Wednesday, November 30, 2011

25 Email Marketing Tips and Tactics

Many marketers and non-marketers share a mutual concern for doing email marketing the right way. They often wonder if the emails they’re sending are making it to the inbox and pleasing their recipients, and they are curious about how they can improve the response rates of their email campaigns.
With these 25 email tips, you can improve the quality and consistency of your emails for your subscribers.  To make it easy to read, I’ve broken it up into five different sections.
If you have a tip you’d like to add, post it in the comments at the bottom..

  • Always get permission – Without having permission (meaning every subscriber asked for you to email them), spam complaints will increase and people will ignore your emails — even worse, they may opt out altogether. Aside from upsetting your “newfound” subscribers, you will probably also get the boot from your email service provider for violating their policies.

  • Set expectations at the opt-in – Tell your potential subscribers what you will send them and how often. It shouldn’t be a shock that nobody wants an inbox full of email from you.

  • Confirm with double opt-ins – While it’s a slight barrier to get your emails, double-opt-in protects you and your email provider from incurring spam complaints. Also, it’s smart since you will be confirming that someone actually wants your emails and is willing to click a link to do it.

  • Utilize email marketing campaigns instead of ‘newsletters’ – Newsletters are so 2001. With an email campaign, you can attract specific prospects and send them emails related to a particular topic.

  • Make the offer at the right time – Nothing annoys email subscribers more than getting an offer at the wrong time in their inbox. Strategically and calmly earn the opportunity to make a sale by providing the helpful and relevant content that they originally signed up for.

  • Match your email to your brand – Include your company logo and colors on all your emails for consistency. Doing this will make your emails familiar and expected.

  • Look professional with a consistent color scheme – Colors are a major component of your brand. If you need help finding a good color scheme, check out kuler or COLOURlovers for inspiration.

  • Design the email and landing pages so it’s easy for mobile users – Realize that the popular iPhone has a viewable space of 320 x 356 pixels. That’s not much compared to the real estate of your computer (probably above 1024 x 768). This means you should condense the width so they can read the email without resizing the message.

  • Make your email readable without images enabled – For privacy reasons, most email clients disable images unless the user allows it. Because of this, any images you include in the email should have descriptive text set for the Alternative attribute.

  • Use fonts that reflect the style and tone of the email message – Choosing the right font size and family is a big deal. You wouldn’t take a business proposal seriously if they emailed you with Comic Sans. Choose a font that everyone has instead of one that looks good on your computer (e.g., Arial, Verdana, Times New Roman or Tahoma)

  • Reinforce expectations of the email campaign – This doesn’t mean using the original IP address and convincing people your email isn’t spam. Rather, tactfully explain the basis of your email message and inform them if there are future emails they can expect from you.

  • Personalize the emails and include more than their name – Make your emails personal and include more than their name. You’ll hopefully know why they signed up to your list and you can presume that in your copy by making it relevant.

  • Economize your message to maintain focus – People are pressed for time. They don’t want to read more than a few paragraphs to decipher what you’re trying to say. Write what you need in the most efficient way possible. A tip I learned from an esteemed copyeditor is to write what you want, then cut the length by half. It’s remarkably helpful.

  • Write for people, not robots – If you use “F.R.E.E.” in your email and it’s not an acronym for “Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment,” you’re doing it wrong. Just write for people and the spam filters will let it slide.

  • Make your emails engaging and solicit feedback – As a reader, I like it when the sender asks a provoking question and solicits a response on their Facebook or simply via reply. This is good not only for the social interaction, but it will also educate you on what people think about your emails.

  • Test your email messages on different email clients – Once you have the perfect-looking email, test how it looks on many different email readers. There are a few affordable services available that let you preview how it looks or you can simply try it yourself by setting up free email accounts on AOL, Yahoo, Gmail and Hotmail and downloading a copy of Mozilla Thunderbird.

  • Make it easy to unsubscribe – When users don’t want to receive your emails, don’t bury the unsubscribe link. Make it visible because receiving an unsubscribe is much better than a spam complaint.

  • Send emails in multipart for maximum readability – Combine the best of plain-text and HTML email by sending in Multipart. For devices that don’t support HTML, they will show the message in plain-text. Conversely, if a device supports HTML, they will show it in HTML.

  • Use a pre-header to take advantage of email previews – Pre-headers are simply the first line of text in an email located at the top. Email services like Gmail display the pre-header directly after the subject line, and it’s a good idea to summarize the email right there.

  • Try a plain-text format if you use HTML – Mix up your email routine once in a while and use a plain-text email if you typically send in HTML. People frequently perceive plain-text emails are more intimate and personal from the sender, so use it sparingly.

  • Respect your subscribers’ time and interests – Don’t hammer their inbox with useless emails. Plan out your emails and respect subscribers’ interests so they don’t receive more than a couple messages per month.

  • Let people re-confirm their interest after nine months – Getting permission is half the battle; retaining it is the other half. Permission typically expires after nine months, so it’s a good idea to ask people to confirm their interest in receiving your emails and offers. The best part is, you will discover the most loyal subscribers.

  • Send emails to smaller, more targeted groups in your list – With advanced email marketing, you are able to track which links and emails intrigue your audience. Leverage this data to identify different sub-groups to send tailored messages. You will be surprised at the increase in response rates when you do this.

  • Use more than email to stay in touch – Email is the holy grail of marketing for small businesses, but it doesn’t end there. As the relationship with email matures, get more information on your contacts by asking for their address and even mobile number. Consider these additional means to stay in touch with your audience.

  • Ask for and use subscribers’ feedback – There are two types of feedback: passive and active. Passive feedback is looking at which links people click on, which is an indicator of the aggregate interest in your email messages. Active feedback is when people ask you a question, suggest an idea or make a comment. Leverage this feedback to improve your email campaigns.

  • What email marketing tips do you have to share with other business owners? Share it in the comments below!