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Email Marketing Minefields

Oct 1, 2008
by Christopher Heine

There is no marketing medium that has better ROI potential than email. Utilizing email marketing requires diligence, however, because there are a handful of minefields one may encounter.

The first problematic area is legal concerns. All email marketers must comply with the FTC's CAN-SPAM collection of regulations, or risk getting fined. What is CAN-SPAM? In simplest terms, it encourages permission-based marketing and polices illegitimate emailers. It does not matter if you are a BtoC or a BtoB brand. If you want to stay out of trouble with the FTC, only send emails to people who give you permission for distinct types of communication.

Furthermore, only send them messages they signed up for. Emailers cannot send recipients a campaign that promotes an advertising partner unless they clicked the checkbox on your signup sheet saying that was alright. To be clear, you cannot email "on behalf" of anyone, unless the recipient opted into that kind of offer to go along with your regular newsletter.

The second major minefield to avoid is deliverability. All major ISPs (e.g., Yahoo!, AOL, Gmail, etc.) and email clients (Outlook, Lotus Notes, etc.) block messages they deem unfit for delivery. Messages often get blocked or sent to the junk bin due to subject lines that are "spam-like", such as, "50 Percent Off," "Bonus," "Free," "Discount," "Winner," and, "All New," among others.

Have you seen these types of subject lines get delivered perfectly into your inbox, and you wonder what the hubbub is about? Well, there is a reason they got through-the email sender has a good reputation. Marketers should avoid the aforementioned words in subject lines until they build up a reputation (equivalency to an ongoing "grade") with the ISPs and email clients. The more a brand's emails get delivered because they are written in an unspam-like way, the better reputation the sender's get from the ISPs and email clients. The better your grade, the more you can get away with in terms of words in the subject line.

Remember: if your campaigns end up in the junk folder, it will not matter how well the offer was put together-no one will see it. Paying attention to your deliverability is crucial.

Saturating your audience with too many messages is the third email mistake. If you email your subscribers too frequently, they will feel harassed and may unsubscribe. If they are Gmail recipients, they may even hit the "This Is Spam" button and hurt your reputation rating with Google. Like any good reputation, it can easily be wrecked. How much is too much? It depends. For instance, if you are doing special offers and notices of sales events, consider emailing once or twice per week. Two per week is considered a good rule of thumb, while many believe that only once is a best practice.

Failure to effectively manage your email marketing program is a fourth concern. What if over half of all the emails you sent bounced, but you did not know it? If you do not have the time or experience to manage your email marketing program, be sure to delegate the responsibility to someone specific in your organization. If you do not have someone who can tackle the responsibility, consider outsourcing to an ESP. Constant Contact, Emma and MailChimp are three respected ESPs that offer affordable email management for small brands. An ESP can also help you watch your deliverability rate with precise percentages.

Lastly, too many marketers forget that consumers are continuously sharing information. Indeed, viral is one of the most overlooked email marketing tactics today. Why not encourage subscribers to share your email with their family, friends and colleagues? Consider the scenario with an email list of about 100 subscribers, and ten percent share your email with a friend. Imagine the same viral effect on 1,000 subscribers.

Most importantly, you can employ viral to increase your audience essentially 100 percent, free of charge. All it will take is a little email copy to remind them to hit the "Forward" button. If you want to use a "Forward to a Friend" link, run it by your IT person to see if he or she can do it, or ask your ESP about getting the link up and running in your email template.

For more information, contact:

Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
Tel.: 202-326-2222
Website: www.ftc.gov
CAN-SPAM website: www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/buspubs/canspam.shtm

Constant Contact
Reservoir Place
1601 Trapelo Road, Suite 329
Waltham, MA 02451
Tel.: 781-472-8100
Fax: 781-472-8101
Website: www.constantcontact.com

Emma, Inc.
2120 8th Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37204
Tel.: 615-292-5888
Website: www.myemma.com

512 Means St.
Atlanta, GA, 30318
Tel.: 678-999-0155
Email: help@mailchimp.com
Website: www.mailchimp.com

Topic: Web Tech Tips

Related Articles: email  marketing 

Article ID: 761

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