“Emailing is dead”... How many times have you come across this statement? If we were to believe some social media moguls and some well-known pure players out there, the death of email would be just around the corner. Well, we’ve been reading about it for years… and we’re still waiting.
Let’s face it: with around 2.6 billion active email users in the world (and growing!), email is way ahead any other digital communication and marketing channels (around 1.65 billion users for Facebook and +300 million users for Twitter). And its ROI is ridiculously high: for every $1 invested in email marketing, the average ROI is around $36! Much higher than the $13 average produced by social media and the $22 granted by SEM.

These great results make email the perfect channel for startup and growing business. But to reach your goal - make more money, that is - you’ll need to crack your email strategy first.

How can I do this, you ask? Great question.

We’ve put together a Best Practice Guide to ensure that your emails actually land in your contacts’ inbox, are opened and generate sales and engagement.

Intrigued? Prepare to be inspired.

Your contact list is your most valuable asset

First things first: to send emails, you need people to receive them. Amazing, right? You might think that borrowing, renting or buying a ready-made list is a quick and good idea. Plus, the person you bought it from swore it would boost your email sendings from the go. It can’t be that bad, right? Wrong.

How to avoid becoming a spammer?

First, sending emails to people who haven’t specifically allowed you to do so is illegal in a number of countries. On top of that, there are many chances the people you’re contacting have never heard about you or your products before. Do you really think they’ll stop to open your email in their overcrowded inbox? Let alone click on it and become customers…

Finally, it is likely that using a purchased list will mark you as a spammer. Most of the actors in the email world (webmails, Email Service Providers, Internet Service Providers...) will insert unused email addresses into those ready-made contact lists. Those false inactive email addresses are called spamtraps. The person you bought it from probably promised it was clean. It’s not. Spamtraps are in most of the third party lists that are sold nowadays. If you send an email to a spamtrap, it will be noticed by whoever set it and you’ll soon be marked as a bad sender. And we all know how bad reputations work... It’ll spread in the industry. Everyone will know. And, as a result, the emails you send won’t reach your contacts. You’ll have lost time and money for nothing.

Building organic contact lists

So… buying lists is a big no-no. Then how do you find people you can send your beautiful newsletters to? Well, you’ll have to build that list. Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it sounds. It’s a process that won’t take as much time as you’d think, as long as you know what content to send and include an opt-in checkbox in each and every form in your website, to enable people to sign up for your email communications. Opt-ins are key, as they are proof of your contacts’ consent to receiving these messages.

Knowing that, place your subscription forms on all the pages people visit on your website. Don’t forget social media platforms, either. Twitter’s Lead Gen cards and Facebook’s Business Page Button are great tools to generate attention and get more contacts.

But there are many other creative ideas to grow your list! You can offer clients a reward for subscribing, like a discount code or an exclusive whitepaper. Or you could get your clients and prospects’ email address when they sign up for one of your events.

You want people to get to know you and build an interest in your content. So put on your best smile, be engaging and everything should be alright!

Emails: how to create them and send them?

By creating your contact list, you took the most important step in your emailing strategy. You now have people to interact with - well done, you! Pat yourself on the back, and get back to work. It’s time to send some emails!

Creating emails the easy way

You usually have two options when creating emails: HTML or your ESP’s creation tool.

The first option is perfect for people with specific technical and/or design needs. Keep in mind that coding an HTML email can become painful, though. There are many different devices and services used to read emails out there, so your message should render properly, no matter where it’s opened. With more than half the emails opened on mobile first, responsiveness is a must-have. If you don’t have the resources to ensure your email renders properly on all devices, don’t worry - the second option is made for you. Now, most ESPs provide easy-to-use drag and drop tools to create great and beautiful responsive designs.

Email design: general advice 

There are no strict guidelines regarding the design of your message. It will all depend on who your audience is, the content you offer and your brand image. We can’t design your emails for you, but what we can do is give you some general advice. It’s up to you whether you follow it or not, though.

