Email Marketing Best Practices 2013
In this overview on email marketing best practice, set up and general guidelines I will be covering:
- Why use email marketing?
- The basics of email marketing and why you ought to use it.
- Email is more than just selling.
- Email isn’t dead with the rise of social media.
- Current best practices.
- How to avoid spam and increase deliverablity.
What you know about email marketing and why you ought to use it!
- Why use email marketing? Setting up and tracking demographics i.e. known data of a user vs social media [data is kept often private unless you already have grabbed this data from another source] allows your campaigns to be very targeted.
Here’s 5 reasons why I believe email marketing ought to be at the forefront of your integrated on-line marketing strategies.
- Low Cost, High ROI 43:1* according to the DMA in the USA.
- Very quick to implement.
- Allows segmentation & personalisation. Segmentation and analysis [point 5] is very detailed.
- Easy tracking & web-analytics.
- Easy & varied integration into CRM system.
Email Marketing Basics: To email campaign correctly you need to achieve all 4 of the below
- The Right Message.
- To The Right Person.
- At The Right Time.
- At The Right Place.
How do you do this?
- Right Message: Subject Lines & Content. Content always matches the subject line. You want their time, manage their expectation!
- Right Person and Time: Located by pre and post campaign segmentation & analytics.
- Right Place, Message and Time: By using analytics & common sense e.g: segment by geo-location best times. If you have an international database make sure you’re not emailing Europe and America at the same time!
Email marketing is more than the 4 basic P’s of marketing.
- There are more than 4 p’s for anyone who has studied marketing.
- The simple marketing p’s are product, place, price and promotion.
- I put forward that there are 4 more p’s to be considered: Profiling, personalisation, permission and privacy. For simplicity I have subdivided under titles under email segmentation and regulation.
- Email Profiling: Know Your Audience
- Email Personalisation: Engage The Audience
- Permission: Getting accurate Opt-in + Out data. Make sure there’s ease of opting in and out and segmenting preference to various lists.
- Privacy:This creates the all important part of any relationship. Simply put it is trust.
- Keeping data and using it effectively is governed by more regulated data and privacy laws. Fall short of any of these and you are opening up to high businesses risks!
- Keep yourself up to date and seek professional advice for your privacy laws. These ought to be reviewed at least once every 6 months.
- Sign up for email data law information.
- Make sure your company lawyer and yourself meet up regularly or at least to keep lines of communication open!
- When we come on to finding an email service provider [ESP for short], the better ones ask for PROOF that you’re data compliant.
- If ever you have problems with deliverability with an ISP or email provider e.g: Hotmail you can prove you were always compliant.
Email Is More Than Just Selling.
How do these forms of email marketing work?
- Acquisition: This is selling or initiation to your products, services, information and brand.
- Retention: Focuses on building up a Club and Privilege experience.
- it promotes the brand and furthers other community based channels.
- This is how email crosses over into other services and communication channels.
- It can act as a summary of interests someone has opted into! Great…. you’re now passing on valid, interesting and engaging communication channels.
- Ideal for any busy exec or a workaholic who likes to look at their mail while on holiday.
- Relationship marketing provides Interesting & Useful information.
- When someone signs up, make sure you get some basic information on what their interests are.
- Invite them into sub division activity. Increase your profiling. It will feed into the CMS system and give a sales person some interesting ways to engage the client, speaking about their interests and perhaps a new product and service!
- Corporate emailing: Is pretty much the same concept as the above, however it is based around developments of your company.
- Incentive campaigning, by far one of my favourite forms of marketing is based around engagement to up and cross sell and to achieve your marketing goals.
- When applied well in a generic incentive campaign, a client getting the results of their position in the competition with opens and clicks is a great bonus to any email marketing manager!
Email Marketing Converts
- Email marketing: Is only as effective as your landing page.
- Email content, design and HTML: Formatting is the king. Think about your end viewer. Can you understand the call to action and what the benefits are vs. functions? You need to highlight these. These are your winning strategies.
- Brand experience is personalised. Your email communications have to be correctly formatted. Your email communications are your brand. So, they need to be formatted correctly for whatever OS, email client and device the recipient is using.
Email Marketing Best Practices
Pre Campaign Planning: Achieve what and with whom? Would you like to receive it?
- Probably this is the most important part. You need to understand the needs of the business.
- Mix this with the objectives of any present communication need and then formulate the email marketing strategy plan.
- This document ought to state expected ROI, segments and types of communication, as I have outlined above in email is more than selling.
- Finally, you need to put yourself in the shoes of your client/recipient. Would you be happy to receive this? If so – why, if not, then why not. This is the final sanity check of your campaign foundation.
Set Up Site With Opt-in, privacy & terms & conditions:
- Any ESP will ask you where did you get the data from. You will need to place on your site and potentially on all your sites email opt-in functionality.
- The terms and conditions often outline the basis of all legal trade on the site, not individual terms for campaigns.
Start Segmenting From Point Zero:
- When you set up the opt-in and opt-out functionality, from your email marketing plan you need to start segmenting not only subjects and interests for the user, but where they are located, what format they wish the email in e.g. html, rtf or text but when they wish to receive it e.g: weekly, monthly, etc.
