Putting on a zebra suit with your buddy and entering an area with freely roaming lions might be considered a bad idea. The decisions people make, in everyday life, can have more of an effect than you can sometimes imagine. You might not truly notice this in every day life, until you make one of those really bad decisions, where after you have fully committed, there is no way to pull out or change the inevitable. Making good decisions, especially when it comes to your business, takes time when considering all of the possible outcomes, scenarios and ramifications. Always take the time to fully vet your ideas and have a well thought out and planned directive.
Bad pizza may be better than no pizza at all, but we cannot say the same about email marketing. Use this marketing platform incorrectly and the consequences will be worse than a bad case of heartburn—it will do irreparable damage to your company’s reputation. Some poor practices will get you blacklisted; others may have you labeled a spammer. At best—and that’s a figurative best—you’ll piss off your customers. They won’t stop at unsubscribe; they’ll write your business off altogether. You’d be better off not marketing at all.
If you’re going to reach out to customers and prospects with email marketing, it’s essential to do it right. Consider these best practices that will keep you on the good side of your customer base, Internet service providers, email service providers, and the law.
Don’t Over Sell
Most businesses need to stop advertising and start listening to their customers’ wants and needs. While 20 percent discounts are nice, the people who buy from you also want to be entertained and enlightened. Consider sending them interesting and topical information, tips for getting the most out of your product, and life improving tidbits in addition to deals and special offers. A mix of communications keeps your marketing fresh—it also keeps your customers interested in your brand.
Don’t Over Send
Edge Research recently conducted a survey of small and mid-sized business marketing managers. They discovered that only 6 percent email their customer list daily. That’s a good thing—those yahoos are likely irritating their client base and losing sales as a result. Thirty-nine percent take a smarter approach, emailing their list at least once per week. At Email Answers, our clients, on average send email marketing newsletters, promotions and specials four to eight times per month. They may send a weekly newsletter followed up with a weekly special or promotion. Remember, too much of anything is not a good thing.
Avoid the Filter
According to Return Path, 10 to 20 percent of sent emails never make it to their destination. Spam filters are the biggest culprit, grabbing communications before they reach your customer’s inbox. To keep your emails out of the junk folder, experts suggest avoiding using “spammy” words and phrases. You should also SAY NO TO ALL CAPS, and don’t over use exclamation points!!! Additionally, spam filters often consider red and green copy, single HTML images and sloppy HTML code to be spam indicators.
Always Get Permission
It’s sad but true. Sometimes customers will report legitimate businesses for spam abuse. However, that’s often the fault of the businesses themselves because they fail to ask permission first. If you want to stay off the blacklist, never email promotions to customers without first asking permission. Never email promotions to prospects you meet at a trade show without having them opt-in to your list. To be on the safe side, never email promotions to your mother without first getting permission.
Keep Your List Fresh
Many people change email addresses regularly. A hard bounce indicates that an email address is bad, dead and no longer in service. Every email you send to a bad email address is time and money wasted. Whether you’re mailing to your own customer base or a list you generated using lead generation techniques, consider using an email list cleaning and validation service. It will save you from expensive headaches in the long run.
Remember that Edge Research survey we mentioned earlier? Well, respondents also indicated that email marketing receives 15 percent of their marketing budget on average—more dollars than any other marketing tool. If your business sets aside $50,000 per year to woo clients, that’s $7,500—money wasted if you engage in bad email marketing. If you’re not going to follow basic email best practices, you’re better off spending your marketing dollars on bad pizza and Rolaids, or better yet, just opt for the zebra costume and don’t forget to grab your buddy to fill the head end, because you deserve to be the ass .