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.
Having spent time creating an attractive, engaging email campaign, I sometimes end up spending as long deliberating over the subject line. I strive to come up with an effective subject line to ensure my creative work is actually seen and read by the target audience. This is so important and it is no easy task. Here are some tips that I have considered recently when working on emails…
Keep it brief – as usual, it pays to keep it concise. MailChimp recommends using 50 characters or less. As more and more of us read our emails on smartphones, the window for viewing a subject line is restricted so you need to get your key message in a very small space.
Clarity – a strong subject will give a good idea of what is contained within the email. People are short on time and will quickly delete an email if the content doesn’t match the expectation from the subject.
Teaser – whether you entice readers in with a tempting offer or pose a question that is absolutely relevant to them, it is always good to grab attention with a teaser where opening the email will reveal the answer or provide the promotion details.
Audience – put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. What would really engage them? What will make them open that email over all the other ones in their mailbox.
Different – try to stand out. This doesn’t mean you have to be wacky, just check the last bunch of emails you received and try to avoid using the same old subjects that they are using.
Words to avoid:
There are certain words that are best avoided in email subject lines. “Free”, “Help”, “% off”, “Reminder” – MailChimp suggests that these particular words may trigger spam filters. This is less of an issue than it used to be as spam filters are more sophisticated based on strength of the sender. Some successful companies are using these terms day in day out so maybe it is working for them or maybe if you create another message with these same terms it will just get lost amongst them – you decide.
Personalisation where I am not familiar with the brand or personalisation failures e.g. Hello Miss or Hi <Surname>