20 Best Practices Email

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Synopsis of email marketing best practices

Synopsis of email marketing best practices

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  • 1. In a recession, when many companies are tightening their budgets, more marketers are turning to email for their marketing efforts. According to a Marketing Sherpa survey, 48% of marketers plan to increase their email RELEVANCY & marketing efforts in 2009. REPUTATION This is both good and bad news. As marketers move away from more expensive, With all the nuances of effective less trackable tactics, the competition to get your content viewed and acted email marketing, it may seem upon becomes even fiercer. You have to be at the top of your marketing game challenging to find a place to to cut through that inbox clutter. focus your efforts. To make it a little easier: Focus on relevancy To add to the challenge, experts agree that higher volumes of email in and reputation. Above all 2009—from all sorts of sources—will result in slightly depressed metrics like other things discussed here, open rates, click throughs and conversions. spending time to create relevant content and protect your sender Below is a summary of the 20 key points that will enhance your email marketing reputation will pay you back big efforts. While this list may seem overwhelming, don’t be intimidated. Not every dividends in regard to opens, email marketer is doing everything on this list but the more you do, the better clicks, and conversions. the results. 1 BE RELEVANT CONTENT This is, perhaps, the most over-used term in email marketing today—but there’s no doubt that it’s the most critical, especially given the current email landscape. The more relevant—meaning the right message to the right person at the right time—the higher your returns. If you only do one thing, do this. 2 DESIGN FOR THE PREVIEW PANE Since a reported 84% of 18-34 year-olds view email in the preview pane, you have no more than a few seconds and 3-4” of viewable space to grab a reader’s attention. In that time—and space—you must provide clear, attention-grabbing content that compels action. An additional good practice is to also include a link allowing the recipient to view the email in their web browser. When done correctly, the web version will have all the same functionality, including any personalization and dynamic content, as your original message. Supplying this web link also enables those viewing your message on a handheld device to properly see your email content. 3 SHOW ME YOU KNOW ME Studies show that personalizing your email garners higher conversions. On its most basic level, personalization includes greeting the recipient by name in the salutation or subject line. But in this competitive environment that level of personalization does very little to get your message read. Effective use of dynamic content or specific offers based on user-defined preferences shows a recipient that you know his/her areas of interest, purchase preferences, and geographic location, leading to a more relevant message and contributing to better conversions. www.realmagnet.com 2 sales@realmagnet.com • 301.652.4025 Copyright ©. Real Magnet, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • 2. 4 DO DO DON’T BE HTML-CENTRIC/DESIGN FOR IMAGE BLOCKING It It It’s important to create both HTML and text versions of your email messages. Why? Having only an HTML message with no text alternative could get you penalized by SPAM filters, potentially impacting your deliverability and, ultimately, the ability to get your message into inboxes. And remember, some email clients are configured to only display the text portion of your message. Additionally, be careful not to make your message image-heavy. Many email services block images by default so your beautifully designed, image-heavy email could end up looking like a blank page with a bunch of red Xs—broken image icons. 5 SH SH SHORTER IS BETTER (FOR SUBJECT LINES) W When deciding whether to open your message or not, recipients primarily look at two things—the ‘from’ field and the subject line. When crafting the subject line it’s important to know that most email providers show only the first 30-40 characters of your subject line in the inbox. That means you only have about 35 characters to make your point and compel the recipient to open your email. Use them effectively. 6 ** ***DON’T SCREAM!!!*** * O Overuse of punctuation or capitalization (the “screaming” headline) could cause your email to be sent to SPAM or junk folders rather than the inbox. You want to draw attention to your message—but don’t go overboard or you’ll draw the attention of SPAM filters instead of your recipients. www.realmagnet.com 3 sales@realmagnet.com • 301.652.4025 Copyright ©. Real Magnet, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • 3. 