This is a subject that is studied often because of its’ importance in the marketing communications mix. If you are responsible for the sales and marketing of a company, you can’t ignore e-mail marketing. The 7 steps that I share are gained from recent studies, years of gathering best practices and new technologies.
1. Develop your own list organically - do not buy a list. Why is this so important? No one wants to be spammed. The performance of your program is directly related to the authenticity of your mailing list. Start small with your own network, use your website, calls, visits and social media to grow your list. Give readers the option to opt out and don’t take it personally if your friend from college doesn’t want your newsletter. It simply means they don’t need or have time to read your content. The whole purpose of developing a qualified list over time is to build an on-going relationship with your top prospects and customers.
2. Use an e-mail automation platform such as MailChimp, Constant Contact or Emma. There are several on the market that are inexpensive and user friendly. Constant Contact is the choice of many B2C small businesses. We like MailChimp because of it’s integration with Google Analytics. Any of these tools will provide you with an easy to use dashboard that helps you design the e-mail, build your list and provide reporting tools to monitor your campaigns. Also very important these tools help ensure that your campaigns are in compliance with CAM SPAM rules.
3. Content strategy – before you start writing take some time to identify your goals. Who is your audience and what do they care about, how often are you are you going to publish and how are you going to allocate resources to support the program overtime. Keep it short and sweet – develop content that is meaningful to your audience. If you have a subject that warrants detailed content, provide an excerpt within your e-mail with links back to your website for the full story, whitepaper or report. Continuously ask your audience for feedback. Share your knowledge of your area of professional expertise
4. Subject line is critical – if your list is at a minimum 2,000 or more you can employ A/B testing which is to sample two separate subject lines with a sample of the list to test response. If your list is less than 2,000 you can still create 2 to 3 subject lines and send them around internally to your team to get feedback. Have your employees vote on which subject line is most appealing. Didn’t get right the first time? Keep testing until you find the language that best resonates with your audience. For more information on subject lines see this great tool developed by MailChimp
5. Personalization – have the e-mail come from the representative at your company who has the relationship with the reader. I am writing this from the point of view of small business, this does not apply in the case of global brands. However big brands do lead the way in marketing personalization. Amazon is a good example.
6. Distribute on a timely basis so that your audience can get accustomed to receiving the communication from you. An example is a weekly or monthly newsletter. Other examples include this week in business and the daily recap experiment with whichever distribution schedule best fits your content strategy plan. More information on distribution can be found at Hubspot Science of E-mail Marketing.
7. Mobile optimization – your e-mail template must easily be viewed for mobile screens. Rather than make users declare what version of the email they want, the better option is to let the layout change for smartphone email clients. Smartphones are in many cases using better rendering techniques than many desktop clients, and because of this are able to use new CSS3 techniques to adjust based on screen size. Basically, you can provide a new layout for your content that only applies to smartphones. There’s more information on it here.
Summary - e-mail is not going away and it needs to be a part of your marketing mix. It is more important than ever to do e-mail right, be mindful of your list. Only provide content that is meaningful to your audience and not self-serving. Use e-mail to drive people back to your website where you can get more visibility of your content and create an environment for customer engagement.