2011: Getting Started with E-mail Marketing

Thu, 01/13/2011

With the dawn of a new year, we are greeted with commercials and advertisements encouraging us to be healthier, eat better, exercise more. Resolutions abound and many people begin regimens to try to achieve their newly resolved goals. Often times, people extend these new expectations for themselves on a career level, or they may be led to them through company dynamics. Some resolve to get more leads. Others resolve to double their ROI using the same budgets they had the year before. Or perhaps, with the economic crisis, goals are to do more with less of a budget. In situations like these, e-mail marketing is an easy solution because it is cost-effective, it packs a powerful punch, it could double ROI in certain situations and it can create leads. So resolving to do more e-mail marketing is an easy decision.

One thing to keep in mind though about resolutions. Come February and March, the fervor to maintain the regimen dwindles and before long the resolutions are distant memories. When initiating an e-mail strategy, there are steps you can take to make sure that the resolution is attainable and one you can stick to. So to keep it simple, here are five steps you can do to help keep your resolution to start e-mail marketing in 2011.

1. You gotta have a plan
Seriously. And it has to be more than just deciding to do e-mail marketing. You need to decide on what the e-mail marketing is going to accomplish. Are you going to send out one promotion a month? Are you going to send out event info? Have you decided that it’s time to do a newsletter? If so, how often and will the content be purely for information, to highlight services or a combo? Ideally, you want to decide what you want to do, what the expectation is for the message and then stick to it.

2. Who is sending the message?
That is, what from name and e-mail address are you going to use? Some of you may be looking at this and wondering, a whole step just to decide on who? Yes. A whole step. And let me tell you why. In e-mail, the from name and address are your reputation. They are your brand. You don’t ever want to tarnish either, and putting your best foot forward with a solid from and from address will do wonders for your delivery, for your reputation and for your brand.

3. Subject line
Often times, deciding on a subject line is a good way for you to bring a focus to your message. It helps you organize your content for the message and a call to action, if there is one. And just like the from name and from address, it is one of the first things that your reader sees upon delivery. So it has to be magical. Okay, well maybe not magical, but it should be meaningful. It presents the purpose of your message, so put some thought in to it and be mindful of how important it is.

4. The three T’s - template, test and time
This one tends to be the most time consuming, but that is not the time I am referring to. Template is first because you need to template your content. You decide on the layout and overall feel of the message. This will involve a lot more upfront commitment, however, once you establish a template, subsequent messages go that much smoother.

Then you test. Send it to yourself, to trusted reviewers. View it in webmail, test it in Outlook, click on all the links. How does it look on your Blackberry? iPhone? Droid? Does it land in your junk mail folder? Make sure the message is spell checked. Check your grammar. Making certain your message has all its i’s dotted and its t’s crossed will help with delivery and further the goals of your campaign.

Finally, there is time. What time, what day to send the message. If you are starting fresh, this is a wonderful time (no pun intended) to monitor time sent and response garnered. You may want to segment your list, send a third on one day and time, send a third on another day and time and the last third on yet another day and time. You may just want to test day and send them all at the same time. Bottom line, be conscientious of your audience for your initial campaign send time and learn from your experience.

5. Analyze and improve
For those reading who know me, you know I think this is the best part of the campaign. Looking at all the reports, framing numbers, evaluating conjecture on send time, open rates and clicks. This is a very critical step because this is where we learn how effective steps three and four were and how they impact steps one and two. This may be a celebratory review that initial decisions were good, or it may be a bittersweet slap in the face that the campaign was lackluster. Bitter in that results were not where you wanted them, but sweet in the sense you now have a frame of reference for what is not very effective. And you are given a golden opportunity with your next campaign to improve, whether it be launching another successful message or a comeback from one that was not. Note, I have not called anything a failure. It may fail to produce the results that you want, but it provides you with a valuable tool to learn from.

And speaking of a valuable tool, I hope this has provided you with information to get started in e-mail marketing in 2011. And for those seasoned senders, maybe this is a simple refresher for you to get motivated for 2011. It’s a new year and an opportune time to revisit an effective tool for marketing. And if you need a hand or want to talk e-mail, feel free to contact me.

Happy New Year!

Cathy Fonk
Director, Online Marketing


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