Archive for the ‘Email Marketing’ category

Power Your Journey: ExactTarget Connections is the Event for Endurance Marketers

September 18th, 2014

Are your marketing communications relevant, personalized, and behavior driven? Is your marketing program driven by critical data? Do you have a single view of your customer? Are you maximizing all channels?

While these are goals that all marketers aspire to, the answers for most marketers are “no.” (Or for the ultra-sophisticated, the answers might be, “not as much as I would like.”)

If we all know that’s where we want to go, why aren’t we there yet? There are many different practical reasons, but a big, less practical reason is this: As busy marketers, we rarely allow ourselves to take a step back, evaluate our programs, and strategize real-world ways to make these improvements. We may take the time to read an industry article here and there, but do we really take the time to get inspired about what is possible with data paired with the right platforms? And more importantly, how we can apply those concepts to programs we execute? (Or programs that are so amazing, we haven’t even dreamed them up yet?)

Connections LogoExactTarget Connections is a digital marketing event that allows you to do just that. It’s the premier event from the Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud. The theme for this year is Power Your Journey, and the idea here is that Connections is designed to be the perfect mix of inspiration and enablement.

Connections is unlike most industry conferences. It is not a sales pitch. It is not a big party. It features sessions for all levels of experience and for varying areas of interest (with tracks including Email, Social, Mobile, and B2B). Most importantly, each session will give you practical advice and creative strategies for how to improve your program.

Just because it’s practical doesn’t mean it isn’t also a lot of fun! There are many opportunities to socialize and enjoy entertainment. This year’s entertainment line-up includes will.i.am, The Script, and DJ Casey Connor.

Connections is also known for powerful and engaging keynote speakers, and featured speakers this year include Marc Benioff (Chairman & CEO, Salesforce), will.i.am (entertainer), John Green (author), Beth Comstock, (SVP & CMO, General Electric), Gabriel Stricker (Chief Communications Officer, Twitter), and many others.

The conference will be held in Indianapolis on September 23-25. It’s not too late to register! Learn more here.

Email Marketing Case Study: Accelerating Tria Beauty’s Campaigns on a Global Scale Leveraging ExactTarget

August 13th, 2014
Tria Email Example

Tria Email Example

Managing an email marketing campaign on a global scale can be daunting. However, when you blend a team of email marketing experts with a robust platform such as ExactTarget, a wave of encouragement ensues. Learn how we helped our client Tria Beauty, a global retailer of FDA approved laser hair removal and skincare products, elevate their current email marketing campaign to a global scale. Together, we worked to solidify over 130 post purchase streamed emails that targeted customers on an international level.

 

In this webinar, you will learn how we implemented and maintained a full service email campaign with examples of the campaign process, which was comprised of audience selection, creative and HTML production, email quality assurance and campaign deployment.

Register Now

Lessons Learned from Shutterfly’s Recent Email Error

May 16th, 2014
Shutterfly's email mistake

Shutterfly’s email mistake

“Congratulations on your new arrival”

A very thoughtful subject line, but one that I wasn’t prepared to see in my inbox Wednesday.  I found myself thinking back to my morning and taking a mental headcount of the breakfast table.  My husband had already headed out for the day so there was me, my kindergartener and my (technically) newest arrival who will turn 3 years old in July.

We’re all human, and let’s face it, we make mistakes every now and then.  However, taking important steps to mitigate as many errors as possible in an email marketing campaign will pay-off, and also alleviate potentially public apologies down the road.

Unfortunately, Shutterfly  received a lot of negative attention for their email error, but there are ways to ensure your email campaigns are developed and deployed correctly, if you review each of these checkpoints:

  1. Data Accuracy – Data driven campaigns can only be valuable if you have the right data attached to your customers.
  2. Email Content – Copy and images should reflect the original email design and a thorough spell-check should be completed.
  3. Coding Accuracy – A well-designed email with compelling call-to-actions won’t get you very far if your links are broken or your email isn’t rendering properly on a mobile device.
  4. Deployment Details – Sender profiles, subscriber lists, exclusion lists, …..every detail of the send should be thoroughly reviewed against the specifications for the deployment or you can risk sending to an incorrect audience or having the right audience receive the wrong message.

Documenting each step in your review process and creating checklists will also help alleviate potential errors and help build confidence in your team to press that “send” button to thousands or even millions of subscribers.

