As internet marketers, we all know and believe that Email Marketing has always been the most cost effective and effective tool to communicate to our target audience. Whether we want to target an end consumer or a business user, whether we want to communicate an offer or some company news, we all have done Email Marketing to our target audience.
Though this tool is a proven and effective marketing tool, there is no doubt that it has been misused by many marketers in distributing spam. With this article, I would like to highlight how we can best use the email marketing technique and get the best results without spamming our target users.
Before I explain you about the best practices of Email Marketing, it is important that we first understand the meaning of the word “spam” and how we should avoid it.
Any unsolicited email sent to a person, who had never requested for that email is called spam. Sending spam can certainly ruin your company’s reputation and brand value. Thus, it is extremely important that we do not send out any unsolicited email to any user.
Let us now understand the best practices that one should follow to make best use of Email Marketing as an effective marketing tool.
The database of the users to whom you want to send out your mailer should always be opt-in and not bought from a third party. Thus, the users should have given their email address to you directly along with their consent to receive emails of a particular type from you / your company.
Don’t use Misleading From Information
The From Name used to send out the mailer should not be misleading and should ideally be either your company’s name or the name of your communication manager. Similarly, the from email ID should ideally be either a company email which is dedicated to such communications or a user’s individual company email.
In any case, the from name and email ID should always remain the same (as much as possible) for all such regular mailers.
Don’t use Deceptive Subject Lines
The subject lines should be specific to the contents of the mailer and should not be deceiving to the user. Further, avoid using words like Free, Offer, Sale, etc. to reduce the chances of the mailer going in spam.
Don’t use All Capitals / Exclamation Marks
You should never write the subject line or body content of the mailer using all capital letters or exclamation marks. This will also ensure the chances of your mailer not getting into spam.
It is always a good idea to personalize your mailer with the user’s name. If you use the individual user’s name in the subject line then it will certainly increase the chances of him opening the email.
Similarly, if you start the mailer by addressing the user with his name, then it increases the probability of the user reading the entire mail.
The mailer should contain only relevant content which the user had opted-in for. For example, if a user had opted to receive mailer about mobile phones, then your mailer should contain offers related to mobiles primarily.
Use Text for Content
Though the mailer should be creative and inviting by using a set of creative images, ensure that you use text instead of images wherever you have some content in the mailer. This is because almost all the email clients block the images in the first go, so at-least your text is visible to the users the moment he opens the mailer, even if he does not download the images.
Call To Action
The mailer should have clear Call to Action after every relevant section which invites the user to click on the same. For example, if you are sending a mailer with 3 offers on your website, every offer should have a button like “Buy Now” or “Click Here” to invite the user to click on the same.
It is important that you mention your physical office location in text form in the mailer. This ensures that it is not a spam mail and is coming from an authentic and reliable source. This is also an important parameter in the can spam guidelines.
Add your Email in Recipient’s Address Book
It is always good if the email that is used to send out the mailer is already in the receiver’s address book. This will ensure deliverability in the Inbox to quite an extent. Thus, you should always add a message at the top of your emails that says something like “To ensure receipt of our emails, please add firstname.lastname@example.org to your Address Book.”
Option to Unsubscribe
There should always be an option in the mailer which allows the users to opt-out or unsubscribe from your mailing list, in case he does not want to receive any future emails for that category from your company.
Ideally, the un-subscription option should be a link where the user can click and land on a webpage where he can consciously unsubscribe from the mailing list.
Once a user has unsubscribed, you should honor his/her decision and not send out any further email to that user.
You should always have a copy of the mailer residing on a web server and add a message at the top of your emails that says something like “Click here if you are unable to read the email”. On click, the user should be taken to the web version of the mailer.
This is important because many a times certain email clients do not open the images in the mailer. With a web version, you ensure that the user’s experience in going through the mailer is not hampered.
HTML and Text Version
You should always create a text version along with your HTML version of the mailer. This is because many email clients have certain restrictions in displaying HTML mailer, so there is high probability that your text version of the mailers is delivered to such users.
Can Spam Guidelines
You should ensure that you adhere to the Can Spam guidelines before sending out your mailer. You can refer to the same at http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business/
Use a Bulk Mailing Software
You should ideally not use your own computer or server to send out the mailers in bulk. This is because your server / computer would normally use a single IP address to send out all the emails and increases the chances of your IP getting blacklisted.
You should always use a professional third party paid bulk mailing software to send out mass emails. These softwares send out emails in batches using multiple IP addresses and ensures that even if one of their IP address gets blacklisted, your majority of the emails are still delivered using some other IP address.
Further, these software companies also manage and ensure good reputation with the top ISPs and email providers like Google, Yahoo, etc. thereby reducing the chances of your emails getting delivered in Spam.
You should always set the frequency of the mailer being sent to your audience and adhere to the same as much as possible. Although there are no set guidelines as to how many times you should send mailer to the same person, but you should not be sending mailers too frequently to the same user base.
In my opinion, the ideal frequency should be either bi-weekly or monthly, but it also depends upon your business dynamics.
The timing when the mailer should be sent plays a very important role in its success. In most cases it is good to send out mailers to a business audience between Tuesday through Friday at around 1:30 – 2:00 pm. It is not recommended to send business to business emails after 4 pm or on weekends.
Similarly, mailers to consumers should be between Tuesday to Friday, preferably in the evening, ie, between 5 pm – 8 pm.
After you send out the mailer, it is important that you have a proper tracking mechanism in place. Most of the times, your bulk mail software will be able to provide you with the tracking mechanism.
You should always track the performance of your mailer campaign in terms of bounce rates, soft vs hard bounces, open rate, click rate, unsubscribe rate, etc. It is important that you understand all these parameters and understand how users are behaving to your mailer, so that you can further optimize and send your next mailer accordingly.
Though the above are some of the best practices in my opinion that one should follow for any email marketing campaign, there is no guarantee that all the emails will be delivered in the user’s inbox since it depends upon a lot of parameters which are at times beyond the control of the marketer.
However, I am sure that if you adhere to the above parameters, you will certainly see a significant improvement in your mailer campaign.
The above is just based on my personal experience with email marketing. Feel free to share your comments on this article and spread the word around.