Beginner's guide to marketing to an email audience

20th Aug 2012 | 09:39

Beginner's guide to marketing to an email audience

How to create emails that your customers will open

Consumers have over the last few years become savvy to the deluge of marketing emails they could receive each day. Today consumers have built sophisticated email filtering systems to stop as much spam as possible reaching their inboxes.

This doesn't mean that your business' email marketing messages won't get through, it simply means your business needs to use email intelligently and craft compelling, marketing messages that consumers want to read and act upon.

Creating inbox Nirvana

Email marketing is governed by the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. Before your business can send an email marketing message to anyone your business must ask permission. The only exception is if your business has already contacted that person about similar services or goods.

A consumer will open your business' email messages if they feel they offer value to them. Consumers have limited time, so will be choosey about which emails they delete and which they will act upon.

The design, message, time of day the email is received and the calls to action all impact on an email's success as a marketing mechanism.

Your business can increase the chances of its email marketing messages reaching a receptive audience by following some simple rules:

  • Segment your database or buy highly specific email address lists to ensure you are speaking to people that are likely to be interested in your business' goods or services
  • Don't send emails every day as this can feel like spam. Only send an email when your company has something special to say
  • Personalise each email as consumers like to be spoken to directly. Try and stick to a fixed schedule, so potential customers begin to expect your messages
  • If you are sending business-to-business emails these are best sent between Tuesday and Thursday and at 9:30am. Business-to-consumer emails should be sent between Tuesday and Thursday, or from Friday evening and Sunday afternoon at 5pm to 8pm
  • Send plain-text and HTML versions of your emails to ensure everyone can read your message
  • Write an engaging subject line that makes the recipient want to read more. The body of the email should be clear and concise and contain an obvious call to action
  • Make sure your company is set up and prepared for an increase of orders and customer service contacts once an email campaign has been sent

Avoiding spam

It's a well-understood component of advertising that repetition can ensure that a brands services or products are remembered by consumers. This certainly works in traditional media, but not when email is concerned. It is commercial suicide to constantly bombard your customers with email messages, as this is tantamount to spamming them. The result is your emails are blocked and never arrive in your potential customers' inbox. With email marketing, less is more.

Prevent your emails from ending up as junk

So, if consumers are building digital bunkers around their inboxes how can your business' emails get through? Just as with traditional direct marketing your business needs to understand its customers. Always have an email sign up box on your site, and gather email addresses at every opportunity. Why? because these people have expressed an interest in your business and have stated they want to hear more.

Customers understand email can be useful, such as to confirm that an order they have placed was successful. But they are also open to new services and products if the marketing message is relevant to them. Engaging with customers is now key, especially with today's social media dominated environment. Just sending an email to customers that have not placed and order for some time can keep the lines of communication open.

Lastly it's important to understand how the behaviour of your customers can also influence how successful your email marketing will be. Most of the leading email programs such as Outlook and Apple Mail use what is called Bayesian filtering.

This means that any email that is marked as spam will be compared to every other email that comes in for similar traits. Some of the keywords that will often be marked as spam include: Free, act now, order now, you're a winner and please read. Try and avoid these words in your email campaigns. Your business needs to ensure its messages don't look like spam and run the risk of automatically being deleted.

Test for the best

Email marketing must be tracked and analysed to ensure it is delivering on your expectations. Open rates and click-throughs from calls to action can all be tracked. Your business should also look at the level of bounceback (ie email addresses that no longer work) and also the level of unsubscribers you are getting.

Follow these additional steps to improve your business' email marketing success:

  • Make sure you have permission from the people you want to email
  • Design your email so it supports your business' brand identity
  • Make sure you use absolute URL's for every image in the email
  • Include one clear call to action per email campaign
  • Design different email messages for mobile marketing as they have to take into consideration the small screens of smart phones
  • Test, test and test again to ensure your email message is working properly

Email marketing can be a highly effective if it is well designed and focused on a key group of recipients. The more your business knows about its customers the more engaging the emails will be. Consumers are interested in email marketing, but they will only read messages that are of interest to them.

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