Email Best Practices – What’s New?

The funny thing with email over all other web marketing channels is you only get to get it right once. Once you click “send”, that email campaign is out the door to tens or hundreds of thousands of potential customers. Ensuring strong procedural protocal and best practice hygiene is maintained within your organization is essential to maintaining 100% accuracy with your campaigns. Ok…at least +98% accuracy 😉

email marketingMany people have written a lot about email best practices. I commend Jeanniey Mullen of Click Z for leading the way. She’s written a number of important issues pertaining to email marketing.

Best practices in email marketing comes in a variety of packages. They range from a best practice approach to list hygiene and subscriber management, to email template design and development, to copy writing for marketing promotions versus newsletters.  Even best practices on usability for email campaigns is out there. I recal a few A/B multi variant email conversion campaigns we tested for a national TV direct response commercial and the outcome was surprising to some. Good thing we tested as our client assumptions, even ours, were off until we tested and saw the resuls.

So what’s new today in email best practices? Well aside from digging into the details of email accreditation and authentication considerations, lets touch on a few some of you email marketers may not have thought of.

Email Domain and IP Address

Like a license plate is to a car, so is an IP address is to your website and your email. Your IP address is what the ISP’s and other email industry authorities will monitor you on and begin to build the basis of your email reputation, among other things. A constantly changing, or even a one time change in an IP address can hurt your campaigns deliverability and reputation.

In one case where we had finished 5 months prior setting up dedicated IP’s to our clients accounts where multiple brands were used, a major legal dispute arose resulted in a change in IP addresses. Immediate action was taken to re-establish new IP’s. Our approach to protect this from unforeseen legal disputes or the alike from forcing a change in IP, was to 1) set up a dedicated block of IP’s or one IP for the specific account and brand, and 2) set up private domains for the accounts. That way if the domain was ever changed or taken, the email accounts would still have their own private domain.

On the topic of a dedicatd IP address, consider this. If you’re using an ESP (email service provider) such as Email Labs, Exact Target, or any of the thousands on the market, be aware if you have the option to established dedicated IP’s. I know both Exact Target and Emails Labs you can, but with many other ESP’s your email is going out under the same IP address as X number of their other clients. So while you live and breathe best practices in your company, your email reputation may be sharing the same IP or block as a competitor, adult site, gambling site, or any type of business for that matter. If they do execute any unethical email practices, such as spamming a rented list, your email reputation can get damaged. Spend the extra $$ and get a dedicated block or dedicatedIP!

Subject Lines

Ok nothing suprising here. Subject lines have always had something written about the latest and greatest subject line to use. In all honesty, after managing the execution of over 1500 email campaigns over almost 4 years, the best subject lines contain key characteristics (not in any particular order).

  • Personalized
    • ex. name, city, account number (risky, but it works)
  • Ambiguity
    • Asking a relevant/related question. “John, are you still in Vancouver?” or “Amber, your account status”
    • ex. “
  • Relevancy
    • Keywords targeting a major interest or subject matter of the recipient. They must AIDA within 0.5 seconds. Grab attention, capture interest, build a desire (to open), and action (open the email)

Email = Repeat Sales = Customer Lifecycle Events

All to many times have I received questions and interest from people seeking to rent a database list from some source and blast to this semi-targetted group of people an email campaign about the clients latest product or services. Ok, yes, it can work to gain attention and drive some sales, but the best bang for the buck, and the most power to harness in email marketing is within customer lifecycle events as retention and loyalty efforts.

Email offers the perfect medium to establish and maintain a dialogue and brand presence through auto-pilot, personalized messaging to your customers driven from specific events in their customer lifecycle. Upsell / cross sell product email from their recent purchase(s), birthday and anniversary greetings, reward and loyalty offers, etc., etc. The list goes on and these customer lifecycle events are be as simple as anniversary greetings from the time they first purchased from you, to as complex as building a referal reward email program through data mining customers who’ve are considered “influencers” and “advocates” of your brand. You decide the metrics on how to evaluate these people…they’re your customers.

All of these customer lifecyle email programs lead into retention and more $$. The cost to retain versus the cost to acquire a customer is self spoken, and the likelihood a customer will repeat buy from you versus a new hot prospect, well, you do the math.

Email is a killer marketing channel, though probably the least respected. Sure your web analytics shows that search engine marketing drives 55% of visitors to your website and of that 5% convert equalling new sales. Fabulous, great! But how about monetizing all these customers every week/month to get them to repeat their purchase – welcome email marketing. Your conversion rates could be in the 65% range. The revenue email marketing can drive for an organization versus the investment into the resources and technology will likely attain the quickest ROI than any other web marketing channel.

Ok, not to create silos between email and all other internet marketing channels. They should be approached in your Internet marketing strategy holistically and blended to to give you an integrated approach to your online marketing. Each channel supporting the other to maximize the effectiveness of each.

So what’s new in email marketing best practices? Sorry, nothing revolutionary. But massaging whats already existing to maximize its potential…IP and domains for email, subject lines and email customer lifecycle programs.

 

2 replies
  1. Don Russel
    Don Russel says:

    Agreed. As more and more marketing authorities as Google is to search, and Yahoo / MSN is to email, the essential standards and stringent rules to the game is allowing the best practice approach to marketing benefit. Soon we may see the day where the blackhat and unethical marketing some apply (and how get away with it) will no longer be. Personally, the email best practices I employ with my company has increased our deliverability exponentially. Good post MJ, thanks. Good refresher for those email marketers out there.

    Reply

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  1. Good post. Couldn’t be more on your side, good reading it!

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