By John Fell, President, E-mail Logic
Permission email marketing is the the ultimate retention marketing tool for both brick-and-mortar and online retailers. It’s targeted, dynamic, interactive and cost effective. In fact, there are even tools available that let you do your own email marketing virtually for free.
Email marketing can be very affordable, but what you can’t afford is to do it wrong. Some say that bad marketing is better than no marketing, but I disagree. The window of opportunity for building an email relationship with you customers is small and very competitive. Therefore, it’s important to do email marketing right. After all, it only takes your customer one click to ”unsubscribe” to your relationship.
So how can you ensure a long and healthy online relationship with your customer base? Avoid these mistakes and follow these expert tips.
Mistake #1: Not Getting Permission
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is failing to get permission to send someone an email. Email is the only form of communication that requires the marketer to establish that their target actually wants to receive their message by law (the Can-Spam act). Many email marketers simply send customers and prospects emails without explicitly asking for or confirming their permission. While the recipients aren’t likley to sue you for violation of Can-Spam, it’s simply bad business etiquette and negatively brands you as a marketer. More importantly – you’ve missed the opportunity to do things right! There is only one correct way to get an email address – ask for it. And what might be defined as permission from your customer or prospect should be interpreted as privilege to you, the marketer.
Mistake #2: Not Immediately Reinforcing Your Relationship
Once you’ve established permission, start the relationship in a timely, relevant matter. Seth Godin, the guru of permission marketing, states that all email marketing must be targeted, relevant and anticipated. This seems to be overlooked by many email marketers right from the beginning. It’s amazing to me how many first emails I get from businesses weeks or months after I opt-in. Not only are these senders risking that I won’t recall giving them my permission, and label them as spam, they are missing an opportunity to making a great first impression by reenforcing their brand and benefits with a “welcome” email sent to me right after I sign up.
Mistake #3: Not Ensuring That Your Emails Are Delivered
There are hundreds of Email Service Providers (ESPs) that can be accessed online to do email marketing. They have two basic functions. One is to provide online software tools to create emails, manage lists, and track results, and the other is to deliver emails to the subscribers on your lists. And while there is a range of prices for these services, there is an even bigger range in what these tools offer the user, especially when it comes to deliverability of emails.
The biggest mistake that marketers make when selecting who to buy their email technology tools from is to assume that all the emails they send will be delivered. Regardless of how well you’ve established permission with your subscribers, the likelihood that your emails will be labelled as spam remains high, unless you’ve partnered with a high-end ESP that specializes in deliverability. Simply put; you get what you pay for.
Using one of the popular, inexpensive ESPs to keep your costs down increases the possibility that your emails won’t get delivered and you’ll probably never know about it. And if, and when, you determine your emails aren’t getting delivered it’s unlikely that they’re available to help you navigate through the complicated maze of ISP (Internet Service Provider) and spam filtering.
Furthermore, when it comes to creating your emails, it’s very important that you understand how to use the tools the ESPs provide. This is probably where most amateur email marketers stumble. Many amateurs don’t understand image suppression and how to correctly format emails so they can be viewed in the hundreds of different combinations of devices and software that we use to view email.
Mistake #4: Not Making Sure That Your Emails Can Be Seen & Read
Simply creating a beauftiul graphic and sending out the image can be a big problem if you subscriber uses image suppression. (And just because you might have figured how to get the images in your inbox to show up, it doesn’t mean your subscriber has figured it out, or wants to.) Almost every form of email client (software to view emails) utilizes image supression and email marketers who don’t design for it are limiting their effectiveness.
Beyond image suppression, the email creator must also have some knowledge of HTML since different email clients vary on how they render HTML in emails. For example, if you look at an email using AOL and then look at the same email using the Outlook 2007 software downloaded on your computer, the chances are that they will look quite different. Added to the complexity is the endless variety of mobile device software that render emails differently.
While some online ESPs provide inexpensive, state-of–the-art technology to build emails, using them effectively is another matter. Just like using the latest, greatest clubs doesn’t make you a great golfer,there is no technical tool or solution that can guarantee that your email will render correctly for all the different software and hardware combinations that your subscribers use to display their emails. That is something that is learned through experience by email design specialists, and even we have to constanly be updating our knowledge as the technology changes.
Mistake# 5: No Marketing Savvy
Assuming that email marketers do build their lists correctly, build technically correct emails and get them delivered to their subscribers’ inboxes, the mistake that I see most often is simply lack of marketing savvy. So what is marketing savvy?
The Right Way
When we design a strategy for a client we look to do three things well:
Correct Frequency: First, create a regular dialog with subscribers by sending the right message to the right customer at the right time. Over sending can wear out your welcome in the inbox. Sending too infrequently can make them forget about you. Tracking tools can be very helpful in determining the correct sending frequency. In addition, you need to segment the list based on subscriber data which will help you to determine which subscribers to send to so that emails are more relevant.
Contain a Call to Action: Second, a call to action is essential in all marketing, especially email. Too many times I get emails that are nothing more that a billboard and give me nothing to do. In addition, building a “click-though” to an offer or more information can be measured for effectiveness with tracking tools and be used to identify leads or motivate subscribers.
“Wow” Effect: Thirdly, emails should be used to build your brand. The first impression of an email is what matters the most. If you don’t deliver some “wow” the instant that a subscriber gets your message, it’s unlikely that he will open your email – much less read it.
The one distinct advantage small independent retailers have over their larger competition is the unique and personalized relationship they have built with customers. Email is the perfect opportunity to enhance this relationship and creatively re-enforce your brand. Most consumers get a lot of emails each day, but, the problem is that many of these emails look unprofessional and that can only tarnish the brand of the sender. The challenge is to make your email the one that stands out and that won’t happen if your email is boring and impersonal.
Summary: To be a successful email marketer retailers must:
• Correctly establish their email relationship with prospects and customers
• Create and design creative and effective emails
• Make sure their emails are delivered through the maze of filtering
• Make sure their emails are viewed correctly by hundreds of different software programs and devices
• Include a call to action
• Have their R.O.M.I. (return on marketing investment) maximized
John Fell is the president of E-Mail Logic. Since 2002, E-Mail Logic has been partnering with over a hundred independent retailers helping them streamline their marketing costs and implement internet marketing strategies.
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