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Spring into Action and Refresh Your E-mail Campaign

By Alanna Vallee Published in Target Marketing  April 7 2010

If you’re like other marketers you’ve been focused on building more sophistication into your e-mail programs: establishing an e-mail preference center, creating a first-time buyer sequence, perhaps automating product recommendations in your transactional messages. These are all important steps towards moving your e-mail strategy forward. But once a year, we recommend taking a step back and examining the everyday aspects of your e-mail programs. Could they use a little spring cleaning?

At home, I always start my spring cleaning with a checklist: clean the windows, sweep the garage, shake out the rugs. It’s a great way to tackle spring cleaning for your e-mail programs as well. Let’s examine where the dust may have collected in your campaigns, and how you can spruce them up.

1) Take a fresh look at your calls to action. Make sure your most important message or best offer is still above the fold, which in e-mail terms means the first 300 pixels. This is the most valuable real estate in any campaign.

By now you’ve probably also inserted forward-to-a-friend (F2F) functionality in your e-mail programs, an excellent way to grow your audience and add friends of your subscribers. Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, what was once a one-to-one message can easily become a one-to-many using share-with-your-network (SWYN) functionality. Now is a great time to leverage it. And if your standard promotional e-mail doesn’t seem to be share-worthy, focus on a fun and creative viral promotion that your readers can’t help but forward to friends or post on their Facebook page.

2) Put your subject lines to the test (and test and test). The return on investment in e-mail marketing remains high, but it’s getting more difficult to maintain alongside the emergence of other channels. Inboxes are overloaded with e-mails and social media notifications, which means the subject line is more important than ever. How do we compel the customer to open their e-mails and unlock the great marketing messages inside? The answer: test, test, test. Successful subject lines have a strong link to your brand and your clients’ expectations.

You’ve already done extensive subject-line testing and found some clear winners? Fantastic, but you have to keep testing. The same subject-line approach will quickly lose its impact with your readers. Plus, your competitors are most likely copying your winning strategy by now, so it’s time to find a new approach.

And don’t fall victim to marketing amnesia. Document your failures and successes, and avoid the trap of spinning your wheels testing the same thing twice.

3) Dress your e-mail in the latest brand fashion. Your store signage and your Website have been refreshed with an updated look and feel. But has anyone freshened up your e-mail template? Your customers expect a consistent brand experience regardless of the channel, so make sure your e-mail program maintains the integrity of your brand experience. Are you using a consistent voice? Everything from the font of your e-mail to the tone of your message should be consistent with the brand you’ve established. Offline and online customers may have different expectations of your brand, but that’s not cause for an identity crisis. Customers should be able to choose their preferred shopping channel without compromising the brand experience.

4) Cross your t’s and dot your i’s. Are your e-mail images rendering properly? Are all of your links functioning correctly? Are all of your copyrights and policies updated for 2010? Try unsubscribing from one of your e-mails and forwarding to a friend. Is your user experience fluid and error-free?

5) Evaluate how effective your Website is for acquiring e-mail subscribers. Your e-mail content may be a perfect 10, but what about your list? Acquiring e-mail addresses is as crucial as honing your e-mail program. And one of the most powerful tools for e-mail acquisition is, of course, your Website. Review the following checklist and see how your site measures up:

* Prominent registration, preferably in the upper right, above the fold. Don’t put all your eggs in that one basket, though; include the link throughout the Web, especially where you know you generate the most traffic. Give yourself a gold star if you have a link on every page of the Website.

* Promotion of value. Ask yourself, “Why would anyone want to register for our e-mail program?” Make sure you are communicating the value to your potential subscribers, whether it is exclusive offers, free shipping, or $10 off the subscriber’s next order.

* Painless profile. When someone takes the plunge and decides to register for your e-mail program, make the process as easy as possible. The key here is take it slow. Ask only for the basics at this point; you can always go after birthday, gender, and favorite brand later. Visitors are just getting to know you at this stage; don’t ask for so much information that you exhaust them or scare them off.

* Prompt welcome. Your welcome e-mail should arrive while the subscriber is still actively engaged. Any delay and you increase the risk that you are no longer top of mind. Also, be willing roll out the red carpet; your new subscribers are also among your best subscribers. They are more likely to open, click, and buy than someone who has been on your list for a couple of weeks or more. Thank new subscribers for signing up, confirm that they would like to receive promotional e-mails from you, and offer them a link to your preference center. You should also consider offering a token of your appreciation—a special offer that is available only to new e-mail subscribers.

Hopefully we’ve convinced you to take some time to vacuum under the couch cushions, clean out the gutters, and wash the windows of your e-mail program. Now you’re ready to get back to the fun stuff. It’s easy to take your eye off the basics when you’re focused on new, ahead-of-the-pack programs—but it would be a shame to lessen the impact of your e-mail simply because of a few dust bunnies.

Alanna Vallee is an account director with e-mail marketing services provider e-Dialog.

Arthur Middleton Hughes, vice president of The Database Marketing Institute, has presented 28 seminars on database and email marketing.  Arthur has also authored several books includingStrategic Database Marketing 4th Edition (McGraw-Hill 2012). He and Andrew Kordek, chief strategist and co-founder of Trendline Interactive, are hosting a two-day Email Strategy Study Group in Fort Lauderdale  March 26-27, 2013, featuring group competition for email marketers responsible for subscriber acquisition, lifetime value, ratings and reviews, boosting their email budget, and doubling their ROI.  To learn how to attend the Study Group,click here.

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Arthur Middleton Hughes has published over 200 articles on Database and E-mail Marketing. Click Here to read them.

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