email marketing strategy

Last Friday was one of the worst days I had in quite a while.

After a long day at work, and wading through the infamous Bangalore traffic, I found that instead of spending a relaxing quiet evening at home, I had to entertain guests. Yes – my Sonakshi Aunty and her daughter thought it would be a good idea to visit me without notice! While I whipped up a respectable dinner and played the enthusiastic host, I couldn’t help but think (very uncharitably) that this aunt of mine would have made a very bad email marketer.

Sending an email to some one’s inbox also seems like visiting someone at their house. The nicer the guest you are, the more favorable the impression you make on your hosts, the happier they would be to have you the next time.

Playing a good guest every single time is challenging for any business. Not only do you have to toe the line (be the good guest), and stand out (otherwise, your emails don’t get read or you lose your customer to the competition), but you have to be extra credible as well – especially if you are selling something even remotely related to health and finance.

Now the good news – I am here to give you some fundamental, but absolutely essential tips to be that wonderful email marketer who’s always welcome in the subscriber’s inbox! And you can trust me on this, as it was I who had to endure the really long evening with my darling auntie. These tips are basic, but this is where most email marketers trip and fall, and find it hard to recover. This is what you need if you want that fail-safe email marketing strategy!

Etiquette #1: Don’t Email Uninvited

You might have heard this a billion times before, but believe me, it’s that important. Ensure that your recipients have subscribed (read agreed) to your information and want to see it.

Sending an email to a prospect who has not subscribed for it is tantamount to arriving as an unexpected (and unwelcome) guest or, showing up at a stranger’s house and expecting to be entertained!! It is poor courtesy and can thoroughly annoy the recipient. Worse, it can land you in trouble if the prospect thinks that you have violated his privacy.

A totally clever way of encouraging sign-ups for your mails is by having an auto-check box at the end of your lead capture form. Ok, it is a little bit sneaky. But it works! Exit pop-ups, slide-ins, and top bars are all excellent ways to encourage subscription to your emails.

Email marketing strategies

Etiquette #2 Don’t forget “opt out” option

That means, allow for an unsubscribe link at the end of your emails. It shows that you value your customer’s choice and have confidence in your content to make them stay. More importantly, it is required in the CAN-SPAM guidelines! Otherwise, your emails will go directly to spam!!

The above email is something I directly fished out of my spam box. In fact, this is what gmail told me, when I opened the message. So, it’s your job to ensure that you aren’t being categorized as a spammer.
Email marketing strategies

And, don’t worry about getting unsubscribes. If a lot of people unsubscribe, then focus on your email strategy – not on removing the unsubscribe button. That is a definite ticket to the spam folder of your recipients mail box.

Also, have you checked (and rechecked) your form of addressing your customer? Calling a Ms by a Mr. or making spelling mistakes in their names or even worse, writing it out in lowercase letters are all obvious pitfalls that you can avoid.  Yes, am aware that your mail merge will take care of it. Just ensure that the data in the system is correct. Speaking of mail merge, have you included a fallback option for the first name in that system? In case the lead first name is not included in your data, then the email will go out as “ Hi @[Leadname]” or something of that sort. Disaster!!

Etiquette #3 Don’t send worthless ‘offers’

Providing an offer for your email lists is rather like the wine or dessert you take to a dinner party – a humble token to tell your hosts that you appreciate them and make them inclined to like you. A good “wine”/ offer would make sure that these people get excited about your visit.Email marketing strategies

This offer is crisp, precise and requires only an email id to avail! The fact that there are no *conditions apply or a long form to fill, are a definite win.

Beware of lousy offers, though, as they might have the opposite effect. Lousy offers are categorized as those whose benefits are not immediately obvious, or those whose benefits are simply not worth it!

Here is an example.

Email marketing strategies

In this email, the offer is pretty obvious, I mean, I get a 150/- bucks off. However, notice that the items on sale (given in the image) are all high end stuff, things for which a measly 150 bucks wont make a difference. A Rs 150/- off on a 2000 bucks item is pretty pointless. It is also followed by a ominous *T&C button – something that might not let me avail the discount because of some tiny one-liner somewhere.  All in all, this is an offer that really did not excite me or add value to the slightest! In fact, my reaction to getting this email was annoyance. I thought I was being taken for a ride and did not appreciate it!

So keep it simple. Keep it obvious and above all, make sure the content you send matches your offer. If the same offer was for a box of chocolates or even a deodorant, I would have been slightly more interested. At the very least, even if I didn’t make a purchase, I would look forward to future offers.

Etiquette #4 Don’t send random content

Did you know the most exasperating part of the whole evening? It was the awkward silences. Being miffed at the whole situation did not make me a good conversationalist and I could see that she was also quite at a loss for what to say.

