Email marketing campaigns are still the most effective way of directly communicating with your potential customers. They are the single most reliable way to increase your income when you are planning and implementing effective, integrated marketing campaigns.

What is email marketing?

Email marketing is using the speed and ease of email to communicate directly with your potential customers. Important messages, tips, updates and promotions can be delivered to people who have opted in to your mailing list.

Is it working for you now?

The questions to ask yourself to determine if your current email marketing is working or not are as follows:

  • Are my campaigns being talked about?
  • Are my campaigns driving traffic to my website?
  • Are my campaigns making money?

If you answer no to one or more of these, then you will need to look at optimizing further.

What do you need to implement an effective email marketing campaign?

1. Know your target audience

Before you even think about starting a new campaign, you need to have an ultra-clear understanding of who your ideal audience is. Take as much time as you need to ensure that have done this; without it you are greatly decreasing the level of success before you even get started.

Do you know your audience demographics and characteristics? Areas to look at include:

  • age
  • gender
  • education
  • income
  • marital status
  • family life cycle
  • lifestyle
  • activities and interests
  • attitudes and beliefs

Do your research and you will smooth your path to a successful campaign.

2. Follow the rules

It is your responsibility to know and understand the “spam” laws for your country. In the US, it is the “Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003,” or CAN-Spam. In Canada, it is Bill C-28: Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation, or CASL—this comes into effect on July 1, 2014. Check your country, and if you are planning to email to customers in the US and Canada, you will need to know these laws too.

The basics:

  • Only send to addresses that have opted in.
  • Each email must link to an easy unsubscribe.
  • You must include your physical address.
  • If they have unsubscribed, never email them again (just purge your database of those addresses).
  • Do not buy or sell addresses.

This is definitely not legal advice—educate yourself! Selecting a reputable email service provider will make your work easier as they will not allow you to do anything that would impact their reputation and that of their other customers.

3. Clear objectives

Before you create your first campaign, decide why you are communicating with your customers. Some questions you should ask yourself before sending are:
  • Why are you sending? Is it to educate users? Announce an event? Promote a product?
  • What do you want your reader to do?
  • How will you know you are successful?

Defining clear objectives and how you are going to measure the success of a campaign will make your campaign more effective.

4. Viable, clean, specific data

If you have an email list already, you want to ensure that you have the most accurate list. Ensure that you are pruning your list to purge inaccurate information, re-engage inactivate emails and clean unsubscribes.

5. Encourage opt-ins

If you are starting out with a fresh new list , you want to encourage people to self-select by signing up.

  • Have a sign-up form or feature box on your front page.
  • Have a sign-up form on all web pages or posts.
  • Offering a free giveaway book, audio or video can increase sign ups.
  • Personalized confirmations and thank you emails can increase engagement.

6. Create your campaign

Following your objectives, set up a campaign that encompasses standard and customized elements. Some things to note are:

  • Double opt-in is not only best practice, it is the simplest way to stay compliant.
  • Opt-out links should be clearly visible.
  • Customize your email templates to fit your website and business branding.
  • Turn on tracking with your campaign.
  • Take advantage of auto-responder scheduling.

7. Create your emails

Based on your objective, create your email or series of emails. Ensure that you’re focusing on great copy.

  • Priority #1 is your subject line, this is 80% of the email’s success. This needs to be strong, attention grabbing and benefit driven.
  • Have a balanced text-to-graphic ratio. People are attracted to graphics, but make sure they enhance the email not distract from it. Don’t forget to customize the alt text of the image for people who do not view the images by default.
  • Make sure that you have one clear call to action. If you have more, it will confuse the readers and they will not take any action.
  • Design should match your website and business branding.
  • Add you logo, address and unsubscribe link.

8. Tracking and testing

Setting up the tracking before you launch the campaign will keep you focused on your objectives and allow you confirm you are making progress.

Metrics that you would want to track include:

  • Deliverability. Did they receive the email?
  • Open rate. Did they open the email?
  • Click through. Did they click on the call to action?
  • Conversion rate. Did they become a customer?

Once you have had some time to collect some data you can tweak and retest. I would recommend eight weeks or 150–200 email addresses.

You can change various elements of both the sign up and the emails themselves, such as:

  • copy on the sign up
  • subject lines
  • style
  • font
  • calls to action

Once you have completed a successful campaign or two, you will have the process streamlined for what is successful for you and your website or business. Over time you will definitely see an increase in your customer engagement and investment.

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