Picture this. You’ve just sent out an email campaign to 10,000 people. After it’s been sent you notice none of the images you included have displayed correctly. Two of the social links you included don’t go anywhere when clicked and worst of all you’ve just addressed everyone on the list with a “Hi <insert>’ because the FirstName merge hasn’t worked. ARGGHHHHH!!! *HeadDesk*
Whether all of these things have happened to you at some stage or one of these things, it’s a scenario you want to avoid and with some simple planning and testing, you certainly can.
Using my extensive experience in email marketing for lead nurture or acquisition for varying clients, I have compiled a checklist of things to do when creating and sending an email campaign.
No matter how large your database is, 10 people or over 100,000, you want to make sure there are no errors. Errors are a very bad reflection on the company. They make you appear sloppy, distract from your message and can ultimately lead to ‘Unsubscribes’.
You may have purchased a list, or gained the list through a subscribe option on your website. Whatever way you have acquired the list you can almost always guarantee, it has taken both time and money, so I attribute a lot of value to a good database list.
The best kind of database is one that is reasonably up-to-date, with the information you need. Starting with email address, first name and a valid phone number, for sales calls. (Not sure how to do this? Check out my previous blog 10 Step Email Database Cleanse)
- State your objective – Why are you sending this campaign? Is it to sell something? In which case you want them to click a link. Do you want them to fill out a form or do you want them to visit your site or another site you manage? Define your goal with clear CTA’s.
- Calls to action (CTA) – CTA’s are demands, that you are wanting your lead to follow. Such as, ‘Download our latest white paper’ or ‘Sign up for our monthly newsletter’ or ‘Register you place today’. They’ll be directed to a form or website once they’ve clicked the link. A good rule is to at least include the CTA at the top, middle and bottom of the email, so no matter where they are, they can take you up on your offer with ease.
- Write compelling content – make sure you have written interesting content. Include creative headlines. A succinct message using clear communication. And the right balance of text and imagery. E.g. if you are contacting someone for the first time, adding a 1200-word blog to your email (no matter what the topic is on) will likely turn a busy person off. If you are trying to sell to someone a product they’ve never seen, basic description, function and uses would be my recommendation. Enough information to intrigue them, yet not too much so that they have no need to go to your product site or online shopping cart to order. Which is ultimately one of your goals.
- Edit and Proofread – have someone other than yourself read your content and check it. They don’t need to edit it, but look out for grammar and spelling errors (you may have read it a thousand times but it’s very likely you are too close to it and keep missing simple mistakes).
- Use a campaign builder to create your email – This is software that allows you to create an email, either in HTML or by using pre-designed templates. On the lower end of the scale there are companies like Mailchimp. Elastic, SugarCRM (free open source) that you can sign up to for free and start using and on the more expensive end companies such as Hubspot, Marketo and Salesforce will allow you to use them for a subscription fee.
- Create a HTML version of your email – Most email providers do this now, but HTML email converts better in marketing tests almost every time. However, there are some factors you should consider before deciding which email format to use. Ultimately, there’s a solution to getting the best part of both worlds.
- Add an ‘open in browser’ link to each email – sometime you will find this within the templates you use (in the case of Mailchimp or Marketo) and sometimes, you will have to manually include this. Open in Browser allows the reader to directly click, or right click and have a menu that will open the current file in a default browser. This is often better for viewing more of your email.
- Test – Once your email is ready to go make sure to send it to yourself. Send it to yourself at various email inboxes such as, Hotmail, Gmail and Outlook. Once open, test each of the links in your email i.e. click on each one and make sure the links go where they should.
- Check all devices – make sure to check how the email is displaying on varying devices such as, mobile, tablet and desktop. Appearances are everything, so make sure you make a good first impression. It may be the only chance you get.
- Time and day – Work out the best time and day your audience is most likely to open your email. How do you do this? There is no one way. Why? It depends on what you are trying to sell. For e.g. You send an email out to your audience on a Saturday to advise of a lawn mower sale. Unfortunately, because your target market are active handymen, and actually out and about doing handy stuff around the house, they don’t see your message and miss the sale. On the other hand, your audience are primarily semi-retired DIY people who happen to have more leisure time so they choose to spend their weekends catching up online. Both options are plausible. I would recommend testing various days/times and measuring what your best open and click rates were with a similar offer, then using that as a benchmark.
- A/B Test your subject line – Test the subject line. The subject line is the proverbial gatekeeper. If your subject line does not entice the reader to click your email send it has ultimately failed. Simple. But this doesn’t mean you can’t try a new tactic. A/B/C and even D, subject lines until you learn what works best!
- Include an unsubscribe option. – To adhere to SPAM laws, you must include an unsubscribe option. Whether this is a button which automatically deletes the lead from your list, or you advise leads they can ‘hit reply with the word unsubscribe’ make sure to include it. NB: if you receive a request to unsubscribe by email, the SPAM act requires you to unsubscribe the lead within 48hrs.
Once all 12 steps are covered, hit send and wait for the open and click frenzy to unfold. Measure your responses and enjoy the results.