Need help in reviewing your email quality testing processes, but don’t know where to start? Check out our Slideshare presentation on “Email Quality Testing Best Practices” as we expand on the key items you should review in your email campaign before deploying to a live audience:

 

And not to brag, but as for me and my “new arrival,” we are happily sleeping through the night.

 

The Gmail Unsubscribe Tool Explained Simply

February 25th, 2014

Starting this week, Gmail is introducing a new unsubscribe mechanism that will allow a subscriber to be removed from email communications by clicking on a link that will be located next to the sender’s email address.

The Gmail Unsubscribe Tool Explained Simply

The Gmail Unsubscribe Tool Explained Simply

 

When you click on this link, you will be prompted to confirm if you want to unsubscribe from all emails sent from this sender.

How does this work?

When you click on this particular unsubscribe link, Gmail will contact the email sender engine to request you are removed from all email communications. Note that this request might take up to 3 days to be processed, as it will be the responsibility of the email sender to unsubscribe you.

This link doesn’t really replace the Unsubscribe link that you would usually find in the footer of an email, but it provides a different way to accomplish the same action without having to dig into the email to find this link.

Why is Google doing this?

The Google team explains that this mechanism will help subscribers to stop getting emails that they could be considered as SPAM – they realize that subscribers get buried with emails they really don’t want to receive anymore.

How does this feature impact Email Marketers?

If you are a good marketer, you shouldn’t be worried. As a marketer you will always want to send relevant messages to your subscribers in a timely manner. And, if your subscribers want to unsubscribe from your messages, you should provide them with an easy mechanism to do so. This new tool also helps with subscribers reporting your emails as SPAM. An additional mechanism that allows them to unsubscribe from your communications will help with your reputation as an email sender.

Top 5 Digital Marketing Trends for 2014

February 5th, 2014

The trend of increased customer engagement will continue to be top of mind in 2014. Just when companies feel they have achieved a holistic marketing approach, new technologies enter the marketplace that further transform the way we interact. It is imperative for brands to take advantage of emerging marketing strategies in order to create the most meaningful, results-driven dialogue. Below, we share our predictions of the top 5 digital marketing trends for 2014 and tips on how to align your marketing goals to meet the industry’s trajectory.

 

1. Content Marketing and the Need for Aggregation

With more social media sites, more retailers offering a variety of email messages, and sharable content, there is an overload of digital content everywhere on any device. There is a tremendous need from consumers to organize and aggregate this content so it’s easier to consume. A driving force behind breaking barriers is content! Just take a look at Gmail’s tabbed inbox, separating personal and promotional emails automatically in consumers’ inboxes. It’s just a friendly reminder to marketers that in order to get noticed in the inbox, messages must be personalized and relevant to each individual’s needs. Marketers have less time to make an impact. Be on the lookout for social media platforms such as Vine and Snapchat to rise in 2014. Vine gives users 6 seconds to make an impact whereas Snapchat gives you 10. How can you compete? Send shorter messages, offer quick promotional codes (such as free shipping), pick images over text and lastly, be authentic! Read how Wet Seal made an impact leveraging Snapchat.

 

Snapchat Case Study

16-year-old beauty vlogger, “MissMeghanMakeup” took over WetSeal’s Snapchat account for two days.

 

2. Mobile Marketing: From Wearables to Where to Shop

With mobile spending accounting for almost a quarter of 2013’s US eCommerce spend, it is safe to say it’s not going anywhere, in fact, it’s on the rise. Beacon technology, relatively fresh to the marketplace, offers the capability to function as a GPS for indoor locations.  Marketers are using Beacon to analyze foot traffic patterns, promote special offerings, guide customers specifically where they want to go and tailor marketing messages to their target audience’s taste and preference. For now, Apple seems to be leading the pack with their self-branded iBeacon, but other brands are utilizing identical capabilities through Beacon technology to implement location-based marketing. In addition to Beacon, we expect wearable devices will be an increasing trend in 2014 – not just owning them, but marketing through them as well.  For example, devices like Google Glass, the Nike Fuel Band and the combined cell phone-wristwatch may market to their users in an innovative way this year.

Brands Using iBeacon

Who’s using iBeacon?

