match the general style of your email.  Email sections should be clearly defined and recipients should clearly know what they’re looking at.   Have your graphic designer come up with attractive banners and images that are pleasing to the eye.

Brand your email
It should be easily know who your email is from.  The email should match your product brand, colors, etc.  Usually your emails should match your website, and vice-versa.

Call-to-action
Give your recipients a task, whether it’s reading an article, buying a product, or taking a survey.  That item should have another call to action, and so on.  Don’t let your recipients get bored.

Personalize.
If you were trying to get someone’s attention you knew, you wouldn’t simply shout “HEY!”.  You would say “Hey John!”.  The power of personalization can also be used in emails.  If you capture this information, you can use it effectively in the subject line, such as “John Smith, check out our newest product”.   Emails should always include whatever personal information whenever appropriate, if you’re capturing it properly.  If a member has points, include that.  If a member has an account number, include that as well.  Remember customers are marketed to for a matter of hours every day.  Commercials, billboards, you name it, it’s all very general.  Email gives you the ability to target a customer is a very personal way.

The one-second subject line
Make your subject lines easy to read at a glance.  Don’t make them too many characters, as most clients will cut off your subject lines at a determined amount (depending on the client).  It should be poignant and relevant, such as “10 Tips for Saving Gas Mileage”, or something relevant to your customer base.

Consider personalizing the “From” field.
If you have the ability to do this, it can be a powerful thing.  An email from “Tim at re:member group” can be more powerful and more interesting to a reader than “re:member group”.  This gives your message a more personal touch, and it recommended if your message is appropriate.
Be CAN-SPAM compliant.
Each email should have your physical address, a working phone number, and an easily-accessible link to unsubscribe from your email database.  Unsubscribe requests should be processed as soon as possible, no more than 1-week from when the request was made.

Don’t underestimate the power of Social Media.
Give your recipients an easy way to share your message over Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, etc.  In the evolving world of social media marketing, more and more users are moving toward Social Media networks as their primary form of communication.  While email looks alive and well for the foreseeable future, many recipients appreciate the opportunity to have a message communicated with them on their preferred Social Media platform.  In addition, as soon as your message is shared, your recipients “friends” now have an opportunity to view the message, expanding the potential number of viewers to an exponential level.

Make sure you have an up-to-date applicable Social Media page and update it frequently.

Determine how often you wish to send emails while staying relevant to your customers.
Unfortunately, there is no “silver bullet” or specific metric that you can use to determine this.  The answer can only be determined by you and may vary depending on the customer.

Tipping point Labs puts it best:
“Only you can determine how often you send out your email newsletters before your opt-out rates skyrocket.  I can tell you if you’re providing your audience with valuable content that directly addresses their issues on a daily basis, you can send out an email newsletter every single day and still retain the highest quality email database.  If your content is too widely targeted, chances are you’re trying to speak to everyone while reaching no one, and your opt-out rates will be really high.  So, I suggest you create some digital profiles or buyer personas, and then segment your email database using those buyer personas.

Now, determine how much high quality, relevant content you can create for each of those audiences, and distribute it as frequently as you can.  At that point, the people that opt-out are probably people you didn’t want to communicate with anyway.    So, how often can you distribute an email newsletter before your opt-out rates skyrocket?  Only you can actually answer that question, but it has nothing to do with your audience, and everything to do your content. “

In other words, email frequency depends largely on your subscriber’s preferences and attention-span.  How often can you create TRULY relevant messages?

As a guitar lover, I get weekly messages from Gibson Guitar.  It’s always a welcome email to see, and I’m always eager to open it and see what the latest offering is.  This week was their new “Aaron Lewis Southern Jumbo” guitar.  A single product, two images, and two paragraphs of text.  View the email here. Sometimes the email includes articles from Rolling Stone, Top-Ten albums lists, etc.  The point is, the email is simple, to the point, and plays on my interests.  I always find it interesting, and now when it lands in my mailbox, I don’t even read the subject line.  I just open it up, and I’m never disappointed.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursdays
While the day of sending (as it relates to response and open rates) varies by company and industry, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are widely believed to be the best days for sending.  On Mondays, people are generally getting ready for the work week, while Fridays tend to be the days people are looking forward to the weekend.

Throttle Your Emails
One way to avoid SPAM filters is to avoid that “batch-and-blast” method of sending emails.  Throttle your emails based on the general sending of emails depending on the day, emulating the typical sending behavior of any company during a typical business day.  While the exact numbers are proprietary, an example would be to send most emails in the morning, which is the general sending trend of most companies.  This will give SPAM filters the impression that you aren’t just SPAMMING recipients – you are just another company sending emails.

Use Feedback Loops
Feedback loops are essentially notifications from major ISPs that recipients have clicked the “SPAM” button, indicating the recipient considers your message SPAM.  Removing these recipients from your email database will lessen the amount of times your ISP considers your message SPAM, increasing the possibility they will deliver your message to the Inbox.

Repeat, consistent emails are key.
Make sure to balance out sending relevant messages and being as consistent as possible with your messages.  If you decide to send emails once a week, bi-weekly or monthly, stay on task and send emails along this schedule to remain familiar with your recipients.  Don’t send emails on a weekly basis and then go silent for a period of time.  Make sure to stay in the forefront of your customers’ minds.

Use Time Release Campaigns
A welcome message should always go out within 24 hours of a recipient enrolling in your program.  This confirmation of their enrollment can include a member number, a thank you message, tips and tricks, etc.  Don’t let your time-release campaigns stop there.  Set up messages to go out in a pre-determined time frame after a member enrolls.  For example, after a week, you could send the member a points-earning special.  Two weeks later, a 15% off coupon.  Three weeks later, a “unique opportunity” to take an action.  The time frames and actions would vary, but this is an opportunity to get a member “cemented” in your product and stay in communication.

Use Action-Based Messaging.
Set up unique messages to be sent based on specific “clicks” by recipients.  For instance, if you have a product line or offering that a member clicks on, have another message ready to send based on that same product line.  If you sell furniture, and a member clicks on your special for a table, send them an email for specials on chairs.  If you sell books, and a member clicks on a sci-fi novel, send them an email about your clearance on your L Ron Hubbard collection.  If you sell music, and a member clicks on a James Taylor album, send them your latest folk-music selections.

Conclusion
While the fine points of email marketing can be difficult to determine, the “30,000 foot view” is this:  1) Get to know your customers,  2)  Give them a hook to open the email, and 3)  Give them what they want.  If you can accomplish this, you will find your email marketing program ROI to be more than acceptable.

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