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As one of the very first forms of online marketing, email is surprisingly still one of the most powerful across any online demographic in almost every industry, says Red Rain SEO. And while many of the options to advertise online can be pricey or technically challenging, in 2017 we can all use email to stay top-of-mind. It can be ridiculously successful if you know what you’re doing, and these tips should get you to doing it right.

1. Stop using Outlook for email blasts.

I know, it’s easy and you’re used to using Outlook (or Gmail, Yahoo, whatever), but you’re missing out on a lot of technology by doing that way (not to mention that designing in Outlook makes for some butt-ugly emails). Check out Mailchimp to start – they offer a free account for up to 2,000 contacts, and you’ll be able to check out opens, click-throughs, bounces and do a lot of what I mention in the following tips. Note that you can also use Constant Contact, Vertical Response or any of the other platforms; we’re just partial to Mailchimp.

2. Prune your dead contacts.

If you’ve been using an email platform for some time, you’ll probably notice that there are a number of contacts that don’t open your emails or bounce altogether. About twice a year, be sure to remove those contacts from your lists because, as much as you may love for them to see your emails, they’re clearly not that into you. Go ahead and break up with them – it’s just not meant to be.

You see, too many bounces and the domain you’re sending them to may assume you’re spammy and put all future emails to anyone under that domain directly to spam. And spamming can be illegal, as this infographic on international email law points out.

3. Turn big lists into baby lists.

I have no doubt that everything you’re sharing is important, and everyone should take notice. But an existing customer may not want to see some “new customer” discount email, and a larger prospect won’t get giddy about your big win for a customer a fraction it’s size. There’s a better way to get people’s attention, and it’s through segmentation.

While keeping all contacts on a master list in the event of major news announcements, events, etc., also make sure to create target group-specific lists so that you can send out relevant information to each. You can segment by industry, company size, lifecycle stage, the list is endless. The segments will be unique for each business, so choose the ones that are best for you. The result will be deeper personalization and relevance of content, which means higher engagement (click, open, shares and actions).

4. Let automation share the work.

All email platforms offer some form of automation, some more complex than others. Automated emails are delivered at a certain time, or after the recipient has triggered it through some action like downloading a white paper or being a prospect/customer for a certain period of time. Some examples of automated emails include:

  • A welcome upon joining your mailing list
  • A “happy birthday” or work anniversary
  • A survey to evaluate your customer service or other insights
  • Major holidays
  • End-of-quarter promotions

5. Write for those who won’t read.

A piece of ugly truth that we all already know: people just don’t seem to read much anymore. I’m guilty of it – in fact, I’m surprised anyone would make it this far down this article, but I digress. To get your point across in your emails, make sure they’re:

  • Easy to scan, with an airy feel to them
  • Optimized for mobile devices, with buttons in place of “click here” links
  • Have very few calls-to-action with images to reinforce your messages

6. Plan your emails in advance.

Leaving content to be a spur-of-the-moment thing can be stressful and lead to inconsistent email delivery. But if you plan ahead – often months in advance – you already have an idea of what you’re posting and simply update the content before sending.

Now you’re probably saying, “how am I supposed to know what news is going to happen six months from now, dummy?”, and to that I say that calling me a dummy is not very nice. I’ll also say that there are plenty of content items you know a prospect will care about six months from now. For instance, if you’re an IT service provider, you’ll know that December/January will be a good time to reach out to customers about a new-year security audit. You’ll also know that October or November would be a good time to talk about cybersecurity to anyone that sells products online.

You simply need a plan, and we have a content calendar template you can download to help with the plan. Some things to consider when scheduling your email content are:

  • Audience. If you’ve segmented your lists, those segments will probably have unique interests. You can now develop content or promos specifically for those segments.
  • Past performance. Check your CRM, meet with your sales team or even your longer-term customers to see what messages have worked well in the past and what could be repeated for prospects.
  • Content mix. As I mentioned earlier, we’re in a world of skimmers and people with a greater tendency to respond to visual content. Mix up your content into infographics, images, videos, articles, etc. so that you can gain a better understanding of what works.

7. Test, test, then test some more.

As new people get added to your list, the process of testing and refining your strategy will become an ongoing one. First, always send test emails to yourself to make sure images are showing properly and there aren’t any dead links or formatting issues before that email meets its adoring audience. Second, test out different subject lines. Some like questions, some like stats. Try different kinds of subject titles to improve your open rates. Finally, test the amount of content you place into each email. Too much content can be overwhelming.

Now I know this is a lot. There is much more as well, if you want to get the full ROI from your email marketing. For a full audit of your process, as well as your complete digital marketing strategy, shoot us a message. Together, we can help you get the most out of your marketing.

Patrick King

Patrick is the Founder of Imagine and advisor to places on brand strategy and creative. His insights have been published in Inc. Magazine, SmartCEO, Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, and Chief Marketer, among other publications, and shared at conferences throughout the US. He also has an amazing sock collection.

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