Armed with the enormous potential of internet marketing, there are now more ways to communicate with your customers than ever before. Nonetheless, in spite of mediums like social media and business blogging now being essential components of any marketing strategy, email remains by far the most effective and affordable way to keep in touch. However, it's not just which methods you use to reach out to your target audience - it's the way you do it, and that means building an email campaign with compelling newsletter that don't fall foul of the spam filter.
With the correct approach, email provides the most attractive return on investment of any form of marketing that has ever existed. Thanks to the advent of bulk mailing services and data analytics solutions, it's now possible to get your content in front of the masses for next to nothing. Unfortunately, that's also why spammers love email as a platform for getting just a handful of responses from thousands of junk emails sent. Nonetheless, a legitimate business with a robust approach to email can do a whole lot better by crafting compelling and relevant email newsletters.
While spammers rely on numbers alone, successful email marketing campaigns rely on quality content being sent to the right people. As such, everything starts with a quality mailing list, which will eventually grow to become an invaluable asset to your brand. Instead of buying mailing lists as spammers love to do, proper companies use list-building techniques to stay on the right side of the law, stay clear of the best spam filters and reach audiences with excellent and actionable content. There aren't any shortcuts to building a quality mailing list, but the effort is well worth the reward.
It All Starts with Asking for Permission
The success of any business in any industry hinges on its reputation, and that means giving your target audience what they want. That's why promotional email should only ever be sent to those who have taken the time to opt in to your mailing list. As per the CAN-SPAM act in the US, and similar acts in other countries, you're also legally obliged to ask for permission before you start sending out sales letters. To begin with, you need to familiarize yourself with what constitutes permission and go above and beyond legal requirements alone to protect and grow your reputation.
While no legitimate business will ever send out spam emails or let its affiliates do so on their behalf, many companies try to grow their mailing lists by hoping that implied permission is enough. It isn't, at least not if you want to avoid modern spam filtering techniques and/or annoying your subscribers. The problem with implied permission is that it only goes by the fact that you have received the recipient's email during normal business transactions, and that does not constitute permission to send sales content of any kind.
A key goal of any email marketing campaign is to have as many people as possible reading your newsletters and, preferably, acting on them. That means taking things to the next step by having your subscribers give explicit, rather than implied, permission to send sales content. This may involve, for example, a subscriber providing their email address for the specific reason of receiving your newsletters. Better still, you can and should have them confirm their subscriptions within a set amount of time to be sure that they're a right fit for your mailing list.
Finding Quality Subscribers
Your email marketing campaign should be segmented and personalized to each individual subscriber, and that means separating your list into different groups. There are many ways you can segment your mailing lists, such as by demographical attributes, past purchases and other interactions with your website. Yet another important criterion is when and how you obtained the subscriber's email address in the first place. For example, some people will subscribe before they purchase anything, while others will provide their addresses only when making a purchase.
Aside from adding clearly visible signup links across your website and other online resources, you should also take the time to ask new and existing customers if they'd like to subscribe to your newsletters whenever you have the chance. For online stores, for example, you can add the option of opting in to your newsletters when the customer checks out. However, it is important to avoid having these boxes selected by default, since doing so is often seen as presumptive and manipulative, and even illegal in some jurisdictions.
If your business is a traditional high-street store or other venue, then you still have many other opportunities to ask people to subscribe. For example, a restaurant or accommodation provider might ask while taking bookings over the phone. Another option involves collecting contacts by providing links on business cards, fliers and other advertising materials. If your business attends any trade shows, you have yet another excellent opportunity to build up trust by making more personal connections and asking would-be customers face-to-face if they would like to subscribe.
Asking for the Right Information
Privacy has become one of the most pervasive concerns of the modern world, given that many companies are downright irresponsible with the way they handle personal information about their potential and existing customers. Some businesses even go so far as to try to get their would-be subscribers to fill in lengthy forms. However, the less you ask, the more people are likely to subscribe. After all, few people have any interest in form-filling, particularly now that most are using mobile devices with fiddly touchscreens.
So which information do you really need when you're building your mailing list? It's often said that information is one of the world's most valuable commodities, but that doesn't mean you should expect people to give away any more than their first name and email address when they're taking a few moments to subscribe to your newsletters. Fortunately, however, there's a great deal of other valuable information that you can garner using other methods, all without having to be intrusive. This way, you'll be better equipped to personalize your emails with the right content.
If your business serves a diverse range of demographics interested in completely different products or services, it's often a good idea to provide some additional options during the sign-up process. This will allow your new subscribers to choose which type of content they want to receive. Beyond that, all the mainstream email marketing platforms also allow you to personalize your emails based on things like past purchases, wishlists and visited product pages. Over time, you'll also be able to learn more about your subscribers based on how they respond to your emails.
Maintaining Your Mailing List
Building a great mailing list is itself an ongoing process of continuous improvement, but every bit as important as earning new subscribers is keeping your list clean and regularly removing inactive subscribers. In fact, removing subscribers who haven't responded after a few months is particularly important for avoiding the spam filters. If a subscriber isn't responding, it likely means they're simply not interested in what you have to offer and may already have flagged your emails rather than bother with unsubscribing. Alternatively, it may be that the address is no longer valid.
It's wise to audit and clean your mailing list at least twice per year to make sure your contacts are still fresh and relevant. After all, if your email marketing campaign is experiencing high bounce rates, then it may reflect badly on your reputation or, worse still, have your address end up in certain blacklists. For similar reasons, you should always take care to remove any fake or spam accounts, since these may be used by unscrupulous competitors trying to damage your marketing campaign. Your email platform should provide the tools necessary to fight against such problems.
Sometimes, subscribers might just forget about you because your content is no longer relevant to them or you're not sending out newsletters frequently enough. If this is the case, you may want to consider starting a reengagement campaign. In other words, before removing subscribers, you might want to tempt them with an exclusive discount or other special offer. You can also use this opportunity to ask the recipient if they would rather unsubscribe. Chances are, they'll appreciate your transparency and do so rather than flag your emails as spam.
Just like any digital marketing strategy, building and maintaining a quality mailing list is never done. It's part of an ongoing strategy that includes regular testing, careful segmentation of your target audience and removing any subscribers who aren't interested in hearing from you. It's a lot of work, and there aren't any shortcuts but, done correctly, the rewards will be enormous. Email remains the most reliable and cheapest way to get in touch, and despite the rise of social media, studies have proven time and again that email offers the highest levels of engagement.