7 BE BE FREE FROM ATTACHMENTS M Most computer viruses are transmitted via email attachments and therefore some filters will automatically block emails with attachments. A better practice is to include a link to any content you’d otherwise consider an attachment. Links are trackable, so you’ll know just how engaging your content is by how many people click your link. GO GO MOBILE 8 T The emergence of smart phones like BlackBerrys and iPhones has changed how people read email. According to one survey, 60% of emails will not be viewed in a traditional email inbox. The good news is that smart phone technology is catching up to computer technology meaning you don’t have to worry (as much) about how your email will render on handheld devices and can loosen some of the previous design constraints. LIST MANAGEMENT GE GET PERMISSION! 9 T best practice is to send only opt-in, permission-based emails. This leads The to higher conversion rates and a better mail sender reputation. Consequently, you’ll have higher recipient involvement in your messages and low complaint rates. Not getting recipient permission erodes your reputation, which, in turn, could impact your ability to get messages to the recipients who are most likely to act on your message. 10 EASY OUTSeasy for recipients to opt out of your messages as it is to opt in. Your EA EA M Make it as unsubscribe process needs to be straightforward for your recipients—both in terms of the process and their ultimate understanding about what they are unsubscribing from (especially if you have multiple subscription options). If you are uncertain about a recipient’s unsubscribe intentions, err on the side of caution. Annoyed former-subscribers could lead to SPAM complaints which can jeopardize your sender reputation. SE SEGMENTATION SELLS 11 M More segmented lists almost always lead to higher open and click through rates. This doesn’t mean just sending your emails in groups of fewer recipients, it means creating more targeted lists. Need to collect data on your recipients? Here are some solid data acquisition tactics: • Creating subscription pages where subscribers can choose content or frequency preferences • Culling your database system for logical patterns among your subscribers or members • Assessing data gathered from analytic tools, conference or event attendance, or purchasing behaviors www.realmagnet.com 4 sales@realmagnet.com • 301.652.4025 Copyright ©. Real Magnet, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • 4. 12 SUPPRESS YOUR “USER UNKNOWNS” S T Take an active role in bounce management, the practice of assessing and acting upon the emails that bounce back after you send your message. The most important of all the bounce categories is “User Not Found/User Unknown”— addresses that are returned as fatal delivery errors since the user doesn’t exist at the domain. Since this group requires special attention, develop a solid process for removing these addresses from your distribution list(s) immediately. Continuing to send to bad addresses could depress your key metrics and damage your sender reputation. 13 M MONITOR SPAM COMPLAINTS Apply to be a part of feedback loops with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) which notify you when someone reports your message as SPAM. Once notified, you must act on this information and have a process in place for suppressing these recipients so they no longer receive your messages. 14 IIN INTEGRATE N Identify the different data collection points in your business processes—CRM, financial systems, analytical tools (such as Google Analytics or WebTrends)— and use this information to enhance the overall effectiveness of your campaigns. Having a 360˚ view of your data will increase your email marketing success. DELIVERABILITY 15 R REPUTATION IS EVERYTHING This can’t be stressed enough: Your sender reputation impacts your T organization’s ability to get a message delivered to your target’s email inbox. A good sender reputation is defined by sending frequent emails at sufficient volumes with low complaint rates and low “User Unknown” rates. Your email sender reputation is akin to your personal credit score—the higher the score, the more preferential treatment you get. 16 B BE COMPLIANT The CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) Act is a series of laws governing the distribution of “commercial” email. At its most basic, CAN-SPAM requires you to: • Display the sender’s physical address • Have truthful subject lines which don’t mislead the recipient • Supply a functioning opt-out link in each message, and • Plainly label that the commercial message is an advertisement There are many nuances to The CAN-SPAM Act and its application varies based on the type of email your organization sends. For details on how The CAN-SPAM Act specifically applies to your organization’s emails, consult an attorney. 17 G GET WHITELISTED T To increase the likelihood of getting your email being delivered, request whitelisting through major ISPs like Yahoo!, Hotmail and Gmail. Your ESP or in- house email administrator should be able to help you with this. It is also critical to ask your recipients to add your “from” field to their safe sender list. www.realmagnet.com 5 sales@realmagnet.com • 301.652.4025 Copyright ©. Real Magnet, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • 5. 