When I go to parties or networking events, I often get onto the topic of email marketing (perhaps it has something to do with my passion about the subject). Invariably, someone makes a comment that equates the email blast software — provided by such online marketing companies as Constant Contact — with the broader concept of email marketing. I appreciate that most people don’t spend their lives immersed in email marketing as I do, so I thought I’d provide a quick overview of the key components of effective email marketing, well beyond the sending tools or software. And perhaps you’ll also walk away with some great ideas that will elevate your email-marketing results above those who may simply be “blasting.”
Are you getting the best email-marketing results you can? Likely no, if you’re not incorporating the nine following items into your email-marketing campaigns:
- Developing a successful concept — One of the most important elements of a successful email-marketing campaign is your concept. Figure out whom you’re going to send it to and why. What is your call to action, and what will you need to convince someone to take that next step and click through to the landing page? What supporting information do you need to include to build trust in you to take the next step? And what is your offer or incentive, and what will drive some sort of sense of urgency? Remember, you have a tough enough time getting a response without any offers or sense of urgency (e.g., offer good through Friday at midnight, the first 50 respondents get something extra). Add these, and you’ll give your campaign a fighting chance.
- Segmenting your list — Many email marketers tend to send to a single segment. One of the best ways to improve response to your email campaigns is by dividing your list into segments and then varying your message and offer to be specific for each of them. Many of the bulk email software tools provide dynamic content functionality that will automatically drop in certain paragraphs based upon an attribute that describes the individual (e.g., cat lovers get the offer for cat food, while dog lovers get the offer for dog food). If you need help finding the right tool, FulcrumTech can help. There are so many ways to segment a list. Be creative, and test your results.
- Writing your copy to get the click — Be clear, concise, and get to the point. Remember, the most important goal of your copy is to get the click. Provide a clear subject line (this is like the envelope of a direct mail piece). Use informative headings and build trust to convince recipients that your company is the one they should buy from. Test the inclusion of such components as a video or a countdown, and you may just see your click-through rates blast off. Writing the copy is definitely NOT what email software can do for you.
- Designing the email to optimize conversions — Design goes hand in hand with copy, so you’ll likely need to tweak your copy as you get into the design work. Designing for email is not straightforward. And many mistakes can be made. Think about the eye path: Don’t break up the design with heavy horizontal lines or blocks or copy that are set apart and get in the way of building your case. One of the reasons that text emails can outperform HTML-designed versions is simply that the designer of the HTML version put too many roadblocks up for the reader. Remember, recipients will glance at the email for about a second to get a sense of what it’s about and if it’s of interest. Make sure your headings pop and that your call to action is very clear. And be sure that your design will work in a mobile environment. For example, are your calls to action big enough to see on an iPhone screen?
- Coding the email correctly — There are so many errors made at this stage that can hurt the rendering of your emails. Be sure you’re familiar with the email coding standards and abide by them. Many templates that email software companies (also known as email service providers) provide are not coded well or violate email best practices for coding.
- Testing the rendering of your email — Don’t forget to test across all major email clients to be sure your email is rendering properly. Many of the best email-distribution software tools have built-in testing capabilities for rendering. Or use a tool like Litmus, which works great for render testing.
- Reviewing your analytics — Be sure that the email tool you use will provide you with analytics that show open rates, click-through rates, unsubscribes, bounces (by hard and soft bounce type), opens by domain, etc.
- Optimizing your email for continual improvement — Assume that your email is never as good as it can be. You can always find something that can make it better. So, based upon your analytics, figure out what types of A/B split tests or other tests you can run next time. Test subject lines, headings, images, and more. This is where email-marketing masters strut their stuff.
- Knowing if you have any deliverability issues — Many times, email marketers may have issues with their emails getting to the intended recipients. If you haven’t checked, be sure to watch your bounces by domain, as well as opens by domain. Either could uncover a potential problem. Feel free to contact us about our Email Deliverability Essentials if you suspect any deliverability problems. We’ve helped many email marketers out of hot water.
Going beyond the items above, you may also consider automating the integration with your customer relationship management (CRM) or other back-end systems to take advantage of even more data for segmentation. Or use the integration to prompt emails based upon events (e.g., someone requests a white paper or purchases a product).
So, yes, email marketing is so much more than a Constant Contact or other email-distribution tool. There’s so much that goes into preparing an email campaign to make it successful. Unfortunately, the tool by itself won’t get the most from your email-marketing channel.
Not sure how to get more out of your email-marketing campaigns? Contact us or give us a call at 215-489-9336. We love helping companies grow!