Posts Tagged ‘email’

Local Business Email Marketing: The Basics

Let's keep it simple and go over what you need to do local business email marketing the right way. It is not hard to do and you can quickly get started in just a few steps.

1. You need an autoresponder and for that I suggest Aweber. They rank at the top of all autoresponders being used on the Internet today.

The service runs around $20 a month and let you follow up with thousands of names and email addresses. It's very easy to get started with and they offer training on how to use their system.

2. When using an autoresponder you want to build a sign up form and then place the code on every web page you have. If you are promoting your local business properly you will have website visitors coming to your site on pages other than just your home page.

For this reason placing your sign up form on every page gives you a chance to build your mailing list faster. Doing this will help you increase your business as you can follow up with people over a period of time.

3. Offer something free such as a report that gives him valuable information relating to the niche your business is in. This is what will help entice your website visitors to subscribe to your mailing list. This does not have to be anything real long, but it should include unique information that would make your website visitor want to read it.

4. Set up a few follow up messages in your autoresponder in advance. These only need to be around 200 words in length and should offer helpful information or something your reader would find interesting.

The advantage of pre writing them is you can set them up to go out at various intervals and then forget about them. This makes following up with your new subscribers very easy to do and automates your email marketing efforts.

5. Consider publishing a tips newsletter and send it out on a monthly basis. This is a good way to keep in touch with your email subscribers so they don't forget about you. This is also a good way to sell new products as you can promote things directly in the body of your email newsletter.

These are a few of the basics that will help you do local business email marketing more effectively. Placing a sign up form on your web pages when building your list will give you a tremendous competitive advantage in the marketplace as most of your competitors are not doing this.

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How Email Marketing Solutions Help You Know Your Customers

For starters, and just to make sure we're all on the same page, what is email marketing solutions? In a nutshell, it's exactly what it sounds like: communicating with your customers via email. But there's a key difference between legitimate email marketing solutions and the pesky spam messages that end up in your junk folder. The difference is that email marketing solutions is opt-in, or permission-based. This means that the people who are receiving your email messages have, at some point, signed up to hear from you. This is one of the key reasons why email marketing solutions is so effective.

But that's not what I want to focus on today. In fact, now that we've gotten the basic stuff out of the way, I want to introduce you to a completely new way to look at email marketing solutions. Yes, email marketing solutions will help you communicate with your customers and leads, and yes, it's an inexpensive and efficient method of marketing. But you probably already know that. You also likely know that you can use email marketing solutions for many methods of communication, including e-newsletters, e-flyers, e-coupons and promotions, press releases, postcards, event invitations (or e-vites), thank you notes, and so much more. But did you know email marketing solutions has another major functionality?

Email marketing solutions can help you get to know your customers. Just when you thought that market research and intricate customer profiling tools were reserved for big companies with huge budgets, here comes this nifty, easy-to-use and inexpensive online tool. Email marketing solutions is like a window into the actions, preferences and behaviors of your customers and leads.

So, the big question is: How? And, as cliché as it sounds, I'm happy to say it's easy as pie (actually, since I don't really bake, if you're anything like me this is going to be much, much easier than pie!) Here are the simple steps you can follow to get to know your customers via email marketing solutions.

Step 1: Take Good Care of Your Contact List

When you ask customers or prospects to sign up for your email marketing solutions subscriber list, the one key piece of information you must collect is their email address. If you want to make the most of email marketing solutions, make sure you also ask for their first and last name, and other information that may be pertinent to your business. For example, if you run a sporting memorabilia store, you may want to ask for the customer's favorite sports team(s). This way, later you'll be able to send out targeted messages promoting merchandise from the selected sports team(s). The simple step of asking for pertinent information when the customer signs up will later help you send messages targeted to the exact interest of each customer. If you keep the information you collect in a simple Excel file, you'll later be able to automatically upload it to your email marketing solutions software.

Now, you may be thinking: does targeting my customers' interests mean I'll have to manually sift through each customer record and separate customers by interest group? The answers is no, not if you are using a first-class email marketing solutions software package.

