Program Your E-mail Marketing
Six Ways to Improve Your Strategy
By Tricia Robinson
E-mail marketing is a cost-effective way to communicate with customers and sales prospects, but are you optimizing your strategy? An e-mail program can help increase sales, build customer satisfaction and save marketing dollars.
A program is a regularly scheduled, reoccurring e-mail campaign. You probably receive several e-mail marketing programs, such as weekly airline offers, daily weather forecasts, news updates or monthly newsletters. E-mail programs are effective because they establish dependable, expected communications with recipients. When designing an e-mail marketing program, consider the following six tips for e-mail marketing success: content, frequency/timing, creative/layout, data, testing and consistency.
Compelling content convinces readers to subscribe to your communications. When formulating a topic for your e-mail marketing program, determine the value of what you have to offer recipients. If your goal is to educate readers about your business or industry, provide educational (not sales) material. Relevancy and value are the keys to building loyal readership.
Many people skim their e-mails rather than read each word carefully. When writing content, make the value proposition and call to action prominent. State your purpose early in the message, so that even if it receives a quick glance, recipients can determine whether they'd like to continue reading.
E-mail technology makes it easy to personalize and customize the content, body and subject line of your message. Include a first name in the subject line, or insert special body copy for loyal customers. Consider using past purchase history or stated preferences to tailor the offer to recipients' tastes.
Most people are inundated with e-mail. Time the delivery of your message so it doesn't arrive when your recipient's in-box is already full. Use these suggestions as a starting point, but also test your campaigns to determine how your audience will react.
Most recipients of business-to-business messages read their e-mail at work. Avoid sending e-mails over the weekend or in the evening—it's easy to be overlooked on a hectic morning. Lunchtime or around noon works well, because some people catch up with their mail during the lunch hour.
If you are sending business-to-consumer e-mails to personal accounts, nights and weekends work best, since consumers generally read these at home.
Consistent creative and layout make your communications recognizable and navigational. It allows readers to instantly determine what they're receiving and whether they want to read further.
Begin by building a template to create an easily recognizable look—it'll save the effort of recreating graphics each time you send a campaign. Also, develop features that appear in every issue. This will increase click-throughs by making navigation easier for recipients.
The best data come from your house list. These people are warm leads because they've previously expressed interest in your company and are likely to be receptive of your message. Build your house list by collecting e-mail addresses from customers and prospects at every touch point.
Renting lists is an option for companies with small or non-existent house lists, and may work for acquisition purposes, but it's not a practical long term strategy. Response rates from rented lists are significantly lower than house lists.
Above all, when e-mailing to rented lists or house lists, be sure to ask permission!
It's possible to judge the success of your message and strategy seconds after launching an e-mail campaign by tracking open rates and click-through rates. Start by testing the most important aspects of your campaign, such as timing and frequency. Determine which day of the week and what time of day results in the highest open rates for your message. Test only one factor at a time so you know what really impacted your results.
To develop a truly successful e-mail marketing program, you need consistency. Consistency is what makes an e-mail message anticipated, recognized and valued.
Content should be similar in style, tone and subject matter from campaign to campaign. Consistency in the frequency and timing of your messages also will help establish regularity for programs.
Once you develop a plan for your communications, stick with it. When you build a consistent schedule, readers' familiarity with your messages will also increase. A consistent template and subject line will increase open rates, because your message is instantly recognizable.
If correctly executed, e-mail marketing can be a highly effective and cost efficient medium. Starting an e-mail program is a great way to build your brand and increase sales with constant exposure to customers and prospects.
Tricia Robinson is vice president of marketing communications for Socketware, an e-mail marketing provider based in Atlanta, GA. She can be reached at email@example.com.