Email marketing works. It’s the way many of us communicate on a daily basis with our customers. Provided the email content remains personal, relevant and above all permission based, email marketing can revolutionise your business. The beauty lies in the viral nature of it, with the ability to quickly forward to a friend or someone else who may be interested in a particular commercial offering.
However, it’s relatively difficult for small businesses to do email marketing correctly. There are relatively few free email marketing programs out there with the sort of features that they need. So in the first part of this two piece post I’m going to first of all break down of what I think those features are, and later this week – give you a run down of the web based prorgrams which I think do this best. This will serve as a checklist, before you start hunting for a good email marketing service.
1. Hiding of other recipients of the mailing.
I’ve seen some small business owners (and larger) businesses thinking that its ok to just fire all of the recipients of the mail piece into the TO: field within outlook..EMAIL MARKETING FAIL. This results in me being able to see who else has received the mailing, and the other recipients also receiving my email address! At that stage, you’ve lost both my trust and my attention.
2. Customising of some of the fields within the email message itself
Like direct mail – email marketing works best when its personal. The more personalised you can make it the higher your response rate will be. Hello Emma, works so much better than dear Customer. If you are able to show a personal message such as “thanks for the coffee last week” for particular customers, this will build trust, and reinforce brand values.
3. Integrated Data Collection
If you have been collecting data on your recipients interests, and learning more about them- a good system will allow you to use that information to your advantage. For example. Suppose I’m running a fashion launch. I wish to target via email – Female customers between the age of 18-30, who’s favourite colour is blue and favourite band is Abba. That’s the sort of drill down of data that you need in today’s marketplace.
4. Scheduling of the messages to be sent at a certain time
Some marketing messages are time dependant. If for example it’s valentines day – might be a good idea if you sell flowers to send your email marketing out two or three days prior. If your email marketing program doesn’t currently perform this function then you are limited to actually composing the message on the day you want to send it. That can be an inconvience if you are busy doing other things or need to go on holiday.
5. Importing / exporting function
Importing and Exporting is important because you will firstly have find an easy way to bring in your existing data from the likes of Outlook or Excel and if you ever need to get your data back out into another format, the export function is a necessity. Some email programs (especially the online ones) have brilliant import facilities, but then lock you into using them as a provider, because they offer no exporting of data.
The beauty of online marketing compared to other mediums is measurement. Marketing without measurement is dead. So make sure that you get yourself a system which will serve to show you (and your boss) pretty graphs, showing the number of emails sent, the number opened and the number who clicked through. The better systems out there also allow you to measure whether a campaign actually resulted in an e-commerce sale – if that is your bag.
7. Bounce rate removal
If the system is correctly setup, it should in theory automatically cleanse your lists. If there are bad email addresses in there that continue to bounce back, they should be removed. A good system will also know how to handle soft and hard bounces. The difference between a hard bounce and a soft bounce is that a hard bounce is a failure to deliver because the email address or domain was not found, whereas a soft bounce means that something was wrong at the receiving server. E.g. Your recipients email account was full.
Good email software will detect this and act appropriately. Many of the better ones employ a “three strikes and your out” policy. I.e. if the email hard bounces three times it is removed.
8. Optional powered by link
If you created a email marketing system to send out mail – one of the easiest ways of increasing brand awareness, would be to stick a powered by x.com link on the bottom of ever mail message that gets sent through the system. Hotmail.com still does this. This however in my opinion is the equivalent of putting bumper stickers with a “bought in Pete’s garage”. It may help them to grow faster as a company but it is irrelevant to the recipient. This should be an optional feature within the program.