Wednesday, June 24, 2009

8 Steps To Email Marketing Success

The nature of email marketing has changed enormously over the past few years. No longer just a tool to drive short term sales, email is a highly-valued tool to develop and maintain long-term customer relationships through an ever-growing variety of devices and formats from fixed line PCs and mobile laptops to iPhones and Blackberrys.

With these technological developments, businesses developing their email marketing might want to consider these eight key points:

1) List Hygiene - It is important to work closely with providers of acquisition data to determine their opt-in policies and quality of their list, to prevent potential blacklisting. Retaining information on the age of the list, and when it was last emailed are also crucial both to prevent lists from becoming cluttered with invalid email addresses that would increase bouncebacks as well as to reduce the risk of being blacklisted by ISPs.

2) Blacklisting - Maintaining a good reputation is vital to mitigating the risk of being blacklisted. Clear customer expectations of what they will receive and how often should be set on all registration pages. The unsubscribe process should be clear, easy and fail-safe. Both of these practices will significantly reduce complaint rates and the risk of being reported as spam. Good, strong ISP Relations are also a key element to reduce potential blacklisting.

3) Subject line length - Research has shown that most consumers base their decision to open an email on the first 45 or so characters of its subject line. Word choice and word order are also key factors. "Shorter is better", although very targeted or niche audience emails can be exceptions to this rule. This is not just because time-poor consumers want subject lines that match their attention spans but because some email service providers display only the first 38 to 47 characters of a subject line in a recipient’s in-box, (mobile devices display even less of the subject line). Testing, re-writing and re-testing are crucial as this factor has been shown to be the strongest determinant of email performance.

4) Content - Eye-tracking studies show that 60% of readers make it to the bottom of those emails with images. Images are therefore key but they must be relevant. Also remember they must be visible on devices which have different screen sizes – iPhones, Blackberrys etc. Refrain from too many pictures, as image intensive emails are often large files and as a result can often be blocked by corporate email systems.

5) Email Strategy - Match your email tactics to the relevant lifestyle stage of customers. Analysis of email behaviour is vital to retain clients, for example, shopping trolley abandonment emails are a very effective tool for recovering lost sales opportunities. After initial contact campaigns, testing and segmentation based on email activity is vital to build long term, profitable email relationships.

6) Communication - Emails have evolved from a simple sales tool to a sophisticated relationship management device. A good email relationship can help convey key company information through to building corporate branding. It is important to successfully manage campaigns in terms of frequency and type of communication. Companies who utilise email marketing in this way can reap long term benefits from such strategies.

7) Relevancy - 'Irrelevancy is the new spam'. No matter how strong a client relationship, research has shown it only takes a very few badly targeted and badly personalised emails for a customer to start ignoring future communications. It is imperative to use well developed data analysis tools to segment and tailor emails. This will ensure highly targeted messages are sent to those who want to receive them in the first place.

A recent Epsilon survey revealed an overwhelming customer preference for personalised direct marketing. Two-thirds of respondents that receive email marketing communications want to receive personalised content from companies. Specifically, consumers want content and offers based on their personal online behaviour such as website and browsing activity, past purchases or in the case of pharmaceutical goods, tailored content based on their condition history.

8) Deliverability - Email delivery rates directly impact the ROI of email marketing campaigns and are fast-becoming a standard metric alongside click-through and open rates, the latter of which has become increasingly difficult to track accurately. The first hurdle is to ensure your email is accepted for delivery by your ISP. Ensure that your email service provider enjoys a good 'reputation' with the ISP. This is based primarily on the history of the sender IP address and the rate of legitimate vs bounce backed emails generated. More than 75% of email filtering and blocking at this level occurs on this basis. Further filtering takes place at the recipient mail server, when emails are diverted to junk or spam boxes. There are 100,000s of rules for checking the message header and body for known spam patterns both at ISP level and at the individual’s mailbox settings. Content filtering is based on keywords, number of domains and images in the email. To maximise email deliverability ensure your email strategies have to be optimised across email content, design through to dynamic pre-testing of campaigns.



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