If you own a business or work in sales, you are most likely familiar with targeted email marketing. It’s a great way to generate leads and retain existing customers or clients. With the vast array of email marketing solutions available, you may feel compelled to jump right in and start sending out messages. However, as with most new trends, you should start by reviewing a few best practices.
First Things First
The first thing you will need to do is create a subscriber list for your messages. If you already have email addresses for your existing clients or customers, you can start your list with them. You will need to send each of them an initial message letting them know that you are adding them to your list of subscribers because of your existing relationship. And make sure you give them an easy way to opt out of being on the list in that first message. To generate more subscribers to your list, you can add a signup form to your website or collect email addresses at your physical place of business or at special events.
You should segment your subscriber list in various ways so that your messages can be more specific. You can use your signup forms to begin the segmenting process, but you should also further divide your subscribers based on data you collect after sending out a few messages.
Now That You Have Your Audience…
Once you have your segmented lists of subscribers, it’s time to send out the messages. However, you should be strategic with your messages also. You should establish goals and plan your emails based on those goals. You will need to:
- determine what type of message is appropriate for each email touch
- design the overall look of your messages
- create your content
There are four main types of marketing messages: promotional, relational, transactional, and operational. Promotional messages are those you send to let people know that you have something special going on (often for a limited time). Relational messages are used to keep your customers and clients engaged with your product or business. Transactional messages are confirmations triggered by customer or client actions. And operational messages are notices for things such as limited (or expanded) hours, temporary closures, or changes to services. An effective email marketing campaign will send out messages of each type at the appropriate times. The design and content of your message should reflect both the type of message and your overall brand.
For the most part, the design of your email messages should be simple, with short paragraphs or bullet points and just a few images. Since many email applications block images, you will want the message to be clear without the images. Be sure to include “alt” tags on the images so that readers can see what the images are and perhaps be more inclined to unblock them. Also, messages that are image-heavy are sometimes blocked by spam filters, so choose wisely.
Your content should clearly and concisely communicate your primary message. Are you acknowledging a new subscriber? Advertising a one-day only sale? Announcing your new hours? Just checking in to connect with your customer? Be clear and concise, but also personalize your message by taking advantage of the technology that will auto-populate your customers’ names in the message. Make sure you include a call-to-action link or button to encourage a response. Wherever possible, link back to your website; for example, provide a link to the featured items for that one-day sale. And before sending your message, run it through a spam checker such as the free ISnotSpam tool.
Is Anybody Out There?
Once you have sent out a few messages, you will want to check the metrics in your email marketing software. These will show you trends regarding opens, open times, and unsubscribers. Take advantage of A/B testing by sending messages at different times or with different subject lines to find out which versions result in higher open rates. And watch for inactive subscribers. Try sending relational messages targeted to inactive users to get them re-engaged with your product or business. If a few of these attempts go unanswered, you will want to remove them from your list, as having fewer active subscribers is better than having inactive subscribers when it comes to spam filters.
One final thing you can do to help retain subscribers is to include opt-down links near the unsubscribe link. Rather than simply offering a simple yes/no option, you can offer your subscribers the option of reduced frequency, or give them a choice of what types of messages they want to receive: promotions, operational notices, or perhaps just confirmation messages. Sometimes giving them control over the messaging will keep them from clicking that dreaded unsubscribe link.
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