As with most things in life, taking shortcuts or foolish risks isn’t always a good idea. The same philosophy should be considered when implementing an email marketing plan and strategy. The Internet has a plethora of information written by self-proclaimed gurus about email marketing, who couldn’t tell you where to find your toes. I consider this the good, the bad and the ugly. How to decipher who is dishing out quality ideas and information and who is spewing nonsensical recommendations and really bad ideas should be pretty simple to deduce, but can be confusing. Following your gut instinct and looking at the suggestions being made and the quality of the content on the website should be a good starting point in determining the validity of the recommendations.
The first thing you should do is always stay away from anything considered ‘Black Hat’. The term is suggested to have come from old western movies, where the hero’s often wore white hats and the “bad guys” wore black hats. Since you know how these movies always ended and who was riding off into the sunset with the pretty girl at the end of the film – Well you got my point.
Who to trust?
1. Try a simple Google search for ‘Basic Principles of Email Marketing” and the likelihood of a quality website showing up in the search results are pretty good.
2. If you’re new to email marketing, read the Email Marketing To-Do List. It’s a good place to start.
3. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t take any unnecessary risks or try things that sound risky or are the least bit questionable. Don’t stray, there are no good shortcuts or an easy way out.
Where to begin?
1. Use common sense when selecting your subject line and content for your email message, whether it’s a newsletter or promotional email marketing campaign.
2. Make sure your email list is valid, free of spam seeds and complainers and is deliverable. If you haven’t mailed it in the last few months or it’s a fresh email list, have it professionally cleaned and validated.
3. Test, test and then test again. Don’t be the moron in the room trying to explain, to the people who sign your check, why your IP’s are now blacklisted, you generated no leads and zero sales and you got a 15% unsubscribe rate from your last deployment. Don’t rush to get an unfinished or untested email out the door. Make sure you test it in every client (AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo, Outlook, etc.) to ensure it appears properly and test all of your links within the email to make sure they actually go somewhere other than a dead link or ‘page not found’.
4. Track and review your results. Every ESP (email service provider) should be able to track the number of emails sent, delivered, bounced, opened and clicks per link from your email campaign. Review the results of your campaign 2 hours after it has finished deploying. Then check it again 24-72 hours later and you should have the majority of your results. Remember, just because you send an email doesn’t mean it is read at that moment, or even the next day.
5. Learn from your results. Did you generate any leads or sales? How many people opened and read it? How many people clicked the links in your email newsletter or promotional creative? How many people unsubscribed? Take the time to review all of the information you can and learn from your own mistakes. Email marketing is not a science. There are only best practices to follow to ensure you receive the highest deliverability rates and ROI (return on investment) from your efforts. Don’t be afraid to tweak your email marketing plan. Try sending on different days and different times to determine what works best for you and your brand.
Once you think you have it all figured out, then read Why Bad Email Marketing is Worse than No Email Marketing. After 15 years of being involved in the email marketing industry as an email publisher, ESP and a big data email validation service provider, it never ceases to amaze me how many new, good and fresh ideas I run across every once in a while and how many more terrible, horrendous and really bad ideas are out there and being sold as gospel. Use your common sense and logic; it will take you further than bad advice or a drunken flop of faith, from the stage onto people in the front rows of a concert, who couldn’t care less if you fell flat on your face.
“It is the obvious which is so difficult to see most of the time. People say ‘It’s as plain as the nose on your face.’ But how much of the nose on your face can you see, unless someone holds a mirror up to you?”
― Isaac Asimov