Step 2: Make Good Use of Interest Groups

An interest group is a group of email subscribers who share something in common. This may be a group of people who live in the same area, wear the same shoe size, purchase from your store with the same frequency, etc. In email marketing solutions, you can segment customers any way you want, or any way that makes sense for your business. By separating customers into interest groups, you can automatically send out email marketing solutions messages to one or more specific group(s) of people. For example, if you have segmented your customers by birthday month, you can send out a Happy Birthday email message specifically to the customers whose birthdays fall on the current month. You can even include a coupon for a freebie or a special discount on the customer's birthday.

One really cool thing about that is that the top email marketing solutions programs can auto-fill information on an email message. So, for example, if Annie's birthday is on April 2 and you want to send a coupon that can only be used on her birthday, the best email marketing solutions software packages include a feature that can auto-fill information, such as, "This coupon is only valid on April 2."

Now there are 2 key ways you would know Annie's birthday is on April 2, or Tommy likes the Toronto Maple Leafs. The first way is the one described in Step 1: you had the foresight to ask for this pertinent information when the customer signed up for your email marketing solutions list. So, what if you already have a list, but you never asked for customer information at sign-up? Can you still use email marketing solutions to get to know your customers? The answer is yes, of course.

Step 3: Make Good Use of Links In Your Email Messages

Another great way to get to know your customers through email marketing solutions is include pertinent links in your email messages. The best email marketing solutions programs provide you with detailed link click reports. This means that you will be able to see which customers clicked on each link contained in your email marketing solutions campaign. How does that help you get to know their interests and preferences? Easy! Once you have chosen how to segment your customers (by shoe size, birthday month, life stage, etc, etc..), create some email content targeted to that interest group. The simplest and most straightforward method is to say something like: "Want to receive emails about stuff that's important to you? Tell us what's important to you". You can then include links to options like "traveling, my kids, work, etc.." Make sure these links take the reader somewhere, even if it's a simple 'Thank You' page. And, you don't even have to be so direct. Say you run a music store. You can include links to your product pages with link text like "See what's new in classical music" or "Click here to browse through our hard rock music selection."

Once the email has been sent, your email marketing solutions software will show you a detailed link click report. You will see which customers are fans of classical music, and which are fans of hard rock. Then (here comes my favorite part), if you are using a top-notch email marketing solutions program, you will be able to automatically turn these report results into interest groups. This means that with the simple click of a button, you will instantly have a classical music interest group, and a hard rock interest group. Next time, you can send each group emails with more of the albums that you know will interest them. And, you were able to get to know your customers that well simply by including a few pertinent links in your email marketing solutions campaign.

With these 3 simple steps, you too can get to know your customers using the simple, inexpensive and highly effective tool known as email marketing solutions.

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Email marketing the easy way

What is email marketing?

Basically, in plain English, email marketing is a targeted mass mailing done via email. The purpose of email marketing could be advertising in order to recruit new clients, introducing a new set of products or services to an existing client base, keeping your clients informed by means of a newsletter, etc. All of the before mentioned activities are very legitimate business efforts, as long as you respect some unwritten rules and as long as the list of emails you use is what is called 'targeted', in other words the names came from a database generated by your marketing division and represents your existing client base, a carefully selected list of potential prospects or a list of people who opted in to receive your messages.

If instead of the above you use a list that you bought (you know, "25 million guaranteed AOL email addresses for only 19.95 - plus shipping"), or are doing it without warning the people on your list, or using other shady methods, then you are considered a spammer and what you are sending is spam, bulk mail, unsolicited email, basically, the main enemy of all things virtue and life in general. Yes folks, it is that easy to be labeled as a spammer, and very hard to get out of it.
Once your message is considered unsolicited, you will immediately be put on zillions of black lists, side by side with those who promise inches and inches of extra extremities and hours and hours of ecstatic pleasures (for only 3 easy payments and some handling fees).

Sound pretty risky, so why bother?

