April 03, 2014

Email marketing best practices

If you didn’t already know, Fifth Ring is a member of the Business to Business Network (BBN), a global agency network. BBN brings together the elite B2B agencies across the globe to create and develop the best marketing, advertising, digital and PR practices. As part of an ongoing blog sharing series with our partner agencies in BBN, we are sharing an edited version of one of Bader Rutter’s posts, all about email marketing best practices.  

This post was written by Brian Kohlmann and originally appeared on Converge, the Bader Rutter blog. 

“How many emails go right from your inbox into the trash? If you’re like most people, probably quite a few. With messages coming at us from all directions — monitors, smart phones, TVs, tablets — undivided attention is becoming a limited commodity. Consider the fact that the average human attention span is eight seconds. This shift in focus might make emails easier to dismiss, but marketing pros can harness their skills and use this knowledge to create even more effective connections with customers.

When planning an email marketing campaign or drafting a message, consider these best practices:

1. Pay attention to the data.
Your email lists are the heart of any email marketing campaign. By regularly building and updating your lists of addresses, you can ensure your database is up-to-date and your message is reaching the right audience. With more valid addresses come more relevant metrics, and high email delivery rates lead to better recognition (less likely labelled as spam) from Internet service providers. Work to identify dormant addresses and clean out what you no longer need. Email validation services AccuValid or FreshAddress are helpful resources.

2. Gain permission to engage.
Have you ever received emails that you didn’t sign up for? This type of email marketing is poor practice and shows why you need permission to engage. An estimated 70 percent of consumers feel very strongly that marketers should obtain explicit permission to include them in an email list, according to RegReady. Whenever possible, build your list organically and use double opt-in for a more legitimate list. Remember that mass email sign-ups don’t yield results; relevant lists do.

3. Build a killer subject line.
It’s the first thing your readers see in an inbox full of emails, so make it count. Plus, as more people are using mobile devices to filter through their emails, the subject line can make the difference between keeping a message to read later or deleting it for good. A knockout subject line hints to the content contained in the email and shows that the message has key information your readers need to see. Make a list of potential subject lines and crack the code that is email marketing by testing and retesting. There are simple tools that help you assess your subject lines (try SubjectLine.com) and more sophisticated ones that do A/B split testing. Take advantage of them.

4. Offer dynamic, relevant content.
No one wants to open an email only to find a generic greeting and dull content. Engage your readers with truly individualised email messaging. Personalise subject lines and greetings with your readers’ names. Create dynamic content according to customers based on how long they’re been on your list, their purchase history, etc. Use website-driven content to prompt readers to visit new areas of your site, and optimise the send time so the emails arrive when recipients are most likely to check their mail. These are just a few ways you can personalise email to grab your readers’ attention.

5. Create a clear, easy-to-understand call to action.
Chances are your readers attention span is limited, so get to the point as soon as possible. A call to action doesn’t have to be a big step like making a purchase or signing up to become a member. A simple “click here” still works and is more effective than a grandiose purchase-oriented call to action. Guide readers to that call to action with clean buttons and a clean design, then measure your results with Google Analytics.

Part two

What do you do when you want to touch base with a co-worker during a one-minute window before your next meeting? How about when you want the highlights from your favourite news website? You check your email. Well, you’re not alone. Consider, as of 2012, Gmail had 425 million active users. Savvy digital marketers know how to reach people through email. 

1. Key messages should go above the fold.
Put your best content front and centre where your readers can see it — above the fold. This ensures your readers can find the need-to-know information without scrolling or even opening the message. Consider that users preview emails more than 80 percent of the time before opening them and, according to Nielson Normal Research, typical email viewers spend only 20 percent of their time below the fold. If that preview doesn’t entice your readers, they likely will move on.

2. Design for your audience.
Like any area of marketing or PR, you must know your audience. An email might bring great results when sent to an executive’s PC, but how will it perform on a 20-something’s smartphone? Think about the mobility of your target readers and which devices they prefer. Yesmail discovered users open 49 percent of all brand emails on mobile devices, so be sure to render your campaigns for multiple platforms. Regardless of audience demographics, cut the clutter and aim for a simple, straightforward message.

3. Take a multichannel approach.
Remember that email marketing is just one facet of a larger marketing force. Don’t ignore other channels. Epsilon says 62 percent of Americans still enjoy checking their mailboxes, so offer them a surprise the next time they check. Direct marketing, webinars, videos and websites all have their own advantages. Understand your audience and offer them choices between channels.

4. Test. Test. Test.
Testing and improving are powerful aspects of email marketing. You can’t follow a standard checklist to know what will work for your email campaign, because every audience and every message is different. But you always can — and should — test subject lines, messages, layouts, calls to action, scheduled delivery and personalisation.

5. Measure.
Like any marketing campaign, you need to have an end goal. How will you know whether you reach it? Before you hit send, make sure you’ve set up a system that measures the top email marketing metrics — unique opens, unique click-thru, etc. Go deep into the conversion funnel and set benchmarks. That way, you can easily spot your strong points and your not-so-strong points, making for a much more effective email marketing campaign.

Email marketing remains an effective way to connect with your audience because you can reach them wherever they are. But remember, good marketing is more than typing a simple email. The key is to plan, personalise and test. So reach out with emails that stand out, and you will see the difference.

Want to share your thoughts? Do you have questions? Let us know in the comment section.”

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