This Six O's of Email Marketing
Email marketing. What was once considered the worst offense on the Internet back in the 1990s has emerged as a basic tool for business-to-client communication. What changed?
First, spam filters generally catch the obvious and intrusive unsolicited mass emailings that used to plague our inboxes. Oh sure, stuff still does get through but it's nothing like the old days.
Second, most email clients come with very effective filters that allow users to sort and prioritize emails to folders.
Third, most businesses have learned to play nice. They've learned the Six O's that make email marketing tolerable in the Inbox: Opt-In, Opt-Out, Obvious, Optimized, On Sale, and Observe the Law.
The most tolerable commercial email is the email users have specifically requested. The opt-in procedure should be as transparent and obvious as possible. Section 38 of some "clickwrap" agreement that says you're allowing your email to be used for commercial purposes is not as transparent as a page on your web site that allows a user to opt-in to an email newsletter and clearly spells out what kind of email will be forthcoming.
Also be wary of purchasing email lists claiming they contain "white lists" of email addresses. These people may have opted into some form of email marketing but certainly not email from nth removed businesses.
Whether your clients have specifically or tacitly opted into an email campaign, it is of critical importance you give them the ability to remove themselves from your email list. You can do this by hand but if you're using an email marketing package like BlueCamroo's Campaign Manager, the opt-out function is automatically added at the top or bottom of an email. There's a fear by many people that unsubscribe links don't work and just put you on a "we know there's a warm body reading this email" list. But I've found with any business I have a relationship with, their unsubscribe links always work. (Sure it can take 24-48 hours to churn through the system. But it does work.)
In BlueCamroo, the Campaign Manager has an In Mailing List checkbox on lead and contact details pages. If a lead or client clicks the opt out link, BlueCamroo automatically unchecks the In Mailing List box and won't include the lead or contact in any future campaign.
I used to get these pre-approved credit card offers in old fashioned snail mail that came in simple, non-descript white envelopes that had the exterior simplicity and officiousness of a bland government agency like the IRS or the INS. Upon quickly opening what I feared was a warning from the IRS ("Hey, dumb Canadian you filed your taxes wrong! And here's your penalty!") or good news from the INS ("Your green card is approved!"), I would find a credit card offer. It was a tactic that was deceptive and left a bad impression.
By the same token, make sure your marketing emails are obvious. Sending a commercial email with a Subject line like "Well, hello there" is bothersome at best.
Establish a consistency in your Subject line, especially if you're sending out a variety of emails ranging from marketing material to bug reports. A consistent Subject line helps users use Outlook filters to filter your emails to correct folders.
BlueCamroo's newsletter template section lets you specify a regular set of headers, including any repeating Subject line text, to help ensure such consistency.
The best way to never get an email opened again is waste someone's time with a marketing message that's obviously not targeted at the client or lead. Optimize your target emails. Make sure the people you're about to email are the best fit. BlueCamroo lets you build sophisticated dynamic lists of your lead and contact databases to target the most appropriate segments.
BlueCamroo also has a sophisticated campaign exclusion system that ensures if a client or lead is part of one email campaign, the client/lead can be removed from other ongoing campaigns he/she may have been part of but are no longer relevant.
Think about the commercial emails you open. I'm always happy to open an email from Expedia telling me about hotel and airplane ticket sales. Emails from The Gap/Old Navy with a subject line about a 30% off sale get my immediate attention.
Hey, people like to know when there's a good deal.
Observe the Law
Finally, the most important thing for any online marketer to do is research your jurisdiction's "spam" laws. For example the USA's CAN-SPAM law requires unsolicited commercial e-mail to:
- Have a visible opt-out method (included automatically in BlueCamroo)
- Have an accurate From line (ensured by BlueCamroo's newsletter template)
- Have an accurate subject line (ensured by BlueCamroo's newsletter template)
- Include a physical postal address (ensured by BlueCamroo's newsletter template)
Your local laws might be different. And remember, being in compliance with local spam laws doesn't mean you're in compliance with your ISP or email marketing service. Always check your terms of service.