Email marketing ain’t sexy, I know.
We all struggle with maintaining our inboxes and we all get our email addresses abused by spammers. As such, email marketing can’t be described as the sexiest of spaces to fight for. It’s like no-one really wants you there in the first place.
And it gets worse:
So many companies are struggling to put out their periodical newsletters. So many marketing departments are scrambling to write newsletter content that sort of makes sense for the subscribers. Many traditional companies have chosen the insanely boring route of posting headlines and snippets from their latest newsroom or blog updates.
And with all of the hype around various social networks, one might think that email marketing at least ought to be a thing of the past. However, such a conclusion couldn’t be more wrong. Email marketing is still — and will likely continue to be — the most potent of digital marketing channels.
How can this be?
From a PR perspective, most social networks comes with a massive disadvantage; the brand doesn’t have proprietary ownership of the audience. Sure, your business can accumulate followers and fans across a vast number of social networks, but when push comes to shove, we’re all at the mercy of just a few third-party algorithms. In email marketing, this just isn’t the case.
Both social networks and email marketing has the immense advantage of being opt-in (pull rather than push). Like Seth Godin described it, having an opted-in audience could also be labeled permission marketing:
“Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.”
Still, email marketing is prone to abuse. There’s nothing stopping anyone from sending out lots of emails to a lots of people. Organised spammers and malware distributors have taken this the furthest, but there’s a massive amount of companies out there doing email marketing all wrong. They’re diminishing a perfectly good marketing channel for themselves, and more importantly, for others as well.
Best practices for email marketing
When people ask me after seminars or during workshops, I have some basic advice for companies who are interested in doing email marketing right:
1. The list is your asset, not the send-outs.
Treat your list carefully and with the utmost respect.
2. Grow your list wisely and responsibly.
Always go for quality over quantity; it’s better to have a small but business relevant list.
3. Don’t rely on periodical send-outs.
Instead, do send-outs only when you have something worthwhile to communicate or a social signal triggers a send-out.
4. Focus on content, not on fancy html design.
Strive to have your email send-outs looking like emails should look. No-one appreciates having their inbox looking like a carnival.
5. No attachments, ever.
You’re already taking up valuable space in various inboxes, never push sacred privilege by adding attachments.
6. Use email activity to fine-tune custom social audiences.
Some social networks allow you to upload email lists to create custom audiences.
7. One email, one call-to-action (CTA).
Each and every email should only contain one CTA. This way, you can avoid conversion cannibalism.
8. Manually unsubscribe anyone who doesn’t belong.
Your email list is your online living room; if someone isn’t behaving properly, remove them promptly.
9. Keep your list close to bounce-free.
Your list’s reputation with various senders will largely depend on your bounce rate. Clean your list with regular intervals.