12 Rules of Email Marketing

Filed in MY BEST POSTS, Small Biz Marketing by Matt McGee on May 16, 2006 0 Comments

Let’s step a bit outside of the strict search engine realm into the larger online marketing arena….

If you have a business web site, you should have a mailing list. If you’re just starting out, and don’t have a lot of traffic or customers yet, then you should be planning on having a list and be ready to start one. A mailing list, when it’s built correctly and managed well, can be the best source of repeat business you have. But a mailing list is also one of the easiest things for any business to screw up.

Here are my 12 rules of email marketing — tips to help make sure you don’t screw up your list.

1. Do not spam. Understand the CAN-Spam Act and follow it. Build a mailing list via permission only.

2. Make sure you actually have permission! A customer who gives you her email address for a non-mailing list reason isn’t giving you permission to put her name on your subscriber list. In other words, getting an order from Sally in Topeka creates a business relationship between you and Sally, but it doesn’t necessarily mean Sally wants to be on your mailing list, too.

If placing an order on your site includes automatic addition to your mailing list, state that clearly before the customer places her order — as early in the order process as possible.

3. Make it easy to unsubscribe. It’s a mailing list, not prison.

4. Don’t buy lists/databases of email addresses. Many of the email addresses in those databases belong to people who didn’t know that they were giving permission to have their address sold when they downloaded some software, or completed some survey, etc. Whatever you spend on these lists and databases, you won’t be getting much value because response rates will be next to zero.

5. If you send out an HTML email, be sure to also offer a text version. Many of us prefer plain text emails. Plus, HTML emails are more likely to be tagged as spam by filtering software.

6. Personalize the messages you send out as much as possible. You should be using list management software that allows you, at minimum, to address each recipient by name. If you can go further and target emails to certain types of recipients — past purchasers of a certain product, for example — do that, too. The personal touch in an email is very effective.

7. Write a great email subject. If you’re offering a sale or coupon, put the word “sale” or “coupon” in the subject of the email. A boring or nondescript subject line will lead to a lot of unread emails.

8. Mind your Ps and Qs. Read and re-read your email several times before you send it — make sure your spelling and grammar is perfect. Don’t just rely on spellcheck software, have several people read the email before it goes out. Poor spelling and/or grammar makes you look bad.

9. Give recipients a reason to read your email. Don’t just send out an email because it’s been a while. If you have nothing to say, then keep quiet.

10. Give recipients a reason to act. Discounts, contests, special promotions exclusive to your subscribers are a great use of your list. A 2005 survey of moms revealed that 87% who join mailing lists do so in order to get a price discount or coupon. 87%!!! And 70% said they also want to know about sales. Only 6% wanted to learn about the company.

When offering discounts or coupons, or when announcing sales, be sure the email includes a link so readers can take immediate action.

11. Invite the recipient to share the email with a friend. Better yet, invite them to share the coupon or discount code with a friend, too! Word of mouth is one of the most effective forms of marketing there is. Use it to your advantage.

12. Include basic contact information. The sale or contest you’re offering may not appeal to all subscribers, but the email you send may still be a reminder that the reader needs to visit your web site for some other product or contact you via email with some other question. Include all of your customer service information in every email — your web address, email address, phone and fax numbers.

How does this list compare with your experiences? Anyone have tips to add? Anyone disagree with my list? Comments are welcome….

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