An 8-step E-mail marketing refresher

Ian Lurie

I’ve been on an SEO tear of late. I admit, it’s one of my favorite topics. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore stuff like e-mail marketing.

E-mail continues to get a bad name. It also continues to produce amazing results for companies that use it right.

So, here’s 7 steps to spruce up your e-mail marketing campaign. And by ‘spruce up’ I mean ‘bring back from the dead,’ since that’s where most campaigns sit:

  1. Make signup easy. Ask for one thing: The visitor’s e-mail address. Nothing. Else. This isn’t about lead generation yet. It’s about providing something of value to potential customers with minimal risk on their part.
  2. Put signup where it makes sense. On every page of your site is great. But having a simple little checkbox when someone completes their order, or when someone leaves a comment, is even better. One of our clients, the Machinists Union, has had great results with this:
    e-mail signup on the GOIAM site
  3. Use a good e-mail service. I’m currently in love with AWeber. They’re relatively inexpensive, offer everything from autoresponders to templates, and their interface is veyr straightforward. You can sign up here. And yes, I’m an affiliate. But only because I like them.
  4. Write a decent subject line. Use words that aren’t spammy but grab attention: ‘Run’, ‘Grow’, ‘Tips’ and ‘Learn’ are all good examples. Stuff like ‘Free’, ‘Warning’ and ‘Hey!’ may make sense, but only in context. If your brand is a strong one, include it in the subject.
  5. Focus on the preview pane. Understand that your visitors will preview your e-mail, first. That means they’ll see a tiny little chunk of your message. So the core – the most important stuff – needs to be visible in the upper left-hand corner. On my laptop, the preview pane is only about 300 pixels high and 500-700 wide, depending on my mood. You’d better tell me everything I need to know in there, or I’m gone.
  6. Resend to non-opens. 24-48 hours after you send out your e-mail, send it again, but just to the folks who didn’t open it the first time around. We’ve seen astonishing results with this: Clickthrough can jump by 30%.
  7. Measure and test. I had to say it eventually. Split your list in half and try two different subject lines. Learn what generated a good clickthru and what didn’t. Keep improving.
  8. Offer real value. Don’t just spam coupons out every time you e-mail your customers. Try sending them a tip, or answer a question you’ve seen show up in customer service a lot. You’ll retain a lot more subscribers that way.

Remember, the house e-mail list is your biggest asset. Don’t neglect it!


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  1. Ian,
    As always, your list rocks. I never thought about the preview pane point, but something I see going hand in hand with that is images. I know a lot of places try to put things like ‘free’ in the images because then it won’t get caught in spam – but most people have to choose to view images, and some won’t, so the content needs to stand on its own.
    Thanks for the great tips in one place!

  2. Ian, thanks for putting together a great list.
    Another idea worth mentioning is to send a text version of your newsletter to those who didn’t open the html version.
    I had a look at Aweber but they seemed pretty much like the many ESPs out there. There are better ESPs that have more features which I reckon are key email marketing tools – dynamic content, inbox preview/code checker and date-matching autoresponders for sending out birthday vouchers. I actually offer email marketing services for SMEs through using existing ESPs so I’m pretty picky about ESPs.

  3. @Antonia There are a lot of ESPs out there, it’s true. For me, AWeber’s been the best balance of features, reliability and ease of use. But it’s certainly a matter of opinion.
    Hmmm. Perhaps an email service provider showdown post? Got any picks?

  4. Showdown! I went through the following ESPs before I also arrived at Aweber.
    Mailchimp – very popular, confusing inconsistent GUI and workflow, lousy editor, pay as you go option is good for irregular mailings, but great API. The next release of a popular shopping cart for example will feature automatic importing of customer segments. Powerful stuff!
    Getresponse – couldnt figure out this platform at all, next…
    iContact – nearly went with this but thought the default footer “this mail was sent from: ‘your address’. it was sent from: ’email list'” sounded stupid. go figure…
    Aweber – simple, intuitive, powerful, and check out the new sign up box editor!
    Ok over to you Ian 😀

  5. “Resend to non-opens. 24-48 hours after you send out your e-mail…”
    I can back that up. We never use to do that until our response rates starting to get pretty low. Once we resent the e-mails reponses went back up to normal levels. Great Point!

  6. Hi Ian,
    Testing is an important part of improving your email marketing technique, splitting the list and trying out different subject lines, but this does take time and depends on the market you operate in. For instance in a market that typically uses email marketing the OR may naturally be lower as recipients are more used to email marketing. Be patient.
    I really like the point about writing and styling your content and layout for the preview pane, also here as Amanda said remember that many filters will prevent pictures from opening(unless demarcated as Not Junk), so keep these to a miminmum too.
    Thanks for the post

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