Email continues to be one of the most effective forms of marketing. Reaching out to clients via email has a tremendous return on investment. The Direct Marketing Association indicates an overall return of $44 for every dollar spent, out-performing every other marketing channel.
In this week’s series, we will look at various aspects of email marketing. We will examine best practices, how to build your list and how to execute your efforts. We will also look at some of the more mechanical tasks involved including cleaning up your list and increasing your engagement.
Most travel agencies will opt to use an email service provider (ESP) like iContact or AWeber rather than host in their own environments. Most reputable ESPs perform vital tasks on a daily basis, behind the scenes, important to the performance of your email broadcast program. Moreover, the cost of using an ESP has become very reasonable and there is a great deal of competition for your business.
One of the first decisions you will need to make is whether you will use a dedicated IP address or a shared IP address. The IP address is essentially the home address that identifies the source of your emails as they travel through the internet. If your IP address has a good reputation, that is very few SPAM complaints, then your IP address will be whitelisted by the major Internet Service Providers like AOL, Comcast, gMail and others. Shared IP addresses are, as the name implies, shared by many email marketers. If one of those marketers SPAMs, then every other company sharing the same IP address is penalized by the ISPs. Dedicated IP addresses, on the other hand, belong to a single party and you are responsible for your reputation. An email service provider like iContact is going to carefully monitor the reputation of each of its clients, but it is still worthwhile to have a dedicated IP if you can afford to do so and if email marketing is going to be a major component of your market program.
Most ESPs provide detailed reporting and the results of your email broadcasts. The reports should show you which of your clients opened emails, clicked on links and which links were clicked. Good reporting is an invaluable feature for fine-tuning your email efforts. ESPs also make it simple to comply with the CAN SPAM regulations, including an unsubscribe link and removing unsubscribes from you lists.
Customer support is perhaps the most important issue when choosing an ESP. When you have a problem, you will want and need immediate answers. TRO’s Community has several good discussions of various ESPs and their features. Many ESPs also offer free trials so you can test their services and their features. Avoid ESPs which has anything other than a required monthly commitment. It is not uncommon to want to move to another ESP during the course of a year and you do not want to be locked into an agreement for a longer period of time.
Many ESPs offer A/B testing which splits an email broadcast into two versions so you can test different subject lines or formats for effectiveness. Many offer list segmenting, which allows for partial sends to your list based on the demographic characteristics of the members of your list.
In the next column, we will discuss the basics of an email broadcast, and the importance of your subject line and formatting of content.