A Year’s Worth of Email Marketing Tips From Blue Sky Factory (part II)

This is part two of a three-part series where I’m going to be listing part of the 52 tips on what you could do to make sure your email marketing strategy is an effective one. These tips were provided by Blue Sky Factory throughout 2009 when they sent out an email marketing tip once a week. This series is the cultivation of those weekly emails and I thought they might be useful to you.

So now I provide you with some additional tips on email marketing:

Blue Sky Factory's 52 Email Marketing Tips

  1. Use the segmentation tool your email service provider offers. Segmentation allows you to send an email to subscribers who meet certain criteria.  You can target subscribers by a variety of global conditions (e.g. contacts added after a specific date), database conditions (e.g. contacts with the zip code 11111), or even behavioral conditions (e.g. contacts who opened email “Newsletter #1” and clicked on “Link #2”).  The list can be endless! Collect this information through subscriber preferences, transactional data, subscriber profiles, and opt-in forms, and also listen to your customers and study their responses to build value in the campaigns you send. Campaigns that are personalized and targeted to subscribers are proven to build stronger and longer-lasting relationships with customers.
  2. When creating your email’s subject line, try to keep it less than 60 characters. Shorter subject lines tend to garner the best open rates.  If your subject line is on the longer side, make sure the important information is first, as longer subject lines will be truncated by some email clients.  You know your subscribers and what works for them; therefore, the subject line you use will depend on the nature of your company, your audience, and the email you’re sending.   No matter how long your subject line is, don’t forget to test!  Try different options, and use the A/B Split Testing tool your ESP provides.  It may help determine what length is best for your audience.
  3. Take advantage of the auto response feature in your email marketing application. The auto response tool allows you to set up an ongoing email campaign based on time or behavior-specific intervals. By automating your email campaigns, you can easily stay in constant communication with your subscribers.  Also, you can ensure that your emails are sent to specific subscribers based on their behavior (i.e. if they already received “Email 1” they will receive “Email 2” X days later as a follow up) or based on time (i.e. a news service can send a news update to subscribers at the same time every morning).
  4. Send birthday and/or anniversary wishes your subscribers. Be sure to ask for their special dates when collecting information in your opt-in form or subscriber profiles, then you can easily send birthday and anniversary wishes through your ESP’s auto-response feature.  The personalized note will go a long way, and you can always go an extra step and include a coupon or other special offer!
  5. “Above the Fold” is commonly defined as the part of an email that is visible to subscribers without them having to scroll to see more. This is also often referred to as the “Preview Pane” area.  It’s important to keep key elements of your email above the fold.  These key elements should include your call-to-action, primary subject matter, logo, pre-header, and if you’re sending a newsletter, your table of contents.  Having your call-to-action above the fold gives your email a higher chance of click-throughs.  If someone has to scroll and search for the call-to-action they may end up closing your email before taking any action at all!
  6. It is important to set up and actively monitor role accounts for your email marketing program(s). A role account is an “abuse@” and “postmaster@” email account for the domain you use in your “from” email addresses.  If a subscriber has the need to voice a complaint, they will typically use these role accounts to speak with an authority for that domain.  By monitoring these accounts and being responsive to your subscribers, you should be able to work with them to fix or avoid any future problems.  If this email bounces or is not responded to, you run the risk of your subscribers escalating their complaints to a higher authority.
  7. Alt tags are HTML tags that should be added to images in every email. These text-based descriptions will show up in the place of any images that are turned off or not working.  In HTML code, an alt tag looks like this: <img src=”image path” alt=”your alt tag message goes here” />.  Alt tag descriptions should be relevant to the images they are associated with, allowing the recipient to see the purpose of every image, including the links to click through to your website.  By taking a few extra, easy steps in the design process, you will still be able to get your message across – even if recipients can’t see your images!
  8. Give subscribers the option to share your email with their social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. By including a simple code snippet in your email with your ESP’s “Share With Your Network” (SWYN) tool, subscribers can easily share your email, giving your message the potential to reach thousands more people beyond your database!  After sending your email, reporting metrics will allow you to pinpoint influential subscribers and plan for future campaigns based on this data.  Before using, be sure to test this feature and see what works best for your email campaigns.  Ask yourself, “Is this email share-worthy?  Will subscribers see value in passing it on?” If so, go for it!  Feel free to test out Blue Sky Factory’s SWYN feature on this tip and see how it works!
  9. Get to know and fully understand the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. It is vital to your company’s success that you build and maintain a trust-based relationship with your audience.  One way to protect your reputation and continue to grow relationships through email marketing is to remain fully compliant with the CAN-SPAM Act.  Key requirements include (but aren’t limited to) honoring all “opt-out” requests within 10 days and avoiding misleading subject lines.  By knowing and complying with the Act’s key requirements, you can ensure you’re following email marketing laws and best practices, which will strengthen your marketing campaigns and ultimately benefit your company’s bottom line.
