How To Do It Right

Dear Email Diva,

I create the email campaigns for our company, a furniture retailer with seven stores in the upper Midwest. We do not do online sales; our Web site and email campaigns are a tool for our customers to use and a way to drive them to our stores.

We use [an Email Service Provider] to manage our email distribution. We have about 10,000 subscribers, with an average open rate of about 20% and an average click-through rate of about 3%. We gather new addresses by asking customers if they'd like to sign up for special offers and design tips when they come into our stores, and by calling attention to our Web site and sign-up form in other forms of advertising. We send emails about once a month, usually to coincide with specific promotions we are holding, sometimes to distribute information such as design tips. Usually the promotion we send to our email list is above and beyond the promotion we offer to our other customers, or completely unique to our email list.

Any tips you have would be greatly appreciated.


Dear CA,
You are doing such a great job on so many fronts that the Email Diva feels compelled to share with the group. These are lessons that every organization, whether a humble enterprise or a multinational behemoth, would do well to heed.

1. Use an ESP. You didn't try to reinvent the wheel or let your Web host provider reinvent it for you. There are too many great providers out there, at all price ranges, to "go it alone." The creation, deployment and delivery of email is a complex process; if it's not your core competency, leave it to an expert.

2. Create a great user experience. You have developed an email value proposition that includes special offers, useful content (design tips) and exclusive, subscriber-only benefits. You also thank customers for their patronage (now there's a dying art) and ask for feedback.

3. Build your list, online and off. Using a variety of media, you promote the value of your program by extolling the benefits to the consumer. (Isn't it easy when you start with a great user experience?)

4. Consider frequency. Because email is relatively inexpensive, many companies deluge subscribers with messages. You not only limit emails to about once a month, which is appropriate for your purchase cycle, but also send email when there is a good reason to do so, such as a special promotion.

5. Repeat site nav in the email. Recognizing that readers may have interests beyond the specific offering of a particular message, you repeat your main site navigation options to serve a wide range of needs.

6. Define goals and measure progress. You have defined the goal of your program, to drive store traffic, and are measuring the impact of email, in part, with redeemable offers that encourage customers to print out email promotions and bring them to the store.

While you've covered many of the bases, there is always room for improvement. Are you collecting and learning from your customer data? Ask customers for their color, style and brand preferences, and tailor emails to these preferences. Alternatively, ask for negative preferences ("I am not interested in: traditional furniture, anything red, etc."). Have you merged purchase data into your email database, so that you can offer suggestions ("Since you have purchased Brand X in the past, you may be interested in their new companion line, which just arrived in our stores."). Are you looking at your response data in the aggregate to see which campaigns yielded the most/least response, store traffic, forwards and unsubscribes? Force yourself to present "lessons learned" each year to continually improve your program.

Finally, and this is for everyone out there: Consider how your emails render in a variety of environments, with images blocked in a preview pane. Make sure you give consumers a compelling reason, in HTML text in the top left corner of the email, to unblock images and read the message. A box with a red X and a "click to download images" message is not a compelling reason!

Good Luck!

The Email Diva



Send your questions or submit your email for critique to Melinda Krueger, the Email Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

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