Email Marketing Tips: Strategies, Best Practices And Content

Written by Dave Collins, SoftwarePromotions Ltd.

Email marketing is not spam, and if used effectively can be invaluable for small business owners. A well-executed email marketing campaign can attract new customers and create sales more quickly and cheaply than a traditional direct-marketing campaign.

This article contains a complete list of email marketing tips, strategies, best practices and actionable suggestions for your email content that will improve your email response rates.

Tip 1: Give Your Subscribers Valuable Content

Probably the biggest mistake an Email marketer can make is to include nothing of value in the email campaigns which they send to their subscribers.

Whether it’s interesting and topical information, tips or tricks for dealing with a problem, or money saving deals and promotions, your emails must contain something the recipient will want and value.

You should also try to make the content of your emails diverse. The more diverse your email’s content, the wider the audience it will appeal to.

Tip 2: Create a Clear Call to Action

Like many marketing efforts, one of the most crucial elements of an email marketing campaign is a clear call to action.

Before creating your campaign, decide exactly what action you want your subscribers to take as a result of reading your message. Whether it’s signing up for another newsletter, downloading a file or purchasing a product or service, your campaign’s message has to be simple and easy for the reader to follow.

If the people reading your emails aren’t sure where to click, what link to follow, or where to order, the campaign’s results will likely be disappointing.

Make sure that not only is the call to action clear, but that readers know exactly what to expect, or how they can benefit, once they take that action. This can be something like “Click here for a 20% discount on your purchase” or “Order Today to get Free Shipping”.

Ideally, the call to action should be contained within the first few paragraphs (or even the subject line) of the email. You don’t want to make subscribers read through the entire email before letting them know what you want them to do, and what value your email holds for them.

Tip 3: Be Aware of When and How Often to Send your Email

If you email your subscribers too often, you risk having your messages ignored, deleted or marked as SPAM. Ironically, you may encounter the exact same problem if you don’t email your subscribers frequently enough.

There are no rules about the correct frequency for sending marketing emails, but these are good, general guidelines to keep in mind:

You should email your subscribers more than just a few times a year. With such infrequency, people will forget about you, and messages sent after several months of no correspondence will probably result in unsubscribe requests.

Don’t send more than one email a week. Even if people like your content, they will quickly grow tired of being barraged by email and end up unsubscribing from your list.

There are also no established rules as to the best day and time to send email marketing messages.

I’ve spoken to email marketers who’ve found that Tuesday morning has resulted in the best open, click-through and conversion rates. I’ve also spoken to email marketers who swear by Wednesday afternoons. If your content is time-specific, bear in mind that different locations in the world may receive the mailing at different times.

Every subscriber list is slightly different, depending on your subscribers and the type of product or service you’re selling. Try sending your campaigns on different days to find out which day works best for you. Once you find a day that seems to be working well, stick with it.

Maintaining a consistent email schedule is important for two reasons. Firstly, some ISPs may see irregular sending patterns as a possible SPAM flag. Secondly, your customers will hopefully begin to anticipate your emails at a certain frequency, day and time, which will improve open and response rates.

Tip 4: Use a Consistent Format for Your Email Newsletter

There are several good reasons to use a template format for your email marketing efforts. By using a template:

* you establish a consistent look and feel to your marketing efforts

* users will recognise the newsletter and know what to expect

* campaign creation and editing is easier and less error prone

Your email format should be:

* professional looking but eye-catching

* easy to read

Of course, once you’ve put together a template, you should continue to experiment with small changes from time to time.

Tip 5: Offer Both HTML and Plain Text Email Formats

Most email marketers prefer sending HTML emails, because of they are more visually appealing. The problem is that some subscribers, depending on the email client they are using, may not even be able to open or view HTML messages.

Give your subscribers the choice, and offer a text version of all your mailings to which they can subscribe instead of the HTML version.

Tip 6: Make Your Email Readable with Images Disabled

For many email clients, including Outlook, images within emails are disabled by default. Other email clients disable images unless the sender is in the recipient’s address book.

