When sending a purposeful email to a friend or colleague we know her or his current address and can act on the assumption that a general interest or need is persisting. The situation changes fundamentally when you have a bulk mailing addressed to an unknown group of recipients. In email marketing, one of the most frequent reasons for unsubscribing is „I will get information on your homepage if required“. This suggests several problem areas: the reader receives the content at the wrong time, at an inadequate extent and/ or with an improper focus. Many senders unintentionally urge the recipient to filter the relevant contingent from a mass of information, thus imposing more work on the recipient than relieving her or him of it. You can easily overshoot the mark if you don’t put yourself in the recipient’s situation, where email marketing would offer the best possibility to provide information promptly and meticulously precise – if you mind a few basics:

Coverage

Email marketing first of all presupposes that the intended receiver can be reached at all. This is not necessarily given when dispatching an email. Many obstacles exist, such as obsolete addresses, spam filters, DNS checks etc.

Hence a successful campaign begins with your address data portfolio. Give the addressees the possibility to share their modified contact data or to administer these themselves. Only send emails upon explicit consent – anything else would not only destroy the relationship of confidence but can also result in serious juridical and financial consequences.

XQ:Campaign enables you to use a sending subdomain of your own so that dispatcher and sender are identical (DNS check). Many companies and web clients are using a very strict server configuration in this regard, so that your emails will end up in the spam folder or won’t be accepted at all even upon minor inconsistencies. We’ll be happy to provide consultancy.

Sender and Subject

When an email arrives at the intended destination it will not necessarily be read. The sender is perceived first and evaluated by trustworthiness. Only after this the recipient will evaluate the subject by its relevance. Eventually the subject will determine whether or not an email will be read. „Newsletter September 2010“ not only appears unimaginative but leaves it to the readers to find out the topic – if they open the newsletter at all.

Choose a brief but concise subject. Many web mailers can only display a limited amount of characters in the subject line. Furthermore, according to legal requirements, advertising mails must not conceal or hide their commercial nature (e.g. „Re: Your Inquiry“). Avoid word repetitions, figures and exclamation marks since spam filters are attuned to these, same as to buzzwords („free of charge“ and the likes).

Design

The question of design isn’t settled with the possibility of attracting attention by color and size. Newsletters can be more than an electronic poster. Intelligent design always facilitates orientation and readability, too.

First and foremost, image ratio as well as choice of colors and fonts need to be customized to the target group. XQ:Campaign can provide you with various formatting options and templates. An index helps in finding relevant content quickly, as well as subdivision into topics (news, products etc…)

You only have limited space available on the readers‘ screen in order for them to assess relevance. It should be used thoughtfully. Free areas are not automatically a waste, though: the eye also needs „space to breathe“ for orientation and clear separability of articles.

Balance of stylistic means and target-oriented emphasis can convey a pleasant reading experience to the recipient and increase confidence. This has an immediate effect on opening and click rates.

Slim but Exclusive Content

Your email will reach the majority of readers at work. Usually it will be read in the morning and afternoon. Take it that you are one among many with your newsletter. Hence the reader doesn’t have the time to elaborately deal with each topic but wants to get an overview and, as the case may be, read at home. Newsletters requiring deeper involvement are usually not read at all. The rift between opening rates and click rates can be an indicator for this: the recipients open the email but immediately find out by the size of the scroll bar that they don’t have the time to read through it. In regular mailings there shouldn’t be more than 10 editorial articles at a size no larger than a short message, otherwise you risk an emotional assessment of your newsletter as “impolite”.

In addition, the “copy & paste” mentality is rampant. Content is simply copied from the homepage and sent to the reader in the form of a newsletter. This merely shortens the way to the homepage without enabling the reader to determine the point of time, and without any surplus value. This surplus value only exists when the content is exclusive or the reader needs prompt information (stock exchange information, time limited registrations etc.).

Pertinence

Your interests as an enterprise staff member do not necessarily match the recipients‘ interests. From reader to reader, information weight varies. Let the recipients decide what they wish to read! Email marketing offers sound possibilities for such interest-related messaging.

You can already question the recipients about their focal points upon newsletter registration. Using conditional content can make the newsletter look different for each reader. Surveys, too, can provide essential information.

Another option is to stagger information: here a general newsletter (for all) as well as specific campaigns on each topic are prepared. When the reader clicks an article or a product in the general campaign, a follow-up mail will be produced providing further detailed (but now interest-related) information. From here, the recipients can be guided towards the homepage where they can gather extensive information, if required. Such campaigns are among the most successful since they respond to the readers‘ needs and information paths are shortened: readers are offered orientation and save time.

Personalization

Each of us perceives it as pleasurable to be personally greeted and served quickly in a restaurant with the personnel even remembering our preferences. Credit your readers with this want! The potential of personalization begins with salutation but goes far beyond this. The recipients can be addressed by their names, receive congratulations via birthday mail or have their personal interests considered in the selected content. Furthermore you can even personalize context and sender, e.g. by having the personal PoC informing the reader with her or his image and signature included (conditional content enables you to select a different PoC for each reader). Thus the newsletter obtains the character of a personal letter, since the sender casts off anonymity and stands by the offers with a “name”. Personalization becomes bidirectional, communication takes place on an equal footing with the recipient!

Dispatch Frequency

Even the most interesting topics and the best products become a plague when dropping in too frequently. They lose the attraction of the outstanding, becoming inflationary. This is not only due to the vendor but to the summation of vendors. Once the recipient feels pestered he will unsubscribe and most likely not return. The customer is then deemed lost for this distribution channel. Frequent messages are considered aggressive (or even spam). They might effectuate short-term profit with undecided customers but have different consequences in the long run.

Frequency of newsletters depends on the topic, of course, but more than 2 – 3 messages a week will soon be perceived as a nuisance – regardless of the subject matter. The reader will then switch to different forms of communication such as RSS feeds. XQ:Campaign offers Ad Pressure Control as a means to limit the number of emails for the respective recipient and to control sending intervals.

Functionality

Nothing is more unprofessional than missing pictures or dysfunctional links. This is why you should use the possibility of test sending and automated tests. Point to further links in the newsletter graphically (by buttons and uniform underlines or colors). Use of forms and JavaScript may be well-intentioned, but not permitted in an email (for safety related reasons). Therefore many mail clients don’t even display them or draw off their functional efficiency. You are still at liberty to point to surveys or forms in your campaign.

Bi-Directionality

Email marketing shouldn’t be a one way street in which it differs from TV or radio advertising. Show your customers that you care about their opinion. Always provide a reply address. XQ:Campaign gathers all manual replies, but entering a special address is a clear sign to your readers that you don’t disregard their opinion. Furthermore, XQ:Campaign offers the option of an automated reply mail where you can thank the readers for their replies and indicate that all customer opinions are taken seriously.

Another legally relevant aspect is the possibility to unsubscribe promptly which must not be unnecessarily hampered.

Reporting

Take the time to subsequently analyze your campaigns. Click and unsubscribe rates are important indicators for success of your campaigns as bounce rates are for timeliness of your address data. There are not many alternatives for such direct customer feedback.

Graphical link analysis not only provides information about which articles are really germane to your readers, it also provides clues about proper link positioning in the campaign. This way you can continue optimizing your campaigns.

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