Last year Gmail's tabs feature caused major concern for many marketers because it moved marketing emails out of a user's primary inbox. As of last week Google has also added an unsubscribe button to Gmail that will automatically appear in the header of marketing emails. All signs point to a world where email marketing is dying.
Although marketing media such as Social Media are booming, when it comes to building business relationships, email is still considered the most professional form of communication. Contrary to popular belief, email marketing is not dead. It is, however, becoming more of a challenge for marketing emails to stand out in the inbox. So the question is, how do you send awesome marketing emails that will cut through the clutter?
1. Address Your Audience Directly.
Simple details such as including a contact's first name in the greeting and/or in the subject line can significantly improve your open and click rates. Emails with personalized subject lines are actually 22.2% more likely to be opened. (Adestra July 2012 Report). Similarly, starting an email with 'Hi Sumayya' demonstrates that you are actually going to use the information you collect to improve my experience as a customer. Granted, a marketer is more likely to think this than your typical customer, but it is important, especially because your competition is probably already doing it.
An important step before you send an email that automatically populates values from a contact record, is to cleanse your data. I usually go through the recipient list to make sure the values are correctly capitalized and are not incomplete or simply garbage. It is also important to have a default set up for blank values: "Hi friend" or "Hi there," is better than "Hi ,". You can usually determine a contact's names from their email, even if they don't fill out the first name field or fill it in incorrectly.
2. Provide A Face For Your Organization.
Your email should come from someone. Define what types of emails will come from whom - for example a senior marketing manager for a content offer or the relevant sales rep for regional emails - then stick with that person. This will allow you to build up trust with your email list. Receiving an email from Dave in client services is likely to stick out more than one from firstname.lastname@example.org and over time I'm likely to recognize when an email is from your organization.
Also, make sure that you include the correct 'reply to' address so your recipient is able to email back who they are expecting. Don't send an email from david@yourcompany and have me hit reply only to find I'm responding to email@example.com. That just tells me my response is going straight to a general inbox and gives the impression that you don't care.
3. It Doesn't Always Have To Look Like A Mass Email.
A great way to set yourself apart from your competitor's emails is to send plain text emails. This means creating an email that looks like it was sent by a real person (through Outlook, for example). Remember that since you are sending out a blast you still need to include an unsubscribe link in the bottom of the email. These types of emails are great for sending on behalf of a sales rep to let clients know about a new product or let them know the rep will be in town to possibly set up a meeting.
4. Give Them An Easy Way Out.
Your email should make it simple to unsubscribe. A best practice is to also include a reason why the contact is receiving the email. LinkedIn is a great example of this; their footer tells me exactly why I got the email and offers a simple way to manage my subscription preferences.
5. Send Relevant Emails.
Over the years I've subscribed to multiple daily deal websites such as Groupon, Wagjag etc. I barely use any of them anymore, in fact they are automatically labelled as 'deals' and archived as soon as they hit my inbox. Once in a while I'll go through them and mark most as read without even bothering to open them. This highlights two key facts:
a. First, if the subject line doesn't entertain me or highlight something I'd be interested in buying I'm not going to open it. Now, something I'd be interested in buying is usually an item I've been researching already or have purchased in the past. This means that whoever is marketing to me has a much better chance of getting my attention if they understand my purchase behavior and my interests. This is why buyer personas are extremely important.
b. Second, if I open it and don't find the product that I'm interested in presented clearly and in a compelling way, I'm going to delete the email. This means that sending relevant and compelling content is crucial.
6. Worry About What You Send More Than When You Send It.
Again, be relevant. A common myth is that that the number of emails you send is a major cause of lower engagement. Obviously you shouldn't be sending your contacts five emails a week but frequency is not as much of an issue as relevancy. I'd be happy to get more frequent emails from sites like Wait but Why or Upworthy because they usually feed my interests.
In conclusion, I reiterate: email marketing is not dead. According to the ExactTarget Subscribers, Fans, and Followers 2012 Channel Preferences Survey: "77% of consumers told us that they prefer to receive permission-based marketing communications through email." Marketers just have to get more creative than the competition to be heard.