Email marketing is a great way to target prospects and provide your current clients information of value and special offers. The associated costs with sending out an email campaign dwarfs in comparison to direct mail initiatives and offers a much greater ROI. While there are many facets to a successful email campaign, the list below attempts to provide a broad overview of items to take into consideration while coordinating your email marketing campaign.
1. Build Your Own Email List
Integrate a Newsletter Subscription form into your website that is visible in a consistent location on each page of your site. Provide the visitor an incentive to subscribe to your email list by informing them they will receive news updates and special offers available only to newsletter subscribers. Build trust from your subscribers with a transparent opt-in process, not one that is pre-checked during a process (like making a purchase) that a visitor must complete while on your website.It may be tempting to purchase a list of email addresses from a third-party, but in most cases this can result a large number of unqualified addresses or the recipient may feel that they are being spammed. There are certainly instances when renting a list from a third-party to send out an email blast is well warranted. For example, if your target recipients are financial advisors, consider reaching out to a publisher that specializes on that topic. However, make sure you understand the difference between List Rental and List Buying. There is a clear difference when purchasing a list of emails from a clearing house in which you are provided an actual list for you to retain, than a service which send the email for you and you never see the list. For more on the topic of List Buying and List Rental, check out this article from Email Marketing Reports.
2. Designing Your Email
There are many considerations to take into account when designing your email; your company’s brand attributes, pixel dimensions, preview panes and last but certainly not least, a well constructed relevant message. Just like a business card, brochure or website, an email is an extension of your brand. Brand recognition takes time to build and sending an email that does not include your brand’s attributes will cause an immediate disconnect.
- As a general rule of thumb, the width of your email should be no wider than 600px
- Build your email using tables. Yes, I said it… tables. Using tables will give you much greater control over your display as most email clients do not support a CSS layout.
- Use nested tables to help with padding and margins as they can be rendered a bit quirky by email clients
- Make it easy for readers to skim your message by formatting Headlines and Sub-Headlines
- Prioritize what content is most important and make sure it is displayed
- Use inline CSS instead of using and external stylesheet to add style to your message (a great reference guide to CSS support in email can be found at Campaign Monitor)
- Keep in mind that not all CSS declarations will work in an HTML email. For example, background images will not display in some email clients.
- Use a limited number of images to help reduce load time
- Be sure to have your organization’s name and logo visible in the valuable real estate of the preview pane to help readers make an immediate association
- Be sure to provide an alternative way for readers to view your email by adding a link to a web page version of the message
- Make sure to provide an opt-out button with your company contact information at the bottom of the email
- Send a plain text version of your email for subscribers who block HTML formatted emails
- If you are new to designing HTML emails, try starting with a free template.
- Design for the Preview Pane– When designing your HTML email, take the preview pane into consideration. Many people who receive their emails in a program like Outlook, Eudora, Thunderbird, Entourage or Mail view the message in a preview pane. The content that appears in this limited viewing area should be your most important to help draw the readers attention.The preview pane can be vertical or horizontal, and in most cases will not show images unless the user decides they want to view them. This means that if your text is contained in an image, the recipient won’t ever see it unless they decide to download the images. If your text must be embedded in an image to get that fancy special effect, use an ALT Tag with relevant text. Then, when the message is previewed, the recipient can read what the message may contain instead of viewing only an image placeholder. For more information about designing emails for the preview pane, check out this article.
- Include a Call to Action – If the goal of your email is to make a reader to take action, make sure your message contains a clear call-to-action. Offer the reader a reason to click and take the next step by providing an incentive like a discount on a product or a downloadable relevant case study via a landing page.
- Content – When considering what type of message you want to send to your subscribers, make sure it’s something that provides them value. Avoid self-serving emails that only promote your business or product. When you offer your readers information that they perceive as something of value, they are more likely to be continued subscribers. Offer insight on topics that your readers find interesting. This will help establish your organization as a quality source for reliable information and helps position you as a knowledgeable leader on the topics discussed. Also, be sure to keep your message short and to the point, nobody wants to read a longwinded email.
- Email Message Formatting – Competing for attention in an email inbox is tricky business due to the sheer volume of emails that many receive on a daily basis. Here are a few suggestions to help your message be read.
- Make sure your subject line is related to the content in your message
- Instead of using a generic “from” email address like firstname.lastname@example.org, use a person’s name from your company like email@example.com.
- Avoid using language like “Win a Free iPad” or, “Take this Short Survey”
- Do not use excessive punctuation and special characters
- Landing Pages– Now that the user has read your email, what steps do you want them to take next? If you included a compelling call-to-action to engage your readers as suggested above, direct them to a landing page that offers more information on the topic discussed in your email.Let’s say you offered your readers a free case study available for download through a landing page on your website. In most cases, you may not have much information about the subscribers on your email list. A landing page provides the ability to collect more information that your company or organization can leverage for future marketing. Take this opportunity to gather data about your prospect by asking questions that can be used to target your lead types with content they are most interested in.
- Test Before Sending – Create email addresses with multiple providers like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and AOL, and send them each a test to see how your email renders. Since there are numbers of email clients and it can be quite difficult to test them all. This process can become quite cumbersome and can take countless hours. Fortunately there are a few tools that will test the email for you, like litmus. Litmus automates the testing process and allows you to preview your email campaign across 30+ email clients and devices in minutes.
- Check Your Spam Score – If you are using one of the many third-party email blast service like MailChimp, Campaign Monitor or Constant Contact, chances are there is a built-in spam checker. Make sure that your email passes the spam score test, otherwise the chances of your message getting caught in a filter will be increased.
- Sending Your Blast– The best time to send an email blast depends on your target audience. If your audience is more of the business type, a good time to schedule your email blast is Tuesday morning at 10am. Reason being, most people spend their Monday morning catching up on emails from over the weekend and it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle. Also, sending your message around 10am allows time for people to have settled in to work, get their coffee and start their day. If Monday happens to be a holiday, try sending your email on Wednesday morning.You can also try segmenting your list and sending out tests at different times of the day to compare your open and click-through rates. Going further, if your email list also contains information about where the recipient is located you can segment your list to send at specific times for different locations.
In conclusion, there are many factors that must be addressed in order to conduct a successful HTML email campaign. Remember, keep it simple and make sure your message is clear and concise. Provide your subscribers value, include a call-to-action and test diligently. Once the campaign is complete, evaluate the campaign’s analytics and make adjustments where necessary for your next campaign.