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Getting Your Message Across

Posted on 1.15.2009

Key Considerations When Creating Your E-mail Campaign
By Michelle M. Wicmandy

E-mail is very effective for communicating with customers. According to a 2007 poll by MarketingSherpa, 86% of US adult internet users opened opt-in e-mails from companies, and 55% did so “always,” “very often” or “frequently.”

With these statistics, it makes sense to employ an e-mail program. It’s easy to create, inexpensive to send, interactive with users and quantifiable. According to a 2008 report by the Direct Marketing Association, the ROI for e-mail was $45.06 on every dollar. The ROI is excellent, however, getting recipients to take action can be tricky. Filters block messages, inboxes fill quickly and many people are overloaded with e-mails. So, how do you get your message across? Following are key points to consider when creating e-mails. 

Till the List
One of your most valuable assets is your e-mail list. Maintaining a “clean” list improves deliverability, open and click-through rates while decreasing unsubscribe rates and SPAM complaints. E-mail addresses that are non-existent, have outdated domains and have triggered SPAM complaints must be removed. Once a subscriber opts-out, he must be reclassified to the “unsubscribed” list within 10 days. Complying with CAN-SPAM requirements is not an option, it’s the law. Before sending an e-mail, be certain your subscribers have opted-in. Educate your audience on the frequency of the messages and the information they will receive. And in a conspicuous location, provide the option to opt-out. Customers who have not opened e-mails for awhile should also be unsubscribed.

Since list atrophy will always occur, growing the e-mail list is an ongoing task. To generate new subscribers, make the sign up process as painless as possible by requesting only necessary information. Information deemed important to segment your audience may be obtained from internal sources such as sales reports. Be creative. Avoid asking the customer for irrelevant or redundant information.

Arouse Attention
A compelling subject line is a must. It should be informative, relevant to the e-mail copy, and limited to approximately 50 characters. The winners are opened while the others are neglected, filed, discarded or reported as SPAM. Winners beat out the competition by including offers, teasers and time sensitive information. Be creative yet concise.  

Inspire Interest
Captivating your target audience is key. Tailor your message using clear, suitable content and make your point quickly. With over 2.5 billion handheld devices worldwide, people are using these to check e-mail so getting your main message on the first screen is vital.

In addition to copy, good creative design and a clear call to action, CTA, are essential. A picture is worth a thousand words and the use of graphics can enhance the copy. But many browsers and e-mail users disable images due to setting defaults and slow internet connections. For these reasons, the HTML alt tags must be used to display text descriptions on all images - especially those that act as a catalyst. Furthermore, avoid attaching large files which slow download times. Instead, insert an abstract accompanied with a link.

Test and Re-test
The e-mail must appear attractive and organized across different browses, operating systems and mobile devices. Test the e-mail in both HTML and text editions across Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Opera. And, the e-mail should be viewed on operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Mac, Linux and Solaris as well as handheld devices. Analyzing web analytics reports can help narrow down the systems your customers are using. Nonetheless, be certain your brand portrays a professional image across all systems and instills confidence with your clientele.

3, 2, 1…Fire
Deploying the e-mail may feel monumental. You want everyone eyeballing your e-mail to see perfectionism. To ensure a positive outcome, keep a checklist of the items to review. Check all hyperlinks including opt-in and unsubscribe links; verify the alt tags label the correct images; review the subject line; check the copy for spelling and punctuation, and be careful for homonyms such as there and their; check the CTA and special offers; and make sure to send to the correct list. Finally, run a SPAM check.

Magnificent Metrics
E-mail measures performance rates on deliverability, opens, click-throughs, unsubscribes, SPAM complaints and list size to name a few. Deliverability shows actual distribution which is affected by the cleanliness of the list and filters. Open rates are tracked to determine the quality of the subject lines, relationship with the audience and best day to send. Click-through rates help gauge the interest of the offer and determine audience engagement. Too many unsubscribes and SPAM complaints may indicate that your customers are disinterested or you’re staggering. Finally, the list’s attrition and growth rate should reveal the quality of the company-customer relationship.

Only the Beginning
E-mail is growing in popularity because it’s easy, inexpensive, interactive and quantifiable. Therefore, sending targeted messages to the right audience at the right time will become increasingly important. However, creating and tracking the e-mail is just the beginning. To see the subscriber’s true behavior, you’ll need to study web analytics reports showing traffic conversions and return on investment. Finally, consumers should be followed to social sites where they share experiences with products and services. The combined information can provide insight about the effectiveness of your e-mail campaign.

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