Manas Kumar, Thinking out Loud

my thoughts & visions for technology

22 Imperatives for Email Marketing Success

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“Load and Send?” “Batch and Blast?” Those two marketing concepts are ancient history in the modern email environment. Now, you have to navigate your way through a complicated landscape of customer expectations, challenging technology, government regulations and other issues old-school direct marketers never had to face.

Maxmail has identified a set of principles we call “The 22 Imperatives for Email Marketing Success.” Don’t let that number intimidate you, though, as most marketers are already deploying many of these imperatives. Increasingly, though, companies that fail to follow all of these principles will find their email marketing programs underperforming their competitors and not achieving maximum ROI.

1. Permission is Not Optional
When you send unsolicited email, you hurt your brand, your campaign and your sender reputation. Don’t use “stealth” methods to collect email addresses, such as pre-checked boxes on site registration forms. Use a two-stage subscription process that requires confirmation before the address goes into your database. Ask older opt-ins if they still want to receive your email, and retain all the permission data on each opt-in.

2. Manage Your Sender Reputation
You’ll get on an ISP’s bad side if you send too many emails too often to too many bad email addresses, or generating too many spam complaints. Result? The ISP will block your emails, shunt them to oblivion in the bulk folder and won’t tell you what you did wrong. Honor unsubscribe requests immediately, stay off blacklists, monitor and resolve spam complaints, and use a double opt-in process and unique IP address if you don’t already.

3. Clean and Analyze Mailing Lists
A “dirty” list – too many unsolicited, incorrect, out-of-date or duplicated addresses – hurts your campaign’s performance and your company’s delivery and sender reputation. “List hygiene” cleans out bad addresses, reduces undeliverable emails and helps you spot problems fast.

4. Deploy Authentication Technologies
Some ISPs are using methods that allow email from recognized senders but block spammers and malicious senders. They include “whitelisting,” SPF Classic, SenderID and DomainKeys. Ask your email service provider which methods it supports. Unauthenticated emails could be blocked, filtered or sent to bulk/junk folders.

5. Test for Delivery and Correct Rendering
HTML emails – with pictures, colors and graphics — can look or function differently when viewed in different email programs and ISP-based email services. Send a sample email to test emails accounts at major providers, such as AOL, Earthlink, Hotmail and Yahoo! to spot bad links, copy that triggers spam filters, bad images or other problems. Also, make sure your emails are W3C HTML-compliant. Otherwise, you risk being filtered, particularly at MSN and Hotmail.

6. Establish and Build Trust
Ask only for the most necessary information at registration. (You can ask for more later, when your recipients trust you.) Send only what you say you will, when and how often you promised at registration. Without trust, recipients are less likely to open or act on your emails and more likely to unsubscribe or file spam complaints.

7. Respect Recipients’ Privacy
This is just good business practice, but you’ll also avoid legal and ethical problems. Include a short, simple email privacy statement within your opt-in form and link it to the full policy statement on your Web site.

8. Give Recipients What They Want and Need
Your subscribers expect control. If you don’t give them what they want, they’ll go elsewhere. Let them decide the format (text or HTML), the frequency, the content and whether you can send them other kinds of information. Then, segment your lists to reflect those choices.

9. Provide Administrative Functions in Each Email
Give recipients the tools they need to manage their subscriptions, contact you, forward information to others and get more information, right in the email.  Reputable emailers include this information in a clearly marked section, usually at the end of each email. See the sample below:

10. Test, Test and Test Again
Besides testing for delivery, you must also test to see which attributes work best in individual emails. What you think you know isn’t always what works best. Testing is as easy as a classic A/B split and can show you which day of the week really draws the most opens and clicks or which subject line tanked.

11. Define Your Email Value Proposition (EVP)
Without a clear focus and value proposition, your email won’t hit your recipient’s “internal inbox.” People can manage only a limited number of regular email communications. Give them clear reasons to open your emails every time. Define your “EVP” much like you would a positioning statement and use it to drive your content, creative, frequency and segmentation strategies.

