Email Newsletters – ‘some content here…’

April 21, 2010 at 1:20 pm
filed under email marketing
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So here we are, two thirds of the way through another month and I still don’t have a topic to write about in my blog or email newsletter – LOTS of ideas for topics but nothing concrete. Then I realised that what I should really be writing about is email newsletters themselves to help my contacts and clients avoid this exact pitfall and several others!

Here we go then, the most important factors to consider when contemplating an email marketing campaign (or newsletter) are as follows:

Content and relevance
Do you have some information or news that you can write about AND that will be useful or interesting to your subscribers?

If you don’t, then you might be better off not sending anything, as the likely result will be a queue of unsubscribers meaning that all future newsletters will have a lower readership whether they contain useful information or not. To combat this the answer is simply to plan ahead – something that I failed to do effectively this time, but will definitely do going forward. Map out the next 3, 6 or even 12 months with ideas for content to give yourself plenty of time to write it. If you know what you want to write about but don’t have the time, maybe you could ask someone else to write it for you, or hire a copywriter to help you. If you don’t know what you want to write about you can’t do anything. Some of my clients cherry pick relevant news articles from various news sites and add their own comments – as long as the content is relevant to the audience, it doesn’t really matter where it comes from (providing the appropriate bibliography is included where necessary). The most important thing in all this is RELEVANCE, the more relevant the content is then the higher the open and click through rates will be.

Mailing lists and the law
Do you have a list of email addresses (and other contact info) for clients, prospects and/or contacts that you have permission to send emails to?

This might sound like a rather strange or obvious question, but just because you have someone’s email address it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have their permission to send them an email. In a B2B environment the permission is generally inferred when someone hands you their business card or contact info in any way, however B2C email marketing has tougher and more defined rules governing who (and how) you are allowed to email as outlined in the The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC) Directive 2003. That said, as a B2B organisation, while you are within the rules legally, you still don’t want your clients, prospects or contacts to consider you a ‘spammer’ as your reputation will suffer not just your unsubscribe rate.

Therefore to ensure that you always stay within the law with email marketing, start off by following these few simple rules:

  1. Always identify yourself (as the sender) and include your company contact and address information in your emails. For Ltd companies you should also include your company registration number and registered address and it is actually a legal requirement to include these things on ALL communications that you send out including regular day to day emails and your web site.
  2. Always give clear instructions for how recipients can be removed from your mailing lists. An ‘unsubscribe’ link is the most effective, failing that replying to an email with “remove” (or similar) as a subject is also fine, providing that you also have a defined process to deal with all responses and unsubscribe requests.
  3. Maintain a list of unsubscribers (also known as a blocklist) so that you ensure that anyone who unsubscribes doesn’t get added back into your mailing lists at a future date when you update you mailing lists with new contacts.

Tracking & Return On Investment (ROI)
What use is an email marketing campaign if you don’t know how many were delivered, how many have been opened and how many clicks or how much revenue has been produced?

Hopefully everyone will agree that every piece of email marketing that you send needs to include a call to action. This can take many forms, but when all is said and done you need to know how effective your campaign/newsletter has been and the only way to work this out effectively is to count the number of responses and/or sales that have resulted. If your call to action is to place an order or contact you by telephone then the person answering the telephone needs to ask the right questions and count the number of calls (and sales values) for the campaign. If your call to action is to click on a link then most email marketing solutions will track this for you. If you know the amount of revenue a campaign has produced and the total cost of the campaign then you can easily calculate the ROI and can instantly see if the campaign was worthwhile. ROI is clearly less relevant for email newsletters so you should replace revenue with ‘leads’ or ‘visits to your website’ and calculate the cost per lead/visit in the same way. If you also know your conversion rates from leads to sales or visits to sales then you can also calculate ROI this way.

How do I send it?
The simple answer to this is YOU don’t, or at least don’t send it yourself using conventional email tools (Outlook, Eudora, Thunderbird etc etc.), instead have a professional take care of it for you to ensure that it complies with the latest regulations and you benefit from the expertise available to get the most from your campaign. At the very least you should use a professional email marketing solution (there are literally hundreds to choose from) to do the sending remotely.

The reasons for this are straight forward, if you send it yourself using Outlook (or similar):

  1. You won’t benefit from ANY of the automated tracking provided by most (if not all) professional solutions. You will therefore not only be unable to calculate your ROI, but you will not even know how many of your emails have been delivered, let alone opened, read or how many clicks have resulted.
  2. You won’t be able to personalise individual emails (unless you use the Outlook email merge tool)
    a) A common trick is to include all recipient addresses in the bcc field; however this simply increases the chances of your emails being blocked by recipients spam filters.
    b) Using Outlook Email Merge (similar to ‘mail merge’ but for email) will lock up the users computer for the time it takes to create the individual emails and send them. This could be several hours that they are unable to use their computer depending on the size of the mailing list.
  3. You risk your address, domain or mailserver IP address being added to a blacklist of spammers (RBL) resulting in ALL of your email (ie not just your campaign emails but ALL emails that you send) potentially being blocked by spam filters, you will also ‘annoy’ your broadband provider as it could affect their other customers.
  4. All responses and unsubscribe requests will need to be handled manually which takes time, where most professional solutions deal with them automatically and maintain your blocklist.

The main difference between using a professional and using a DIY professional solution is one of cost versus time, as well as a bit of additional knowledge or training. As often the case, if you put a value on your time then the actual cost of a DIY solution will likely be more than hiring a professional to do it for you.

And now for the sales pitch… Kennetiq provides email marketing services to clients at any level. A flat rate fee for one-off mailings based on list size, a DIY solution for clients to manage campaigns themselves, a fully managed ‘pro’ solution for clients who want someone else to do it for them and anything in-between, all at competitive prices.

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