The value of email lists

Mar 21, 2012

Table of contents:

  1. The cost of switching email address
  2. Delivering your message
  3. Email verses social
  4. Email analytics and split testing
  5. Personalisation and deep customised campaigns
  6. Always have a strategy
  7. 4 tips for better newsletters

Email is one of the oldest aspects of the World Wide Web and yet it remains one of the most used, even to this day. Email has been universally adopted by not only the tech elite, but also businesses and the every day consumer. In fact, Email has become has been so widely adopted, it would be hard to imagine life without it.

Email represents one of the best ways to communicate with your audience. Using permission based, opt-in email communication can keep you connected with your customers and build an audience around a niche. Over time this email list can help you deliver timely and relevant updates about your business to your customer base that are more likely to convert to paying customers. Used correctly, email is a powerful tool. Yet many businesses are using it incorrectly and therefore missing out on the opportunity to build a competitive advantage.

The cost of switching email address

If you think about it, how long have you had your email address? Changing email addresses has a much higher cost of switching than just about any social network. Over the last 10 years, how many social networks have come and gone in the same time you’ve had the same email address? Whilst the buzz is around the latest and hottest social network, the huge potential value of email communication goes unnoticed.

Delivering your message

Email is a powerful communication tool because email has evolved into such an important part of our productive lives. For many busy people, the inbox has become the de facto to do list. Whilst checking Facebook and Twitter often only happens between momentarily periods of downtime, email is delivered to a person and just waits to be read.

Email verses social

Building a permission based agreement with your customers is far more important than a Facebook like or a Twitter follow. Whilst engagement on Facebook or Twitter has the potential to spread through connections to other users, email correspondance is far more engaging and far less easier to miss. In fact, sending an email with a call to action is far more likely to get engagement than a single Tweet of a Facebook status update.

Email analytics and split testing

One of the fundamental aspects of creating successful email campaigns is tracking and testing you previous campaigns in order to learn what can be improved or optimised for future campaigns. By not analysing your analtics you are missing a gold mine of data. You need to be tracking how many people are opening your emails and are they taking your desired action. This might be clicking on a particular link, or beginning the process to purchase your product. Whatever the goal of your email is, you need to be using deep data mining to track the effectiveness of your efforts.

In a similar vein, you really should be split testing all of your campaigns. Each email you send is made up of assumptions that make up the design, content and subject that you think will work best. However you should make decisions based on data, rather than assumptions. Split testing allows you to send two slightly different emails to a small segment of your email list. For example, you might send two emails with a slightly different subject line. The email that performs the best (usually in terms of open rate) will then be sent to the remaining people on your list. Therefore you are sending the email with the subject line that performed the best, and not just what you assume will work the best.

Personalisation and deep customised campaigns

Email can allow you to run campaigns based upon very specific data attributes. For example, if customer A recently purchased product X, you could send follow up emails that feature related products of helpful information about that product. Similarly, if one of your customers has recently taken a certain action, or showed an interest in a particular line of your products, you can then automatically send that customer more target emails than a customer who has shown a different set of interest or actions.

You could also send certain campaigns based upon any number of attributes of data that you have collected about them up until this point. For example, you might want to send a very specific email to a select group of 18 - 31 year old males that have shown an interest in a new product.

By drilling down into your date, you can send extremely targeted emails that are far more likely to convert into paying customers. Relevant and timely emails are also a sure fire way to keep engagement with your subscribers high. Obviously if a customer only ever receives very specific emails they will be far more likely to open and interact with them, rather than if they were generic or trying to appeal to the entire customer base.

And of course it goes without saying that you should use any bit of data you can to customise your emails to indivuals recipients. Opening with a subscriber’s first name goes along way. But don’t make your emails cheesy by overdoing it!

Always have a strategy

If you are looking to build an email list with a regular newsletter or email campaign, ensure you have decided on a suitable goal so you can measure the effectiveness of your efforts. If you start this process without a goal you will fail because you won’t have achieved anything you can account for. You could decide on increasing life time value of a customer or reducing churn, it doesn’t really matter as long as you have a goal you can aim for an a target to optimise your campaigns for.

4 tips for better newsletters

If you are just starting out with email campaigns for your business, here are some tips that I’ve acquired along the way to get you started. Really the most important thing to remember is, you need to conduct you own experiments to find what works with your email list and with the goals of your campaign, but here are some general pointers to help you along the way.

#1 When designing, less is more

You might not know this, but designing email templates is a lot different from designing websites. For one thing, you are forced to use tables, and any use of images is going to be a hinderance rather than a help. Keep your emails as clean and simple as possible. Try and not use images, or if you really have to, ensure they are small in size and not critical to the goal of your email. Remember, many people will be viewing your email on a smartphone and they won’t take the time to download your image heavy or overly designed email.

#2 Personalise

Like I said above, adding touches of personalisation will give your emails and welcoming feeling. But don’t over do it! Don’t use the persons first name in every sentence or call to action. That is bad marketing 101 and should of died a long time ago.

#3 Make it easy to unsubscribe

Your emails aren’t going to be for everyone. Don’t be hurt when people want to unsubscribe and make it difficult for people to get away, you’ll only make the situation worse.

Have you ever been in the situation with a company where they make it as difficult as possible to end your service with them? You aren’t likely to ever come back after having that experience. In contrast, if a company makes it a breeze to end your service with them, you are far more likely to return one day and take up that service again. It is exactly the same with email subscriptions!

Always have a unsubscribe link at the bottom of your emails that allows people to unsubscribe with one click. Don’t send out a “confirmation” email offering a second chance to stay on the list, it’s annoying and it won’t do you any favours. And for the love of God, don’t force a user to login to unsubscribe from your emails!

#4 Keep it brief

The thing to remember with email is, a lot of people get a lot of email! Email is by far more effective when it is brief and to the point. Sending an email comprised of a long page of text is far more likely to be deleted than a brief email that is to the point. Whilst you might have some subscribers who love to get a long email off your company, the majority won’t engage with your email at all if it is long.

Honestly, how many long newsletter emails do you read a day? And how many do you skip past because you have an increasingly rising unread count?

Make your emails brief and to the point and you will see a far greater level of engagement.

What do you find works best in email newsletters?

Philip Brown


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