Despite all the hype about social media, email is still consumers' predominant way of learning about businesses. More importantly, email has the highest return on investment of any form of marketing, returning $36 for every dollar you spend*. It’s a ridiculously powerful marketing medium – but only if you do it right.
Here are 10 tips to help you get the most out of your email.
1. Target what you send. One of the most powerful attributes of email is that you can easily target what you send by creating multiple lists. Lists can be comprised of customers, prospects, people who have shown an interest in a specific service, etc., and you can send a different message to each group that matches their exact interests.
Try doing that with traditional marketing! How about television advertising? Even if you could afford to shoot 30 different commercials, there's no way to send a specific commercial to a specific group of homes (yet).
2. Use an email marketing service. Sending bulk email through your regular email account is nearly impossible. Plus, email marketing services with good reputations and high standards get incredibly good delivery rates. I spent a decade working for an email marketing service (the very best one, but there are dozens of excellent choices) and the reality is that you cannot come close to achieving the results that an email marketing service delivers on your own.
Another advantage of email services is their tracking capabilities – who opened it and when, who clicked on what, which links were most popular – something you could not build on your own. The fees for email marketing services start out at around just $15 per month. If that's not in your marketing budget, you don't have a marketing budget.
3. Make it easy to subscribe. Permission-based email marketing, where a subscriber opts in to receive email from you, is the only email marketing worth doing. Subscribing is usually done through a web link, so put the link everywhere you can on your website – on every page and in a prominent location. Insert it also on your Facebook page, in your signature line on your regular emails and even tweet it on occasion.
4. Make it easy to opt-out. It might sound counterintuitive, but the fact is that the easier you make it to unsubscribe, and the more prominent you make the unsubscribe link, the less likely subscribers are to opt-out. What’s missing in a true spam email? A way to opt out. Show your subscribers you don’t mind them opting out if they’re uninterested, and they’re more likely to stay. Besides, a huge list of uninterested subscribers isn’t as valuable as a smaller one filled with hot leads.
5. Use a real name in the ‘from’ line. Sixty percent of recipients decide whether to open your email based on who it's from. That means the ‘from’ name and the ‘from’ email address had should clearly indicate who you are. A real email@example.com gets opened more than anything else, even if they have no idea who the person is.
6. Use a smart subject line. The ideal subject line is challenging to write – but not impossible. It should be 40 characters or less, including spaces. It should never be more than 49 characters, or open rates and click-throughs drop. It should include your brand name again, even though it's shown in the from line, and it should have a call to action. Why should I open this right now?
Want in on a big secret? The very best subject lines, the ones that get opened the most every time, are the ones that tell exactly what's in the email.
7. Make it easy to forward. Your recipients won't forward your email unless you ask them to, so make it easy for them to do it. Place a forward button in multiple locations in your email. Try a polite command, instead of a generic ask. "Forward email" is boring. Try instead: "Please forward to 3 friends."
8. Make it socially shareable. Some email services allow the recipient to share their email via social media and there’s typically a 40% - 60% increase in reach with this capability. The average return on investment with email is already incredibly high, so imagine the results when you increase the reach by this huge amount.
9. Send at the best time. Send when your recipients are most likely to read it. For most of us, that means Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I love 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., but your results may vary. If I owned movie theaters, I'd send late Thursday afternoons to make sure recipients buy their movie tickets from me before spending their money elsewhere on the weekend.
Want to find out what's best for you? Cut your list in half, send at different times and see which gets opened the most. Email services track this for you, so it’s easy.
10. Look at clicks to see what's working. If my email contains three articles, all with a “click-to-continue” link, I can see which articles were clicked on most. If Article A didn't get any clicks, I won't do content like that again. If Article B got a lot of clicks, I know which content resonates with my recipients.