Follow the marketing advice your mom gave you
Everything you need to know about marketing was learned during childhood from your mother, according to SubscriberMail's chief executive, Jordan Ayan, who has compiled a rough guide to using motherly advice to improve e-mail marketing technique.
Ayan begins by refreshing our memory: "Tuck your shirt in. Clear your plate. Speak when spoken to. Stand up straight. Mind your manners." For most people, their mother's wisdom has helped them navigate life more successfully and instilled social values that still influence their actions in everyday life.
A mother's wisdom Indeed, much of the wisdom that mothers impart to their children is equally applicable - when seen through the filter of wide interpretation, admittedly - to how marketers manage successful e-mail marketing programmes today. For example:
- Stand up straight The way you carry yourself physically says a lot about the kind of person you are, and the same is true in an electronic sense, too: Consumers will judge your e-mail based on what it looks like. The subject line should entice the recipient to open it. The thrust of the message should have an above-average appearance. The tip that accompanies this advice is that you should always test your e-mail message's design in a preview pane with images both turned on and turned off. It's amazing how many messages are unreadable when images either don't appear or are replaced by elongated image placeholders.
- If someone else jumped off a cliff, would you do it too? Following the crowd is tempting but, Ayan warns, it is not always the right thing to do. When building an e-mail subscriber list, always follow the correct path and build it up by asking permission clearly and honestly. And the best-performing lists are those that require double-opt in (as the extra step involved often means that list members have to be truly committed to joining).
- Mind your manners No one likes a rude child. The same is true of e-mail marketers who do not have good unsubscribe practices. Unsubscribe requests must be honoured promptly - preferably instantly - and it must be made as easy as possible for subscribers to leave the list. It is wrong to think that making it difficult to leave will keep subscribers loyal: In fact it just causes many consumers to hit the 'report as spam' button in their email software without a second thought. While this may not appear to be a big problem for the marketer, consider the consequences of having all your messages automatically rejected by major e-mail service providers such as MSN Hotmail, Yahoo!, GoogleMail, or AOL.
- If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all Most children need very quickly that they need to filter what they say. The same applies to e-mail marketers. Sending members an e-mail without having anything relevant to say is never a good plan, and if you can customise what you need to say to each member's personal interests, so much the better.
- Don't make that face or it'll freeze that way Don't let e-mail subscribers feel like they're always seeing you when they don't want to. Sending e-mails too often can result in "e-mail fatigue", high unsubscribe rates, and lower open and click-through rates.
- Speak when you're spoken to Nothing annoys a mother more than a child who doesn't acknowledge an adult, or one who speaks out of turn. Many e-mail subscribers feel the same way when they get a standard message. Most of us like to be acknowledged in a personal way, even if it's only through the intelligent use of our first name in the message. But be careful to do it intelligently, not blindly, and avoid opening lines like "Dear John Smith" and "John Smith, as a valued customer we would like to..."
- Keep your room clean Keeping an e-mail list clean is increasingly important, as many ISPs and e-mail service providers are taking note of senders that repeatedly try to send e-mail to expired domain names and e-mail addresses. The assumption is that a mail server that sends to a large proportion of invalid addresses is either using illegal spamming lists or is conducting an unsuccessful name "dictionary attack". Use a system that can automatically unsubscribe addresses that are consistently undeliverable.
- Finish your dinner What mothers know is that there's no point taking more food than you can eat. So why implement an e-mail programme if you're not going to pay attention after your messages are sent out? For example, you must always monitor all replies, as people often reply to mailings with personal notes, sales enquiries, unsubscribe requests, and updates on new contact details. Keep your messages' "From Address" consistent so that list members can white-list it with their mail filtering software and services, and so that your email is always immediately recognisable when it arrives. Above all, use spelling checker to keep your message looking professional, and avoid words that commonly trigger spam filters (there are hundreds of obvious examples, including various drug names, stock market phrases, and of course explicit or adult wording).
An invaluable footnote There is one drug name in particular that has caused an unusual problem in the world of e-mail marketing and spam filtering, and we have noted it here because it has serious implications for e-mail delivery. The problem is that many mail filters automatically reject any message containing the sequence "cialis", but no attention is paid to whether or not it is part of a bigger word. The Wise Marketer has noted as much as a 10% increase in e-mail rejections when the message body contains words that include that sequence, such as "specialist" or "socialist" (and also, in British English content, "specialise" or "socialise"). Get out your thesaurus and choose an alternative word.
According to Peter Clark, co-editor of The Wise Marketer, and co-author of The Loyalty Guide, "A key technique for any marketer using the e-mail channel is to keep an external e-mail address that takes advantage of a major service provider's junk mail filtering system. Before sending each message to your subscriber base, send a micro-mailing to your own external e-mail address, and see if it either gets rejected or turns up in the junk mail folder. If it does, examine the message headers or rejection message (or contact the ISP) to find out why, then fix the fault and try again until it arrives safely in the in-box."