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5 essential factors for a successful email marketing campaign

Guest post written by Megan Ritter

Few digital marketing platforms have endured longer or have proven to be more effective (and cost-effective) than email. The first known email marketing campaign was sent on Arpanet when Jimmy Carter was president. Fast-forward more than 35 years, and email marketing is still at the forefront when it comes to cheap, simple methods of reaching the masses.

But it is an art.

Step 1: Build a Permission-Based Email List Based on Trust, Respect and Mutual Gain

Start by offering your customers something of value in exchange for their contact information and permission to email them periodically. It could be a newsletter, an e-book, or even a password to unlock a video interview. For example, Sophie Lizard operates a website for freelance writers. She offers subscribing visitors an annually updated list of publications that pay writers for submissions.

Sophie Lizard's site offers something valuable to those who give their contact information.

Sophie Lizard’s site offers something valuable to those who give their contact information.

Try to not to be a nuisance to your audience. Request only the information you need. Create an unsubscribe option that is prominently displayed in every email. Make sure unsubscribing does not require extra steps or come with conditions.

Finally, create a clear, concise privacy policy that outlines in plain language how you will treat the information submitted by those who subscribe. This should be prominently featured in every email. It is your obligation to follow your guidelines without fail.

Step 2: Develop a Clear, Direct, Personalized Message 

You can have the greatest email in the world, but it won’t matter at all if it doesn’t get opened. The surest way to get a click is with a great subject line. There are many different effective styles. Subject lines can be funny, shocking, they can contain numbers (7 Reasons to Get Your Car Inspected) or they can consist of just a single word.

In this example of things to avoid, the subject actually reads "Marketing Lists”

In this example of things to avoid, the subject actually reads “Marketing Lists”

No matter which style you choose, subject lines should be brief, powerful and intriguing. Avoid words like “free” in the subject.

Maintain continuity in voice and tone email by having the one person write the same one each week (or month, day, etc.). Send emails on a regular schedule. Not only will this get you in a regular rhythm, but it will also let your fans look forward to your messages.

Step 3: Focus on Formatting

Break up blocks of text with bullet points and subheads to break your email down into scannable, digestible chunks.

Act as if you’re sending an email to a friend.

Implement responsive email design to make sure that your email looks just as good to mobile users as it does to those who view it on a desktop or laptop. Test run your email through a number of different providers to make sure it looks right no matter where it goes.

Step 4: Cross Promote

Email and SMS are the standard bearers for personal marketing. However, the world around these old-but-great technologies has changed.

Social media crossover is a must.

Your emails should contain more than soft pushes to follow you on Twitter or to like you on Facebook. They should contain actionable directives that reward customers and create a buzz.

Tweet this headline for a chance to win a free e-book. Post this link to enter into our giveaway.

Your blog, your social media accounts and your email marketing campaign should all overlap. Email is a great way to nudge people toward your other outlets — don’t let it go to waste.

Step 5: Implement A/B Testing to Measure Results with Different Variables

Send several variations and measure the results. The variables you should tinker with may include:

  • Headlines
  • Body
  • Keywords
  • Time of day
  • Day of the week
  • Hard sell vs. soft sell
  • Company name vs. person’s name
  • Creative designs
  • Product offers

Good split testing doesn’t require a lot of effort. Programs such as MailChimp have built in A/B testing tools that only require minimal data input to get going.

Programs such as MailChimp make design easy on the front and also simplify A/B testing on the backend.

Programs such as MailChimp make design easy on the front and also simplify A/B testing on the backend.

Your goal is to individualize the human beings in the groups you’re trying to reach. Email can stoke conversation and humanize your business. It can also repel potential customers by treating them as statistics. Treat your recipients with respect. Make sure they want to be recipients in the first place. Offer them something. Give them a reason to open the email. Keep it short, avoid coming off as spammy and test new strategies.

But more than anything, send an email that you would want to open and read.

Megan Ritter is an online journalist with a background in social media marketing. Using her background in marketing and B2B, her writing often covers entrepreneurship, small business, globalization, and business communications.

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