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14 Commandments of Email Marketing

Email MarketingDid someone say email is dead? A report by Forrester Research estimates that US alone spent $1.51 billion on email marketing in 2011 and will grow to $2.468 billion by 2016. However, the battle to stand out in your subscribers’ inbox will just get tougher. Consider the increase in number of emails you get every day. And how many of them do you read?

Conventional email marketing is dead. “Respect your subscribers”, are the buzzwords. Here are 14 vital points that you need to work on before you plan your next email campaign:

  1. Be unique: If you want your emails to stand out in the inbox, do just that: make them stand out! Be unique, break from the norm, and make people take notice, whether it’s with your subject line, creative, or copy. With the flood of marketing emails a person will get in a day, an overlong subject line might tax their patience and earn an instant delete. Keep the subject line’s length between 40 and 50 characters. Play with words; create a humorous subject line that stands out. Don’t shy away from creating something controversial or outrageous once in a while. But rein in the humor sentiments and see that your email doesn’t skirt the line too closely.
  2. Be predictable: Well, it’s not really the opposite. Sometimes, standing out can be as simple as not trying to stand out. Think about your email inbox: which emails do you open first? Most likely it’s the emails from those you trust, the ones that regularly provide value to you, and the emails you look forward to receiving. In many cases, what will stand out to most loyal subscribers is that the email came from you. If they trust you, find value in your communications, and look forward to receiving your emails, then your message will stand out to them once it hits their inbox.
    Three tips for being predictable:Timing
    • Branding. Be consistent! Factors to consider when it comes to branding: color scheme, logo, from name, and subject line.
    • From Name. Have a recognizable from name. No one knows John Smith (the name of your CEO), but they know Acme Brands, your company name. Make it clear who the email is from.
    • Timing - Time the sending schedule so that your recipients know when to expect your mails. This will help in your emails being more recognizable, trusted and people will also look forward to them.
  3. Break some rules: While email marketing industry best practices are a great guideline to follow, best practices can also be practices that are best for YOUR business. ALL CAPS in a subject line might not work for you, but they work for COMPANY B. Sending email on a Friday might not work for you, but it garners high open and click-through rates for COMPANY A weekly email newsletter. Industry best practices are common practices that tend to result in successful campaigns for most marketers. So why don’t they work for everyone? Because every subscriber base is different. Every audience responds differently to different messages, businesses, and brands. The only way to know what works for you is testing. Try breaking a few common industry best practices and see if it works for your business.
  4. Personalize: The days of “batch and blast” emailing are long gone and email marketers now have the opportunity to have a 1:1 dialog with their subscribers. This can be accomplished using dynamic content. Dynamic content allows you to customize and personalize the content of your emails for your individual recipients based on their interests, demographic stats, or any other information you have on your subscribers. This leads to more highly targeted, relevant, and thus valuable emails for subscribers.
  5. Keep it crisp and succinct: We are all busy and our inboxes are full. When we finally get a chance to go through our emails, we want to be able to quickly scan them while still being able to easily digest the information. Consider this when developing your email content and remember the old adage “Keep It Simple Silly (KISS).” Subscribers should be able to scan your email, understand the message, and take action all within a matter of seconds. Take a look at your latest email campaign. Scan it for five seconds, and then look away. Were you able to understand the overall message and call-to-action of this email?
  6. Quality CheckQuality check and testing: Do a quality check and send test mails before you send emails to your targeted recipients. This will ensure that there are no mistakes or faulty links in your content and helps maintain your credibility. If you are using audio in your email message, make sure that the sound quality is good and it plays properly when the email is opened.
  7. Use fewer images: Do not use too many images in your message. Most people block image display in emails to protect their privacy. Using fewer images means that you also respect people’s privacy. Look professional with a consistent color scheme.
  8. Testimonials: Ask existing and active subscribers to write a short testimonial or come up with a short video about how valuable your emails are. If prospects know that others find your emails valuable, they are more likely to sign up to receive your emails. What’s in it for them?
  9. Easy SharingAsk people to share: Be direct. Be explicit. Ask people to forward and share your email. Give them obvious permission to do so - you'd be surprised how many people question whether it's okay to forward, print, post, or repost an email! Include a Forward to a Friend (FTAF) and Share With Your Network (SWYN) link in all of your emails. Make it easy to share.
  10. Make unsubscribing easy: It’s far better to lose a few subscribers than to be blacklisted for spam or not have your emails delivered, which can happen if people can’t find an unsubscribe link easily. Make unsubscribing easy and people won’t push the Mark as Spam button on you. Consider moving the unsubscribe button/link to the top of your emails. We know it sounds scary, but test it! A lost subscriber is still better than being reported as a spammer.
  11. Act on feedback: When someone is unsubscribing, take the time to get feedback from them. Ask a few short questions about the reasons they’re no longer interested in your emails and what would make them come back some day. Give them the option to keep in touch, and offer them the ability to “opt-down”, or subscribe to a less frequently-mailed list. Simply asking for and storing feedback is of no use. You need to act on the feedback you receive. Make suggested changes, additions or deletions wherever possible.
  12. Be exclusive: If you want your subscribers to remain loyal, your emails should provide value to them (i.e., solve a problem, make their life easier, etc.) and make them feel like they’re getting something they can’t get anywhere else. Otherwise, why wouldn’t they just check out your website or social media networks from time to time? Exclusive offers give subscribers a reason to look forward to your emails and make them want to open and act on your emails.
  13. Create Sense of Urgency: Try creating urgency with your emails by including “Urgent” or “Last Chance” in your subject line. Tempting subscribers by telling them “Sale ends today!” or “Today only” will help prompt them to open your email immediately, and by following through with your promise, they are more likely to act on the offer. And when we say “urgent,” we mean urgent. Telling subscribers they have five days to do something probably won’t do the trick, but “Almost gone” or “Last chance” shows that you mean business. Note: Be sure to follow through with the urgency expressed in your email. Creating a false sense of urgency will only lead to mistrust from your subscribers.
  14. Campaign series: Instead of sending just one email busting at the seams with offers and information for your subscribers, consider sending out a series of simpler, shorter emails. This not only helps to make your content more digestible for your subscribers, but also is a great way to keep your readers engaged over a longer period of time.

May 18, 2012
By Team Position²