 

Mobile-optimized sites and mobile/tablet apps remain to be most prevalent in the world of mobile, but these are just a few things to look out for.  Your site must be optimized for mobile. If you’re already optimized for mobile, maybe this is the year you consider developing an app

 

3. Getting to Know Social Advertising

Social advertising is one of the few tactics in social marketing that you can quantify and provide your boss with measurable results. ExactTarget reports that social ad spending will grow to $11 billion by 2017. Make it your marketing resolution to pick one social platform and execute an ad campaign. Keep in mind that there are changes and updates on the horizon to several platforms advertising offerings. For instance, Facebook plans to eliminate Sponsored Stories on April 9th and will continue to streamline their advertising offerings based on their users’ feedback. As for the other platforms, Twitter will be partnering with Epsilon to offer highly-targeted Promoted Tweet campaigns leveraging CRM data, while Instagram’s sponsored posts and Pinterest’s Promoted Pins are beginning to take flight. Need help measuring success? Look into social advertising platforms such as Marin Software, Social.com or Kenshoo which can help you manage, optimize and measure ad campaigns.

 

4. True 1:1 Marketing Will Soon Be the Only Way

With today’s technology, it is remarkable to see brands who continue to settle by marketing to the masses. We keep hearing how data-informed, targeted messaging increases engagement, response and conversion with your prospectives and customers. A few takeaways to consider? Start with customizing your email program. Believe in the power of the Abandoned Cart Email – and if you’re already doing that, use the insights on your customer base to segment and deliver unique, relevant offerings. Incorporate this strategy in an omni-channel approach.

Ulta's abandoned cart email.

Ulta’s abandoned cart email.

 

Another way to personalize content is with the digital variable print capability: a technique which elements like text, graphics and images may be changed from one printed piece to the next, without stopping or slowing down the printing process, through using information from a database or external file. See how we have helped clients do this within their direct mail programs.

Digital Variable Print example

Precision Dialogue leverages Data Variable Print for Chevy and GM.

 

 

5. Digital’s Role in Omni-Channel

Omni-channel is the hottest buzzword in the marketing world and everyone seems to have various definitions. We are defining omni-channel as “multiple channels of customer contact, but managed in an integrated manner.” With mobile and tablet penetrating the marketplace like never before, consumers are always connected and always on. Therefore, it’s imperative for marketers to deliver consistent brand experiences across channels. We recommend that marketers invest in customer journey mapping to understand the steps customers take when engaging with your brand. Also, don’t be afraid to drive consumers in-store with location based marketing with mapping technology such as iBeacon.

 

So, there you have it! If you would like to learn more about our top trends, please watch our webinar recording on-demand. We’d love to hear your predictions for digital marketing in 2014, please write them in the comments section below.

ExactTarget Distributed Sending: Managing Multiple Voices to Deliver a Constant Message

January 10th, 2014

Organizations that are built with dealers, branches, or franchises are uniquely challenged in delivering a relevant message to regional subscribers, while maintaining a consistent corporate brand. With ExactTarget Distributed Sending, organizations can now create and deploy targeted, local email marketing campaigns that still meet corporate’s brand standards.

Benefits

Here’s how it works: ExactTarget sets the client’s account allowing corporate to control the email templates, the images, the subscriber lists, etc. for the dealers, branches or franchisees to use. Individual rep or franchise access can be controlled by either default user roles* or custom roles built off the marketer’s requests.

DistribututedSendingBlog_Image

Applying these simple features can let corporate give their local reps the ability to deliver professional level marketing campaigns, while avoiding spending the time and resources training them.

Why This Feature Works

Distributed Sending allows those who are delivering messages to do so in the way they see fit for their audience. Account users have the ability to deliver their messages the way their region wants to receive them, which is not always possible when messages are delivered at the corporate level.

For example, if a franchisee has a carnival going on near a certain store and sees the chance to increase business with a coupon, they can create the message in ExactTarget and send it out when and to whom they want. They also have the opportunity to deliver monthly messages with updates on product prices.

Distributed Sending empowers marketers to take their email marketing to the level they see fit; allowing for weekly, monthly or even yearly emails to be distributed at a regional level. The best part about a controlled environment is that it’s completely customizable and can be configured to fit any business structure.

Want to know if Distributed Sending is right for you? Contact us for a demo, or more information please contact info@precisiondialogue.com or 887.332.9222.

What Would Jean Claude Van Damme Do?

