E-mail Marketing, Part 2 (On Marketing by Jim Karrh)

by Jim Karrh  on Monday, Apr. 27, 2009 12:00 am  

In my last column ("E-mail Essentials," March 23), I began a discussion of e-mail marketing and the mindset necessary to make it sing for your business. Now it's time for some more specific tactics and tips.

Will my message be delivered or will it get bounced? Although legitimate e-mail marketing is a good thing for both senders and receivers, the bad behaviors and breathtaking irrelevance of some senders have prompted Internet service providers to adopt complex screening procedures, or protocols, for the e-mails coming in to their users. The protocols SPF and Sender-ID, which are similar, are used to verify that a message came from an authorized mail server. The protocol DomainKeys or its newer cousin, DKIM, is used to verify that a message actually came from the purported sender's domain - the part following the @ sign.

Bottom line: Check with your e-mail service provider and ask whether it uses DKIM, which is becoming the new standard. This will help ensure that you get the highest possible percentage of delivered e-mails - and don't get wrongly tagged as spam or something worse.

What should I write about? A better way to phrase this is probably "What would interest my readers?" Most people are engaged only by e-mail messages that promise to help save money, save time, offer ideas or show or tell how to do something. Don't make your e-mails a self-serving exercise in talking about yourself.

In the event you are getting stuck, I suggest breaking your options into two simple categories: 1. highlighting things that are already happening or 2. creating something new. The things already happening might include sharing a tip or two from your area of expertise, posting details of a recent third-party review or award, showing photos from your business or event, and highlighting a specific customer or client.

What about creating something new in the business for your e-mail campaign? There are certainly a bunch of "stimulus package" promotions going on out there - advertised around the country by the likes of CiCi's Pizza, Gold's Gym, Volvo, Carmike Cinemas and even the Baltimore Orioles. What could you do to create more value for customers?

Consider also linking to a "white paper" (authoritative report), case study or ask-the-expert feature; these tools can be particularly effective in creating and converting prospects for business-to-business marketers. Other options well suited for e-mail promotion are webinars or in-person learning opportunities for good clients and prospects.

What should go in the subject line? Much as an article's headline affects attention and ultimate readership, your e-mail's subject line is vital to message effectiveness. There is also a legal imperative to follow; the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 requires that, according to the Federal Trade Commission's Web site, "the subject line cannot mislead the recipient about the contents or subject matter of the message."

The best subject lines are succinct (40 to 50 characters in length), structured to get through filters, compelling enough to persuade recipients to open the message and truthful, to set the proper expectations for the reader. Spam filters tend to whack e-mails whose subject lines contain a lot of punctuation or words in all caps.

MailChimp has published on its site several studies of e-mail open rates arising from various subject lines.

Some of the most effective subject lines of 2007, for example, were "Your April website stats" (a 92.6 percent open rate) and "Nautica in Rutland Opens Soon!" (79.9 percent). Some of the dead-on-arrival subject lines included "SALE ends soon - up to 50% off all bras at Kara!" (1.9 percent open rate) and "Help Baylor create the ideal college experience" (2.5 percent). The word "help" apparently translates into "delete me."


On the old-school, face-to-face front, I will be speaking at the SMEI-Arkansas Small Business Success Seminar at the Pulaski Technical College Business & Industry Center on May 21 and at the Arkansas Bank Marketing Association's Spring Conference in Hot Springs on May 22. Hope to see you at one or both of these events.

(Jim Karrh, Ph.D., of Little Rock, is a marketing consultant, speaker and trainer. E-mail him at jimkarrh@aol.com.)



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