by Michelle Keegan, Constant Contact's Email Marketing Diva
Doubleclick's newly released 2004 Consumer Email Study gives interesting insight on how recipients really feel about marketing related emails, and provides some great take-aways for email marketers.
According to the study, consumers increasingly value permission email marketing messages and prefer them to other types of marketing:
54% said they would like email to replace telemarketing
45% said they would like email to replace in-person sales calls
40% said they would like email to replace direct mail
33% would like to see email replace retail offers and coupons.
The study also shows that recipients have become savvier in managing their email inboxes, and more particular about what they open and respond to:
"Email sender recognition and relevant content are the keys to successful email marketing; both have a dramatic impact on likeliness to open and convert."
How can you take this information and apply it to your own email marketing efforts and your own unique audience?
Make sure recipients know who you are
"64% of respondents cite the "From" line as the most important factor motivating them to open permission-based email." Source: DoubleClick
Include Your Brand in your From Line
For better sender recognition, make sure you use a From Name and Address that includes your name, company, product or service name - whichever the recipient will know best. This best practice has never been more important. Your brand in the From line assures the recipient that the email is coming from a reliable and trusted source and builds familiarity and credibility - especially when repeated over time.
Include Your Brand in The Subject Line
You may also want to incorporate your brand into the Subject line of your email, especially if the From line does not contain your brand.
Here's an example: Debbie Weil's award-winning B2B (business to business) newsletter, WordBiz Report, looks like this in my inbox:
From Line: Debbie Weil [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject Line: [WordBiz] and the title of the issue
A newsletter publisher and B2B online marketing, email and content strategist, Debbie uses her name in the From line because her widely recognized name is her brand. She then places her newsletter brand, WordBiz, in the subject line.
Make sure you give recipients what they want
"Likeliness to respond to permission-based email was most increased by content based on specified interests (72%), while 68% cited relevance. Recipients clearly desire to state their preferences." Source: DoubleClick
Naturally, when an email is targeted, relevant and timely the recipient is more likely to open, read and act on it. The ideal content and frequency of email marketing communications will be different for every business and every audience.
How do you determine what is right in your case? Just ask!
Make the "ask" as formal or informal as you wish. Your customers and prospects will be eager to share their opinions and preferences, and they will appreciate being solicited. Most importantly, you can use the information to establish the email content and frequency that is right for your audience. And that equates to more readers and better response rates.
Gather customer interests on your website sign up form - and use them! It may be tempting to send an all-purpose email to your entire audience regardless of their stated preferences, but established best practices and the DoubleClick study strongly indicate that, from the recipient's viewpoint (the only one that really matters), irrelevancy can easily turn a good permission-based email into spam.
Take the time to learn more about content, relevance and frequency by enabling your visitors, clients, customers or members to choose what kind of information they want to receive from you.
When someone signs up to be on your email list, allow him to select his areas of interest.
For example, allow subscribers to select by:
Product or service categories
Job function or self-description
Desired communication type or content (e.g. newsletters, event or sale notifications, new product or service announcements etc.).
Also, specify what the customer will receive and when he will receive it. For example: "Sign up for our Email Marketing Hints & Tips Newsletter, sent every three weeks on Friday, and become an expert email marketer!"
Ask at every opportunity
Office or store visit
Sales calls, meetings or account reviews
Customer/client service, and support calls
Comment cards or feedback forms
Send an email surveyUse your reports
Email surveys compliment your email marketing efforts by allowing you to gather important feedback and opinions from your customers in a more formal, efficient and organized way.
If you are using an email marketing service, you can review your reports to monitor your subscriber feedback on a regular basis (e.g. opens, click throughs, email replies, unsubscribes and spam complaints).