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Email Marketing: Opportunity

Email Marketing

This month I’m talking about EMAIL MARKETING.  There are different types of email marketing you can do.  There is the one-way email communication from business to customer.  This is suitable for most small businesses that want to stay in touch, make a special invitation or pertinent announcement.  There is the two-way email communication from business to customer where the business asks for a response of some sort (good for database building).  This type of email is an opportunity for a two way dialogue, yet too many marketers miss the opportunity to proactively gather information from their subscribers.  Smarter messaging needs data to identify the real opportunities and gaps that marketers can leverage.  And then there are the larger email campaigns that are strategic and well planned throughout the year.  These campaigns typically are designed to acquire new customers.

Email marketing works best if you have already established a relationship with the recipient.  One of the best examples of excellent email communication is the marketing that Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian restaurant does in North Asheville.  In order to receive an email from Vinnie’s you first have to give them your email address.  In other words, you’ve given them permission to contact you, or opted in.  It is up to Vinnie’s to send out emails that are relevant or informative, not just constant advertising.  Vinnie’s does just that but always with an entertaining approach whether it’s their superb use of ‘old world’ fun photos entwined in their message announcing a weekend special or a simple proclamation that they are open in spite of bad weather (“Snow Storm, Schmo Storm.  We are not afraid.  Vinnie’s is open for business.”).  They typically send out one email a week to their customer list and they are always worth opening for the entertainment value alone.  More importantly, you get the feeling they care about you as a customer by sharing a message and not just selling something.  It works.  They almost always have a waitlist.

So, rule #1 —- look at the email messages you send out through the eyes of the recipient.  Are you delivering value of any sort??

There is no doubt that email is the marketing channel of choice for many companies.  Just because it’s a popular and inexpensive media doesn’t mean marketers are doing it well.  From sloppy subject lines to poorly designed creative, to not being optimized for mobile devices, email marketers are making too many common mistakes.

Subject Lines

1) Be clear.  Do not say things that are misleading just to get someone to open the email.  Be honest and interesting.

2) Be concise.  Subject lines containing 6 to 10 words perform the best and have a 21% open rate while subject lines containing 11 to 15 perform the worst and generate a 14% open rate. [Yet, 52% of emails sent still contain 11 to 15-word subject lines.]

3) Be real.  More than 55% of emails are opened on mobile devices.  Test their appearance before they go out.  Look at your own iPhone and count the number of words you can fit it.

4) Avoid using capital letters. Not only does it come across as “shouting”, it might also be viewed as spam and go straight into your customer’s junk folder.

5) Certain words can trigger the spam filter. Words such as “free”, “sale”, “guaranteed”, “subscribe” or “apply now” will sink the best email design before recipients see it.


1) Make your email design easy to scan. Use short paragraphs and bullet points to make your message easy and quick to read.

2) Remember those spam trigger words? It’s okay to use them in the body of your email, but it’s best to keep the number to less than five.

3) Avoid using the % and $ sign within your copy. Avoid highlighted copy in your email design.

4) Avoid spelling errors.

5) Avoid using a red font (or any red-based hue).

6) Avoid using a large font size (anything over 12pt).

7) Use the same size font throughout the entire email design – try to stick with a basic font like Arial that’s easy to read and is available to all computer systems.

8) If you choose to bold some type, do so very minimally, if at all.

9) Add some imagery to your email design for visual impact but make sure that the images do not detract from your main message.

10) Do not use large images that take longer to load.

11) Avoid using backgrounds with your email as it impedes readability.

Other Tips

• Be relevant.  Make sure your message matches the demographics of your audience.

• Don’t fatigue your subscribers by sending out too many messages.

• Pay attention to “inactives”, valid email subscribers who have not opened or clicked in the last 6 months.  While they have a negative impact on your overall email metrics, they also represent a segment with potential revenue.  Implement campaigns targeted at “inactives” that focus on reactivating and reengaging them.  It’s important to be selective in the messages you send and to only send if you are certain that the message is relevant to subscribers. It’s much cheaper and easier to reengage an existing subscriber than try to gain a new one.

• As of the end of Q4 2013, more than 55% of all email opens occurred on mobile devices (i.e. smartphones or tablets). As a result, email marketers have had to shift their strategies and tactics to a “mobile-first” mentality. Going forward, it will be important for marketers to optimize their messaging so that subscribers can view and interact with it in whatever form on their preferred device (i.e., phone, tablet, desktop, or other). Email marketers must consider the full reader experience to ensure that email design, copy, subject line, landing pages, and Web forms engage them.

A Word About List Building

The conventional theory is that the more subscribers there are on an email list, the greater the potential for revenue.  So the pressure is on to increase the number of addresses within your list AND to reduce unsubscribe rates.  Not easy.  Decide early on what your goals are and how you plan to achieve them.  Know that disruptions are inevitable.  Refer to your plan.  Discipline is the name of the game when it comes to growing your list.

The best way for small businesses to grow their email list is to use each and every opportunity to acquire an email address.  That means you need to capture email addresses and input them into a database.  You can do this a number of ways:

a) Create a frequency club

b) Have a ‘fish bowl’ for business cards for a drawing

c) Comment cards

d) Newsletter sign-ups

Always make sure that on any type of card (frequency, comment, etc.) you make room for name and email address.  It’s essential.

When it comes to email marketing, the divide between best-in-class and rest-in-class marketers is widening all the time.  Best-in-class marketers have metrics that are double or triple industry averages.  This is because email leaders are typically more disciplined and do more planning, segmentation, and targeting. Campaigns should not be intermittent and rushed.  It’s not always easy, but the leaders are doing exactly that.

Reality check:  Most of you are not marketers by profession.  You’re small business owners…….restaurant, service business, retailer, whatever.  You don’t have time, expertise, or the luxury to consider any of this.  You’re looking to meet payroll and overhead.  Trust me, if you don’t market, it won’t happen.  Find someone who will work with you at your level.  It’s too important to ignore.

Quote of the month:
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”
Albert Einstein