12. Segment Lists for Better Results
Use the information you collected at sign-up to divide your list into relevant segments and deliver targeted messages. Better yet segment based on email and Web behavior such as which links recipients clicked on or what actions they’ve taken on your Web site. That will boost your performance and make your communications more valuable to your recipients. Segmenting also helps you understand performance and trends based on demographics and segments.

13. Personalize for Greater Relevance
Personalization is the next step. It uses recipients’ own information to create highly relevant messages, which boosts your value. Top-quality email service providers allow you to personalize right to the recipient level, with email that recognizes each one by name, buying history, content, format, etc.

14. Use Good Design & Format
Weak designs and improper format frustrates users. They can’t navigate your email easily or find the information they want. So, they opt out. Or, they delete you every time. Or, they hit the “Report Spam” button and hope that makes you go away.  That’s why you test sample messages, to make sure they perform across many email programs and Web services.

15. Design Emails for the Inbox
Your email has to stand out in a crowded inbox. Put your company name in the “from” line for fast recognition. Add a “grabber” subject line. Design the top of your email to be preview pane and “disabled images” friendly. Use teaser text and HTML colors and layout rather than an image so readers can get an immediate “preview” of your email even if images are disabled. Finally, put the important content – the offer, the call to action, newsletter contents – up at the top for immediate viewing. You have just a couple of seconds to make your case, so don’t waste them.

16. Deliver Value Continuously
Recipients’ needs change over time. Your emails will compete with new and changing sources of content or offers that will affect your value proposition. Survey your recipients occasionally on their needs and interests. Make it easy for them to change their subscription preferences. Analyze each send for revealing statistics on factors such as results according to subject line, offer, links clicked, segmenting, etc.

17. Focus on List Quality Over List Size
Growing your mailing list is important, but don’t do it at the expense of quality. Analyze your house lists carefully. Clean them frequently, especially before a campaign or publication. Segment lists by customer value and activity level as well as the permission factors we discussed in earlier Imperatives.

18. Integrate With Other Marketing Channels
Email marketing can’t exist in a silo. You’ll get a higher ROI when you integrate it with other marketing channels and touch points, such as direct mail, telemarketing and trade shows. Design search-engine landing pages to make it easier to begin a relationship. Promote newsletter content through multiple channels, and reprint email information on your Web site.

19. Focus on Goals, Not Process Metrics
You can’t measure an email campaign’s success just by counting the average open and click-through rates. Instead, measure performance against your end goals. Number of transactions, demos sold, white papers downloaded, etc. will tell you if your email program is actually achieving your desired goals.

20. Use Advanced Automation
The simple “load and send” strategy doesn’t work anymore. You need to deploy a whole range of advanced technologies – behavioral segmentation, detailed reporting, API database integration, dynamic content, triggers and more – to drive improved results and ROI. For example, you can use triggers to send specific emails to recipients based on their email actions. This automates a manual process and delivers dramatic results.

21. Allocate Necessary Resources
Many companies got into email marketing because it was cheaper than traditional direct mail, but that’s all different now. The landscape – from ISP relations to technological innovation and government regulations – is more complex now. So, your organizations must allocate adequate budgets, resources and know-how to do the job right and achieve your ROI goals.  Your email service provider should be able to help you out, but you must also educate your team and key influencers in your company.

22. Know the Laws Affecting Email Marketing, and Comply
In the United States, you must follow email and privacy statutes in 36 states as well as CAN-SPAM, the federal email law. In addition, the European Economic Union, Asia and Australia have their own anti-spam laws, as do most countries with an email presence. Have an attorney with appropriate expertise review your email and privacy policies. Audit your practices across all departments, not just marketing, that manage email, and train everyone in correct procedures.

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Written by manaskumar

October 14, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Posted in Email Marketing

Tagged with

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