September 1, 2009

Best Marketing Practices in E-mail Marketing

An ex-colleague, Kelly Flint, is now the regional development director at Constant Contact. I sat through one of her email marketing seminars last week and found the information so useful I asked her to guest blog for me today.


Building relationships with your customers is key to growing your business, especially in a down economy. Now more than ever, it’s vitally important to market to and communicate with your customers in order to stay top of mind.

Getting started with email marketing isn’t difficult, but there are some important elements you should address before you start.

Get Permission
One of the most critical elements of email marketing is a clean, permission-based list of email addresses. Permission is vital to the success of your email marketing efforts. Sending email to people who have not explicitly given you permission to do so is considered “spam.” It will result in spam complaints and unsubscribe requests. As a legitimate email marketer you have a responsibility to send spam-free email to your email list. But don’t let this challenge stop you from trying email marketing. Staying clear of a spam label isn’t that difficult to manage if you follow some simple guidelines:

• Use a recognizable "from" name
• Use a clear subject line
• Make your email relevant
• Maintain a clean email list
• Avoid spam-like words and symbols

If you follow these suggestions, your emails will evade the dreaded spam button, resulting in higher deliverability and open rates.

Choose your Method
Once you have a clean, permission-based list, determine how you’ll conduct your email marketing efforts. While you could try to handle it yourself using your own email application, most experts agree it’s better to go with an email marketing service provider. Email marketing services handle all of the hard work, allowing you to focus on promoting your services. Good email marketing services deliver your emails with proper protocols and develop relationships with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to be sure your email is delivered to all the inboxes on your list. In addition, these providers offer numerous tools to make your email campaigns as successful as possible, such as professionally-designed templates, list management, tracking and reporting, and much more.

Make a Plan
When you begin drafting the content for your email newsletter, it is important to think about the goals you want to accomplish, your audience, and your message. Spend some time determining which type of email you want to send and craft the message to fit your target audience and goals. Another important consideration is frequency; this is a tricky subject because every business and organization is different. Think about your recipients and how much they might want to hear from you about your programs or services. After that, let your click-throughs, unsubscribe rates and customer feedback be your guide.

Choose Your Content
Once you’ve established your plan and identified your audience and message, it’s time to create your email campaign. As mentioned above, most email service providers make it easy to develop an email with pre-designed templates and email wizards.

Email newsletters are uniquely suited to accomplish the long-term goals of customer retention and loyalty. By providing interesting, relevant information about your products and services, and other related topics, you’re educating and informing your customers. Your customers know you provide a good service, but they’ll be surprised and pleased to learn you are also willing to offer advice, interesting insight and valuable resources in your regular newsletter. Then, when they need a service that your provide, they’re more likely to turn to you because you’ve established a trusted relationship with them.

A newsletter is just one way to use email marketing. You can also send promotions, announcements, invitations and any number of other communications to your email list. Promotions tend to be popular choices for many organizations looking to achieve short-term goals such as signing up for classes or for an activity. It is also important to segment your list and only send promotions to those subscribers who will be interested.

Get Started
Remember the ultimate goal of any marketing program is to build your brand and reputation and ensure your customers think of you when they’re ready to take action. Email marketing is an easy, inexpensive and effective marketing method. The specific rules and guidelines all email marketers should follow are designed to help you accomplish your goals. With a permission-based email list, targeted, relevant emails, and interesting content -- your email marketing efforts will generate more and better leads and improved customer satisfaction.

Kelly Flint is the Los Angeles Regional Development Director at Constant Contact.

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