Planning Successful Email Marketing Campaigns
Editor’s Note: This was the feature article in this month’s TechCom Manager newsletter, reprinted here with permission. Click the previous link to subscribe to the newsletter.
by Steve Capri
Whether you work on a technical-writing team responsible for your company’s e-marketing activities or not, chances are this ever-changing channel will eventually cross your path—if it hasn’t already. And although you might not be someone who designs marketing strategies, you may already be designing and developing marketing content, including email campaigns.
It’s not uncommon for technical writing and marketing teams to co-develop printed or web-based marketing collateral. Likewise, e-marketing deliverables deployed through email blasts bring even more dimension to the mix. Like all other marketing materials, email blasts require excellent writing and design skills. But more importantly, they require a thorough knowledge of how to collect and manage recipients, track statistics, and plan for ongoing campaigns. So as this channel continues to mature, it’s incumbent of technical writers and marketing folks alike to at least gain a basic knowledge about the DOs and DON’Ts of e-marketing practices and procedures.
So whether you’re new to or experienced with e-marketing, following are some guidelines to consider.
- Capture email addresses correctly
- Ask subscribers for preferences
- Send first email message as soon as possible
- Leverage the information you have
- Deliver the message
- Make subject lines enticing and test them
- Conduct the Tuesday / Thursday test
- Create clear copy that stands out
- Identify need and relevance
- Leverage other channels and major events
- Respect mainstream email domains
- Design creative standards for each domain
- Analyze results by domain
- Be aware of your message
- Know what ISPs may be blocking your emails
- Engage your team about campaign offers
- Know about phishing, pharming, and RATS
- Know your Open Clicks Conversion (OCC) score
- Keep things legal
- Stay connected
Following is a discussion of each of these activities.
My manager once told me to stop banging my head against the wall. Tell subscribers exactly why they should sign up for your email and what messages they should expect. If you asked your front-line people why customers should provide their email, you would be surprised how many different answers you get.
- Identify 10 good reasons why people should subscribe to your newsletter, post them on your web site, list them for your front-line staff, and share them with all your coworkers.
- Since email addresses are the most important element of the sign-up process, encourage your employees and coworkers to collect them from people who want to provide them.
- Try to get a double opt-in from the consumer. It helps your overall marketing efforts, plus makes consumers more accustomed to receiving emails from you.
- Get subscribers to add you to their address book or safe-sender list at the point of capture.
It is important that subscribers know why they are signing up for your emails. Consider the following:
- If you have specific offers, ask people what they like to use, and ask them for their demographic information. This information helps you define your customer segment and target.
- Preferences form the basis of personalization. Some sites take this a step further by asking customers to create wish lists. As a result, they are able to deliver the right content at the right time.
- Catch unsubscribers on their way out. If someone unsubscribes from your email, do two things:
- Ask them why, and
- Give them the option to reduce the mailing frequency on this page vs. the sign-up page.
After someone signs up for email, immediately perform the following:
- Send an email response quickly to confirm the subscription.
- Try to include a copy of either the current email or a “Welcome Email.”
- Make sure the message you deliver is similar to what you will continue sending the subscriber.
- Ask the customer to add you to his/her address book so that he/she continues to receive your emails in the inbox rather than in the junk or bulk-mail folders.
Customize the first email based on preferences, the second one on click-through, and change everything upon conversion. Recency matters the most – react and approach quickly and tactfully.
Perform the following:
- Make sure you are white-listed and continue to track the deliverability of your messages.
- Set up two test accounts per domain.
- Make sure you don’t click on one of them.
The rationale behind this is if you click on your messages within a particular domain, you are training the domain to recognize who you are and that you like to receive emails from a particular source. Having a clean account will immediately tell you whether or not your mail is being delivered correctly – inbox, bulk mail, or at all.
If your subject line is appealing, you will encourage more people to open the email. Also, keep testing subject lines to see what works best.
Various companies have done an excellent job testing their offers to a sample group before rolling them out to the entire population. Typically, they send multiple versions of offers on Tuesday before deciding what final offer to send on Thursday. This discipline of testing and sending is now an ongoing part of their regimen.
Rule of thumb: Before sending any email, make sure you test it before you decide what offer might work best for your customers.
Make sure your copy is clear, images stand out, and the user knows what to do.
- The call-to-action should have an end date.
- Follow the three-second rule. Ask various people to quickly glance at the email. Use their feedback to make your email more effective.
Remember: The offer should be the focus of the email. If the customer doesn’t get it, is it really worth it? Also, don’t forget to try and motivate the next visit. Entice the user to open your next email.
- Personalize, customize, and always keep relevant.
Test the landing page to ensure it is working effectively. Think about how you want to “sell” the person entering this page. If someone walked into your store and you knew what they wanted, you would direct them to exactly what they need. Do the same thing with email. Make the offer clear and effective on the landing page, too. Your conversions should soar.
Use one channel (e.g., web site, social-media site, etc.) to promote another. You will be surprised how quickly cross referencing can drive traffic. Leveraging major events – holidays, tax season, etc.– can also drive effective traffic.
Many lists consist of email addresses from such mainstream services as AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, and Hotmail! Pay careful attention to each of these domains. In addition, track and monitor other primary domains for your company.
Design creative standards for the top five domains in your email list.
- Always keep your logo on the left-hand side so it does not get lost in preview windows.
- Keep in mind that some domains turn off images as a default. Therefore, be sure you design your emails to be self-sufficient in text alone.
To identify the most popular domains, analyze your email list by domain name. Also, measure delivery/open rates by that domain. In doing so, you will learn how each of these domains is performing for you. Measure and contrast your results across domains to watch for unusual trends. Also, try to spread your campaigns out into smaller segments so you can test, measure, and adjust campaign effectiveness.
Various domains routinely scan your text and generate links that compete with your email. To offset this, place text in your images.
Following are two sites you can use to help identify which ISPs are potentially blocking your emails.
Like many others, they provide some useful information on what you should be doing and what you should be aware of.
Add your front-line team to your email campaigns so they are educated about offers. Your staff speaks to the customers all the time. Therefore, they should be your primary source of selling.
- Realize the dangers of fraud.
- Educate your teams and your customers.
- Develop a pre-emptive response plan to a fraud attack. You will value the time you save in case you get phished.
- Become familiar with sophisticated spyware such as RATS, short for R(emote) A(ccess) T(rojan) S(oftware).
As catalogers, you have heard about RFM (Recency, Frequency, and Monetary value). So why not also have a score for O(pens), C(licks), and C(onversions)? Use this information to model and segment more effectively. Check your inactive file for those who have signed up for email but have not opened them at all or for the past “x” months, etc. Then, try to work on converting those customers.
Many catalogers are beginning to leverage these results to maximize the effectiveness of their catalog campaigns. Don’t stop mailing catalogs to those who respond to your emails. Many people order online with the catalog on their lap. Test your email marketing ceiling. Track post click-conversion rates.
Be aware of things like SPAM and unsubscribes. If people do unsubscribe, find out why. Ideally, every email message you send should include the following:
- Unsubscribe link
- Subscribe link
- Preference link
- Return physical address
- Reply to email address
- Alternate ordering methods (fax, 800 number)
- Links to departments on site
- Send-to-a-friend link
- Tell-us-what-you-think link
Talk to other marketers to share and explore ideas.
- Make email messages stand out.
- Make sure the recipient wants them.
- Test them.
- Make sure they are delivered.
If you keep your customers engaged, they will make your campaigns more effective and drive your multi-channel success.
More from Steve Capri
Making the Transition from Technical Writer to Manager