Email marketing campaigns are a fantastic opportunity to connect with your customer base and build up brand loyalty and awareness. They can be a tricky beast, however, as only a thin line divides a successful online marketing campaign from an annoying one that pushes recipients to the dreaded “unsubscribe” link. The best emails address key questions which I’ve summarised here for you in this email marketing checklist.
One of the problems with online marketing campaigns is that they are often not on brand, something that can confuse customers when they receive your message in their inbox. If you don’t have a defined brand guideline, agree with whoever is designing your campaign the fonts, colours and image style. If you are using a templated email, customise it so it resembles the look and feel of the website as much as possible. This is achievable in almost every email platform and is a step that should not be skipped. If designing a template from scratch, make sure to incorporate some elements of the site that the campaign will lead to.
While content might be king on websites, the same is not true in email campaigns where the average reader’s attention span can be measured in single digit seconds. Most people today will see your message appear in their email preview pane so make sure it looks appealing enough to grab their attention. Do not drown the message in paragraph style blocks or long letter form.
Don’t forget that email campaigns are mostly used as teasers with the goal of getting the reader to click through to a website and thus into your world. Define the goal of the message and use a few short key phrases to make it clear what you are contacting the reader for.
Imagery is one of the best ways to grab someone’s attention but some thought needs to go into choosing the right picture.
Ultimately what we are trying to achieve is an emotional connection with the reader so understanding the behaviour of your audience is key. Analytics can be used to slice and understand the time and place, demographics and devices used by your readers when they look at your email communications.
For example, if you are a travel company and you know that most of your readers look at their emails from work at a desktop computer, tap into their desire to be somewhere else, on holiday with family and friends. Use images that evoke the thought “I want to be there”, ” I want to be that person in that picture”. Do not simply add random hotel pictures or images of suitcases which people will not relate to as much.
Every industry has an image set that touches people’s emotional state. Some industries such as travel are easier to pinpoint while others, such as finance, might be more difficult, but they are there. Sit with your team, brainstorm, discuss it, conduct focus groups if you can, but define what your business’s emotional imagery is.
What exactly do you want the recipient to do? This should be such an obvious question, yet it is what so many online marketing campaigns lack. If you want me, the recipient, to interact with your company, then please make it clear to me what it is you want me to do.
Call to actions should be easy to find and be specific: buy, more information here, call now, book now, save today, enter to win etc.
It is also good to limit the actions to no more than three per campaign. If you want to test your audience, apply A|B or multivariate testing to the messages you send and measure the results.
Once again, remember to design for the device your customers use the most. If most of your emails are opened on mobile devices, keep this in mind and don’t make the calls to action, small text links.
If I clicked on a special offer for a weekend package to Shanghai, I should land on a page with information and imagery about Shanghai and a search engine with, at least the destination pre populated and a calendar that allows only dates within the time restrictions of the offer. These might seem like extremes to some, but customer engagement and ROI in e-commerce are hugely impacted by small actions like this.
There is nothing, and I mean nothing, more frustrating than getting a well designed and prepared email or direct marketing message that has caught the readers attention enough to get him to open and click through, only to then land him on your company home page.
Unless your email is about your new homepage or website, the customer should be directed to a specific landing page in tune with the message in the email.
Just remember that just like you wouldn’t make customers go through hoops and obstacles in a shop, don’t make them do the same on line.
Saying good bye is never easy but sometimes necessary. Although having a huge email database might be impressive in your company presentation, ask yourself if it really represents your customers base. This is important as you will be using analytics to make some pretty important decisions about how you market your business and it can be an expensive exercise if the data is not correct.
Have a look at the product or service you are selling and think about how likely it is that your customers are going to be repeat clients. If you are a transportation company like an airline, they probably will be, but if you are a theme park whose visitors see their visit as a “once in a lifetime” experience, they are not likely to be interested in what you have to say every month.
They probably signed up for your newsletter when they were preparing their visit or at the time of booking were “opted in” but the problem with keeping them in your database is that they are most likely never going to open an email and thus participate in creating the low open and click through rates you might be experiencing.
