An awareness of your audience and respect for their time and needs is more than a matter of courtesy. How, when, and what you email can determine whether you have customers for life or irritated readers who send you to their spam folder.
In the evolving world of email marketing, it can be difficult to keep up with what’s acceptable and what’s as gauche as putting your boots on the coffee table, so I’ve compiled a list of “letters” on the subject and some responses to help you navigate the murky waters of email marketing etiquette today.
Kind Reader: Buying email lists is akin to belching at the dinner table. In other words, it is never okay.
To build an email contact list that is robust and relevant, you should build it organically, and the first step is to make it easy for people to sign up. More and more businesses are encouraging website visitors to sign up for emails by employing popup windows or sign-up forms in website headers. A lot of businesses neglect to use their social channels to collect emails, so be sure to invite followers on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms to sign up for emails.
Here are a few pointers to keep in mind as you build your email list:
Note: How you confirm inactive subscribers will depend on which email marketing system you use. Some systems like MailChimp require you to export the list you want to reconfirm, then email them from a private account asking them to resubscribe. With services like Constant Contact, you can send a confirmation email campaign from their system, and then you won’t be able to email any addresses that don’t reconfirm. The reconfirmation process also allows you to clean out any invalid addresses that would affect your bounce rate.
Kind Reader: Sending emails at the right intervals is critical to keeping your subscribers well-informed and happy. Just as you wouldn’t send nine invitations to your wedding, you shouldn’t message your list incessantly about an upcoming promotion or your latest blog post. The number one reason people give for unsubscribing is too many messages, so sending too many emails is sure to have your readers scrambling for the unsubscribe button.
Finding that sweet spot for your audience will take some experimenting. It varies a lot from audience to audience, so you should do split testing to determine which day of the week, time of day, and frequency works best for your subscribers. If you haven’t done split testing before, here’s an excellent step-by-step guide on how to test for optimal email frequency, dates, and times. MailChimp users can even skip the testing and use the software’s Send Out Optimization feature.
Frequency also depends on the kind of content you have. If you are running sales or promotions or have new products, weekly emails might be appropriate. If you don’t have a lot of new information, or if you have a blog with only a couple of posts per month, monthly or quarterly newsletters might be a better idea. At a minimum, email your contacts at least every six months so they remain active, engaged, and remember your brand.
Learn more about Mailchimp, our favorite email newsletter system, in Jimdo's Mailchimp Review. We also have more information on embedding newsletter signups right onto your site in our article 20 Widgets to Improve Your Website.
Kind Reader: Just as you can’t force someone to come to your birthday party, you can’t keep someone on your mailing list once they’ve requested to be removed. You must honor their request within 10 days in compliance with the CAN-SPAM law.
Make it simple for readers to unsubscribe from your listserv with every email you send, but don’t make unsubscribing so easy that people do so accidentally, as often happens with one-click unsubscribing.
After frequency, relevance is the number-two driver of unsubscribes. If your unsubscribe rate is creeping up, re-examine your content and ask yourself whether it’s really what your readers want.
Kind Reader: Good instincts! People like to be treated as individuals, and personalizing email messages is more than just good manners. Personalized promotional emails have six times the transactional rate of non-personalized ones.
Personalizing emails begins with the customer’s name, which many businesses collect and don’t bother to use. Add your customer’s names to your email system to ensure messages are addressed to individuals, not Dear First Name.
Here are a few more ways you can personalize emails:
Kind reader: You are correct that more and more people are reading their emails on smart phones and tablets. The 2013 Experian study reports that half of all email opens are on mobile devices, and 39 percent of all unique clicks are on mobile devices as well.
You shouldn't ask your readers to get the “gist” of your message through a mobile-incompatible design. That same Experian study revealed that emails with responsive designs received a 63 percent higher click-through rate and an 18 percent increase in transaction. With that in mind, wouldn’t you go out of your way to design your messages so your audience can view and interact with them easily?
There’s much to be said on the topic of mobile design, but here are a few rules of thumb to help you create emails that are easy to navigate on smartphones or tablets:
Good email etiquette is about more than minding your p’s and q’s—it’s about building trust with your audience, improving communications, and ultimately, increasing revenue. If you practice good email manners over time, your customers are sure to thank you—perhaps even on a dusty old card.
Allison is an American blogger with a Pinterest obsession currently living in Japan. She has a monster appetite for travel, music, Detroit coney dogs, and random acts of derring-do. Oh, and pasta. She can eat her weight in pasta.