January 6th, 2014

If you are an email marketer, you know that throughout the year you have to live different types of experiences (good ones and, not so good ones) and sometimes it’s hard to find a good way to cope with them.

For the new year, I’ve compiled a list of things that happen in the everyday life of an email marketer and answered them with a simple question: What Would Jean Claude Van Damme Do? Or, like I like to say, WWJCVDD?

 

When you hear that someone bought a list of subscribers, breaking all the rules of the CAN-SPAM Act, ask yourself WWJCVDD?

Jean-Claude-Van-Damme-1

Click here to learn more about the CAN-SPAM Act.

When your team deploys a very complex email marketing campaign successfully and you feel like celebrating, ask yourself… WWJCVDD?

Jean-Claude-Van-Damme-2

Watch this video to learn what we do and why we do it so well.

When you are concerned about being able to balance creative direction with email design best practices, simply ask yourself WWJCVDD?

Jean-Claude-Van-Damme-3

Read our three-part blog series on some of the most common and dangerous mistakes Email Marketers can make in their campaigns.

When your QA specialist stays up late to do the last round of tests for a deployment early in the morning and you can’t help but feel love for them, just ask yourself…. WWJCVDD?

Jean-Claude-Van-Damme-4
Watch our Email Quality Testing Best Practices webinar to learn more about thorough QA best practices.

When you have to click the SEND button because your deployment specialist is gone for the day and you just don’t want to look, ask yourself: WWJCVDD?

Jean-Claude-Van-Damme-5

When you clicked that SEND button and you feel so proud of yourself you just want to celebrate again, just say it… WWJCVDD?

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And lastly, when your client calls you to tell you that your team is doing such a great job and they feel they can count on you, just ask yourself the question: WWJCVDD?

Jean-Claude-Van-Damme-7

 

Learn more about how our Email Marketing team applies their expertise and JCVD philosophy to drive clients to success: http://www.precisiondialogue.com/services/digital/email-marketing

Happy New Year!

 

Part 3: Five Common and Dangerous Email HTML Coding Mistakes

November 21st, 2013

Note:This is the last of a three-part blog series on some of the most common and dangerous mistakes Email Marketers can make in their campaigns. Part 1 dealt with common pitfalls when conceiving and planning an email campaign, Part 2 demonstrated some common mistakes made in designing emails. In this third article, we get down into the nitty-gritty with our list of production best practices and thoughts on common snares for email coders.

When developing HTML emails it is very easy to try and get too fancy and complicated with your code. You have to remember your code has to work with more than 35 common email clients with varying support for modern HTML features. Things you rely on for web sites—JavaScript; div tags; background graphics; CSS cascade to name a few—don’t necessarily work when coding your emails.

The goal of an email is to deliver a clear and concise message to every one of your subscribers. In order to ensure this, it is important to use some of the following coding best practices; incorporate a text version, be aware of the ever-growing percentage of mobile users, abide by the CAN-SPAM Act (or equivalent in your recipient’s country), and last, but not least, check your work through a thorough Quality Assurance (QA) process. Following these steps will help ensure that you will have a good base when coding your next email for a client or your company.

  1. Not Following HTML Email Coding Best Practices
  2. One of the most common problems we see are marketers who fail to learn and follow email coding best practices. Failing to do so can leave them with emails that either look strange or even fail in many email clients. Subscribers that receive emails that look poorly made in their own email clients will be less likely to trust your message. Poorly crafted HTML will dramatically raise your spam score, making it less likely that your email will reach your intended targets.

    To get you started I will touch on some of Precision Dialogue’s suggested best practices.

    • Use Tables Instead of div:Yes, this is the opposite of best practices for web pages but remember that many email readers, including some of the most popular ones, parse HTML as if it was 1998. To make life easy it is going to be best to use tables when creating your email. Most email clients do not support CSS positioning, floats and clears. Make sure you properly nest tables and close all open tags.
    • Don’t Use External CSS:You do not want to use external style sheets and you’re going to want to keep all of your CSS inline. I personally try to avoid using any padding left and right, p tags, ordered list or breaks if at all possible.
    • Use Tables instead of Lists:Lists align in widely differing ways across email clients. Instead, use a nested table with rows to build out an ordered or unordered list.
    • Image Styling:Always remember to style an image with no border and set display to block or you will get very strange results in many common email clients. It is a good idea to specify your image’s pixel height and width but never try to specify a different size than the actual image size. Outlook and other readers will ignore your specs and show the image at its native size, often messing up your layout.
    • Capture

  3. Failing To Include or Properly Format a Text-Only Version
  4. Many people view emails in text-only versions, either by choice or because they have to. Reliable statistics are hard to come by because you cannot track text-only. While most, but not all, subscribers can view HTML emails, many prefer text-only versions for privacy reasons. Actual percentages depend on your subscriber demographics. You should also know that absence of a text version will up your spam score significantly in most spam filters.

