Spend enough time wading through spam emails and you’ll be amazed at what you find. From dodgy salutations to cringe-worthy formatting, on a very slow day this makes for a good few minutes of entertainment.
Here are some of the most ‘creepy’ elements of bad email-ship:
Why it’s done & why it sucks:
This is usually an attempt at making a company look uber-friendly, since the emails they send you are formatted like a buddy would send them.
The downside is that sometimes we sign up with nick-names, tags or misspellings which can quickly turn a harmless greeting into a spammy annoyance. Seeing “Happy Birthday JaneDoe101!” or “JaneDoe101 we miss you!” littering up your mailbox is usually the first step on the way to an unsubscribe!
Why it’s done & why it sucks:
“Dear Sir/Madam” or “To whom this may concern” are clear-cut indicators of cold calling (or cold mailing) – sure they’re gender neutral but boy are they impersonal. They scream “Someone, anyone – please read me!” rather than seeming relevant to the recipient.
Too many imperatives
Why it’s done & why it sucks:
It’s true that the call-to action is a huge part of the science behind a smooth conversion, so putting in punchy phrases like “click here!” and “buy now!” seem standard procedure, but there is such a thing of over-doing it.
Ultimately, I don’t want bossy emails, and legally anything being sold is an ‘invitation to treat’ so in your next sales email, try the passive approach with an A/B test to see what gains a better reaction.
Why it’s done & why it sucks:
It’s been a while and there’s a lot to say, but how long do you think I’ve got? People are time conscious, say less!
If you need to explain something a nifty way of doing so is by linking back to a blog post published on your website. Not only is this considerate of your customers, it’s also potential for indirect conversions; they may just browse other parts of your website…
And in taking my own advice, I’ll keep this short and sweet – but feel free to add any other examples you can think of in our vowel to make electronic mail, sustainable!
At the beginning of the June, our email marketing platform went through some enhancements in features and functionality, including mobile/SMS features (available July, 2011), Facebook and Twitter integrations, and the new workflow automation canvas.
Send Time Optimisation
For each contact, send time optimisation automatically schedules email messages to send at the time of day, and optionally the day of the week, the contact is most likely to open emails from you. You should avoid using send time optimization for time sensitive deliveries where you want control over when the email is sent. If a contact is new or we don’t have sufficient open time data for a contact, the delivery will be made using the time you choose using the Send message now or Send at this time radio buttons.
NOTE: send time optimisation option is only enabled in advanced options when sending your email campaign.
Workflows (available end of June, 2011)
With workflows you can specify combinations of triggers, filters, and actions that determine how to handle contact data, and what marketing communications to send them.
By integrating your email account with a Facebook account you’ll be able to add a Like button to email messages and webforms, schedule & post Facebook messages, let contacts sign-up using their Facebook information, and map Facebook data to contact fields. You can also trigger workflows based on if someone liked a status, liked a page, commented on a status, or posted to a page.
As with Facebook integration, integrating your account with your Twitter account allows you to post to Twitter and track the posts made via the application. You can also trigger workflows based on whether a contact mentions or retweets a Twitter username you have setup in your account.
Support For QR Codes
QR codes allow you to encode a URL into an image that you can add to email messages. If a contact prints out the email, they can take a picture of the QR code with their smart phone and they will be redirected to the URL you specified for the QR code. Read more about What’s a QR code.
Redesigned Message Overview Page
Redesigned message overview page now includes more information about metrics associated with email messages, as well as the delivery groups which an email message has been added to.
Auto-Saving of Messages
This new feature will auto-save your messages automatically to the Drafts folder every minute. That way, if you forget to save a message or your computer crashes, you will still be able to access the version of the message you were working on. The Drafts folder is automatically created for you when this feature is enabled.
Message Approval Prior to Sending
When enabled, all newly created messages will require approval before they can be send. To enable go to: Home > Settings > General >
2 minutes tour
30 minutes webinar
This week I visited an email workshop “Email Best Practices from Sign-up to Delivery” in London presented by Dr. Philip Rhodes, Ph.D. from One to One. Dr. Rhodes reviewed email newsletters and sign up process from the top 20 UK online retailers, which I believe many of you who are looking to improve your email marketing will find very useful.
I hope this study will help you to look at your own email marketing program through fresh eyes and that by applying some of these email marketing best practises outlined here and using top 20 UK retailers as your benchmark, you will be able to gain a significant improvement.
