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Tips & Considerations for Successful Email Marketing

Date: February, 2011 --

You know Data Services, Inc. as the leading source for all your Email List Hygiene and segmentation needs, but as we all know data quality is only one of the determining factors, albeit a big one, in determining the success or failure of any ongoing email marketing effort. Many factors including copy, presentation, offer, and timing also play substantial roles in generating opens and clicks. Moreover, you need to generate a healthy response e-mail list to begin with consisting of both current customers and new acquisition prospects. Here are a few tips and considerations to help your email reach the right person with the right offer at the right time:

  1. In each campaign, test one metric. You test your direct mail packages. You test your offers. You test your premiums. You need to test your e-mails. Here are a few things to test:

    • Subject Lines, they impact the open rate dramatically. Long vs. Short, Standard Case vs. ALL CAPS. Keep in mind most smart phones will only display the first 35 characters.

    • Long copy versus short copy. Some people just don't want to read a lot, but in other cases better looking doesn't always equal better performing.

    • Does your open rate differ by the day of the week the message is sent? The "rule" is to avoid week-ends. But some direct marketers swear by Saturday.

    • What's the best time of day to send? Again, the "rule" says mid-day or at least during normal business hours, but maybe your product is not suitable for the office. This also begs the question of midday where? EST, PST, GMT, CET, etc?

    • Do you have a landing page for this specific offer or do you just send people to your homepage?

    • Are some offers producing better responses when made by letter than by e-mail? The more sophisticated or expensive the product, perhaps the email isn't optimal.

  2. Keep it fresh and lively. You may want to rejuvenate or re-energize your e-mail copy and layout.

    • Use active verbs and calls to action.

    • Maybe the look and feel could use an upgrade or updating. The public's reaction and appreciation of different color schemes and fonts may change. In any event, you need to test fonts and colors - younger customers likely test more positive for block text and bold colors than your aging Boomers.

    • Go slowly and test. Remember that people do get bored with the same old thing, but they may be confused or event repelled by too radical a change.

    • And, of course, don't make any of these changes to your control campaign until you have tested the change to several segments of your file.

  3. Are you e-mailing more than is necessary? Is your file simply too big?

    • From time to time you simply have to get rid of the nonperformers. Remember, you are paying to send these emails and maintain the file. Try sending a reactivation email to this segment of your file before deleting them as a last attempt to reengage.

    • Maintain a robust feedback loop to deal with undeliverables and other bounces. Again, remember your sender reputation with the ISPs is affected by these factors, and said reputation is easy to sully in this discipline.

    • Take a close look at your list segmentation. Are you using all those segments? Are they really necessary? Maybe some of the segments should be contacted in a different way, such as by mail. Are you sending the same message to each segment? Are you consistent with the message characterization for related segments? Have you made such fine distinctions that the variations in messaging aren't justified by the response rates?

    • Consider letting the consumer decide their level of contact via permission centers with options for type and frequency of email messages they want to receive from you.

  4. Get more names. Well, that does seem pretty obvious doesn't it? But you need to take a look at how you are generating the names to ensure they are true prospects for your products and services. Here are a couple ideas:

    • Have a sign-up checkbox for your newsletter or promotions on every page of your website.

    • In fact you should have a sign-up checkbox every place you can possibly put one, on sales confirmations and shipping confirmations and every promotion piece that goes out. You never know where the recipient will be sending or forwarding your message.

    • Call center scripts can have e-mail address solicitation copy.

    • The signature line of your employees' emails could have a link to the newsletter sign-up or email submission page.

    • Remember to provide value. Give your customers and prospects some incentive to provide you with their email data through the use of offers of by some other means.

    • When gathering additional data beyond the email address, only ask for information you plan to use so as not to exceed the threshold of your average consumer.

    • Never simply "scrape" email addresses from online publicly available sources. In many cases this will generate large numbers of "honeypot" or "spamtrap" records. Studies have shown that the presence of just one of these spamtrap emails in your distribution list can drop your deliverability rating by as much as 53%!

The main takeaway here: TEST, TEST, TEST. You may come to realize many of the industry "best practices" are based on outdated metrics and standards and that, for you, the "rules" are meant to be broken.