It can be a daunting task to dive into email marketing for the first time. To help guide marketers through the nuances, I spoke to Jordan Lane, email marketing expert and author of the blog EmailMoxie.com.
NetElixir: Please tell me a little bit about your background as an email marketing expert.
Jordan Lane: The first time I saw an email I was in college. It was 1990 something. Email addresses were super long (Jordan.Lane.email@example.com, or something ridiculous like this), email was in its infancy, CAN-SPAM did not exist, and Google did not exist. I did not see the value of email at that time. Since then my outlook has changed. I dove into email marketing around five years ago after working in Web Analytics. I started EmailMoxie.com a little over a year ago.
NE: The email marketing landscape has definitely changed over the last few years. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve come across?
JL: The first is Social Media. Email and Social Media are working together and complement each other quite nicely. Email is very inclusive to new tools and ideas. Email adapts and changes as the online and off-line industry and world changes. Almost all marketing emails include links to social media sites.
The second change is email education (blogs), organizations, regulations (CAN-SPAM), and best practices. There are great organizations, websites, and people dedicated to protecting and advancing email. These hardworking folks help email marketing tremendously. They are always thinking and looking for what is next, what works, and offering their advice and expertise. Simple ideas like forward to a friend, including on online (hosted version), and including personalization were once revolutionary but have since become commonplace and expected in emails. Email is evolving and changing each day. Also, email marketing is not as much as a dirty word as it used to be. Three or four years ago email markers were not inclined to divulge their occupation to their family and friends. Now, more and more people realize and appreciate the power of email and know that not all email marketers are spammers.
NE: For a company who is new to email marketing campaigns, what are some things they should consider before diving in?
JL: First, talk to an expert. Email marketing has specific rules and regulations that need to be followed if you want your email to make it into the inbox. Also, work with some who can help you with creative best practices, subject line testing, etc. Email can be extremely profitable and fun if you do it right. But it can also be extremely disappointing if you do not understand how it works and how it can work for you.
Second, look at your needs. There are tons of ESPs (Email Service Providers) out there who offer a wide range of services. Don’t sign up for more than you need and shop around. Take a look at the website www.whichesp.com to see a comparison of various ESPs and what they offer.
Third, do it right. Don’t spam and don’t try to take shortcuts with your subscriber list. Make sure your list is clean and you remove unsubscribes promptly. List hygiene is a very important topic that is often neglected.
Forth, have fun! Try new things with your email marketing campaigns. Allow recipients to share your emails on social media sites. Enjoy the ride!
NE: Are there any trends that you find to be innovative or unique in email marketing?
JL: Email Marketing is like a big game of follow the leader. It is not circular but more like a bunch of meandering snakes, with email marketers always looking to see what others are doing and then mimicking them. I can recall the days when it was a no-no to include a dollar sign or plus sign in a subject line – now this is the norm. Email Marketing is always changing and evolving. This is one thing that makes it interesting and fun.
A couple of unique trends that I have seen recently both deal with Subject Lines. The first is having an offer code in the subject line and the second is having a symbol in the subject line. Having the offer code in the subject line allows the recipient to use the code online or in a store without ever having to open the email. A drawback from an email marketing point of view is that the email click data will go down because the recipient never has to open the email to take advantage of the code. But, if the sale is recorded accurately and the code is unique to the email, then the email should be able to get credit for the conversion.
For Mother’s Day this year Tommy Bahama included hearts in their subject line. This was a great touch and stood out in my inbox. They did this again recently with a playing card themed email. This subject line included hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs. Be sure to test symbols to make sure there are not any deliverability issues prior to sending something like this to your entire list.
NE: What are your thoughts on mobile marketing and how it affects email marketing?
JL: Email and Social Media/Mobile Marketing seem to be more compatible than many people give them credit. But they do not depend on one another. Facebook, Twitter, digg, etc. will exist without email and email will exist without them. Because of this they work well together. People will always be checking email as long as emails are being sent. Most organizations goals are to convert a sale or to send a message. As long as the message is received or the sale is made, it really does not matter the medium used to send it.
NE: What are some of the most common mistakes that an email marketer can make?
JL: There are so many mistakes made in email marketing! Some of these include sending emails with broken links, sending the wrong email to the wrong group, having the wrong subject line, having broken images, including incorrect dynamic content, list goes on and on. It is important to remember that one, mistakes will happen. Two, the best way to deal with mistakes is to face them with an apology email if warranted, three, be sure to test your emails prior to sending them to minimize mistakes, and four, always remember that we are talking about email – it is not life and death.
NE: If an email campaign is not yielding the desired results, what are the first things you would test?
JL: All email marketers want to get better results from their emails. You should always be tweaking your campaigns based on proven test results to find the best way to reach your customers. When you do have some issue with your emails the first thing you should do is identify the problem. Is it your deliverability, your conversions, your inventory, your customer support? Be sure to test often. Try subject line tests, better segmentation, creative tests etc. If you need extra help bring in an expert. There are tons of ways that email campaigns can be updated to generate better results. Sometimes a simple change can lead to big rewards.
NE: Finally, what are three things for an email marketer to keep in mind?
JL: One, is to make sure you always Test, Test, Test and Test some more. Test your subject lines, email creatives, and segments. Also, educate yourself about email marketing and the latest and greatest trends and ideas.
Two, target your emails effectively. Include a welcome or welcome series. Utilize ratings and reviews. Keep up on industry news and trends. Keep your emails consistent and always ask yourself why would someone want to open my email?
Three, always say Thank You. Thank your subscriber for being on your list. Send a Thank You for a purchase. Give your email subscribers reasons why they should become your biggest fan.
Follow Jordan on Twitter: @JordanDLane