The best approach to create emails that are readable with images blocked is to use an alt. description for each image. That way, even if images are being blocked, the recipient will still be able to get an idea of the email’s content.

Tip 7: Address Recipients by Name

Whenever possible, you should personalise your marketing emails to greet and address individual recipients by name. I know this is hardly revolutionary advice, but it works.

Pay Particular Attention to the Content of the “From” and “Subject” Lines of your Email

As an email marketer, you only have a few seconds to entice your recipients to open your message before they delete it without a second thought. The “From” and “Subject” lines of the email are the first things a recipient will see, and are often overlooked as important elements of the campaign.

The “From” line, obviously enough, identifies who the email is from, and should clearly contain your exact company, brand, or newsletter name with which your email subscribers signed up. This is your way of making sure the recipients recognize that you are the sender and are comfortable with opening your email. Emails appearing from may not be recognised. And once you decide on the content of your “From” line, stick with it. This is another way to create consistency and will get recipients used to seeing your name as a sender of regular, trusted emails.

The “Subject” line is an equally important element of your email campaign’s success. It should contain a well thought-out, but brief headline that summarizes the email’s content and gives readers a good reason to open it.

Some examples are:

“Special Offers – selected Just for You”
“Free shipping with all orders placed today”
“Two-for-one software deals”
“Sign up today – 50% off”

The subject line should be kept between 35-50 characters, as this is typically the maximum amount of space that most email clients display of the subject field. You want the reader to be able to see the entire subject line without having to scroll or arrow over.

Tip 8: Use appropriate, relevant landing pages

Landing pages are an essential part of every email marketing campaign.

If I follow a link from an email marketing message, I expect purchasing to be easy, and I expect the landing page to reflect the content of the email I read. If it doesn’t, I may be reluctant to make a purchase. A good landing page should provide valuable information that’s 100% relevant to what was clicked on.

The appearance of the landing page should be very similar to the appearance of the email so that there is a consistent look and feel throughout.

Tip 9: Test, Test, Test

To develop and maintain a successful email marketing program, ongoing testing is vital.

Elements of your email marketing campaigns that should be tested and re-tested include the following:

Template format for your email messages

Frequency with which you’ll send your email messages

Day and Time you send your emails

Content of “From” & “Subject” lines

Tone of message’s content

Calls to action

Promotions/incentives offered

Length of copy (long vs. short)

Email’s greeting/salutation

Campaign themes

You can effectively test these variables by implementing a simple A/B testing scheme. Divide your subscriber list in half, then send each half the same email campaign, but with one differing element. For example, if you wanted to test optimal copy length, you would create two promotional emails that contain the same products. Make sure the emails are exactly the same (only test one variable at a time), but in one email use a paragraph or two of copy to describe each item, and in the other email, only include a sentence or two of item copy, or no copy at all.

Send the two versions of the email to different halves of the list. You must also make sure that you have a method in place to measure the results of each email, so that you can tell which variable option produced better subscriber response. Test each campaign element several times until you have a feel for which changes achieved optimal results. Does it take time and patience? Yes it does. Can it pay off? Indeed it can!

Tip 10: Proofread and Test the Links of Every Campaign Before It is Sent

Always have every email proofread by one or two people other than the author. It can be quite embarrassing to have a typo in an email that you just sent to hundreds or thousands of subscribers.

The number of errors that can be found in emails is amazing – misspelled words, poor grammar, sloppy copy and pasting and more. These mistakes, however slight, all signal a lack of professionalism, and can be easily avoided with careful proofreading.

It’s also equally important to test all links in your email marketing messages.

These tips should provide you with a good foundation for establishing a successful email marketing program. If you already employ these measures, then you’re probably enjoying the benefits that a well-crafted email marketing program can bring to your business. If you haven’t yet incorporated these ideas into your email marketing, I suggest you try them. You’ll almost certainly be pleasantly surprised at what a difference they can make.

Be seen, be sent, be received, be sold.

Written by Dave Collins, SoftwarePromotions Ltd.