Obviously, opt-in email advertising is far more cost effective than direct marketing via regular mail, door-to-door sales, or telemarketing. Paper, printing, envelopes, and postage can add up quickly. Door to door sales require paying out commissions. Telemarketing results in high long distance bills, often without great results, as people become more and more blood thirsty toward the people on the other end of the so called cold call.

So why not just use my personal email or my company's mail server and some mailing software?

In the early days of email marketing. They would gather all their emails into some primitive version of a spreadsheet, fire up some mail merging program, hook it up to their corporate mail system and voila, thousands of emails were flying away.

Today, the scenario is certainly possible, but let me tell you in a simple set of scenarios what can happen:

One of the many not-for-profit groups that decided to police the internet will intercept that a large number of emails were generated and sent by a server near you (yep, they can do that). In order to protect the civilized world from those who spread spam, viruses and other vermin, they will put you on a list of threats to humanity. Those other nice corporate folks who were your indented recipients, have an IT department that gets constantly yelled at by angry users who get emails with naked people. Well - Mel, their IT guy decides to put up an anti-spam system that links to that not-for-profit's database of known spammers (oh yeah, did I mention you are now a 'known spammer'?) and block your emails. Your emails might actually be blocked so well that your company will have a real trouble communicating via email and your IT folks will all go nuts and/or get fired.

Basically, not so good. Other things that can happen are: you'll have to build some opt-in / opt-out system, in some states there are laws that require that you make it very easy for your audience to unsubscribe, you'll have a hard time formatting your emails in a decent, eye pleasing way, etc.

Lastly, the process of sending thousands of emails and managing lists, subscribing and unsubscribing people is tedious and just plain annoying. The only way to do it is with a maximum degree of automation, or, the better solution - to outsource to a company that does it professionally.

Folks, I am known for promoting the "do it in house" concept, and am not that big on outsourcing. But when it comes to mass mailing... I say stay away from it and let the professionals do what they do.

If you are worried about cost, know that the fee you pay for email marketing services, will still cost less than the continued overhead and expenses of the traditional options, not to mention the great possibilities of reaching a much larger audience, much faster (practically instantly).

What to look for in an email marketing company?

1. Automating Your Subscribe and Unsubscribe Requests

Many email marketing companies will provide you with exact HTML code you need to paste to your site to have a subscription form on your web site. The better services also provide a link at the bottom of each email that enables subscribers to update their information or unsubscribe from a list, automating everything for you.

2. Personalization of Emails

Another powerful feature of many email marketing services is the ability to use mail merge capabilities to personalize each email that you send. The better services allow to have custom fields, additional to the standard first name and last name.

3. Bounceback email handling

Bouncebacks are emails that are sent to email accounts that no longer exist or are full, blocked, etc. Essentially, you'll get a response stating that your message did not make it. All email list management software programs are able to manage subscribe and unsubscribe requests and send out messages, however without integrated bounceback email handling all the non-deliverable emails will be sent back to you, a rather big nuisance if your list is large. Ideally, the email software you use will be able to manage your bouncebacks for you. Whenever a bounceback is received, the software makes a note of the address and if another bounceback is received the email address will be sent to a list of dead addresses.

This remove capability is extremely important since if you continuously send out emails with many bouncebacks you may be blacklisted as a spammer. This is something you really want to avoid at all cost.

4. HTML email

The ability to send out HTML emails has been around for quite some time. Most email marketing companies support the ability to send out messages that include graphics and formatted text. This is surely something you'll want to look for.

However, not all of your users have the ability to view email messages in HTML format. This percentage is usually between 10-20%. Instead of seeing your aesthetically pleasing email they might see a string of meaningless code. Using most email list management programs, these 10-20% of users will open up emails from you and be very inclined to call you a spammer.

To avoid this, look for companies that use multi-part MIME to send out messages. When you send an HTML email in multi-part MIME, users who do not have the ability to view HTML messages will receive the email in the usual text format.

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Bring Deliverability and Design Together to Maximize Email Marketing Success

January 28, 2009 — Tips for getting your permission-based marketing emails into the inbox and the actual design of the email are closely linked. Here you will find useful information on getting into the inbox, email design tips, and the nexus between the two.

