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A whole lot of tips to help your email marketing beat the competition

Are you still struggling with your email newsletter?  Are you (gasp) not sending one out?  As anyone who knows me knows, I am a strong believer in the power of email. Next to face-to-face it is the most powerful tool you have–even more-so than the telephone! Your website is like any store in your local mall. People can stop by, take a look, maybe buy, maybe not. You have very little control. With email, you are more like the trusted UPS driver that has the code to the front door so they can leave packages inside.  Think about it. With an opt-in email newsletter, your customers and prospects have given you explicit permission (and never add names because you can) to come into their email inbox. But there are some tricks to making sure you get the biggest bang for your buck.
Getting your mail into the inbox of your clients is critical. With so many scammers and phishers out there today, email clients (the programs that handle and deliver the email) are getting very strict; so you want to make sure your email is being delivered.  The best way is to never send it yourself from your computer–use a service. One email with event ten bcc names will be flagged for SPAM. The cost of a service like Mail Chimp, AWeber, Constant Contact, My Emma, etc is well worth the cost–which may indeed be zero!

1.  Avoiding the Spam Filter
But just because you use a service, doesn’t mean you don’t need to worry about spam. Spam filters generally “rank” each email by a number of different criteria, and, if that email rates above a certain level (such as 10 spam points), then it is flagged as spam and deleted. To make sure your emails don’t get flagged as spam — and deleted before they even get to your clients –avoid using words such as ‘Free’, “$$$’,’Save’, ‘Discount’, etc in both the subject line and the content of your email. Really, any excessive punctuation will trigger a spam filter–and it makes you look like you are still in high school.

2.  Maximizing Click-Thru Rates
Both web pages and emails contain a lot of text and graphics, and this sometimes makes it harder to get your subscribers to perform a certain task, such as clicking on a link to see your special offers. Numerous research papers show that the majority of Internet users respond better to a plain, bold, blue text link — such as this — as opposed to a banner or button. So, if you’re going to include links in your emails, make sure they are bold, blue and underlined. This will mean that more subscribers click through, meaning more sales for you. Also, be sure the link is relevant to the destination. If you are talking about Mexico–they better be headed to a page about Mexico.

3.  The Power of Personalization
If you were standing in a crowded mall, which of these would get your attention: “HEY!” or “HEY JOHN” (assuming your name is John). The power of personalization can and should be used in your emails. In-fact, by simply starting your email with “Hi [subscriber-name]” instead of the boring “Hi there”, you can increase both your reading and click-thru rates by up to 650%. Why? Put simply, it’s because your subscribers feel like they already have a relationship with you as you’ve addressed them by their first name. Paint a picture for them using what you know. Imagine an email delivered to a client when you know critical information. You could address them by their names, reference their hometown, their prior vacation, and their pet. “Hi Mary…it’s almost November in Milwaukee and the cold will be here before you know it. I remember how much you loved St.Lucia two years ago and I wanted to let you know that there are some terrific deals to Jamaica this year if you are thinking about a getaway. Oh, and we have also partnered with Pampered Pet Resort for discounted boarding for our clients–Fifi will love it there. If you have a chance, let’s meet and see what we can plan.”  Think about that!

4.  One-Click Unsubscribe
If you want to grow your mailing list, then there are 2 things that you absolutely must have: a double opt-in process, and a quick way to unsubscribe. In some countries, it’s actually mandatory by law that every email has an unsubscribe link in it. The unsubscribe link should take the recipient directly to a page where they are then removed — courteously –from your mailing list…immediately. Do not make them jump through hoops. Do not send them to another page asking if they are sure. Maybe on the unsubscribe page, have an optional form asking why they left. And let them go!

5.  Double Opt-In 
Don’t get accused of spamming –always, and I mean always use a double opt-in confirmation process. Double opt-in means that after your visitor initially enters their email address to subscribe to your list, you should then send them a “confirmation” email. This email should contain a special link back to your email marketing program, which will then verify that this visitor did indeed sign up to your mailing list. This will prevent you from entering all those names your got in the fishbowl drawing you held last week. Your list will be smaller, but it will be much stronger.  And remember, 3 great clients that spend are a lot better than a dozen who shop.

