When we grow up, they say the best way to improve ourselves is by learning from our own mistakes. But when it comes to email marketing campaigns, we can’t really afford this. So why not learn from others’ mistakes instead, avoiding the missteps that could turn our flourishing business into disaster.
In matters of email marketing, success is all about expectations. And since “the devil is in the details”, in order to smooth your path to a glorious email marketing campaign and prevent the waste of precious time and credibility, we put together a list of dos and don’ts to overcome, as much as possible, the limitations this powerful marketing strategy has.
So when you get started with what it is that you want to introduce to your customers, there are a few important steps that will help you start building a strong relationship and make them confident and curious about what you have to say (or sell).
1. Always ask for permission
The first thing to do when choosing this kind of marketing strategy is to create a valid list of ‘opt-in’. Because it doesn’t matter how incredible the product you want to introduce is, if you start the relationship with your potential buyers by intruding into their inboxes, it will never work. So when you start your email marketing campaign and you have a list of clients that are familiar with who you are, the best way to win them on this new initiative is to send personalized invitations with a brief presentation of what you’re trying to sell, invite them to join your marketing list. If they’re not interested or they simply don’t remember you, they’ll appreciate your courtesy and then they’ll probably ignore you, but at least this way you’ll avoid being blacklisted.
You might not like the idea of being rejected, but the first impression it is crucial for a great start. And who knows, in time many of them might change their minds.
2. Confirm the subscriptions
OK, so you got their attention. Now the most effective way to let them know their subscription really matters to you, is to send back a confirmation mail for the subscription, thanking them for the trust they offered. It’s really a professional way to make sure they don’t just click around and that you have a solid opt-ins list you can rely on (if they changed their minds, they can always unsubscribe).
And it’s actually easy to do, by using auto-respond features that creates customized messages when someone is sending a subscription request.
When it comes to online business, it is always about trust. As people tend to be suspicious about everything, clearly state on the registration form the information your customers want to provide to you and the way you are allowed to use them. This way, you can underline the professional attitude you have towards your customers personal information, making them feel comfortable every time they hear from you.
And serving the purpose of the email marketing campaign (which is to bring people to your website ) always use your signature. And two times is a charm: place one on the top and one on the bottom of the email, to make sure they always have the immediate choice of visiting your website. It is really effective that your readers always have one eye on your contact information… just in case.
4. Choose your allies: the Email Service
Now talking about credibility and creating a professional look? In this case, there is no place for the well known free email services (as Yahoo!, AOL, Hotmail etc). And it gets even easier, when you have hundreds of subscribers, to use one of the professional email marketing services (like MailChimp or ConstantContact) that provides any feature you need and manages your business lists.
Since you already bought a domain for your website, the wisest decision is to go with an email address bearing the name of your domain, to give a mature and distinguished look, convincing the customers that every detail matters and that you take everything seriously.
Would you trust a “firstname.lastname@example.org” rather than “email@example.com”? Yeah. We thought so too. Once again, the first impression claims it’s supremacy.
5. First impression matters
It’s always about the first impression. If your customers don’t like your subject line or if they have the impression it’s not reliable or relevant, they won’t even bother opening your email (try reading tons of emails every day and you’ll start being sympathetic). So your subject line must appeal to them – without being pushy or too loud, and has to inspire them a feeling of security every time they open your emails.
What’s also important when it comes to the subject line, is making the readers relate to your company and the products you’re selling. Using lines like “Greatest sale ever!!!” might actually scare them away. So use conventional lines like “Your daily/monthly (or whatever) newsletter/info from Company” instead, avoiding once again a case of “mistaken” identity that ends with a SPAM label.
6. What is much?
When making a subscription for mail offers or newsletters, people give you a trusting proof. So when you promise a (let’s say…) monthly issue, your customers actually expect to receive their email every month at the same time (at same hour even, if possible). So who cares that your cat run away again? (we do… but we’re not really customers, are we?) They all expect you to honor the frequency of the list’s intent. And we strongly advise you to do so.
What is also wrong is to start pumping their inboxes with tons of emails that have nothing to do with their subscriptions. And for this kind of trespassing, we guarantee you a big fat SPAM label.
The safest way to keep your customers happy is to offer them the option of selecting the frequency of the issue on the subscription page (this works like magic for the promotional offers and sales). This way, everybody gets what they want.
7. Targeting and Personalizing
How would you respond to “Dear Someone” or “Dear Unknown”?… We thought so. And since everybody wants to feel important and to hear their names, start every email you send with greetings that contain your customers first names, offering the perception that the product you’re selling it’s actually something they might need and how thoughtful is of you to think of them.
Once you start sending the email, you will create a pattern in your readers brains, making them expect your emails in the usual layout. So when it comes to personalizing, every time you make a change on your email template, make sure you let them know about it and when to expect it. They will be curious about the uprated version and it might even bring you some extra credits.
And in order to avoid sending useless information to your customers and to loose your credibility, segment your subscribers list taking into count their profile. We mean, you’re not going to send offers on fishing tools to the ladies… right?
8. Brand identification
In marketing, success is really a matter of expectations. You create a concept in your customers mind (via email, in this case), and the products your brand is offering will have to raise to their expectations. From new and exciting to conservative and clean, it’s important to identify the layout of your emails with your company’s profile, concentrating your efforts towards your target audience.
So is your newsletter delivering on its promises?
9. What’s behind the pretty face?
They say an image is worth a thousand words, and it is as true for email marketing. When chosen with taste, the images help you create a stronger visual effect on the readers, rewarding their curiosity.
But what happens once your email is stripped off the pictures? Is it still readable? Can you still get the message across? So it’s important that the content of your email has in it the promise of revealing a valuable whole, convincing this way the customers that downloading the images will get them to see the bigger picture.
And adding some “see more”/”read more” style links in strategic places will surely make everyone wonder what else you got, raising your open rates to the roof…
10. HTML rich text: glorious choice or miserable fail?
We bet everyone already knows that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. So if you want to avoid learning it the hard way, we advice you to send your email as multipart/alternative message and let the customers decide… or the email programs (there are some email programs that whether can’t open rich text messages or simply and miserably crash, making your stylish email unreachable (and annoying, we might add). Same story with bandwidth issues.
So send it both rich HTML and plain text just to make sure you made everything right, keeping everyone happy. Including yourself. Another smart choice is posting a link that allows clients to see the email in browse, for those who use email programs that don’t support HTML.
In the end…
Since you have everything you need to know for a confident start, our job here is done… at least for now… but we promise to get back to you soon, with a second part of this article: 10 Mistakes for Miserable Email Marketing Campaigns.