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10 email marketing tips

EMAIL marketing continues to grow in popularity as companies turn to one of the cheapest and most measurable forms of self-promotion on the planet. It's not surprising. An email marketing campaign can cost as little as .1c to .3c per email, compared to between $1 and $1.50 for direct marketing delivered via snail mail.

But the great challenge remains making sure your email isn't relegated to the spam box. Here are 10 top email marketing secrets.

1. Know what you want

Before you set out, define exactly what your business objectives are and clearly identify your target audience.

Megan Hales, head of digital and senior planner of celebrated Sydney advertising agency The Campaign Palace, says a successful email marketing campaign starts with careful planning. She says it's important to understand what messages or offers your customers want to receive so your relationship is enhanced and the campaign drives the right behaviour, ie: engagement, referral, sales, or another target.

"Email marketing is a highly measurable medium so it's important to have very clear business goals from the outset so the campaign's effectiveness can be tracked and evaluated," she says.

2. Brand your everyday emails

Every email sent from your business address should carry your company branding in your email signature. Include your title, a link to your website, Twitter or LinkedIn account and your contact details. Also, regularly update your signature with any awards your business has won or any special offers so you're spreading the word without spending any of your allocated marketing budget.

Jen Storey, founder of Brisbane-based strategy, marketing and communications firm Outside Insights, says carefully constructed branding messages in everyday emails can help drive traffic to your company website. This in turn will make sure your business ranks higher in a Google search.

"Every day business email is a channel that rarely gets measured or used to its full potential, but it allows you to measure and quantify your email audience and report on the impact it has on your customer base, sales leads and prospects," Storey says.

3. Invest in design

Consider hiring a web designer or marketing company to design your email marketing for a professional look.

Alternatively, consider buying a pre-designed email template, which you can then edit yourself. Most email distribution packages come with a 30 day trial, so make use of it and try before you buy.

"I've seen businesses do it on their own which is great if you're tech-savvy, but I've seen businesses fail because they haven't understood that email marketing needs to reflect your company branding," Taliana says.

"You need to keep your emails consistent. Design a template and stick to that template, only changing the content."

4. Test your campaign (and your competitors)

Each campaign should focus on a single message that's delivered succinctly, Bernie Johnson of Sydney website design agency Adrenalin Media advises.

Ensure every email marketing campaign includes a clear call to action in the email body, Johnson says.

And always send the email to yourself and others within the company before it goes out to your database to check the email can be opened and that there are no spelling mistakes.

If you're unsure if your email marketing is hitting the mark, send one version out to 50 people in your database and a second version to a different 50 people and see which works best, he advises.

"Email marketing is not an exact science. It's a case of trial and error. If the open rates are low then you know you need to start tweaking and testing the email."

Depending on your skills, consider hiring a professional writer or editor to create your content.

Alon Tamir, CEO of online analytics application Intelemail also advises companies to monitor competitors' campaigns.

"You can learn a lot by watching what your competitors are up to," Tamir says.

5. Keep subject lines short and avoid "spammy" terms

Most professional email marketing programs enable the user to run each piece of communication through a program to check whether it's likely to be picked up by a spam filter. This program will scour the text for words likely to be caught in the spam filter.

To make sure your email makes it to the inbox, avoid long subject lines and saturated words like 'win', 'offer' or 'buy now', Johnson says.

And don't send your email via outlook express as the content doesn't look as professional as it could and will take ages to send, he says.

6. Get permission and customise


There needs to be some form of agreement between your company and your customer that clearly indicates that they want to receive communication from your business.

Jeremy Glass from Sydney digital marketing agency Permission advises companies to always seek consent before communicating with customers, no matter how good your offer is.

"Ask customers to provide you with information pertinent to what they want to receive and how frequently. Then you need to deliver on your promise consistently. Make sure you listen to those who respond and get back to them," Glass says.

7. Be careful buying email lists

It's best to build your database organically via your website with a link that enables people to opt in to your newsletter or email marketing campaign.

Every time you get a hard bounce (ie. the email address is no longer operational or someone has left the company), make sure you purge your database, which will ensure your open and click-through statistics are accurate.

"You've got to make sure you regularly maintain your database," Sydney's Johnson says.

He also advises against buying cold lists, which, he says, can be a waste of money.

"However, if you're buying a qualified list of targeted contacts and you have an extremely compelling offer, buying a list could be worthwhile, but I've seen that cost up to $40,000 for 100,000 targeted email addresses."

8. Integrate your campaign with social media

Smart marketers make sure their email marketing campaigns are integrated with their Twitter and Facebook sites, enabling them to leverage their marketing to an even greater extent.

Melbourne email marketing expert Basil Hyman says SMEs should make sure their communication links back to their newsletter, Twitter account or website.

"You want to make sure you're pushing your message out via multiple communication channels, which means your brand will get in front of even more potential customers. It's all about using technology to your advantage."

9. Get feedback from unsubscribers

Nothing will turn customers off your brand quicker than bombarding them with irrelevant information - and then making it difficult for them to opt out of your emails.

That's why you shouldn't be tempted to lock customers into receiving your email.

Lisa Taliana of Melbourne website design firm Taliana Design says companies should always make sure they include an 'unsubscribe' link at the end of each piece of electronic communication.

"If your email marketing package allows it, include a quick questionnaire so those opting out can explain why they're choosing to unsubscribe. That way you know if your emails are no longer relevant or they're no longer interested in your offering," Taliana says.

10. Always measure your success


Email marketing is so popular because it's one of the most measurable forms of advertising around. In recent years, the market has been flooded with a broad range of email marketing tools offering varying levels of functionality and analytics, so shop around for the most appropriate one for your business.

Lisa Taliana says most email distribution packages offer users the ability to access detailed statistics after each campaign.

"These statistics can tell a business which customers opened their email, which emails bounced and why, if the recipient forwarded the email on to another person, which links the receiver clicked on and how many times those links were opened – all invaluable information," Taliana says.

This article first appeared on SmartCompany.com.au, Australia’s premier site for business advice, news, forums and blogs.

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