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Email marketing in the 21st century – Email Marketing 101

Posted February 14, 2014 in Business, Small Business Tips by 1

We’ve been hearing the predictions for years. Email is dying. Spam has killed the experience for most of us. Nobody reads what’s in their inboxes anymore. The conversations have moved over to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Ignore the naysayers. Despite the challenges of unsolicited spam, fragmented audiences and the rise of social media, email remains a critical business communication tool. Research from ExactTarget indicates that email remains the preferred channel for personal communications, with 45% of respondents saying they’d rather use email. Text messaging is next with 36%, and social media trails with 13%. Even more notably, email-based marketing has a significantly better ROI than traditional direct mail.

What does this mean to you? If you’re looking for a cost-effective means of reaching out to known prospects and customers, you should be considering email-based marketing within your overall marketing mix. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind as you get started:

Know your message. Start by defining your key message – what is it that you want to tell your recipient? – and call to action (what you want your recipient to do.)

Keep it short. No one has time to read screens and screens of information. Your key message and call to action should be above the fold – which means they should be readable without the need to scroll down.

Punch the subject line. If you don’t grab the reader’s attention with a strong subject line, they’ll never open the message in the first place. Keep it short – many experts recommend 50 characters as the absolute maximum, but given how many people are using mobile devices to check their email these days, I’d suggest aiming for 30 characters.  And be sure to structure it with a sense of action-focused urgency.

Offer an incentive. What does the reader get if he/she opens your message? Customers respond more positively when there’s something in it for them. Either build the subject line around the incentive – “free shipping on all orders this month” – or make it similarly clear in your lead paragraph.

Repeat the call to action. Marketing-focused email messages are all about getting recipients to do something – visit a website, like a Facebook page or buy something, among others. Repeat the call to action at least two or three times within your body text to maximize the potential for conversion.

Position your logo properly. Include the logo in the top left corner of the message for maximum visibility. Studies show that’s where we tend to look first.

Align with your web content. Your email should echo the message on your website. If you link your email to a landing page – and you should be doing just that – make sure the content is consistent.

Consider deliverability. The most perfect message ever written won’t do much good if it’s never delivered. To minimize the potential for blacklisting, use double opt-in and permission-based campaigns. Review ISP spam rules to ensure you’re not violating them, and keep your ‘From’ name and subject line structure consistent so recipients become familiar with you and don’t report your content as spam.

Use your network. Test your messages out on fellow employees, friends and family before sending them out to ensure they have the desired impact. Can they quickly identify the call to action? If not, try rewriting your message.

The bottom line
Despite the growing discontent over unsolicited spam messaging, email remains a powerful and preferred tool for delivering and receiving marketing information. Follow a few simple best practices to ensure you get the most out of this cost-effective communication channel.

Do you have any additional tips to add? Let us know in the comments section below.

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One response to “Email marketing in the 21st century – Email Marketing 101”

  1. Bell says:

    Hi fruvous, thank you for your comment. Email campaigns can be an affordable and effective way for businesses to reach out to customers and prospects. In spite of the growing popularity of social media and texting apps, email is still the preferred channel for personal communications, so the ROI for email campaigns remains quite high. -Ed

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