    With smart phones becoming more and more popular, a lot of developers overlook the importance of creating a text version of the email. Just because you have the latest and greatest phone doesn’t mean everyone does and losing out on any potential click through can end up costing the client or your company money.

    When marketers fail to optimize their email for both versions, subscribers can see a broken design and an ineffective email. When setting up your text version, try keeping the lines shorter so subscribers don’t have to move their eyes so far across the page and back to read the email, making scanning faster and easier. Also make sure to add space between paragraphs and headlines to allow a nice and easy flow for the recipient.

  5. Failing To Use Mobile-Friendly or Responsive Design
  6. Nearly 50% (according to Litmus.com) of all emails today are opened on a mobile device. It is going to be important moving forward to make sure your emails look good on mobile devices and moving to responsive designs is going to become more and more popular. When coding your mobile email it is important to take into account how the email will scale down to fit the different screen resolutions. This can be accomplished by using media queries which tell the email client what criteria needs to be met before it uses the styles therein. Also by using attribute selectors you can avoid glitches that can be found in several email clients. Also it is a best practice to add “!important” to the mobile specific styles to ensure they take precedence over other styles.

  7. Ignoring CAN-SPAM Laws
  8. With all emails and email lists the subscriber rules and in order to get your message to the people that want it the most, it is best to use a permission-based email send. To ensure that this happens, it is important to follow the CAN-SPAM laws by having an opt-out link. This allows people to state whether or not they really want to receive your emails. Also including a legitimate physical address gives the email receipt confidence that the email they received is from a reputable source. Setting up accurate from lines gives the email a great first impression.

  9. QA process
  10. Probably the most important and biggest mistake marketers make coding emails is not testing your code through a QA process. Things render differently in every email client and just because it looks okay in one client doesn’t mean that it does in another. Also typos, grammatical errors, improperly targeted content and broken links erode your credibility and can jeopardize the success of your campaign. A solid proofing and quality assurance process is critical to making sure that your email marketing is perceived in the best way to help with creating a brand that can be trusted.

We hope this listing of some of the most common problems we’ve run across over the years will help you avoid making the same mistakes others have made. We welcome your comments and stories of mistakes you may want to share. Learn more our email solutions and how we can help your email marketing campaigns.

Part 2: Five Common and Dangerous Email Design Mistakes

November 13th, 2013

Note: This is the second part of a three-part series on some of the most common and most dangerous mistakes of Email Marketing Campaigns. In our last article Part 1: Five Common and Dangerous Email Conceptual/Campaign Mistakes, we took a look at the big picture with some of the most common conceptual and overall campaign mistakes email marketers make in conceiving their campaigns. In this article, we look a little closer at some common email design mistakes.   Dangerous Email Design Mistakes

By design, we’re not talking about how “pretty” or avant-garde your email is. That’s between you and your graphic designers though, surprisingly enough, if you test, test, test as we mentioned in the previous article, you may find that sometime, the prettiest and sexiest emails don’t always convert as well as plain-Jane emails. But there are structural design issues that always seem to hold true and failure to follow these rules can be damaging or fatal to the effectiveness of your emails.

  1. Poor Subject and Pre-Header The handful of words you choose for your subject line and pre-header text may be the most important words in your email. People decide whether or not to open the email by the subject line and in some readers, the pre-header text. If they don’t open the email, it doesn’t matter how snazzy your design and message is.By testing, again and again, you need to determine what words and which presentations get the most opens. Do you personalize it or not, do you say “free gift” or “super opportunity”—depends on your product and your audience. The only way to know is to test but it is of the utmost importance you get this right.

    And, you have to balance your enticement to open against the words and phrases most likely to get you blocked by spam filters or blocked by subscribers who think you are coming on too strong.

