Email marketing is tougher than it used to be but it's really just a matter of using "best practices". In today's spam filled In boxes it is getting more and more difficult to avoid the delete key. By offering relevant, useful content and maintaining permission based privacy standards, you can not only keep your customers informed of your latest sales or company news but also build relationships that keep them coming back. All it takes is a little respect and responsibility.
1. DON'T SPAM!
If you use email you know what a pain it is to start your day deleting a bunch of garbage. The only responsible way to run an email campaign these days is use permission based lists. Depending on your site's traffic and how compelling you make the sign-up form, this could take a while but don't risk ruining your brand and your customer relationships.
2. Optimize the Subject Line
Ok, you have their permission but that doesn't mean you're in just yet. You've got one line of about 50 characters between "Open" and "Delete". The subject line should quickly let them know what the email is about. Personalize it if you can. Don't use the same subject line for all of your emails. Experiment and run A/B tests to see what works best. Make it interesting.
3. Send Something Useful
Don't send an email just because it's that time of the month. OK, yes you should (see number 4) but give them something worth opening. Tell them about a new product, teach them how to do something, offer them an exclusive discount. You get the idea. Most people aren't interested in an advertisement in their inbox anymore than they want pop-up ads while they surf. Think about the value from their perspective.
4. Make sure your mails get through
Before you send your actual campaign, send a test mail to as many different email clients as you can(Outlook, Hotmail, Gmail, Thunderbird etc.). Send them to different networks as well to check for ISP blocking, blacklisting, and various anti-spam efforts. You should make the required adjustments before you send out a large number of mails and wind up on several blacklists.
5. Use the "Preview Pane"
More and more email clients are using a preview pane so the recipient can see the content before it is opened. This is why you want your most compelling content right up at the top. If you are covering more than one topic, such as a newsletter, this is a great place for a table of contents.
6. Mind your P's and Q's
Use a spell checker, but don't rely on it. Proofread your content for errors, then have someone else do it. Also look for HTML errors, broken links or anything else that might irritate readers or just make you look incompetent.
7. Use graphics sparingly
Once again anything that slows down your message is not useful. You should use your branding and maybe one or two well optimized graphics, but don't use two when one will do. Rely on color and contrast (and of course your well written content) to create interest.
8. Provide a "Call to Action"
What's the point? Make it clear to the reader that you want them to got to your site or download the latest white paper. Make them want to, tell them how to, and don't forget to ask them to.
9. Create a Landing Page
A "Landing Page" is a page within your site designed specifically for the readers of your email. This is where you provide the solutions they came clicking for. If they land on your home page and have to hunt for whatever you offered in the email it will probably end badly for both of you. Make it easy on them.
10. Test, Measure, Test again
Track your results, pay more attention to conversion rates and revenue-per-email than to opens and click-through rates. Test a variety of subject lines. See which ones are not only getting opened but are actually generating revenue. Test different font sizes, different colors, different word totals. Find out what works for your customers, in your industry and make the most of it. Have fun with it.