It’s no surprise that people still consider “email blasts” synonymous with spam because the former are often poorly executed. As a small business owner, you would be right to reject a marketing practice that could annoy your current or potential customers.
However, not all email blasts are created equal. Developing a proper email campaign requires dedication and attention to detail. These 10 best practices show you the right way to engage customers, from designing the email template to successful execution. You’ll also see how to measure the results of your email marketing efforts to continually improve the process and drive more customers to your organization.
What are email blasts?
First, so we’re all talking about the same thing, an email blast consists of a single message delivered to a planned group of inboxes simultaneously. Examples include a clothing retailer distributing an announcement about its new spring line of bathing suits, a financial firm informing its customers of an investment opportunity, or a retailer promoting a special offer or coupon.
Spam law and opt-outs
In the early days of the internet, marketers often sent enormous quantities of unsolicited email messages. This quickly prompted criticism and complaints about commercial email, which soon became known as spam.
In 2003, U.S. lawmakers addressed growing consumer complaints by creating the CAN- SPAM Act, overseen by the Federal Trade Commission. CAN-SPAM establishes some rules and requirements for commercial email, including the right of recipients to force businesses to stop sending them spam.
There are two absolute essentials to sending out an email blast that will keep in in compliance.
- Your list must have agreed to receive an email from you at some point.
- You must provide an “unsubscribe” or “opt out” link at the bottom of your email.
10 Best Practices
1. Design and Branding
You’re one of countless companies sending emails to customers, so it’s important to create messages that include your firm’s design and branding elements, such as consistent typeface and colors. That’s the first signal to remind a person they’ve engaged with your company before and it makes you instantly recognizable.
If your firm does not currently have cohesive branding, hire a graphic design professional to work with your marketing department to settle on a color scheme, symbol, logo and perhaps a unified slogan for the business.
How often you send out messages depends on a number of factors, so there’s no hard rule about the frequency of each email blast. Instead survey how several of your employees feel about the messages they get from companies. And remember that engagement rates tend to be higher the lower the frequency of communications.
A customer’s sentiments shift depending on how loyal they are to the business, as well as on the value of the messages they receive. Your customers may want to receive a useful email from you once a week or once a month, depending on the offer, quality of information and their level of loyalty or trust. Weekly coupon offers or industry news may get more customers to engage with your email content, as opposed to offers to join a loyalty program or to check out your latest product. A coupon for a new product is the best of both worlds.
The best way to find out how frequently you should be sending email blasts is to monitor statistics from your email software and see how many recipients open them over time and how many unsubscribe.
3. Messaging/Call to Action
Pay special attention to your message and its primary purpose. What is the email blast trying to accomplish? Is it to inform customers about a product upgrade? Is it to introduce them to a new website feature or service?
A key part of these emails is to craft an enticing call to action (CTA). Your CTA may simply ask the recipient to call your customer service department, download a coupon or white paper or read more on your website. Address the question of why it is worth the recipient’s time to click on a CTA button and further engage with your content, products or services. Show them how you can help them solve a problem, learn more, save time or save money.
People will most often complete a CTA through a link or links. The email software keeps track of which people open your messages and then what percentage of them actually click a hyperlink to visit your website. This data is useful because it shows how appealing and convincing your email blast messages are. Lower click rates might be due to poorly worded marketing copy or poor offers, such as a discount that will expire too soon to be useful for the recipient.
Based on what outcomes you might want out of a particular email blast, you can experiment with different hyperlinks to different audiences. You might, for instance, divide your recipients into a few different groups, with some getting hyperlinks to your company’s home page, some to your loyalty program description page and some to your blog.
Are you courting business-focused, high-level corporate executives, or sending out whimsical invitations to parents to sign up for a new service? Once you establish the tone, you’ll stay focused on the message.
Emotions play a big role in email blasts because they connect on a more personal level. If you specialize in security products, the tone might be serious, citing burglary statistics as the pain point, followed by text that presents your company as the solution.
6. Brief messaging
In many cases the briefer your message, the better your response rate. This is especially true considering the increasing numbers of people using mobile devices to access email.
Try to convey your message in a few, short sentences — think of the smartphone user with a small screen. If you can display your email’s content in one screen, the recipients won’t have to tap or scroll down to see what you have to say. That’s not always possible, but it should always be the goal.
A reader may give up on reading an email that’s too long. People often think they’ll get back to the email, but most often do not.
Pictures can often tell a lot more about your products and services than a big chunk of text. Use images in your email blasts, but be careful about the file size. You don’t want to frustrate recipients with long load times. If people pay for the data they download, they may abandon your email before it loads.
Always include a descriptive line of text about each image you include.
Remember that some of your recipients may suffer from vision impairment, relying on their device to read emails to them. Including a description of the image also helps those who have vision impairment; they would have their phone set up to read messages and image descriptions, to them.
8. Special offers
People love to get special offers in their inbox. You may find that they want these kinds of email blasts more than any other type of message. Coupons, opportunities to get a special discount if they order service by a deadline or two-for-one deals are good examples that work well in email blasts.
9. Social signals
Don’t forget to include links to your social media. Encouraging recipients to follow you on Facebook, Twitter and other social channels will help keep customers connected to your company, even if they eventually decide to unsubscribe from your email list.
The time when you send out an email blast can influence how well it is received. Discovering the best times to transmit messages is a process of trial and error.
Experiment with sending a message by dividing the recipients into two or more groups. Send it to one group on Monday at 8 a.m. and send the same email to a different group at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. The best email marketing software keeps track of the results to give you a better idea of the best times to send future messages.
Measuring Email Marketing Success
It's critical to measure the results of emails to quantify success and improve campaigns.
With automated email software, a company gathers important data such as:
- Open rates (how many recipients actually opened your email)
- Click-through rates on links that you include in the message
- Hard bounces (e-mail that is undeliverable because of a bad address)
- Unsubscribe rate
It's also important to set goals for individual email blasts. For example, you might have a goal to get one percent of recipients to download a coupon or call your customer service department. You might charge your team with writing copy so compelling that your unsubscribe rate stays low.
By using software to distribute the email blast and track how each recipient reacts to it, a small business soon has solid data to build upon. A marketing team can quickly discover whether messages are succeeding according to pre-determined criteria and goals.
Following these best practices for email blasts, helps distribute well-crafted messages that will keep customers informed, engaged and increase the chance of a purchase.