Tuesday Tips: 25 Best Practices for Email Marketing

Kelly Flint, self-professed email geek says “Stay in front of your customers by landing in their inbox.  Less is more; get it out the door!”

In this blog post, I go over some of what I learned from Kelly about email marketing: why and how it works, tips, strategy, techniques, list building, permission marketing, and content tips.

So why should you use email marketing? 91% internet users use email; 225 million people in the US, including seniors which is the biggest growing segment of the internet population. Direct mail costs 20x more than email.

Email ROI: average $43. 52 returned for every $1 (WOW!)  Learning how to do it well by increasing your use of the following best practices, your open rate will increase that ROI. Average open rate is 12%, but if you have great content, the open rate can increase greatly–and your return on investment.

Here are 25 Best Practices for Email Marketing:

1) DON’T SPAM–it’s your reputation that’s on the line. You want to use permission based email marketing. That means generate your own contacts and grow from there.

2) DON’T send attachments–people don’t like to open them because too often they have a virus.

3) Deliver professional email communications that educate, promote your brand, and broadens your audience. Generate something that your audience will want to share.

4) Don’t rely on images–they don’t always display. Many email clients hold back on images because “bad” images were showing up. People don’t always want to do this. You have to gain their trust.

5) Integrate images with messages in a more sophisticated way. And any images you include in an email should include a link somewhere you’d like a client to go.

6) Use a service. If you do it on your own, your email risks being labeled as spam (if you send more than 10 emails at a time!)

7) Track your ROI (Return on Investment). A service can help you get around spam by sending emails individually AND a service can help you track who opens it when and what they do with it. The service offers templates etc. and Constant Contact offers coaching live from 6am-6pm for free.

8) BUILD YOUR EMAIL LIST: 57% will ask to join if you ask them; 80% will sign up if you tell them the frequency and the value.

When you exchange business cards, there’s an implied expectation that it’s permission to contact someone. But it doesn’t mean they want to be subscribed to your list–so ASK THEM!

9) Create an email campaign that asks people to forward to a friend. Make sure you give readers several links to make it easy for them.

10) Post a teaser for next month’s newsletter on various social media channels.

11) Add an unsubscribe message to the beginning of your newsletter with a customized message. Most services offer this; turn it on and make it work for you. Most people, when asked, will stay subscribed.

12) You MUST have a physical email address or PO Box at the bottom of every letter.

13) Keep your subscirbers happy. People unsub because there’s too much AND it’s not relevant. So target your message to a segment of your list: when people subscribe, they can choose which newsletters they want based on their interests. If you ask for information, only use four fields and make everything you can optional.

14) DON’T use your email sign up list for getting marketing info. As tempting as it may be, this is a time to generate a relationship and trust.

15) When someone first signs up for your newsletter, email them back thanking them and reward them. Think about how you can use your welcome email to reinforce your relationship.

16) Remember KISS–Keep It Simple (Stupid); the 80/20 rule (make it mostly content and less about promoting you)

17) Use Surveys/Invitations/Promotions/Announcements: pleasantly surprise people!

18) Don’t over do it or under do it.

HOW OFTEN? Create a master schedule and set the expectation. In general, how often someone buys from you determines how often. Communicate quarterly if not monthly regardless so the client remembers you. If you don’t expect repeat sales from clients, they may know someone who can use your services.

19) The best open rates are middle of the week and middle of the day.

20) Test to determine maximum impact with minimum intrusion. 60% open based on who it’s sent from;
30% open based on subject line

21) Keep subject lines less than 49 characters including spaces; beware cutting off some of your subject line and sending the wrong message.

22) Be sparing with humor.

23) Be super careful about wrong spellings that can also send the wrong message.

24) Avoid the words free, credit, anything that sounds like spam!

25) Remember that reading speed in email is 25% slower than on paper because of the flicker of the monitor so use one or two teaser paragraphs and invite people to read more on your website or blog. You can also turn the article into a pdf (Box.net offers online storage and a link to it as does some services). Need help creating a pdf? Try Cute.pdf.

Some final words of advice:

It’s not what you can get but what you can give.
So offer:
Your expertise
Testimonials
Instructions
Discounts and Coupons
VIP status
Contests and giveaway
Cross Promotion

So now that you’re convinced that you want to get involved in email marketing and you know some best practices, what’s it cost? Price is based on number of email addresses you send. But if you are a client of SBDC, which is free, then it’s 25% off whether you are a new or current client. Non-profits that work with under 18 can get a free account if sponsored by a business which is using the service.

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