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Email Marketing Tips

If you’re like most businesses, you want to reach people, and you don’t have an unlimited marketing budget. Good news: Email marketing is still a great way to get your name in front of potential buyers. A relatively small investment can net solid returns – provided you do things right. Here are some of Marketing Matters’ best practices we’d like to pass on to you.

Email address rental or purchase?

Many people ask us whether it’s more cost-efficient to rent an email list or to purchase one outright. Our answer? You’re asking the wrong question. The first question is this: What are you doing to capture your own email list? A list of people who are already familiar with you and your services. Everybody we speak to talks a good game, but few have an organized system in place to capture and process new contact information — including email addresses – and get them placed into a systematic sales process. That is the first step to a successful email marketing campaign.

That said, it may still make great sense to supplement your own home-grown address list with one from an outside vendor. For longer campaigns, we usually recommend purchasing a list outright.

For shorter campaigns, however – say, for a limited-time promotion or event – you need to market on a compressed time cycle. For these kinds of campaigns, a list rental – one where you only retain the rights to email the list for a limited amount of time or messages to the list are sent from the renter – may work just fine, and save you a bit of cash.

Warning: Broker-sold lists aren’t as effective as they used to be. List brokers have to get their lists from somewhere, and email lists are frequently captured using surveys, drawings and other tricks, and people frequently use ‘dummy’ email accounts that are set up specifically for this purpose. Nevertheless, even broker-sold lists can still generate extremely compelling returns on your marketing dollar – commercial email campaigns returned $43.69 for every dollar spent on them in 2009, according to the Direct Market Association.

Opt-in vs. Opt-out

Opt-in is critical. By this we only recommend using email addresses from individuals who have specifically consented to receive email from you. This is better than ‘opt-out’ campaigns – campaigns where the recipient has not consented to receive email lists from you, but instead has the opportunity to ‘opt-out’ of further email solicitations by sending an ‘opt-out’ email or clicking on an opt-out link.

Why is this important?

It’s the law: the CAN SPAM Act of 2003 sets up stiff penalties for businesses who routinely send unwanted bulk commercial email containing any false or misleading images.

It could violate your terms of service with your ISP. The last thing you need is your Website to go down because you got caught sending the wrong kind of commercial email solicitation and caused your ISP a headache.

Opt-out campaigns just don’t work as well. True, the names are cheaper. But you pay for it in higher dud emails, higher opt-out rates, (which you pay for too) and the time and energy it takes to manage all your opt-outs.

Our recommendation: Use double opt-in: That’s where the customer agrees to receive commercial email, and then confirms their sign-up with an email link. That means the customer has validated the email as correctly spelled AND that he or she checks it! You pay more for this system, but it’s worth it.

It’s not about you.

Many companies make the mistake of forgetting their customer in their marketing campaign. For best results, don’t even mention you or your company in the first half to three-quarters of the email. Instead, write about your customer. Directly address his or her problems, questions and concerns. Don’t spend precious pixels bragging about yourself, but instead, focus on the customer’s needs.

Use for education, announcements and to support events

Every email should have a purpose – and a reason it must be opened now! Special events, such as training events, seminars, invitations and the like make them ideal for email marketing: prospects can RSVP on the spot, move the appointment to Outlook on their calendars, and move rapidly through the sales cycle.

Make your message mobile-device friendly

Remember – some older generations of the iPhone and Blackberry don’t handle Flash illustration well. And some html doesn’t display well on cell phones. Always test your email by looking at it on several versions of operating systems and cell phones..

Repurpose your content

Make sure your message is consistent between your emails, your main Website, and your presence on social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and FourSquare. Use each email campaign as an excuse to update your social media sites and Twitter feeds. Every time you get your company name in front of a friendly prospect, you’re putting points on the board. Be patient, but keep working your system and following up on your leads. The sales will come.

Coleen Sterns Leith is the president of Marketing Matters (www.marketingmatters.net) and a CEDIA Professional Services member.

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