Despite the rise of social media, mobile apps, and other forms of communication, email remains the number one way for many marketers to keep in touch with their customers.
Yet, using email appropriately requires a deft touch. Marketers must have a full grasp of not only which message to send to whom and at what point but also how to get their messages into the recipients' inbox in the first place. Hence the two critical "Ds" of email marketing: decision and delivery.
Current email strategies require competencies in both areas. Here are the top things you can do today to improve your decisions and delivery, and ultimately lead to improved customer engagement.
Because consumers are deluged by an ever-growing volume of commercial messages, the first challenge for email marketers is crafting relevant, compelling, and expected messages that cut through the clutter of today's inboxes.
There is no one-size-fits all approach for successful email marketing, but there are a few ground rules that should help marketers make better decisions when crafting their campaigns.
1. Segment your list using the data you already collect
Segmentation is an incredibly powerful way to improve the performance of your marketing efforts.
There are a numerous ways to divide your recipient list, but one quick and easy way is to look at the engagement of the customers on your list. For example, has the customer made a purchase recently? Or has the customer stopped opening your messages?
By segmenting your list based on simple engagement metrics such as those, you can deliver better, more personalized emails, including making custom recommendations for recent purchasers or offering discounted pricing to urge others to come back after a period of inactivity.
2. Limit yourself to only one call to action
Another good guideline is to clearly define your primary objective with a specific campaign and to have just one clear, goal-oriented call to action per email. By crisply leading your customers down the right path, without distractions, you will increase your chances of success.
3. Develop a cadence
You should also develop a certain cadence with your communications, so that your customers expect to hear from you regularly and remain receptive to what you have to say. If you don't set expectations, you are likely to have a very difficult time re-engaging customers who haven't heard from you in months.
4. Optimize the day and time you send
Another way to dramatically influence your campaign results: optimize your emails to arrive when your customers best respond—at the right time of day (and day of the week).
The simplest approach: test and measure optimal send times for different campaigns. A more advanced approach: segment your users based on what day/time they open messages or respond to calls to action, and adjust the time they receive your communications accordingly.
For customers who respond to nearly every email sent, add supplementary campaigns just to target these highly engaged users.
You've created great, timely content. Maybe you've even tested and deployed segmentation of your list. Now you're ready to send out the campaign and watch the results pour in, right?
Unfortunately, delivery of email isn't as simple as clicking send.
Just as in the decision phase, you have to think about your audience and their needs—except, in the case of delivery, your audience isn't a human being. Rather it consists of the Internet service providers (ISPs), spam filters, and other behind-the-scenes technologies that you have to appease.
1. Set up an email-sending infrastructure
Your email-sending infrastructure needs to be set up to provide customized delivery to each major ISP. If you don't customize delivery, you may be getting blocked or sending mail to the spam folder—resulting in lost revenue, lower customer engagement, and a breach in brand trust.
2. Customize delivery
Customized delivery includes custom Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) settings, such as number of connections per IP and messages per connection, but ensuring your email servers are set up to react to known SMTP deferral messages is also important.
Email service providers (ESPs) have customized delivery built into their products; if you send email from your own servers, however, you'll need to make sure you build it in as well.
3. Monitor your reputation
Most major mailbox providers offer email feedback loops that allow you to capture spam complaints when recipients mark your message as spam. You need to make sure you sign up for such notifications and automatically remove those recipients from your mail streams, or you'll wind up sending the rest of your emails to the spam folder as well.
Monitoring your sender reputation through sites like Senderbase.org and SenderScore.org will help you understand when something has changed that may potentially send more of your email to the spam folder.
4. Divide and conquer
Separating your mail from addresses for promotional campaigns vs. transactional receipts or even password resets will help make sure you're ending up in the right spot of the modern day email browser like Gmail tabs. As a good starting point, consider firstname.lastname@example.org for transactional items and email@example.com for promotions.
There isn't a magic button one can hit to improve deliverability. Yes, there are some tricks of the trade and secret sauces, but the most important ingredient is hard work. It is about understanding the process and iterating continually.
Perfect deliverability is the great whale we all chase, but the only chance of getting there is by working for it.
Using Email for Business Success
We live in the era of communication. Many consumers check their email inboxes almost religiously and rely on them to hear about deals, promotions, and important updates from their favorite businesses. Sending relevant, engaging, and expected emails is critical to establishing trusted relationships with these customers—and yet, it is more complex than many businesses realize.