Allow Email Preference:
- Many people believe that once an email is captured, the recipients just love to hear from you about everything!
- From the above point you will be wrong! This is a slide down a ruinous path of spoiling your data, ruining your brand name and potentially being labeled a spammer.
- From your segmentation when someone signs up, you need to simply ask: what subjects, how often, format.
- Simply put, once you say you will email once a month on certain subjects then stick to it.
- If you have a new product/service then suggest it somewhere in your email as a call to action. Simple.
Give Reasons Why To Join, the 80-20 Law, 1 mail opt-in, email examples and Sign Up!
- To opt-in on your website you need to give me at least 2-3 good reasons what I get out of giving you my data. Great examples are: Exclusive news or offers, be one of the first to get free webinars, whitepapers, digest of best questions sent to X company personality etc.
- If you don’t have an email list but wish people to join up, if you send an order you can invite someone to join up to your email list. This cannot be the main call to action. It is best put under the order details. In effect 80 percent is normal communication. The other 20% is other information. Another cool way is to invite feedback on a product and service and then include details how to sign up for a newsletter. Other more crafty ways are reminders for birthdays and other special events. This is an information only email and needs to be short and sweet. It depends on your brand, I would exercise this one with caution!
- Another great way is to make a footer for the company adding an opt-in to email marketing list per communication.
- Don’t forget to add a short sign up URL in all other forms of relevant communication. For example on Facebook, Twitter, microsites, whitepapers, advertising, SEM etc.
- SEO your sign up page. Add email examples to your sign up page to manage expectations!
- For B2B communications is it legal at the time of writing to invite people to OPT-IN once! For B2C it is a lot trickier.
Testing: How the recipient sees it
- Before starting any email campaign you need to find an expert in email marketing. If not, someone can learn.
- I highly recommend reading data found on MailChimps website. It goes through ALL the best practice principles.
- It is advisable to test in all the major browsers [recent and past versions] and email clients. Some such as Lotus Notes and Blackberry are always fraught with errors. You may wish to segment these campaigns to provide RTF only versions.
- You can tweak code on the fly in a browser using a FireFox plug-in called Firebug. This helps for Mozilla clients. Internet Explorer is a different deal altogether.
Best Email Practice on Campaign Day!
- Set up various A/B subject + design test campaigns. Normally these go to a segmented base or to 5-10% of your segmented target list. The campaign is mainly judged on clicks or opens. You set up the goal. The winning email is then sent to this segment!
- I talked about format before. This is important. Remember the email needs to be sent in the right format. Some ESPS send tri-part emails in HTML, RTF and Text. I’d go with a company offering this. Your email format preference segmentation for needs to be applied in this part. Double check before sending.
- Finally, remember that mobile handset use is rising for email delivery. Make sure your HTML mark-up has an option for better legibility for mobiles!
- Post Email Campaign Analytics: This is where your analytics need to shine.
- Email campaigns are much more than clicks and opens.
- Realize segmentation of preferences over campaigns and adjust types of subject and content, calls to action, email response from the campaign’s recipients.
- Great campaigns can then be easily copied in their scope and execution! Good news for your business!
How to Avoid being classed a Spammer?
- Get Robinson + Global Suppression lists before ANY campaign
- Most decent ESPS have Robinson lists included in their system. Global Supression Lists are an added bonus. I say use these from day to make sure your data is clean.
- This keeps up the health of the domain for sending emails. It stops you being classed as a spammer.
- In effect people who have said they never wish to be emailed have complained. Best to root out these emails to improve your campaign delieverability.
- Your first campaign will probably have a high bounce rate.
- From experience from 6-25% depending on the quality of your data. ISPs will notice if a large proportion of your emails are not going to people on their domain.
- If so… then they might next ask, and what about supressed emails!
- If you happen to know of a list of persons who are valued clients who appear on this list, I recommend asking them to OPT-IN on your site if the data came from any third party. This quite often happens with people sending emails direct to a representative of the company and asking to be added and data taken from trade shows.
- Most decent ESPS have Robinson lists included in their system. Global Supression Lists are an added bonus. I say use these from day to make sure your data is clean.
Easy Opt in & Out, but focus on killing emails via changing frequency
- On your site, your call to action is large to opt-in and opt out. You can save loosing data by changing frequency and communication.
- If someone clicks a link to your site to opt out, be upfront and say would you prefer to receive this communication less often [frequency]
- In my experience this saves 25% of people wishing to opt out altogether.
Say where and when a recipient opted in per email!
- State in each email you send where [which website] and when [actual dates] they opted in.
- This clarifies to not only the ISP if you can prove it that they did opt-in but to job the memory of the recipient where they signed up.
Always include best practice communications to your company
- Always add an abuse@ email address. Add physical business address, an easy telephone number [but state a generic number which is manned by a physical person and company registration number. Eg: CIF# REG#
- Don’t forget adding text to ask people to add your email address to their contact book.