I am sure you would face the same challenge while sending out an email. The recipients might not be responsive – at all! Then, it’s upto you to change your strategy, and keep up a steady stream of content that they actually engage with. Here are a few guidelines of what to write in those exchanges, lest you come across as either repetitive or boring.

  1. Offer value or entertainment

    There are two things that people would engage with – something that they find funny or just interesting, or something they get a direct benefit from. A typical newsletter for say, a cosmetic surgery clinic would talk of the latest trends in the industry, perhaps have some gossip column on which celebrity has performed what surgery, tips for readers who have undergone a particular treatment, or discount coupons or even a free consultation. Notice that all these things serve one or the other purpose – entertainment or value.

  2. Keep them involved, by keeping them at the center

    Planned for opening a new store? That’s great. Am sure you must be excited. However, your recipients might not be as excited about your store itself, than about how it would impact them. Share your excitement, but keep your prospects at the center of it. Build up the excitement for the event with teasers, perhaps sneak peeks of great discounts to be had etc. Send them regular (not too much) emails on what to expect and when. Make them as eager for the event as you are!

  3. Running contests:

    Contests and giveaways are always a hit! They serve both the purposes – entertainment and value. Ensure that the prize is attainable and the process as short as possible. No one would want to play “The best dressed party animal” for six months! Keep the ball rolling and end it soon. When you end it, remember to make it as transparent as possible. See if you can get the winner to contribute to some articles or even photographs. That will help your audience in believing the outcome and encourage them to participate in the next one.

Etiquette #5 Don’t talk at them

One thing I got talked at that night, was about gods. I am not kidding. I was told in detail about the various temples around, which ones to visit especially if you need “moksham” etc. For an atheist, it was really irritating. Imagine the number of people you would annoy if you send them content not suited to their requirements! So, be smart while sending.

The best way to go about it would be to target your audience right. If you send an exclusive  bridal offer to everyone on your list,what do you think the male part of your audience will do? Unsubscribe most likely, or mark you as spam. This email that I received was exactly like that.

Email marketing strategiesQuite apart from the appalling lack of personalization, what surprised me about this email was that I am not a researcher! I sit here writing blogs (like the one you are reading right now) and somebody thought it would be a good idea to mail me an invitation for submitting my research paper?! Very badly done, to say the least. If you are doing the same thing and randomly mailing whomsoever you please, I suggest you think again. Spend some time analyzing who will appreciate your offers the most and target them specifically. It’s very simple to do with all the technology available to you.

Segment your lists!  The most obvious way to send targeted emails to people is segmentation! While a master list is all well and good, breaking down your email list to different segments  based on the geographic location, time of joining, their gender or even their engagement index is ideal. For instance, check out this email:Email marketing strategiesSo this mail is an example of maintaining just one master list and shooting it off to everybody in it. Yes, I belong to that Alumini Association. However, I have no interest in a conference, least of all something that talks about linking our national waterways! Had they sent it to someone still in the academic sector, who has some civil engineering background and is interested in national and environmental issues, they would have had more luck. I was not even in the same city! To me, it was just one more mail in my spam folder. Let us suppose that you want to launch an offer to your customers, providing a discount for women, in a particular location during Diwali. Send it through email to those who are only your women customers in that specific location. Telling all and sundry about the great spa offer you have for only a certain set of members might make your other customers feel ignored.

(Find out what kind of content to send for successful email marketing)

Bottom line – the more interesting and advantageous it is to your readers, the more chances of them staying interested and reading your emails, instead of marking it as spam.

Etiquette #6 Don’t be short-sighted

Have you thought of your mobile customers? Sending an email loaded with great content and high quality video or images that is not responsive to a mobile phone is a serious oversight. The search trends and communication patterns have changed. 47% of emails are read through phones. Don’t ignore them! If your email is slow to load or doesn’t show anything but website links, well, I can confidently wager that the bounce rate is going to be high. Worse, it might not get clicked on the next time (even through a laptop). So, watch out!

Bonus Tip: Have you tested it?

Different things work for different people. The time of sending the email, the day in which It was sent, the kind of subject line used – all matter and all differ from business to business. With every email campaign you run, test it for all these parameters (and then some) before arriving at an optimal value for yourself. Make sure you use a trusted email marketing software to help you with it – something that lets you personalize, segment and schedule your email campaigns ( I use LeadSquared email marketing software).

Well, that’s that folks! These easy methods will remarkably affect the numbers of your next email campaign. You can also quickly read up on email marketing best practices before you launch it!

Or, you could just call up before going for dinner.

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