Recently I was asked for some "best practices" for email marketing.
Email is the only permission based marketing program. Consumers willingly give you their information and permission to market to them, usually because they are engaged with your brand/business.
1.) My first tip? Never rent a list. Build your own. Sure it takes time, but it will pay dividends in the long run. I keep three "generic" email accounts that I only use to see who is buying and selling my information. Occasionally, I will use one of these accounts to register for an offer on a website just to see what happens. I never use these accounts as a means for communicating.
And yet, I receive hundreds, yes hundreds, of emails from companies and individuals I have never heard of. And more importantly, they will never hear from me. (My Spam filter on this account has 588 emails this month...)
With this permission comes an expectation that you will continue to send relevant content. Note it does not say "constant sales pitches". Depending on your business, email is a great way to educate consumers about your products/services as they educate themselves, prior to making the purchasing decision.
2.) Develop a publishing schedule and determine what is the ideal frequency of email marketing. A publishing schedule should not only contain your email topics, but should also include a log of all your other marketing messages - Facebook Ads, Facebook posts and boosted posts, text messages, Google ads - everything that you plan to do to target your clients and sales prospects. Here is a snapshot of a Google Doc we use with a client:
3.) In addition to education, I also include a Call To Action in the email so the individual can respond easily if they choose to do so. And finally, make sure your email template is mobile responsive. The majority of all emails are opened on mobile devices today.
"But Jeff, I don't want people to have my email address. Perhaps you shouldn't be sending emails then.
OK, so make up a name and route it to the individual that needs to see the reply. At Thrive, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. "Joey" is not a paid employee, he is a dog. And his reading and typing skills are horrible, so his is a monitored account, meaning someone else receives and answers his emails. (Sure go ahead and send him an email. He enjoys it when I read them to him.)
5.) Preview and test your emails before sending them. Run spell check first. If you need a great tool that works across most platforms, I have had great success using the free version of Grammarly. They provide a browser plugin that runs in the background and it allows you to add new words to the dictionary on the fly.
And make sure your email template is mobile responsive. Our CRM is Hubspot and they provide a tool to preview emails in a number of mobile formats before you send them. Here is a link to an article showcasing 5 Email Preview Tools. I can vouch for Litmus.
6.) Don't be afraid to 'clean up' your email list. In fact, CLEAN UP YOUR EMAIL LIST. It is not an option. Many clients are reluctant to remove people form their list because they value "the number of emails they are sending out every month". "I send out 12,000 emails every month!"
Of course 1,500 of them never reach the target because they bounce. And 3,000 of the emails are never opened or read because the recipient long ago lost interest in your product or services. (In a future posting we will talk about how this affects your relationship with I.S.Ps.)
We currently send out emails using Hubspot. Within hours/days of sending out an email we start to get reporting on the email and the email list we have built and use. Here is a report on the latest ySite email.
This is telling me that we sent this email to 1,042 recipients and 32 of these emails (3.1%) bounced. This is higher than our average of 1.47% In this case, as I reviewed the addresses that bounced, it was the result of higher then normal turnover at the YMCAs we communicate with.
Our list of YMCA emails started with 2,000 email addresses. So why are we only sending to 1,042 individuals? Because our email system, Hubspot, uses intelligence that monitors how engaged the individuals are with the messages we are sending. Over time, it monitors whether or not people are opening the emails we are sending. If someone doesn't open three consecutive emails and then they open one, they stay on the send list.
If it notices that someone has not opened any of the last eight emails, it determines that this individual is not engaged with the messages we are sending and suppresses the individual from the list. The contact information stays in the database, they are only removed from this list. So we are now confident that we have 1,000 individuals who look forward to seeing our messages.
I also see that the current Open Rate is 36.5%. Is this good or bad? What is an acceptable Open Rate? Across dozens of clients I see and "average" open rate or 20% - 25%. I prefer to look at the long term trends. Our last three emails had open rates of 32%, 33% and 37%. So to me, it appears our messages are resonating with our audience. Overall we are keeping up with our current Open Trends. If the next email has a 22% Open Rate, I will be looking for reasons we experienced such a drop off. (Also note that the average recipient opened the email twice or shared it with a colleague.)
Finally, here is the final report.
1,005 successful deliveries. 37 Bounces. 7 Unsubscribes. 0 Spam reports.
Note that the number of successful deliveries will vary each month due to bounces and unsubscribes. But don't forget that we are actively building our list, adding new subscribers every month so it typically continues to grow.
7.) Abide by CAM-SPAM rules. One of the most important rules is to make it easy to opt out of your emails and never send email to someone who doesn't want it. PERIOD. There are severe penalties for doing so.
Equally important - it is simply bad business.
BONUS TIP - The emails that are never opened are still a powerful opportunity to get your message out there. Every email client shows a subject line so be sure to keep this in mind as you craft your message. Free advertising!
Best wishes and keep on emailing!