Nailing Your Email Campaign

Ever since social media burst onto the entrepreneurial scene, people have predicted the death of email. Ignore them. Email is still the most effective way for most small businesses to reach their target markets. But that turns up the pressure to make sure your email marketing program is nurturing customers and not spamming or turning them off. Experts identify the following best practices for email marketing.

The Basics

Getting consumers to open emails is the Holy Grail of email marketing. To do that, the experts say you need to offer relevant, actionable content and to email your addressees on a consistent basis.

Also crucial: Connect your email campaigns to your social networks and include social-sharing buttons in the email. To achieve long-term success, the email gurus agree with Janine Popick of VerticalResponse, who says, “Always be testing.” (See how later in this article.)

In addition, be sure to follow email marketing rules; ignoring them can be illegal. The CAN-SPAM act, for instance, prohibits you from sending commercial emails to people if they opt out. Our experts share other do’s and don’ts below.

Optimal Mailing Times

You want every edge you can get, and “What’s the best day and time to send an email?” is one of the most frequently asked questions. The answer is not a simple “Send your emails at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays.”

All of the experts agree you have to test your lists to learn what works best. Popick suggests you “test by dividing your list in half and sending your email to one group on Monday morning, for example, and the other on Tuesday morning. Do this for every day of the week, and also start drilling down on different parts of the day. You’ll eventually find your sweet spot.”

You need to understand the behaviors of your market. For example, John Hayes of Vocus says, “If you target young mothers, emails sent in the evening after the kids have gone to bed are most successful.” James Thompson agrees, noting that if you’re targeting consumers “there is no ‘perfect time’ to send an email,” because everyone has email access 24/7. But he suggests not sending business emails on the weekend.

What’s New

Today’s big shift is toward mobile. Consumers are always connected, essentially toting their email inboxes around with them via smartphones and tablets. Making your email marketing mobile-friendly is key.

Hayes says emails should be easy to “engage with on a small screen” and suggests “writing great subject lines, using simple designs, limited text and big buttons.” Ron Cates of Constant Contact agrees, pointing out that “email is the most popular activity for smartphone users,” and 43 percent of smartphone users check email at least four times a day. He adds this caveat: “Don’t rely on images,” because they don’t display well on all mobile devices.

And Hayes reminds us that “the best marketing campaigns help your customers solve problems. If you can [address] what makes your customers’ lives difficult, you are well on your way to producing highly relevant and engaging email campaigns.”

Does your inbox overwhelm you? It might be time to think about  ditching the stuff that's not totally necessary so you can get down to business.  Read about it on

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