New Year's Email Marketing Resolutions

As we close in on the new year, here are some resolutions worth adding to your list:

1. Each month replace one of your previously planned broadcast emails with a targeted email to a segment of your list. This holiday season retailers sent out record email volumes -- and also clearly suffered some deliverability issues during the first week of December, according to my Retail Email Index. Retailers clearly pushed the limits of acceptable volumes. It should be a wake-up call to all email marketers that everyone needs to move toward more segmented messages and fewer broadcast emails. And CXOs need to understand that "just send one more email" is no longer a viable strategy.

The irony is that a well-crafted, targeted email can generate as much sales as a broadcast email, while simultaneously increasing engagement and reducing list fatigue. However, a targeted email does take a little extra effort to create.

If you haven't done so already, consider launching a preference center to give you extra data with which to segment your list for targeted mailings.

2. Schedule a review of all your email forms and triggered emails. Sign-up forms, preference centers, welcome emails, triggered emails -- if you haven't done an inventory of these pages and emails and reviewed them to make sure that they're accurate and up to date, do it now. These tend to get set up and then forgotten about - sometimes for years.

My favorite example of the tendency to lose track of these things is Best Buy, which hasn't updated its email communications preferences page in years. Best Buy's preference center asks you if you're interested in video games on the following platforms: PS2, PS one, Game Boy Advance, GameCube and Xbox. All of those platforms were rendered obsolete 3+ years ago. This makes a terrible impression on subscribers; the company is also missing out on information to segment and target subscribers with relevant emails.

To help you out, the Email Experience Council's Email Design Roundtable will soon be releasing an Annual Review Checklist that will detail all the elements you should consider updating, as well as other topics worth addressing at least one a year.

3. Speak to the subscriber and not from the point of view of your business. Make sure that your emails and forms address consumers with them in mind. What's in it for them? What's appealing to them? And how does your email program help them?

I'm currently compiling the data for my latest Retail Welcome Email Benchmark Study and I've seen several retailers thank subscribers for joining their email list. Who wants to join a list? You'd be better off welcoming folks to your "community" or thanking them for joining your "email readers." In its welcome email, Omaha Steaks says, "You are now among over 2 million savvy shoppers who are eligible for exclusive discounts, private offers, and valuable tips from Omaha Steaks." That sounds much better to me than joining a "list."

4. Redesign your email templates with image blocking in mind. Retailers made great strides in 2008 in adapting their templates to imaging blocking. More retailers started using HTML text in their designs, including converting their navigation bars to HTML text links, ensuring that they have alt text for their images, and adding preheader messages. But there are still too many marketers that haven't made the adjustment.

5. Segment out your inactive subscribers. Send them different messaging than your active subscribers and at a lower frequency. Also consider sending them emails with a different template, one that has an unsubscribe link at the top, or offering the choice to opt-down to a lower frequency. After a long period of inactivity, you may also want to send a reactivation campaign, asking them to opt in again in order to continue receiving emails.

No one wants to unnecessarily cut subscribers who are viewing emails with images off and not clicking because they're going directly to a site, shopping offline, etc. But at a certain point, inactives become a source of deliverability problems and a distraction from your engaged subscribers.  

Happy New Year, everyone.



2 comments about "New Year's Email Marketing Resolutions ".
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  1. Shawn Bennett-Natoli, December 31, 2008 at 11:23 a.m.

    I think some ears were burning. I just brought up these very issues in our Marketing Meeting yesterday!

  2. Darin Dixon, January 2, 2009 at 7:16 p.m.

    I'm glad you pointed out to address the consumer and speak from their point of view and not yours. Very simple concept but too often it is the other way around. It also helps to have emails addressed from a specific person instead of just a department. Anything you can do to make it a little more personal will help your message be received.

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