List of the UK retailers included in this study:
Sign up process findings:
• 18/20 sites had a link to sign-up on the homepage
• 2/20 had links on deeper pages
• 12 sites sent immediate email confirmation
• No newsletters received within 24 hours
• Only 8/20 newsletters received (within 3 weeks of sign-up)
• River Island & Next performed the best
• Play was the worst
Best practices – sign up process:
1. Include Sign-up on the homepage
2. Sign up should be located towards the top of the page (at least above the fold)
3. Should be accompanied by an image or icon e.g. an envelope to draw attention
4. Ensure sign-up requires minimal data entry e.g. name and email address
5. Include a short sentence stating the benefits of signing up e.g. promotions, stay up to date with news and events etc
6. Do not require any unnecessary information to be entered (such as postal address, income, etc.)
7. Do not require users to ‘create an account’ or ‘become a member’ of the site
8. Consider including a short second step/page allowing users to customise the newsletter by selecting specific areas of interest
9. Provide a ‘select all’ tick box or ‘general newsletter’ opt in
10. Provide a link to the latest newsletter so that users know what to expect before subscribing
11. Do not require users to re-enter information e.g. do not request name / email address a second time
12. Include a clear indication on the website that the subscription process is complete and has been successful
13. Ideally include a clear, separate confirmation page with different content
14. Include a clear thank you message on this page
15. Provide an indication of what the user can expect next i.e. email confirmation
16. Send email confirmation immediately
17. User should not need to ‘reconfirm’ the subscription
18. Ensure consistency with site i.e. branding and logo, etc.
19. Include information about newsletters e.g. frequency and type of content
20. Include a link back to the website
21. Include a link to unsubscribe
22. Include contact details
Best practices – newsletter:
1. Include a clear and catchy subject line so that the user immediately recognises the email
2. Ensure consistency with the site in terms of branding e.g. logo, layout, etc.
3. Include links to the site and ensure that they are clear e.g. logo and url address
4. Do not include hidden links e.g. decorative images or plain text
5. Include links to social networking sites and to share the newsletter
6. Links to the social network site e.g. Facebook page
7. Ensure that the e-mail is personalised – use of first name, etc.
8. There must be a clear option to ‘unsubscribe’. This must not be hidden within text
9. Do not use terms such as ‘remove’ or ‘opt out’. Instead use ‘unsubscribe’
10. Provide a real address, phone number or other similar contact details about the sender
11. Do not include excessive amount of text
12. Limit the length of the e-newsletter, do not cause the user to vertically scroll excessively. Test this to find what works the best for you.
Don’t forget about your landing pages!
Another very important part of your email marketing is the landing pages on your site. If you say in your email for example ‘20% off’ or ‘free delivery’, make sure the same message is carried through and shown on your website or at least on a landing page so you meet the set expectation.
In this example below you can see a screenshot from one newsletter promising me 25% off and showing me some bracelets, necklaces, earrings and rings. The subject line was: Twenty-five reasons to give (and get) jewelry.
Recently a lot of companies are looking to old clients, offline customers or otherwise ‘cold’ contacts to drum up new business. This is a great idea, but can seriously harm your company’s reputation if not done well. Here are some guidelines from our recent experiences.
DO: Put yourself in their shoes
This is the key to all of the items that follow – always spend some time trying to put yourself in your contact’s mindset. Consider how you react when you get an email from a company you don’t instantly remember.
DO: Introduce yourself
People are not likely to instantly remember that they bought something off you 1 ½ years ago, especially if it was offline and you’re contacting them online. A big part of reminding them of who you are is the look & feel of the email template itself. Make sure that your template is on-brand and carries over consistent elements such as your logo that they may remember.
DO: Remind them of how you have their details
Here you want to answer the question “Why are they sending me an email?!” and build up the legitimacy of your message. The more detail you can put into your reminder the better. Including a reminder of how you got their details significantly improves how well the email is recieved.
You ordered some V-Pure from us in September 2008. We are getting in touch again to let you know that now have a brand new website for the world’s highest quality Vegetarian Omega 3. We look forward to seeing you soon!”
You registered with us in April 2008. We are getting in touch to show you our new format newsletters and 15% off to our loyal customers.”
DO: Thank them by giving a special offer
Say thank you for their time and patience by giving a special offer code or discount.
“We want to offer you 10% off to say thank you for being a loyal subscriber! Just enter the code DATJN15 at the checkout to claim 10% off.”