  2. Overcomplicating Your Call To Action So let’s assume you read our previous blog post and now you have a Call To Action. It does you no good if your user can’t find it. The design of your email should be such that the user can clearly see how to take the action you want. If it is a button or link, make sure it is prominent and that it looks like a button or a link. That may sound obvious but many cool and avant-garde designs hide the standard underline and ugly blue link color for esthetic reasons or make buttons that don’t look like buttons to a standard subscriber. Steve Krug entitled his classic book on Web Usability Don’t Make Me Think (Berkeley, 2006) and his advice is as good for emails as web pages. People don’t have a lot of time or bandwidth to spend searching your artful but confusing email to figure out how to do your action. If they don’t know where your CTA is, they can easily delete your email.Another common mistake is to have too many CTAs. Think of the email as your opening lines in the conversation with your user, not the entire discussion. You need them to take the next step, to click on the link to your landing page where you can then entice them to buy or act. Don’t expect them to click on the “buy now” button from an email (in most cases). Don’t expect them to hang around your email if there are lots of little CTAs and it is unclear which CTA is the important one. Your email, like your web pages should be more like a funnel than a whack-a-mole game.

  3. Too Much Text How many emails do you get a day: 50, 100, 200? Are you going to read an email that looks like a WSJ article? Maybe if you are already really, really, interested in the subject. Emails are the first step in your conversation with your customer. In most cases, the only real purpose of an email is to get the user to click a link for more information. They should be short, sweet, enticing and to the point. Give the user enough information to get them say “yes” by following your CTA. If they need more information, give it to them on your landing page.

  4. Putting Too Much Text in Graphics Designing emails that look the same in all email readers is a frustrating experience at best and a nightmare when you expect emails to act like web pages. Designers who get frustrated and decide to send everything as one big image or one big sliced up image run into another set of problems.

    • All-graphic emails are more likely to be marked as spam by the spam filters.
    • If your user views emails with all graphics off, you’ve sent him or her a blank email. Many users do this to avoid tracking or to keep their download sizes small.
    • This violates generally accepted accessibility standards, meaning that if your subscribers use a screen reader for need or convenience, you may have well just sent a blank email.
  5. Not Considering Email Size Web designers have settled upon 1024 pixels as the general minimum screen size for web pages so many go ahead and design emails the same way. For many reasons, this is a very bad idea. First, most people do not view web pages in full screen, most people, even on their desktops, view email within a much narrower column.Things get even tighter when you consider that almost half of all emails are now opened on a mobile device (according to Litmus.com). If you’ve designed your email at 900 pixels wide, they will either see the whole page with teeny-tiny fonts and pictures or they will see it 100% and have to scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll to try to read your message. They won’t do that, delete is much easier.

    We recommend an email be no wider than 600 pixels and no longer than it needs to be.

    If you really want the best experience for your subscriber, use responsive design. In responsive design, the graphics, layout and font sizes of your email will adapt to whatever size screen your subscribers is viewing it within. Your subscribers get the maximum experience and will be more likely to read and process your message properly.

Next: In the next article in this series, we will go into the real nuts and bolts of email development and show you production best practices and how to avoid some of the most common HTML and production mistakes.

Part 1: Five Common and Dangerous Email Conceptual/Campaign Mistakes

November 4th, 2013

emails

Email Marketing. I remember thinking “It’s just sending emails, how hard can it be?” I’ve since learned, as I’m sure you have too, that there are lots of ways to go wrong. Murphy’s Law—whatever can go wrong, will go wrong—is one of the fundamental laws of human experience. With our unique perspectives and the combined knowledge of all the experts here at Precision Dialogue, we came up with what we hope is a good primer for circumventing Murphy’s Law.

As we see it, there are three major categories of email mistakes and each post will handle one category from the very broad Conceptual/Campaign level, through Email Design and finally into Details of Production. So, we have written a 3-part series that highlights some of the most common mistakes we see when we help clients evaluate their overall email strategy and SOP. The first part of the series are “Five Common and Dangerous Email Conceptual/Campaign Mistakes.”

  1. Using Bad Email Lists

    You’ve heard this before but we can’t emphasize it enough. Don’t buy email lists and blithely send emails out to people who haven’t asked to be contacted by you. The risk here is far more than wasting your time and money with uninterested customers, the real risk could come to losing your email reputation and being severely crippled in future sends.