If you are just getting back into email marketing after a break, are new to it, or are sending to an old list, make sure to ramp up your sending. This does not take long. If you have a large list, do not send to your whole list all at once but ramp up incrementally to maximize email marketing deliverability.

It is very important to keep a clean list. Too many hard bounces (email addresses that do not exist any more) can hurt your reputation with the ISPs. Pay close attention to keeping a clean list and purge as many bad addresses off the list as you can before you even send through a new Email Service Provider (ESP). You want to get off on the right foot with good delivery.

Keep in mind that the worst thing you can do to build your email list is to harvest emails off of Web sites, as this a flagrant violation of the CAN-SPAM act.

In addition, do not buy a list from some guy on the Internet who promises you the subscribers have all opted-in. They may have opted-in to hear from someone, but not from you. For you, they are likely to hit the spam complaint button along with the many others to whom this guy has sold the list. Sending to this sort of list will hurt your ability to reach your best customers or prospects.

No matter which ESP you choose, they will assign you an IP address – either shared or private. This IP address, not your email address, is the “Caller ID” of every email that goes out, whether a personal message or email marketing. Make sure you setup a Sender Policy Framework (SPF) record that matches the IP your ESP assigned you with the sending domain (yourcompany.com). If you do this, you will be in the elite of email marketers who are following this optimal practice and will have an advantage. If you need help, ask your ESP. If you are a techie or know one, setting up an SPF record in your Domain Name Service (DNS) records does not take long. With many ESPs, you can determine the IP (shared or private) by looking in the settings of the account; with some ESPs you may have to ask them what IP address your emails are coming from.

Here are some additional tips on getting your emails through the spam filters.

Email Marketing Design: The Coin of The Realm

Good email design is not only more appealing to recipients and better for click throughs, but it also makes the spam filters look more kindly on your emails. This matters greatly when it comes to reaching the inbox, but do not forget that people like well designed emails better than something that is hard on the eyes. Your success with achieving your email marketing goals — including click-through-rates (CTR) and conversions — will be greatly enhanced by aesthetically pleasing email design.

One of the top guidelines for email marketing design is not to send out an email that is too heavy graphics or, much worse, one giant graphic. The guiding principle is 60 percent text, 40 percent graphic. Many email recipients view emails in a preview pane, so the top left corner is an ideal location for brand placement and a good enticing lead. Also, keep in mind that many email clients have graphics turned off by default so you have to entice people to click the button that turns graphics back on. The best way to do that is to leverage strong content, a well-designed email, and a good balance between text and graphics. It is always a very bad idea to send out an email that is one large graphic because not only will it lessen the chances that people will read it, but also because spam filters hate one large graphic emails.

It is crucial to remember to include ALT text for any images you include in your emails. The reason is that anything you are trying to communicate through images will be lost until many users turn on the graphics, which usually can be accomplished with a quick click. Entice them with descriptive ALT text that describes the graphic. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then give your recipients a reason to view those images.

Tables are back – which may seem counterintuitive to those of you who have been involved in a Web design project. Tables are an important element of email marketing design. You can use CSS but it must be inline CSS if you want it to work. Consider tables in your email design and play close attention to using table attributes.

Be aware of the inherent limitations of email programs as compared to Web browsers. Consider that the optimal email width is recommended at 600 pixels wide to accommodate for various browsers and mobile devices. Try to hit this range to avoid wide and unwieldy emails that few will want to read through. You probably want to avoid very long emails as well.

Again, keep in mind that while Web browsers are developed to handle javascript, flash, etc., many emails programs simply cannot handle the fancy stuff.

In addition, make sure to have a link in your email that enables your recipients to view the email as a Web page. Most ESPs provide a very easy way to accomplish this task. Some people will just prefer to view your email as a Web page.

If you combine good design for email with an awareness of both the spam filters and an aesthetically pleasing email for your audience, then you have a recipe for success. Email marketing can be hard work but when done well it yields the highest ROI of any other marketing tactic, which, according to the Direct Marketing Association is nearly $57 for every dollar invested.

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