6.  Tuesday and Wednesday = Increased Response
Studies conducted by online research analysts have shown that the best days to perform a mail-out to your list are Tuesday and Wednesday, as this is when people are more receptive to communication. This means that they are more likely to read your content and click on links, meaning more sales. On Mondays, everyone is still recovering from a hectic weekend. On Thursday and Friday, people are already too busy looking forward to the weekend. I’ve actually experimented with this, and received the best results by sending out emails at around 2-3pm (EST) on a Wednesday–go figure. Your results will be different–do testing. A while back I did a split broadcast and sent the same message to my database–20% on each day of the week. The open rates were astounding. Monday (23%), Tuesday (72%), Wednesday (76%), Thursday (48%) and Friday (42%).

7.  Repeat Email Communication
Make use of the autoresponders provided by your email service. An autoresponder is an email that is scheduled to be sent at a certain time interval after someone subscribes to your mailing list. Autoresponders are a great way to automatically follow up with your subscribers or provide them with more information on your agency. For example, after they confirm their subscription, send them an email telling them what to expect–a monthly/weekly email. Also let them know that since they are new to the email newsletter you want to send them some information about the agency and will be sending 4 special emails over the next two weeks to introduce your agency. Start off with your agency history, your bio, your specialties, and client testimonials. This let’s them know you are there, and what is happening.  Autoresponders help your subscribers build trust in both your agency and your brand, and this can help make it easier when trying to close sales in the future. But be sure you are honest. If you say you are sending a monthly email, send a monthly email or have a GREAT reason why you are sending more!

8.  Consistency is the Key
If you’re running a newsletter or frequent email publication, make sure you keep the look and feel consistent from issue to issue. By keeping the look and feel consistent, you help to maintain and strengthen your brand and your image to your subscribers, which again will make it easier to close sales when you need to. Create a template for your newsletter and whenever you need to create a new issue, use that template as the basis for each  issue.

9.  On Time, Every Time
More consistency. When sending an email to your subscribers, always make sure that it’s sent on the same day, at the same time. For example, every other Wednesday at 3pm. Your subscribers will come to “expect” your email like Pavlov’s dogs. They will want to read your content and are generally more receptive to any special offers or promotions you may include.

10. The Half-a-Second Subject Line
When your email arrives in your subscriber’s inbox, you generally have about half a second to catch their attention with the subject line of your email. After this, they will either delete your email or ignore it. In your subject line, try and specify a benefit that the subscriber can expect by reading your email. For example, instead of using ‘Billy Bob’s Travel Newsletter Issue #1’, use ‘Billy Bob’s  10 tips for scoring an upgraded room.”

11. The Free Bonus Hook-In
Free is overused these days, especially on the Internet. However, if you’re looking to grow your subscriber list, then create or source a product of value to your visitors (Passport application, packing checklist, etc.) and offer it to them for free when they signup for to receive your newsletter. To make sure they don’t simply type any email address into your subscription form, setup an autoresponder to send them the freebie 1 hour after they subscribe. For my single parent clients I have a package of travel forms including a packing list, permission forms for the non-traveling parent, and safety tips all in a PDF that is sent out.

12. The Preview Pane
Most email clients will show a preview of an email when it’s selected in the inbox. Always have some interesting content at the very top of your email, as this is the part that will show in the preview window of your subscribers email program. If it’s interesting enough, then your subscriber will open your email and continue on reading.

13. Link-Click Testing
When creating marketing emails, try using different text for both content and links. Also try re-positioning images such as logos and buttons. After sending about 3 different emails, compare the click-thru stats and see which one worked best. Now, when you need to send marketing emails in the future, you know that you will be sending the right mix of content and images that will attract the most click-thrus, and ultimately the most sales. Use the A-B testing features offered by all of the major email providers

14. Email-Based Learning
Add value to your website, build trust in your visitors, establish your credibility and collect more subscriptions to your mailing list by setting up a second list with an email-based learning course. To do this, simply create a new and separate opt-in list and handle it with a series of autoresponders each containing unique content. Then, schedule the first one to be sent after 24 hours, the second after 48 hours, etc. This would work ideally for the first time cruiser.

15. Always Sign on the Dotted Line
Always include a signature at the bottom of your emails, as it’s one of the easiest ways to attract more traffic to your website. This signature should include your personal details and your company details. And while I have no statistics to back it up, put in a scan of your handwritten first–it adds another element of personalization for your client!

Fifteen is a lot of suggestions–take a look at a few of them and see how they do for you. I bet you will see results fast!

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