    Here’s the reason: spam is a huge problem for everyone. About 70% of all emails sent are spam and the vast majority of this pile of crap is blocked by spam filters before it ever reaches the subscriber. The people blocking spam use a variety of techniques to cull the good email from the much bigger pile of bad emails including “honeypots” and sender reputation. A honeypot is a bait email address that never agrees to receive commercial emails. If an email is sent to these addresses, it is considered spam.

    Your sender reputation is determined by many factors including volume, bounce and rejection rates, number of complaints, number of unknown users, and much more. Reputation can follow both the IP address you are sending from and from your domain.

    If you buy lists, even from “reputable” list sellers, you are likely to run afoul of honeypots and to harm or possibly destroy your sender reputation. Recovering from this is expensive and time consuming. And don’t forget the damage you do to your reputation among subscribers who do get your commercial emails and don’t want them and peg you as a sender they don’t want to do business with.

    Even if you don’t buy lists, you can run into similar problems if you don’t maintain your own list of subscribers. Subscribers who haven’t responded to you in a long time, email addresses that are bouncing, unsubscribes who are never properly removed—All of these can damage your reputation as well.

  2. Not Knowing Your Audience and Not Targeting Your Message

    Emails are meant to sell or persuade. Ultimately, you are trying to get a human being to do something: buy your product, vote for your candidate, donate to your charity or volunteer their time with you. You need to have a conversation with them and this requires you knowing what will motivate them and just as importantly, knowing what would keep them from performing the action you want. Tailor your email campaign to both satisfy their wants AND address their questions. Your message, your tone, your design must be created and directed specifically to the people you are trying to reach and this means putting both a lot of thought and a lot of research into your campaign.

    Once you know why people are inclined to listen to your pitch as a whole, you want to start segmenting them into smaller groups and honing your message to their individual needs. The more relevant to their wants and needs they find the message, the more likely they are to click through and ultimately convert to a sale or action. Conversely, you also want to avoid sending the wrong incentives to people. If you sell food, you don’t want to send a list of meat specials to vegetarians…

    Simply put, tailoring your message and properly segmenting your audience will improve your click-through and conversion rates, sometimes dramatically.

  3. Not Continually Measuring Your Effectiveness

    How do you know what effect your targeting and segmenting is having on your bottom line? You have to measure it now and keep measuring it in the future. You must review the campaign statistics every time you do a send. This allows you to see what works and what doesn’t work, give you warning when things may be going wrong and gives you the statistics to gloat when you are doing things right.

    Email campaign software can offer a whole host of statistics, all of which are important. These include:

    • Bounce Rates and Delivery Rates: Find out wow many of the emails you send reach the inbox. This can tell you about the health of your email reputation and your mailing list.

    • Open Rates: Find out how many people open your emails when they reach the inbox. This can tell you about your reputation with subscribers and give you insight into your subject lines and pre-header text.

    • Unsubscribes and Abuse Complaints: Even if people signed up for your emails in the past, they may unsubscribe or worse even complain if your email doesn’t match their needs.

    • Click-Through and Conversion Rates: These will tell you how effective your messages and call to actions are.

    All of these statistics will change over time and email sends; some cyclically, some as you try out new segmentation, new messages, new design and new incentives. It is vitally important that you watch your statistics to get to know your audience better and better over time.

  4. Not Integrating Your Emails with Your Brand and Website

    The look, feel and branding of your message should be consistent throughout the customer’s experience. It is jarring to have an email that looks different from your website when a subscriber clicks through. If the brand looks and feels different or the message on the landing page does not match the message of the email, the user will often stop the process right then and there.

    Make sure your branding and identity is clear in the email; people don’t respond well to emails that don’t look reputable or look like they’re from senders they don’t know. A well branded email can also reinforce your brand with the user.

  5. Not Having a Clear Call to Action

    If you’re going to the trouble of sending out an email, you want the audience to do something, feel something or know something. First, you have to be aware of what that is and make it clear to the user what it is you are asking them to do, preferably something you can measure like a click through. Just providing information like your price list or current offerings isn’t enough and certainly isn’t measurable. Get the user to do something such as click for more information, buy something, fill out a survey, or somehow communicate their interest to you.

What’s Next? Check back next week as we get into the nitty-gritty of the email process by discussing five common and dangerous design mistakes. We’ll also post a third installment the following week regarding five common and dangerous production mistakes.