Email Marketing: Best Practices and Common Mistakes
Sending an email to a customer or potential customer is risky business. On the one hand, statistics show that email marketing is effective and that consumers want to receive marketing information in their inboxes. On the other hand, that spam button is awfully tempting to some people. Here are some of the industry's best practices to follow, along with a few common mistakes to avoid.
Don't Become SPAM.
Even if you have taken the time to carefully collect and verify all of the email addresses on your list, you'll still get hit with the occasional spam complaint. Here are some of the top reasons why people mark emails as spam, even if they are legit:
You collected your contact information legitimately using opt-ins from your website, but you took too long to contact the people on your list. They won't remember signing up for your newsletters if they did so two years ago.
You use email addresses collected from customers making purchases on your website, and now you're sending newsletters and marketing mail to them without asking. They provided their contact information to get information regarding their purchase, and that's it.
You have purchased or rented a list of email addresses from an organization and start adding them to your list without asking permission. Even if those individuals have checked the box that allows an organization to share their address, they probably don't mean it.
Segment Your List
Sending every message you write to every person on your list is a sure way to increase your unsubscribes. You have the ability to track the source of every single email address on your list, so do it! Knowing where your readers were when they offered their email address to you allows you to only send targeted information to them. This will increase the number of messages that get opened, reduce the amount of unsubscribes you get, and increase the overall success of every message that is sent out.
You can also segment your messages by buyer persona and then craft targeted messages for each of them. Although the main message may be the same, you can write different subject lines and include different images that would appeal to your different personas.
Write a Good Subject Line
While the content of your email is important, it is the subject line that determines whether or not your message even gets seen. In fact, 35 percent of email recipients choose whether to open a message based on the subject line alone. Here are a few tips for writing a successful subject:
Keep it Short. There is only so much room for displaying your subject line and if it gets cut off your message may get missed. Fifty characters is a good number to avoid having your subject lines chopped.
Get Personal. Don't write boring subject lines; show yourself a little bit. Don't be afraid to use humor or drama to make your subjects compelling while still letting readers know what's inside.
Test, Test, Test! One of the best ways to find out which subject lines are working is to test different variations. A/B testing is the marketing jargon used to describe testing two alternatives in real time to see which is performing better. Test different lengths, degrees of personalization, and styles to see what motivates your readers.
Format Your Message Well
A poorly formatted message is worse than no message at all. Different email clients will render your images and backgrounds differently, and many people have images turned off completely. Not taking the time to format your messages properly will increase unsubscribes and reduce click-through rates substantially. Here are a few formatting tips to help you send better messages.
Don't Overlook Text Format. Pretty HTML messages look nice but if you don't craft a separate text-only version of your email you could be irritating your recipients. Many cell phones or other mobile devices won't render HTML properly, people have images turned off, and some people just prefer text.
Don't DIY. Unless you know what you're doing, don't DIY your HTML emails. Unless you've hired a marketing firm with in-house coders and designers, use a reputable service and utilize their tested and trusted templates for your messages.
Keep it Simple. Don't cram so much into your messages that the meaning gets lost. Take the time to segment your lists and send only what you know they want to read. If you're sending out the monthly newsletter, make it extremely skimmable so your readers can jump around to what they want to see.