Ah email…the thing we probably will never be able to do without. I remember the first time someone asked me if I had email, sometime in the early 1990s I think. I thought it was such a foreign concept, now it’s as commonplace and vital as your TV or phone. Every company and website owner has to properly leverage email and their email distribution in order to capitalize on everything they are doing in business. Whether you are a blog owner, webmaster, or corporate site, you have to have a good strategy in place to make sure you are leveraging email and email marketing in general. Here are some important concepts with regards to email marketing, newsletter deployment, list building principles, and general email sending best practices.
Email Newsletter Design & Function – ugly newsletter design and formatting is one of my pet peeves. If you know me you know I think HTML newsletters, for whatever purpose, should be beautiful looking, well-designed, and have a strategy behind them. Before you blast anything to your subscribers or customers you might want to survey what your competitors are sending or people in your same industry to get a feel. Usually bigger companies have their newsletter design decent looking, although definitely not always. Your HMTL newsletters should have a nice header, footer, and side-bar, with your content in the middle. Everything should layout properly and look good ascetically. All emails should be tested to various email servers, like Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, and Hotmail, to make sure it displays properly. Before you blast a newsletter you should send a series of test emails to make sure all is perfect. It’s never a bad idea to have another couple sets of eyes look at your email newsletters to makes sure they read well and everything is 100% perfect. Email newsletters should also have a purpose or strategy behind them, if not hit on a few purposes. They should be really friendly and speak to your intended audience and not at them.
Auto-responder Emails – most websites send various types of automated emails or “auto-responders” to people for various things. When you sign-up, when you register, when you buy, when you are supposed to buy again, you will get an automated email about it. A lot of companies don’t pay enough attention to their auto-responders, but they should. These emails are a great opportunity to do things like: convey monthly promotions, build Facebook Fans, encourage referrals, and other types of things beneficial to the company or the relationship in general. Auto-responders should be periodically reviewed to make sure they are good as they can be and are current with their content and messaging. These types of messages are usually text based, but there’s no reason their can’t have a nice, clean HTML design, but without the right column.
Building Your List – building your database of emails should be a constant focus so you can re-market to them later. I don’t really advocate annoying pop-ups when visitors hit your site but it can work. I prefer a pop-under as a way to ask for their email so they can receive more information. Running sweepstakes on your site, with a nice graphic in the layout, can get more of your visitors to divulge their email address. You should focus on giving people the opportunity to give you their email address but not be obsessed by it. Another way to build your list is with “co-registrations” which are people that say they are interested in what you offer when signing up for something else. You pay for their contact info so you can send a follow-up company promotion and try to turn them into a customer, which can be effective from the right source. Always have a newsletter subscription box in plain sight as well. As you acquire customers you list builds and you can attempt to turn every customer into a source of referral through a referral program. Make sure to have your various lists separate or “segmented” so you can send targeted messages which tend to be the most effective.
Email Sending Best Practices – actually deploying or “blasting” your email newsletters and other correspondences can be fraught with issues, especially if you don’t go about it a certain way. You can send them through your own server or you can use a 3rd party email sending tool like Constant Contact or iContact. Sending through your own hosting might be an issue if you have a limit on the number of emails you can send email monthly through your account. You have to check with your host to make sure you don’t have restrictions if you have a decent sized list of 1000 or more. There are plenty of email sending platforms to choose from out there for companies. You can have one built on your own server that will work just as well as 3rd party system, just make sure you have your “unsubscribe” instructions and a way to “opt-out” of your list. Otherwise you can be in violation of Can-Spam act of 2003, which mandates accurate From address, way to opt-out, and physical address of the sender included in all emails to lists. Sending too much email out too quickly could get you banned from some ISPs like Yahoo and Hotmail, which will hurt your deliver-ability. Acquiring email lists and blasting to them can seem like it would make sense but most likely won’t be very effective and could get your hosting account shut down, so watch the buying of lists.
Newsletter Strategy – All email newsletters should have a strategy behind them. You shouldn’t just send something out because you think you have to. If you’re going to send a newsletter make it worth reading! I usually recommend writing some helpful or informative articles and linking to them on your site. Including company news is usually a good idea. Make sure you personalize the newsletter by including the first name of the recipient in the subject line and in the intro copy. You can add some affiliate offers too in your newsletter to generate some revenue with them. You can include new company promotions to increase repeat business to your site. You can include a survey or opportunity to get feedback from your subscribers/customers which can be used to improve what you do. You should always include links to join your Facebook Fan Page and referral program if you have one. Have a meeting to discuss what should be included in the newsletter and take it really seriously to get the most out of each opportunity.
These are some ideas and concepts to help you maximize your newsletter and email sending activities. It’s always a work in progress to make sure you are fully taking advantage of the opportunity. You have to try different things and see what works. You should split test your subject lines to see which get more opens too, not enough companies do that. I hope you enjoyed reading my tips and strategies for maximizing your email newsletters! Let me know if you have any feedback or feel free to contribute to by commenting below. Thanks and have a great week!