18 BECOME CERTIFIED B There are a number of certification services that can help improve deliverability, T CERTIFICATION including: • Sender Score Certified™ (http://www.senderscorecertified.com) SERVICES • Goodmail’s CertifiedEmail™ (http://www.goodmailsystems.com/products/certified-email/) These services require you • Return Path SafeList to complete an application (http://www.returnpath.net/commercialsender/safelist/) process—and not every sender will ultimately 19 BE AUTHENTIC have the proper authentication protocols in place. Through the B qualify—but it’s worth the effort. E Ensure that you use of domain keys, reverse DNS, and sender ID, ISPs see you as a legitimate sender. 20 TEST!critical, but overlooked, element of email marketing takes relatively little T T This effort, but goes a long way to making sure your email arrives in your recipient’s inbox the way you intended. Before sending your message, make sure to: • Check to see that all links and images work • Run your message through a SPAM checker • View your message in various email programs since emails can render differently Additional test options can also lift your opens, click throughs, and conversions so take the time to A/B test: • Subject lines • From fields • Content • Personalization • Design www.realmagnet.com 6 sales@realmagnet.com • 301.652.4025 Copyright ©. Real Magnet, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • 6. BEST PRACTICES IN USE 1 2 4 3 5 6 This is the view of an email—using preview panes and in a minimized window—with images on. Look at the subtle, yet important, aspects of this email: S Subject line states who the newsletter is from, cites email content details and 1 d doesn’t contain too much punctuation. This quick hit is not only compelling but also CAN-SPAM compliant. S Sender ‘from’ information not only has the sender’s name (Real Magnet) but 2 a has an actual email address. Again, CAN-SPAM compliant but also easy for also the recipient to identify. T actual width of the newsletter content is smaller than the actual window The 3 s size—even though it’s not a full window. This design element means no scrolling is needed and the reader can see the full width of your content at once. E Email content header contains a link to the web version as well as a request to 4 b white listed. Great for deliverability and readability. be T graphics in this email only take up a small portion of the preview pane—and The 5 t content begins where the recipient can read it before even opening the the email. Links along the left navigation bar give a preview of articles not viewable in 6 t preview pane—encouraging the reader to open the email and read its full the c content. www.realmagnet.com 7 sales@realmagnet.com • 301.652.4025 Copyright ©. Real Magnet, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • 7. SUMMARY Effective email marketing isn’t easy but it doesn’t have to be difficult—even with the increasingly competitive email landscape. The key is to focus on relevance and reputation. As a matter of fact, each of the best practices discussed here has an impact on relevance or reputation—and sometimes both. To be at the top of your email marketing game, you must turn your attention to these areas since these will have the biggest influence on how your email is delivered, viewed, and acted upon. For example, take content/message development: By creating strong, actionable content that is personalized to a specific segment of your target audience, you are ensuring your message is relevant to the recipient. By making sure that you follow the more technical email development guidelines, you are able to avoid SPAM filters, ultimately strengthening your reputation as a sender. Certainly there are nuances to email marketing that take time to address and, in due course, perfect. But developing a plan of attack based on these best practices will make a big impact on the success of your email marketing efforts. By turning that plan into action, you will be on your way to achieving higher deliverability, higher opens, higher click-throughs, and higher conversions. ABOUT REAL MAGNET Real Magnet is the developer of MagnetMail, a comprehensive email marketing application with integrated surveys and audio and web conferencing solutions. This integration simplifies workflow and aggregates marketing data, making your marketing campaigns and events more efficient and faster to deploy. More than 1,000 organizations use MagnetMail to communicate with customers and prospects. For more information on how Real Magnet can streamline your organization’s marketing and event management, contact us at sales@ realmagnet.com or 301-652-4025 x131 or visit www.realmagnet.com. www.realmagnet.com 8 sales@realmagnet.com • 301.652.4025 Copyright ©. Real Magnet, LLC. All rights reserved.