Planning Your E-Mail Campaign

One of the greatest advantages of the internet when it comes to marketing can be the e-mail marketing campaign. It’s low-cost, it’s targeted, and it’s easy to measure. But that doesn’t mean that you should just leap in and start sending emails to everybody whose address you might have or can get.

There are quite a few things that you need to keep in mind, even before you design your email, let alone before you send it out.

Email Newsletters

One of the most common forms of e-mail marketing is the e-mail newsletter. It’s also one of the easiest types of email marketing to do, so here are some tips to keep in mind when you’re planning on sending one out.

A Dedicated Account

The first thing to do is to make sure that you have a dedicated account, that you’ll use to send your newsletter out with, and that will serve as the “reply-to” address. Don’t use a personal email address, and definitely don’t use an address that is unmonitored.

Some spam filters will send you an auto-reply, requiring that you click a link to prove you’re a human being before they’ll let your mails through, so it’s important to monitor that “reply-to” address.

(And while we’re on the subject, let your company systems admin know you’ll be sending test e-mails, so he doesn’t think your servers are being spammed too.)

Plan For Future Segmentation

As your mailing list and e-mail campaigns expand, you might find yourself needing to segment your list, so you can send different e-mails to different sub-sets of your list. One way of doing this is by adding fields in your newsletter opt-in form, that will allow you to later automatically segment your mailing list, for example, by age or occupation.

Another school of thought however, suggests that any additional fields in your opt-in process reduces the likelihood of people signing up. The choice is up to you.

Plan Your Content And Timing

If you’re just starting out with an email campaign or newsletter, it’s a good idea to begin by not creating unreasonable expectations. Don’t promise users a newsletter twice a month, and then fail to deliver it. It’s better to start out by being vague, and then build it up into a regular feature, rather than promise the earth, and then fade as you struggle to produce original content every two weeks.

When it comes to content, play to your strengths, and start out simply. Share your expertise by offering useful tips in your specialisation. Keep them up to date with the latest industry news, and let them know about special offers and promotions.

Tell Users To Sign Up

Newsletters are pretty useless without readers, so if you don’t already have an in-house list to send to, it’s time to start building one. Don’t try and buy or scrape huge lists of e-mail addresses. Not only will your newsletter be rightly labeled as spam for sending it to people without their consent, but spam complaints can get you blacklisted by email servers. And on top of that, the proposed new privacy laws for South Africa will soon make it illegal.

If you don’t have a list, start encouraging people to sign up for it. Post the link to the sign-up form on your website or blog, (or both), include the link in your e-mail signature, and print it on your invoices. Anything to get the option to opt-in in front of your users.

If you’re using an existing list, take the time to clean it. Go through it and delete old email addresses, inapplicable ones, (like addresses of newsletters you receive), and be sure you’re not using your sales departments “target” list, because they won’t have opted in to your mail. Yet.

Check Your Privacy Policy

Make sure that your e-mail campaign doesn’t violate your company privacy policy, (and if you don’t have a privacy policy, this is probably a good time to get one), especially with regards to things like open- and click-tracking and whether they’re linked to personally identifiable information.

The Opt-In Process

The opt-in process is an opportunity to make a good impression on visitors. (Be careful not to make a bad one.) These are the points to keep in mind for the opt-in process:

* Sign-up Form: Include links to your privacy policy, and even to past newsletters. You need to create an impression of trust.

* The Thank-You Page: This is where you tell them what they have to do next. If you’re sending them a confirmation mail and link, let them know. And remind them to add your address to their address book to prevent spam filtration.

* If you use a confirmation link, take users to another thank you page, maybe with something to download, like a free white paper, or a voucher.

* Once they’ve confirmed, another email usually gets sent, summarising the information they’ve provided, what you’ll be sending them, and importantly, how they can opt-out.

Test, Test, Test

Set up a bunch of e-mail addresses. Online ones, local ISP ones, wherever you can think of. Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, everything. Don’t change their settings, or add the send address to them, and then use them as test addresses to check that your e-mail comes through right. It’s a pain, but it’s better than your carefully crafted e-mail being caught by spam filters.

Be There When You Send

When you send out that first e-mail, especially if it’s announcing something important, it’s a good idea to be in the office immediately afterwards. Your e-mail should include your contact details, (it’ll be law in SA soon), and that means if you’re communicating something important, you might be getting responses from your recipients straight away. So make sure that somebody is there to deal with any queries your mail might generate.

In Conclusion

Keeping these simple tips in mind will hopefully make your e-mail marketing campaigns or newsletters a lot easier to send, and get you a higher rate of response.

Low cost and effective targeting are two of the biggest advantages of e-mail marketing. But the spam filter and delete reflex are two of the biggest obstacles. We’ll be bringing you more e-mail marketing tips in future articles.