emailLove it or hate it, eMail communication from retailers to customers (and/or prospective customers) remains the most effective way for businesses to create sales and; thus, revenue – i.e. the “check”. Based on this infographic from iContact, $44.25 is the average return on eMail marketing investment for every $1 spent on the channel. The chief reason is that the cost of sending an eMail v. direct mail or telephone is less expensive and usually more targeted than other marketing means. Companies with billions of dollars in revenue may see 10%, or more, of overall revenue come from eMail. Therefore, time and resources still need to be diligently focused and constantly tweaked in order to make the communication effective and growth oriented.

Here are a few email marketing tips for getting started — easily and profitably.

Choose the Right People

Like direct mail, the more direct and surgical the message, the better the response. A shotgun approach wastes time and money. Often the term “eblast” is used for eMail communications, which has a negative connotation. It sounds like you will send as many eMails as possible to hit as many people as possible to desperately get some kind of response. Avoid this at all costs.

  1. Know your audience
  2. Tailor the message for customers or prospects
  3. Make sure eMail addresses are up to date
  4. Check for duplicates

Get the eMail in the Inbox

eMail that does not arrive in an inbox never has a chance to get opened and read. Don’t just blindly send the eMail and not review the delivery rates. Teams work hard to build content, financially construct promotions, create images, and select products. Some key things to consider:

  1. Use tracking that identifies that an e-mail has landed in the inbox (a SPAM folder is not not a delivery)
  2. Make sure the IP addresses from which you are sending are not blocked by SPAM review companies.
  3. Make sure recipients know to add your address to their associated e-mail accounts (i.e. white list)
  4. Make the “opt-out” process simple and do it as soon as they request it. Not doing so will lead to more clicks on the SPAM button and ISP’s will penalize for this.

Subject Lines

Hundreds of eMail may land in an individual’s inbox each day. Which ones get opened? Which ones get deleted? Which ones are “saved for later”? When creating subject lines:

  1. Beware of trigger words for SPAM: Free, Sale, USING ALL CAPS, Lots of punctuation !@#$%^&*()_+. Stay up-to-date with a quick search for “e-mail SPAM triggers”.
  2. Subject lines are headlines – The best way to write a good headline is to keep it simple and direct.
  3. Test, Test, Test subject lines – Send most people your standard subject line but send a small percentage something different (a test that is different enough to spark interest). Review and compare open rates to gauge an appetite for change.

Layout and Design Matters (to those that open)

You have followed the previous advice and are now seeing lots of people opening your eMail. What do they see for all your effort? You have 2.2 seconds – that is it. Studies have shown that people quickly review e-mail and are on to the next eMail or matter of importance. As in life, first impressions matter. Engagement is key and the following will help:

  1. A large “hero shot” image at the top of your eMail will preclude a person from learning much. Very few people think to scroll down and can easily miss your message.
  2. Create immediate CTA’s (calls to action) – to sell a product, put a “Buy Now” button right next to it. Add links to key words that entice people to click through to the site.
  3. Images are much better than text. The brain processes visual images more than 100X faster than words (remember you have 2.2 seconds). Printed text has been around thousands of years; pictures – MILLIONS!
  4. Colors matter – Search for and review articles that talk about online shopping and colors. Some are engaging and soothing (blue, green). Some cause angst (red, yellow). It depends on the product or service.
  5. Use the right side of the e-mail. People exit eMail, pages, etc. to the right. Use the right side for CTA’s (banners, links, etc.) here to get readers to click from the eMail to your site.

In the course of writing this post, I just saw a colleague that runs eCommerce for a major company post the following tweet (note: your competition pays attention).

competition email

Know the Facts (Analysis is King)

The best way to continually improve your eMail approach is to track what is happening, produce consistent reporting, and analyze what is happening. It is important to monitor these metrics (in order of the flow of the process):

  1. Deliverability – %/# that get to the inbox, %/# that go to SPAM
  2. Open rates – % opened per number sent
  3. Click-through Rates (CTR) – which links are clicked on the eMails
  4. % Conversion –# of people who clicked through to your site divided by those that performed a desired CTA

In the beginning, the first two items should be relatively easy when setting up tracking software. Over time, CTR and % conversion will come into meaningful focus with significant traffic.

These suggestions provide key items to consider for your eMail program. John Wanamaker once said, “I know that half of my advertising is wasted. The trouble is I don’t know which half.”  With digital marketing, it is possible to create, review, monitor and refine quickly and multiple times. The eMail channel is not one to be taken lightly. Diligent effort and review can yield substantial results.

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