Planning a Winning Email Marketing Campaign

If you looked at the rate at which you personally delete spam from your inbox, you might assume that email marketing is completely ineffective as a small business marketing tool. On the contrary, when used properly, the email channel generates a higher ROI than any other online medium.

Like any marketing campaign, your email campaign should have a specific objective which is measurable.  Once you press the send button, what do you anticipate to see in return? If you don’t have a specific end-goal in mind, you’ll never know if you’re achieving what you set out to do. And, like all areas of business, honesty and transparency will pay off in the long term. Don’t send email your recipients aren’t expecting. Don’t send marketing email to anyone who hasn’t specifically requested it. And, don’t send your emails on a different frequency than is expected by your recipients.

What? You didn’t test it first?

Before sending an email en mass, send it to yourself. Make sure it appears how you expect it to. And make sure it effectively guides readers to your small business website. A winning email consists of four key stages.

Reception – Watch out for the spam filter

Many emails are not even seen by the intended recipient. Spam filters are a fantastic invention, but can be used against you and your email campaign. When reviewing your email draft, think, how does it look to a spam filter? Spelling and grammatical errors, as well as buzzwords like ‘free’, are obvious red flags. Many email service providers include a spam scoring tool that checks your content prior to it being sent.

Resist the urge to jazz up your email with programs such as Adobe Flash. Flash and similar technologies are not compatible with all browsers and email clients (like Outlook), and your email could be blocked by anti-virus software. Instead, keep your email code as simple as possible.

Open Rates

How many marketing emails do you actually open? It is highly unlikely that you open more than one in three, so you must aim to get your email in this top third. The best way to do this is to scan your inbox and take a look at what you have opened. What have you deleted? Why did you open or delete it? Knowing these things may help you craft a better email campaign.

The subject line is where the battle is won or lost. Write a creative, concise email subject line which appeals to the target audience. Avoid the temptation to make bold claims, or use word such as ‘help’, as this will set off alarm bells in the readers head. The most important factor in whether or not your email will be opened is the subject line.

Timing is everything; make sure your email is received when the audience is in the most receptive mood. What time of day should you send your emails? Well, that depends on your industry and your particular recipients. The best thing to do is to experiment. No matter what you read about the best time to send, you’ll find that the answer is different for different email senders. You’ll have to find out for yourself what works best for your email list.

Click Through Rates

How easy is it for the reader to click through to your site? There should be a prominent, recognizable, and clickable call to action which should be at the top of the page; there is only so much scrolling a reader will bother with. This varies depending on your individual subscribers, though. Some marketers find it effective to have more content on top of a click through link than others. Again, you need to experiment.

The content should be a mix of text and images, engaging, professional and consistent with your subject line. Anything that is boring, poorly designed or irrelevant will soon find itself in the trash folder.

Convertion Rates

Now that you’ve driven a subscriber to your website, it is now up to your website to convert the lead. Your landing page should be consistent with your email, with similar design and content. Any deviations will either confuse the reader or make them feel cheated; either way will have the same effect.

Just like the email, a good landing page involves little scrolling and has an obvious, clickable call to action.

By putting yourself in the shoes of the reader and reviewing these four stages, you will help achieve maximum response rates. But remember, no matter how high your open and click through rates are, if your subscribers do not purchase anything, then your efforts are ineffective.

Keep a log of how many emails you send, how many are opened, and how many click thoughts you get; this should help you identify the errors which are turning off the readers. Keep experimenting and learning, fix one mistake at a time and try again. Through trial error, your results and skills will keep on improving.

About Joe Errington

Joe Errington is a marketing and social media executive for MITIE, a strategic outsourcing company focused on facilities management of companies in the UK and abroad. Follow Joe on Twitter