Effective Email Marketing – A Common-Sense Approach

We’ve written before about how effective email marketing can be in a time when we’re inundated with new, popular social media sites. If it’s something that you’re not utilizing, then you really should be. There are a lot of great resources online to help you get started – “Top 10 Email Tips” guides are a dime a dozen. Some of them are very helpful, and likely better written than anything I’d do, so I will avoid regurgitating those tips and take a look at email marketing from a different perspective: common sense.

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Make email marketing cool again
Make email cool again – it used to be something we looked forward to receiving.

Stop Following “Best Practices”

A habit that we all get into when doing our marketing, especially online, is following a guide that establishes set standards for what it is we’re trying to achieve. Case-in-point: if you search for the “best time and day to send email,” the top answer-providing post is from com100.com stating that the best time to send an e-blast is between 12:00-1:00PM and the best days are mid-week (I saw the result as the #2 listing on Google; the top search result was from Mailchimp, about using their system to analyze your campaigns). Ok, great, email scheduled and I don’t have to worry, right?

Nope! Stop and think for a second – what is your customer base? If you market directly to businesses, and your email list is full of business email addresses, then sure, this might work for you. Test it out and change days and times for a while to find the best results. But if your list is full of personal email addresses, maybe those people would be more apt to take a look at emails sent to them in the evening or on the weekends for work-privacy issues. If you dig deeper, you’ll find some studies like this one from Experian showing that weekends actually had the best open and click-through rate. Imagine if your target audience was all 20-30 somethings who stay up much later than they should. Now imagine the sleep-deprived excitement they’d get from getting a cool, personalized email at 2AM when no other company would dare send a “wasted marketing email.” This example may be a little extreme, but it’s not necessarily wrong.

And stop following the most-discussed method in other areas too – from content to titles, format to imagery. Think about who your actual customers are, and cater your message to what they’ll likely best respond to. The more you push content that won’t interest them, sales that really aren’t enticing and more, and other “best email tips and tricks” you learned online, you’ll further alienate them.

Seriously, Please Stop Sending Weekly Sales and Offers

Emails advertising sales and killer deals can be effective – email is more effective than social media and second only to search engine marketing (organic SEO and PPC). So go ahead and send out that daily sale reminder, right? Only if you want your unsubscribes and spam reports to skyrocket, and overall interaction to decrease. Just like department stores that have that daily “50% off Sale!” or a furniture store’s monthly “going out of business” sale, you devalue the effectiveness of the sale. People will become accustomed to seeing the same email over and over, and automatically ignore it. If you’re going to send a weekly email (I personally advise against anything more than that, but there are instances where more frequency might be warranted – again, take a look at your business and customer base), try to change things up and always add something of value.

Stop Sending Junk Mail
Think of how excited you get when you actually find one real, personalized letter in this pile of garbage.

Try to occasionally send a personalized email with a cool message from the owner. Send out links to some information that would be interesting or relevant to your customer base. If you’re a small business, or have a smaller list, send out a personal email to each contact, thanking them for being a great customer – how cool would it be to get an actual letter from the owner of a business you bought from? Changing up the content of your letter will help maintain and increase engagement.

That Thing I Said Earlier About Best Practices? Totally Wrong… Sort of

Okay, so some things are pretty important to follow when it comes to email marketing. Use a service like MailChimp, Constant Contact, or whichever you prefer. This is important to protect the integrity of your domain and IP address. If you send out an email to 1,000 contacts at once in Outlook, you’re going to find yourself in a world of hurt. Your domain and/or IP address risks being blacklisted – basically you get on a list that email servers check to determine whether or not to allow the email to go through. This means that legitimate email you try to send may not end up getting to the recipient, or go to their junk mail folder. Using an email service prevents this.

Also, obtain your email list legitimately. Don’t buy a list from a company and start blasting out emails to them. This is considered a pretty ethically-poor technique and most email services will block your account if they see evidence of this. Building a list is hard work, but if you stay at it you’ll one day find yourself with a strong, engaged audience. Every time you send out an email, ask the customer/contact if you can add them to your newsletter or email list -I’ve never had anyone say no. When you meet people and exchange business cards, ask them if you can add them to your list and send a follow-up personal email when you sit down to enter them. Of course, offer a place on your site for people to sign up as well. When someone chooses to be contacted by you, they’re already more engaged to being with.

And, of course, follow best practices when it comes to the design of your email. Make sure it works well on mobile devices – over half of all email is first opened on phones or tablets nowadays. Make sure you use proper coding that translates to all of the different email clients that might receive it – something that looks great in your Outlook might not work in someone’s AOL mail (does that still exist?). Don’t make the email entirely out of images as anyone who has images turned off by default won’t see any of the content of your email.

Make Email Marketing Cool Again

Don’t be afraid to try something new! Your audience is different than another business’ audience – so don’t do exactly what the next guy is. Try going a little “hipster” and send out a personalized, plain-text email to your customers talking about something cool that happened or something that might be interesting to you and them. Maybe try an email that asks your customers a question, to trigger a response – asking nothing in return but an opinion (I don’t mean a survey). Maybe once a month or quarter, send out a humorous email that is completely unrelated to your product, but might of interest to your customers. Try something new, and you’ll be surprised at the engagement you can obtain and maintain over time!

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