Business Briefing: Email Marketing Best Practice
Email marketing has often been closely associated with spam but, at the same time, has become an integral part of many marketing manager’s plans. New Media Knowledge looked for advice on how to run a successful campaign.
Email marketing accounted for almost a quarter (23 per cent) of UK digital marketing budgets during 2008, according to econsultancy, underlining the medium as a key component of modern sales campaigns. But recently, email marketers have been warned that without taking basic steps to ensure campaigns are executed correctly a great deal of marketing budgets could be wasted.
NMK looked at one firm who had overcome major obstacles to create a successful email marketing business and also found out the five major pitfalls to avoid when starting out on email marketing.
A major user of email marketing is Best of the Best, a firm behind many of the ‘super car’ lotteries at UK airports. In the last six years, the company has given away £8 million worth of cars to more than 200 winners and has built up a database of over 250,000 players who are contacted each week. This means the company generates around one million emails per month. Email is therefore a vital part of the company’s sales and marketing strategy and the principal way in which it can encourage repeat business.
When Best of the Best’s database continued to grow and its email campaigns continued to evolve in complexity, it abandoned the outsourced Email Service Provider (ESP) model and turned to email marketing specialist StrongMail’s OnDemand tool for email campaign fulfilment.
Using an email fulfilment tool enabled Best of the Best to have more control over its email marketing, according to the company’s online marketing manager, Richard Bewley.
“We get more control over the timing and segmentation of our campaigns, while also gaining a dedicated email delivery server – so we no longer have to battle with other companies for the necessary bandwidth to send our email campaigns,” he said.
Above: Richard Bewley
Cut To The Chase
StrongMail’s system has cut the time taken to create an email campaign by allowing Best of the Best to design and send personalised emails based on customer participation history and preferences, which improves customer responsiveness to campaigns, Bewley explained.
The system also automatically analyses message delivery trends to check bounce-back numbers and unsubscribe requests, keeping the mailing list accurate and giving Bewley visibility he had not previously had access to.
StrongMail’s Live Update feature keeps tabs on changing Internet Service Provider (ISP) requirements, meaning Best of the Best’s campaigns can avoid falling into spam filters, a problem which historically had been impacting campaign effectiveness.
“We are always aware of the parameters that Google, Hotmail or other ISPs are using to identify potential spammers and we can take action to make sure our emails which have, after all, been requested by our customers, arrive in their inboxes and not their junk folders,” Bewley added.
Five Star Performance
According to email marketing firm Emailvision there are five common flaws which cost UK businesses customers. In order these include:
1) Messages stopped as spam: Emailvision identifies this as the key error in email marketing and the easiest to fix. Subject line headings such as “WIN A GREAT PRIZE” will not get past spam filters.
2) All image, but no text: Companies often send mails that are purely image-based but contain no text, Emailvision says. Many ISPs don’t automatically download images so recipients are left with blank boxes. This makes it hard to track response rates. The company recommends this is considered in the email design and that marketers use a tool that demonstrates different ISPs or send a test email first.
3) Missing information: Some campaign emails go out with fundamental information missing, such as a name. “There is nothing worse than Dear____ because the first name field is not completed. Even writing ‘Dear customer’ is preferable. Getting basics like this right is a must and a simple fix to avoid looking unprofessional,” Emailvision advises.
4) Right to reply: Emails are frequently sent containing the wrong return address.
5) Trying too hard: Designing an email as if it was a website is the fifth most common error in email marketing, Emailvision says. “Heavy use of flash or java script often doesn’t render properly in the finished email and can be complicated to design. It’s better to keep it clean and simple, allowing the reader to click through to a website,” the company recommends.
“In today’s economy, return on investment has never been more important as marketing spend is now analysed and questioned by senior stakeholders,” said Nick Gold, Emailvision’s UK managing director. “Companies can’t afford to be making such simple mistakes and missing potential sales. The fundamental aims of any campaign should be high deliverability, targeted mailing, maximum click-through rates and basic personalisation – don’t let the email be the reason customers go elsewhere.”