Technically, “anyone” can create an email campaign. There are plenty of Email Service Providers to choose from. There are tons of stock images to choose from to support the message. Most companies have a CRM, accounting software or Excel file with the names and email addresses of their customers and prospects. And if you have information to share with your audience, you’ve got the basics in place.
But to develop effective email campaigns that generate results, you need to focus on far more than the basics.
Establish Your Email Marketing Goals
Before you start writing – let alone playing around with stock images – ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish with your email campaign. Are you trying to introduce your company to new contacts? Entice old contacts to give you another change? Document your goals at the start. Otherwise, you’ll never be able to evaluate whether your campaign is successful.
Clean Up Your Contact Lists
Duplicates. Keystroke errors. First names in all capital letters. These are the kinds of errors we routinely see with new clients’ contact lists. And while duplicate addresses should be eliminated by your Email Service Provider – a reputable provider will block duplicates from uploading – you want to make sure your list is as clean as possible before you hit send. This helps with deliverability, and the impression you’ll make with your audience. No one uses their first name in all capital letters, so starting an email with the greeting, “Hi JOHN” will come across as unprofessional.
Build an Email Template
Developing effective email campaigns requires using an email template. However, there are marketers who don’t understand email marketing technology or best practices, and opt to set up their email campaign in the simplest, fastest way. Specifically, they instruct their graphic designer to give them a jpg of the company’s latest sales sheet and they place the jpg into a blank email template. Voila – they have an email campaign, ready to send.
Here are a few of the reasons you should not send an email campaign consisting of one image:
- One image means you can only link to one website page – and only one time. Ideally, yes, you should have only one call to action, but you should design your email template so it appears in several places.
- If your email campaign consists of one image, any contact who does not automatically download images in emails will see a big white box – not your image.
- An email template is typically 600 pixels wide. A standard 8.5” x 11” piece of paper is about 2,500 pixels wide. Reducing the 8.5” x 11” image to 600 pixels is most likely going to result in a layout with fuzzy images and hard to read text.
Think of your email campaign as a jigsaw puzzle you are creating. A properly-built email campaign features a combination of pieces -- images, links and HTML text.
Create the Best Content Possible
If you want to entice your target audience to read your email campaigns, your content must address their needs and interests, not yours. What you can share that they will view as helpful, educational and informational? What problems do they have that you can solve? To ensure mapping out a content plan that, over time, positively impacts your relationship with your contacts and entices them to reach out about your products/services, hold a brainstorming session. Invite the employees in your company who interface directly with customers and prospects as they can relay FAQs from the field – and more – that will uncover topic ideas for your email campaigns.
The Importance of Email Campaign Settings
By the time many email marketers develop their email template and content, they are ready to send their campaign and move on to another marketing activity. This mindset can lead to “throwing away” email campaign settings. But they are the most critical elements of every email campaign: they determine whether the campaign get opened!
Here are tips for making the best use of your email campaign settings:
Be certain you use a name – preferably a person and his/her company – that your audience will recognize. If they know who the email is from, they are likely to open it.
Once recipients realize who the email is from, they will read the subject line and decide whether or not to open the email. Your subject line must convey value or your email campaign will get deleted.
Pre-header Text with Web Version Link
The small text at the top of many emails is called Preview Text or Pre-header Text. It includes a link to the Web Version of your email campaign. It’s a best practice to include this element in your campaigns. If any of your contacts block images in their email client (e.g., Outlook, Gmail), the Web Version link gives them the option to view the email in its entirety on the internet.
Email Testing Tips
Just as you’d never buy a car without taking it for a test drive, you should never release your email campaigns until you’ve viewed them in different email clients and on different devices. A WYSIWYG (pronounced wiz-ee-wig, which stands for What You See Is What You Get) Email Service Provider platform allows the email campaign creator to see what the end result of an email campaign will look like while it’s being created. But an email may render differently on a smartphone than a desktop computer – even when viewed in the same email client. By sending test campaigns to different devices and clients, if you see any elements that don’t look good, you have the opportunity to modify them before scheduling your email campaign.
Measure the Effectiveness of Your Email Campaigns
Finally, it’s almost a wrap. You sent your email, responded to direct inquiries, studied the open, click, bounce and opt out report. Now what? Remember the goals you established at the start? Now it’s time to review them in relation to the results. If you met your goals, congrats. If not, spend time analyzing what worked and what didn’t so you know what changes to make prior to developing your next campaign.