Mature and Improve Your E-mail Campaign in 2011

My previous column covered the fundamentals and advanced marketing e-mail practices that should keep you off the “worst” section of Forrester’s lists of “best” and “worst” e-mail campaigns for 2010.

Among other discouraging reports, Forrester found that the average score for B2B campaigns actually dropped since its last review in 2006. So, in this column, let’s review tips to mature and improve your e-mail campaigns before Forrester’s next review.

1. Optimize your presentation

You can have the best e-mail list in the world, but if you don’t nail the presentation, very few will engage in your message. Coordinating your subject line, e-mail pre-header/header, content, offer, call to action, and social integration is the key to maximizing your open and click-through rates.

To maximize subscriber engagement with your e-mail, your message needs to answer three questions:

  • Who is it from?

    As marketers, we know our sub-brands, official product names, and the CMO’s full name, but do your subscribers know all this, too?

    Communicate the content essentials upfront. Use a pre-header with HTML-based system text to summarize the content and provide a link to the call action above your official header. This gives your mobile viewers key content at the top of the message without the need to wade through HTML code.

    Optimize your message header for images off. As most ISPs and e-mail clients block images by default, it is key to use system text in your footer without depending on images. Keep your header short and compact. Communicate your brand name and key message points in system text. Include site navigation links as system text to drive the click.

  • What’s in it for me?

    Analyze your content from your subscriber’s eye as well. Is information relevant? Does it address or solve a pressing business problem? Is it worth my time to click and want to learn more?

    Entice your subscribers with a good subject line. Communicate value and leave them wanting more to drive the click. Don’t include all the information they need in the subject line itself. They may not open or click and you will never know if they found your content valuable.

  • How do I take action?

    Evaluate your creative to gauge if it is easily scanned and the call to action is clear. At best, you have no more than eight seconds of your subscriber’s attention. Make sure your content is engaging and whets the appetite to click and learn more on your website.

    2. Look to build trust.

    Building trust with your subscribers is one of the most important elements of e-mail marketing. Communicate that you respect their time and strive to provide them with relevant content. If you abuse this trust, recipients will unsubscribe, preventing you from e-mailing them until you rebuild their trust.

    • Will your subscriber recognize your sender name?

      Look at your subject line and header through the eyes of a prospect or new customer. Does the “from” or sender line clearly communicate who sent the e-mail? Would the recipient recognize the brand names, product names, and personal names?

      Avoid using executive names that the subscriber will most likely not recognize. The subscriber has to have a relationship with the sender to make this tactic succeed.

    • Does your e-mail give the subscriber some control?

      Provide a link where subscribers can choose the types of e-mail communications they want to receive or change their address or format.

      Avoid allowing subscribers to manage frequency. They will most often choose a frequency less often than they typically respond.

      Instead, ask yourself if the message you are planning is relevant to your subscribers. If not, don’t e-mail.

    • Does your e-mail footer make you look trustworthy?

      The footer is a key element for your subscribers to ensure that your e-mail is legitimate:

      • Include your physical address and phone number (and contact name if possible).
      • State the reason the subscriber is receiving the e-mail and how you obtained permission to send the e-mail.
      • Include links to unsubscribe (including the amount of time for it to take effect), change e-mail preferences, and access your privacy policy.

    The Last Word

    Use these tips and advice to analyze your own e-mail program for gaps and to help your e-mail program mature.

    If you succeed, your program will successfully generate more leads and revenue, and you’ll help B2B e-mail marketing get rated number one the next time Forrester analyzes e-mail programs.

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