- Personally I like to have an image on the side of the email with plain text headings above the fold. I like to include the name of the company as a link to view the text in HTML. This means people note your branding first. Immediate trust and less spam complaints. An example is: View Bloggs and Co’s July 2010 Ebusiness newsletter with images, other than, ‘Click Here to view email with images’. Using the term CLICK HERE too often seems to raise your chances of being classed as spam.
- Use SPAM checkers! Your ESP ought to provide one. Here’s a simple HTML only spam checker. Decrease to the lowest possible. 9 times in 10 its how you have labelled your links. Other examples include overusing the word click, using X’s, and anything gender related. The biggest error is using currency labels e.g: $ £. Instead use USD, GBP and EUR to get around this problem.
- Never over use CAPITALS in a subject line. Keep any currency or special characters out of the subject line.
- Keep subject lines to a max of 50 characters
- Code your email in UTF-8.
- Code your email in-line. Make sure all special characters such as dollar signs and copyright signs show up in all browsers and email clients.
- I often find a problem is with colours. You might need to encode using hexidecimal HTML.
- For special characters such as dollar signs, copyright, registered trademark view a nice comprehensive list here.
Link to Privacy, Data Policy, ebusiness terms and conditions and include any specific terms and conditions IN THE EMAIL itself.
- Your landing page ought to again state the terms of a particular offer, or incentive.
Always clean and re-segment databases per campaign.
- It is inevitable you will loose subscribers along the way.
- Many firms seem to tremble at this. I perceive it differently.
- You are cultivating more profitable business partners, who will bring future ROI.
- You will need to understand why recipients do not enjoy your communications.
- Check if certain domains are never being read, delivered or opened. Chances are they have blocked you. Stop sending to these domains. Contact these individuals personally if they are high value and contact the firms IT department. Send them a copy of the communication and state where to find your privacy, t&c’s and how often they are sent. 8 in 10 times they will clear your domain for communications!
- I suggest you mark your database in terms of ROI and objectives. If a segment is NOT responding, I recommend calling up the person who had opted out and asking them.
- In a few seconds you will understand what you are doing wrong. 9 times in 10, it’s an email redirect from a predecessor.
- Sometimes you can get receive great ideas for your campaigns.
- Once a client suggested I add a certain subject that interested him. I found out that it was really interesting and something which we had not considered. We added this subject to our communications, it was one of the most profitable branding campaigns ever!
- Cross reference with other calls. Once you have found where you are falling down and you said ‘I listened’, I’d call them up and say ‘we fixed it’, can I send you an opt-in? Nice retention move! You also showed to a great decision maker your company listens. Expect from this brief networking some great compliments in the future. This simple action for me, was remembered months later by this individual who actually helped me along with my career!
- I would NOT, send an unsolicited email asking them to join up again. I would put a task force to call people if the campaign attracted hugely negative responses. I would NOT email these individuals.
- Pay VERY CLOSE ATTENTION TO Deliverability. Know the difference between two bounce types: Hard & Soft. In your analytics it will show hard and soft bounces.
- Simply put, the difference is a hard bounce is a domain that has either blocked you forever or more than likely an email address that no longer exists.
- Soft bounces: Sometimes when a member of staff leaves an email address on a server is active. Emails are passed to their substitute for a long or short time. It’s known that you might be emailing their replacement.
- They might enjoy your communications but they have never signed up themselves. Remember to send a reminder to register again if you keep on getting soft bounces.
- 9 times in 10 this person is on holiday and their email box says, ‘I’m full now, try back in a bit’. If your ESP is good then there ought to be functionality to try redelivering 2-3 times in the next X days.
- If you’re confused a simple way to view it is imagine you have a table booked for dinner. If you go to the reception and say I have a reservation under X name, the receptionist says, ‘sorry but there’s no reservation under that name’. You cannot go any further. This is a hard bounce. A soft bounce is asking the same question but saying the reservation is ‘under X company name’. The receptionist says, oh yes we had Mr X, but the table is now under Ms Y’.
Email Per Promise.
- Never ever break your email promises. If terms and conditions have changed, let people know in a sub communication. If the legality requires an opting in to new conditions I would make this an exception to the rule of frequency. 9 times in 10 it will backfire if you do not communicate.
- You may NOT hold data under conditions that are no-longer valid under new terms and conditions, unless stated in the original terms and conditions. Examples include a company take-over by another. Different data laws will apply. If so, you need a compelling argument to stay tuned with your company!
- The best practice is to state that their email preferences have not changed and their data is not being sold to third parties. Any other major changes bullet point clearly. Keep it short, simple and compelling.
Email Marketing Best Practice Conclusions
- What you have learned is that Email Marketing is more than the 4 generic p’s of marketing.
- Email Marketing creates correct, trusting and profitable relationships.
- Email marketing understands how to get the right message to the right person at right place at the right time.
- Always test your email frequently and per campaign. Put yourself in the recipients shoes and think: Would I like to receive this? Give each campaign this sanity check for best results!
- Plan, test, execute and analyse each campaign to get results.
- Always solicit feedback from your most profitable markets. Give them a call, you never know how profitable it might become!
- Best data practice is easy and it avoids spam
- Never be afraid of un-subscribing someone. Best to keep your data clean, efficient, ISP and spam friendly and relevant!