Email Marketing is a great way to reach your target audience. We may feel inundated with emails at times, but carefully constructed targeted email campaigns are widely regarded as the most effective promotional tool.
Email campaigns must have a purpose. Recipients are rarely impressed with continuous email campaigns with no real message.
Buying email lists is generally frowned upon. In my experience the email addresses are often poor and the unsubscribe rates are huge. Whenever a customer makes contact with your organisation, particularly through an enquiry or sale then this is the time to ask if they would like to receive emails. It is much better to get a list of interested contacts than bombard people with irrelevant messages.
I personally like to use Mailchimp. I have worked on various email campaigns, including multinational mailing lists and small personalised campaigns. Mailchimp is a good website offering free email Marketing, however it is fiddly for anyone that is not used to dealing with website software.
Test, Test, Test
It is so important to test emails over and over as you are developing them. It is always interesting to see how email campaigns appear on different screens.
I hate it when I receive an email with errors and it makes me judge the sender in a very negative way. I always feel it is critical to send messages to a few different email addresses and check the results on different devices in the process of developing emails.
Call To Action
It is funny how many emails I receive that have no clear call to action. Without this, there is no way to measure effectiveness of a campaign. It can be a link to a website page or a button to request a sample or brochure, but it is the only way to monitor whether the email is working. It is really exciting to watch your open rates and click through rates which is all possible in MailChimp.
I am genuinely amazed at the illegal practice I frequently see in relation to email Marketing. This is often small organisations where an individual does not appreciate the legal implications of what they are doing, however there are many larger organisations where people are sending out illegitimate and illegal email campaigns.
Email Best Practice
I believe it is always best to follow best practice regarding any Marketing activity, not just to follow the law, but I really don’t want to irritate people. So, I have listed below some points to follow related to email marketing. These points are all subject to change and there are up to date sources online stating the current legislation relating to email marketing, but if you follow these and avoid any malicious behaviour, you should be complying with best practice.
Permission – you must have permission from an individual prior to emailing them. Ideally this is via a double opt-in where recipients allow emails and then follow up with a consent to do so. You can send an email to a corporate address such as firstname.lastname@example.org, however you must provide a means to opt-out or unsubscribe. You can email previous customers or enquirers, but only if you have their permission and have provided a means by which they can opt out of communications or unsubscribe.
Data Protection – you must store personal information securely and only collect details required for the stated purpose. You should only keep the details for as long as you need them. An individual can request what details you have about them via a ‘subject access request’ and you are obliged to respond.
Sender Details – Limited companies and private limited companies in England and Wales are obliged to include the following details with all emails: Company name, registration number, place of registration and registered office.
Opt-Out – you must provide an opt-out option for recipients so they can easily unsubscribe from future communications. Any opt-out requests should be processed quickly, ideally via an automated system.
Sharing Email Addresses – if you wish to pass on email addresses to a third party, you must obtain consent from each and every individual. You must clearly specify this when obtaining email details and provide a means to opt-out.
Purchased Email Lists – if you purchase an email list from a company then you must ensure you have permission to send messages to the email addresses. Companies selling email addresses must have gained consent from individuals for third party emails. In my experience, purchasing email addresses is not very effective compared to naturally sourced contacts, such as online forms and personal requests.
Email Marketing is a great tool, but anyone embarking on an email campaign should be aware of the rules, which vary by country and are likely to become more restrictive in the UK over the next few years. The worst practices I have seen include using the cc field for all email addresses, which effectively gives away your entire email contacts list (silly, dangerous and illegal). Also I find poor unsubscribe functions are really irritating, especially where you have to fill in your details to unsubscribe and specify why you no longer wish to receive emails. Most email software packages include the unsubscribe details and functionality, so you don’t have to do anything and this ensures you have a nice clean relevant contacts list.
My final point is that once you have a nice loyal contacts list, please ensure that you send them relevant emails with interesting content. I am completely bombarded by some companies with sale after sale or just a pointless message that ticks a box for a Marketing department or agency. Also ensure you do a complete check on all details prior to sending out emails as the “Oops, we made a mistake emails” are very unprofessional.
I love working on a good strong email campaign and I am currently working on some emails to promote healthcare services so I thought I’d share some tips for effective email campaigns:
Relevance – only send emails to people that will be useful or interesting for recipients. Think before starting an email, is this something that someone is likely to want to open and read about? If necessary, segment your recipients to send specific messages to different people.
Brief – keep it brief. I always like to keep email content brief and direct people to the website. Then you can provide as much or as little information as people require and you can monitor how many people have clicked through to your website.
Website back up – ensure your website has relevant content that you can link to from the email campaign. You may wish to set up a page specifically to back up the email campaign, which looks and sounds like the email they have just read.
Subject line – spend time thinking about a strong subject line that will lead people into your email. Think about your audience and what is in it for them. Time is valuable and people are increasingly picky about the emails they open. Ensure your email delivers on the promise of the subject. I hate opening emails on the basis of an enticing subject only to find a disappointing message inside or an amazing offer that really doesn’t exist. Avoid words like “Free” “Offer” “Win” that may mean your email goes straight to the Junk files.
Lists – allow people to leave. It can be upsetting to lose subscribers, but contacting people who do not want communications is at best irritating and may be illegal if you do not have permission to contact them. Best practice requires a double opt in for emails where users request communications and follow this up with an agreement to receive emails.
Monitor emails – most email software packages offer amazing analysis allowing you to monitor the effectiveness of your email campaign. You can watch how many people open the email and how many click through to your website. If you monitor a few campaigns you should start to learn what interests your audience.
Be friendly. I normally like to use a conversational tone of voice as this is usually the most engaging style, however avoid being over-familiar is this can be a bit creepy.
Personalisation – this is highly debatable. When this is done well, it can be great. However when it is poor, it is a real turn off. If there is any risk of you sending emails starting “Hi Miss Catherine” or “Dear Abel Catherine” then don’t do it. As a recipient, I am generally not a big fan and certainly not from a brand I am not familiar with.
Images – I think images are great for breaking up text and helping with your message. Be sure to pick carefully to support your message rather than take away. Try to choose people that most likely reflect your target audience. There are lots of great websites with bags of images to choose such as Fotolia. You have to pay a bit, but then you can use the images on your website.
Calls to action – include clear calls to action. What do you want readers to do? Contact you, go to your website, download something. Be clear and reinforce in different ways e.g. include links within the copy, add a button link, create links from images.
I hope this list is a useful start point for anyone that wants to create an email campaign. If you would like any help developing and sending email campaigns then please contact me to discuss.