  • Think skinny: So you’re already thinking about responsiveness (and rightly so). Now we want you to think about how best to work on a responsive design. To facilitate the creation of a nice email that will look good on every screen, go for a single column structure. You won’t have to bother about the stacking of different elements.
  • Careful with your images: Now, most webmails will limit the content of the emails if they are too heavy (usually, over 150 KB). That means you have to be extra careful with the images you use. Avoid large pictures, crop them, go with light formats (.jpg or .png) and resize them if necessary. You can’t know when a contact won’t be able to visualise an image, so make sure you include an alternative text (Alt Text) to tell the reader what the image represent.
  • Segment and personalise: Marketing email is useful communication channel when it comes to getting in touch with a wide audience. That doesn’t mean you have to send the exact same message to all your contacts, though. Use the data you collected from your contacts (name, age, location…) to segment your list and target the right audience with the right email (women aged 35 to 50 living in Europe, for example). By segmenting, you can send them campaigns featuring products or services that are relevant to them. You can also combine it with personalisation. Personalisation is everything from including your contacts’ first name to send them tailored emails with offers based on their previous behaviour and interaction with your website. You’ll add warmth to your message if and make your message even more relevant. Plus, personalised emails (with personalised subject line and content) generate higher open and click rates.
  • Get straight to the point: people opening an email spend an average of 15 to 20 seconds on it. So don’t be too wordy. Make your content skimmable, highlight the main points using headlines and keep the text volume short.
  • An easy click is an easy win: Once again, think mobile first. Your calls-to-action (CTAs) must be easily clickable with the thumb or the index. You want to go with clear buttons that the readers can immediately identify, rather than with a hypertext link directly integrated in your text.
Happy with your email? You sure? Don’t you think the subject line could be better, or that a lighter background would make the message stand out more? If the answer is yes, then the answer is testing. Most ESPs now come with A/B testing tool, which will help you determine what elements work best with your audience.

Once you’ve tested, you’re ready to send! This might be the easiest step: press “Send” and, BOOM, you’re done.

Warming up your dedicated IP address

In most of the cases, that’s how the sending goes. Sometimes, though, companies use dedicated IP addresses, which requires some extra work. Using shared IPs means that you can start sending your great campaigns from the very first day, but you share the IP’s reputation with other users. That’s why some clients prefer to build their own reputation and opt for a dedicated IP.

If you’ve chosen a dedicated IP, you might need to warm it up before starting your regular sendings, especially if it’s your first time using it. A new (dedicated) IP address doesn’t have a reputation yet, meaning that the ISPs and webmails have no idea who owns the address, or the quality of their sending. You need to build this reputation before sending your actual campaigns. Doing so is simple: send small volumes of emails (100 to 200 per sending) during a short period of time (2 to 3 weeks), on a daily basis. If you followed the best practices of contact list building, your stats will be good and so will your reputation. Then, you can start sending your campaigns out to a bigger audience.

Emailing: the long run

You have sent your first campaign. Great. Pop the cork of you best champagne while you watch your sales skyrocket. And then re-do. The sending, that is, not the champagne. OK, maybe re-do the champagne too. But only once you’ve re-done the sending.

Because email is not a one-shot thing. You have to nurture your audience, or you’ll be forgotten and your messages will drown in the mess that is everybody’s inbox - people receive +120 business emails per day on average, so you better be one of them from time to time.

Find the right pace and the right time

Obviously, part of your strategy should be to send your campaigns on a regular basis. There’s no success formula when it comes to frequency other than testing. Weekly, bi-weekly… it’s up to you to find which one works best. You can also test times and days to find out when your contacts are more likely to open your emails. This way, your newsletter will become a regular appointment for your subscribers.

At the same time, you can also set up an email marketing automation strategy. Create different scenarios depending on the actions your contacts take on your website. Thanks to these processes, you’ll be able to build and develop a better customer relationship, and re-engage inactive users.

Looking after your contact list

Finally: remember that part about contact lists at the beginning of the post? Of course you do. That was definitely one of the best parts (aside from this rest of the post, of course).

Taking care of your list is also a long run process. After each email blast (24 hours later), make sure you clean up your list: remove those addresses that came back to you as bounces, blocks, unsubscribes, or that marked your message as spam. Especially those. Every 2 to 3 months, try to re-engage inactive users (contacts that haven’t opened or clicked on your emails for three to six months) by sending them a special campaign or offer, a feedback survey or asking them whether they want to continue receiving emails from you. If they still don’t engage, remove them from your list.

It might sound like you’re going to lose money by doing so, but that’s not the case. Getting rid of contacts who show no interest in your emails means you only keep the people who are really interested in what you have to send, and who will most likely buy what you have to offer. You don’t want zombie contacts who are not engaging with your messages and are having a negative impact on your open rates and deliverability.

Seems like we’ve covered quite a lot, doesn’t it? The reality is that, even if these are the basics to quick-start your email marketing strategy, the world of emailing is constantly changing and there are plenty of tools to leverage your sendings. If you want to learn more, keep up to date with the latests trends and find tips and tricks to boost your sendings, check out our blog regularly!
This article was provided by Mailjet. Mailjet help bring your Marketing and Development teams together on one platform to build, send and optimize email campaigns.
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