Do not be afraid to lose people if it means that your database will be leaner and healthier. This is one of those cases where quality overrides quantity so go ahead and be proactive by going as far as sending an “unsubscribe” email inviting people who have moved away, have no need or interest in your products to remove their addresses. You will most likely be surprised by how many people don’t abandon you and instead, appreciate the proactive effort to keep giving them targeted content.
It is shocking how many companies do not spend time thinking about the subject line of their email. As they say, first impressions count the most so make sure you are aware of what your campaign’s first impression looks like. I can go through my “newsletters” folder at any time and pick out at least a handful of companies that do not customise the subject line of the email and leave that up to automated pulls from the message content. Often the company name is not included and many don’t hint at the presence of time sensitive content.
The subject line should always include your company name as it is an excellent branding opportunity and it makes searching easier if your readers want to find the email later on.
As mentioned above, include time sensitive content not only to grab the reader’s attention but also so he does not miss out on a deadline if there is one. If this is a monthly message, include the month in the subject.
If you begin to think of your customer database as a list of addresses the owners have given you as a privilege rather than your right, you will begin to realise you have a treasure chest which to cherish.
Look at your communication plan and ask yourself if there is value in all the messages you plan on sending – from the recipient’s point of view, not yours! If you plan on sending them a Holiday greeting, are you attaching a value add for the reader or are you just adding another email to their inbox? Remember that customers are inundated with emails and will quickly unsubscribe if there is nothing in it for them.
Once upon a time, not that long ago, collecting email addresses was something we, online marketers, were tasked to do and many meetings were held within companies to define as many collection points as possible. The fact, however, is that an email address gave us very little insight into the user’s demographics. Nonetheless, that is what was done.
Some cases of email capturing were so non-user friendly that they turned a positive experience into a negative one. I remember when we rolled out free wi-fi onto the Heathrow Express trains in London, customers had to get through a splash page asking them for their email addresses before they could log on. By the time they fired up their devices and logged in, the 15-minute journey from the airport into town, or vice versa, was over. More than a few complaints were made about this, but getting that email address was seen as incredibly important.
Today many companies are turning to social media to communicate directly with customers, mostly using Facebook and Twitter. Agencies, consultants and marketing, comms or PR departments are given the task to build up a following, often without fully understanding the implications.
There are pros and cons to using social media however which are very important and should not be ignored:
In the pros corner, I would list immediate access to customers and the fact that they actively decided to follow you. The level of customer insight is almost always much higher than what you could get just with emails.
Representing the cons, on the other hand, is the lack of control over the platform you are using. Facebook, for example, is constantly changing their platform, privacy rules and tools. Beware of putting all your eggs in one (Facebook) basket. Using it to build games, promote user engagement or communicate with your customers is perfectly fine, but don’t forget that your website is ultimately your company’s virtual home. It, hopefully, represents your brand, tone of voice and you control it. Imagine if Facebook suddenly changed a major component of their business platform and you lost all your followers. If this is the only way you communicated with them, then Huston we have a problem.
If you are satisfied with your email campaign and it is now ready to send, make sure you have not forgotten the final step which is to measure the results. Before looking at your open rates, click through rates and other statistics be aware of what exactly defines a success for each campaign.
Not all campaigns have to have a sale as an end result. You might want to increase your Facebook following or invite your audience to an event. Perhaps you want them to walk into your shop or call you. In any case, make sure you have all your analytics ducks in a row and are able to measure the results of your campaign.
Almost all email platforms will give you the basic analytics such as how many people opened or clicked through the campaign, how many unsubscribed and forwarded it on. Depending on your audience and content time sensitivity, sit down and have a look at the data about one week after sending the communication. This allows people to have time to open the email. Many dedicate time on a Friday afternoon or weekend to catch up on their emails so give them the time to do this before drawing any conclusions.
When you do, take the new found knowledge and use it when preparing the next message. Remember that the beauty of online marketing is that you can change, tweak and update your strategy, each time optimising a little more as you go along.