DO: Allow them to leave your contact list easily
For messages to cold contacts, one of the biggest issues you have to overcome is people hitting the Junk button when they don’t recognise you. Overcome this by allowing them to unsubscribe easily – and you’ll actually be surprised by how few unsubscribe when you allow them to do so in such an easy way.
DON’T: Sell, sell, sell
Selling in your email is okay if balanced by all of the above, but certainly do not launch straight into your products without it. If possible, don’t sell at all in your first introduction email, and instead look for the long tail result of converting a cold contact into an interested one.
I’ve just recently joined the Datadial team, and one of my key responsibilities will be to manage the ever-growing need for email marketing. But often it can be hard to think about where to start, so here are my 3 points for growing your email newsletter.
How often will I need to send?
You should be realistic with the frequency, and make sure you stick to it. If you know you’re busy then try to fit the newsletter around your other business routines:
- If you are a service company, like Datadial, then around 4 newsletters a year is sufficient for gently keeping your clients up to date.
- If you are selling products, then seasonal emails for a new collection release, and emails when you are holding a sale or special promotions is appropriate.
- For news and information services, the frequency could even be as often as once a week.
Subscribers should know how often they expect to hear from you before they sign up. This wording can often be incorporated to the sign up form itself, e.g. “Sign up to our weekly newsletter here”.
The most important success factor of your emails will be your contacts list. This is definitely a case of quality over quantity. To get the most from your newsletters, your contacts should be a concise list of interested people – the more targeted your list is, the more effective it will be.
As a guideline, you can get an effective contact list by including anyone who has…
- bought a product or service from you in the last 2 years â€“ they may just need that one reminder to buy again.
- opted-in to receive your email newsletter by signing up from your website.
- signed up to your membership, either online or on a paper-based form, and opted-in to receive your newsletter.
We definitely advise against buying contacts lists from marketing agencies or scrambling around to get as many contacts as possible. This will only lead to people being annoyed at your company for sending them emails they havenâ€™t asked for. Sending newsletters to those who have not opted-in also risks our position as a whitelisted email provider, so we monitor for unusually high bounce or unsubscribe rates to ensure that you are not compromising our permission to send bulk emails.
Once your contacts have signed up, make sure that you do actually live up to your promise of sending a regular newsletter. This may sound very obvious, but when someone has given their explicit permission then they do actually want to hear from you, and it can be damaging to your reputation to only send twice a year when you have told them youâ€™ll send once a month.
Make it look pretty
Donâ€™t underestimate the graphic design of your email. With professional services, you can send attractive graphical emails to your contacts which builds trust with your brand, and makes your email less likely to be interpreted as junk mail. We can also setup your account so that anyone who cannot see the graphics will still get a useful email from you. All of our templates are tested in the main popular email clients (Outlook, Gmail, Hotmail, etc.) to make sure that it will look great for all of your contacts.
A small, but very important, factor of your email template is the footer. This is the area that should always include your company details, including a physical address, to show that it is a genuine email. There should also be a friendly unsubscribe link for those that no longer want to receive your email. It does you no favours to hide this link, as it will only make those who have already decided to leave your emails more frustrated at your company. We often word these links something similar to:
“If you no longer wish to receive our emails you may unsubscribe here, but weâ€™ll be sorry to see you go. You can always sign up again from our website if you change your mind.”
Adding the method for signing up again shows that they are in control and that they are always welcome to join the list again.
You may have noticed that AOL recently rolled out a new web based mail client for AOL.com. As part of this change, they are now disabling images by default. AOL are not alone in doing this and they are among a dominant group of clients that block images by default. So the result is that you just have to expect that a vast majority of your contacts will first see your message without images; it’s just a fact of life.
What can be done?
Hopefully most contacts will choose to turn images back on by default, but not everyone will choose not to do this. For those customers who won’t add your From to their address book, and who haven’t turned images on, you need to take the next step: Alternate Text.
Setting Alternate Text
What is Alternate Text? Alternate Text, often called an Alt Tag or Alt Text, is an attribute of an image that is shown when that image isn’t loaded. You can easily add Alternate Text to any image in your message within the image popup in your message editor. And you should always do this to every image as a rule. If you are editing HTML by hand, you just need to add an Alt attribute to your images.That’s it, there’s not too much to do on your part. Hopefully any serious email designers out there were already using Alternate Text for all your images. For those of you who weren’t, now you know, and you should start implementing these changes right away!