  10. The “reply-to” address for your email campaigns should be closely monitored by a member of your team. It is important that email remain a two-way street, and by having a valid reply-to address that is monitored and acted upon, your customers will know you are listening to them.  Don’t make the mistake of allowing the replies to pile up in the inbox and never look at them.  By reading each one and responding to those that need a response, you are showing your subscribers that you value their opinion.  They will appreciate your effort, and it shows a high level of customer service.  Also remember that some recipients will use the reply-to address to unsubscribe from your emails, making it even more important for those messages to be received and acted upon. By not replying to these unsubscribe requests you may be in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.
  11. For those “emotionally unsubscribed” recipients who have simply started deleting your emails instead of opting out, send a re-engagement email to remind them who you are and why they are receiving your emails. (You can easily create a segmentation to find out who these non-responsive subscribers are.)   It is important to include the benefits of being on your mailing list (what’s in it for them) in the re-engagement email, and be sure to give subscribers the option of re-opting in to receive your emails.  If they have not re-opted in within a predetermined timeframe, they should be removed from the list or moved to a less frequently mailed list, helping you avoid wasted money, time, and effort.
  12. Sign up for your competitors’ emails. It will give you insight into what types of emails they send and what they are offering to their subscribers.  This can help you with promotional ideas as well as improvements to your own email campaigns.  By reviewing what your peers are sending, you may also be inspired for an entirely new campaign.  You can borrow and reface their basic ideas while adding your own flair to the emails.  You don’t always need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to sending emails, but please – no plagiarizing!
  13. As the old saying goes, “Keep It Simple, Stupid” or K.I.S.S. This often applies to email design.  The more complex your design, the more issues you risk running into when your email renders across multiple platforms.  Email design affects deliverability, so it’s important to build emails for the inbox.  If you’re unsure as to whether your email is optimally designed for deliverability, let a professional review your creative.  They can give you tips that will improve your recipient response rate, deliverability, and the overall effectiveness of your email.  So remember, don’t sacrifice good design, but don’t go overboard either.  Build your emails to be delivered!
  14. Well, timing isn’t everything when it comes to your email campaigns, but it’s definitely important. Plan your email deployment around when you expect your target audience to be checking their email.  Many B2C organizations send in the evenings or on the weekends, while B2B organizations typically send on weekday mornings (depending on Eastern or Pacific Time).  Remember, if your emails are sent at an off hour they can get buried in your subscribers’ inboxes, which can cause them to lose relevance and impact due to competing emails.  Don’t know when your target audience is online?  Conduct an A/B split test using several different launch times to see which send time gets the best results.
  15. Your email campaign isn’t over once you hit the send button. Take advantage of the reporting tools your ESP provides.  By knowing stats like your email’s unique open rate, which links were clicked, who opened your email, who shared your email with their social networks, and so on, you can make the most of future campaigns.  Learn from what worked and what didn’t work, and use these stats to plan for your next email.  Maybe the time of day you sent your email affected your open rate, or perhaps a certain aspect of your email caused too many subscribers to opt-out.  It’s important to continue to test your email campaigns for the best results, and reporting is a great way to determine what works and what doesn’t, as well as the overall effectiveness of your campaigns.
  16. Protect your email list! Question the source of each new addition to your list, and never, ever purchase a list (as most are not permission-based).  Even a small group of “bad” email addresses can ruin your reputation and be detrimental to your email marketing program.  If you are offered a mailing list, imagine how many others it has been offered to as well.  In order to have a successful email program you need to remain in good standing with the ISPs and your subscribers.  Building your list organically, and then protecting it, will benefit your email program tremendously, helping you garner the best results.
  17. Relationships are built on trust. Use your email marketing program to create and enhance this trust with your subscribers.  Setting realistic expectations, listening to their wants and needs, and honoring their requests are just a few ways to help further the relationship between you and your subscribers. Try sending an email campaign that doesn’t include a hard sell.  Provide useful content, say happy birthday, or send a “Happy Holidays” email.  This will show your subscribers that you value your relationship and aren’t just looking at the dollar signs.
  18. Try incorporating video into your email campaigns! According to Forrester Research’s “As Seen in the Inbox“, adding video to email can be a powerful way to double or triple the clicks on your call-to-action.  You don’t need to get fancy with production – a simple camera and a YouTube/Vimeo/Blip.tv, etc account might be all that you need.  Just be sure your video contributes to your overall campaign objectives, has a true purpose, and benefits your recipients.
  19. Have you ever received an email totally customized to your preferences or past purchases and wondered how the sending company did that?  Enter dynamic content. Dynamic content is used to automatically rewrite your email content for each recipient based on the information you have gathered from your subscribers.  This feature is accomplished via specialized HTML code, but most email marketing applications include features that make it easy to do with your emails. Use dynamic content to customize various elements within your email. Taking the extra time to personalize is a great way to avoid coming across as generic, and will help build the relationship between you and your subscribers as they’ll appreciate the personal touch.
  20. SMS (short message service), or text messaging, is ideal for communicating with your audience while on the move because it’s immediate, direct, and two-way. When used together, SMS and your existing email marketing campaigns can prove to be a powerful combination.  Use text messaging to promote email opt-in, and use email to create awareness about your new SMS channel.  Other ways SMS can complement your email marketing efforts are by creating brand awareness, generating leads, and serving as a new communication channel.