In an article at EmailLabs, Loren McDonald lists ten key strategies for email marketing in 2006 based on the major email developments of 2005.
1. Be relevant to each recipient through personalization and segmentation.
According to the author, personalization and segmentation comprise the greatest capability of email marketing technology, but these could most likely be underutilized by most companies. Personalizing the content of the subject line or sending modified emails to different segments of the mailing list will make the email more competitive against an increasing number of messages in the subscriber’s inbox. McDonald also recommends follow-up emails based on recipient activity. From this starting point, she says the company should then work for dynamic content and lifecycle-based messaging.
2. Send test messages to uncover, resolve or minimize deliverability and rendering issues.
The author suggests sending pre-campaign test messages in different email clients (Outlook, Lotus Notes, AOL, and Web clients like Hotmail/MSN, Gmail and Yahoo!) and platforms (PC and Macintosh), and monitoring results to spot ISP blocking, filtering and blacklisting. These can then be corrected.
3. Redesign email messages for recipients’ preview panes and to avoid blocked images.
McDonald reports that Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail will add preview panes to their Web-based clients in 2006, in addition to usage of preview panes by Outlook and Lotus Notes users. She, therefore, urges marketers to redesign email messages to be properly rendered and easily read, with the most important information in the top 2 to 4 inches, increasing creative use of HTML fonts and colors, and minimizing use of images that could be blocked by ISPs or recipients’ email clients.
4. Maximize the email relationship from the start.
The author points out that the most significant decline in email performance comes two months after recipients opt in. She recommends that marketers engage new subscribers immediately through an organized program including a welcome message sent upon confirmation, the current newsletter or promotion, and emails offering a set of “best-of” newsletter articles or an email-exclusive offer just for newcomers. She further suggests that subscribers’ expectations be managed from the start by adequately explaining the program’s value proposition, frequency, type of content and privacy policies.
5. Use permission-based email.
According to McDonald, permission-based email, although not required by the CAN-SPAM Act, is becoming the acknowledged best practice in the industry and sending unsolicited email can damage a company’s brand. She urges marketers to review all web sites and customer contact points of the company and convert any opt-out address collection to opt-in.
6. Focus more on metrics showing end goals.
The author says companies should focus more on metrics such as conversion rates, revenue per email, or whether specific desired actions were taken, because these show concrete end goals. She advises newsletter publishers to identify and use the types of articles, formats and styles that motivate subscribers to click through to read more.
7. Revitalize dormant long-term subscribers.
McDonalds says EmailLabs estimates that 30% to 50% of a company’s email list may be inactive, with subscribers not having opened or clicked on a link over a series of messages or time period. She recommends renewing interest from these dormant subscribers through different subject lines, frequent mailings and new formats, special offers or “best of” newsletters, surveys, and asking them to update their demographic, preference and interest profiles. She also points out that marketers should analyze these subscribers to identify potential trends in how they opted in and in their demographic profiles.
8. Maximize search-engine marketing with email.
The author suggests including an email offer as a secondary objective on the landing page of the company’s search-engine marketing campaign, inviting visitors who don’t want to buy or take other desired actions to instead opt in to a newsletter, download a whitepaper or try a product/service demo. Afterwards, use email to guide subscribers along the sales lifecycle.
9. Test and improve email marketing variables continuously.
McDonalds warns that things change quickly in email marketing and variables such as format, design, copy style and calls to action, subject line approach and offers, personalization, content types or product categories need to be tested and verified continuously.
10. Align resources to an email marketing plan.
McDonalds emphasizes that companies should develop an email marketing plan with specific goals, success metrics and action steps and that there should be an appropriate budget and enough resources aligned with it. She advises marketers to demonstrate to management the value and ROI of a strategic and well-run email marketing program.
It’s time for marketing communicators to update email marketing strategies once more.