The I-COM Email Marketing Best Practice Guide

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Sending the right emails to the right people at the right time can not only drive sales but it can improve the lifetime value of your customers and reinforce their affinity with your brand.

However, many people fall into the trap in thinking that sending out weekly or monthly newsletters will be enough to really drive success from this valuable channel. You have to consider a number of things to ensure that you’re taking full advantage of all the ways in which email can drive revenue, particularly if you are new to email marketing or have just switched platforms.

Take a look below at our best practice email marketing cheat sheet below on what you can do to maximise your strategy. Any questions? Then get in touch and our email marketing gurus will be happy to help you out.

1. IP Warmup

If you’re new to email marketing, or you’re moving to a new email service provider (ESP), you need to make certain that you warm up your IP and sending domain to ensure that the internet service providers (ISPs) of your recipients don’t put you on a blacklist. 

You should segment your email addresses by ISP and engagement level and send your first few emails in batches, starting by sending to the people who open the most emails and increasing the number of people you send to each time.

This is to prevent the likes of Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo from deciding that your new IP address or sending domain is a throwaway account set up to send a large volume of unsolicited emails.

By building up the numbers slowly and demonstrating that you have good open rates, you can build trust with the ISPs and this will ensure that your emails end up in inboxes rather than spam folders.

2. Database Segmentation/Preference Centre Setup

One of the best tools at your fingertips is the increasing ability to personalise what you send to make certain that it’s as relevant as it can possibly be. 

Nearly all ESPs have segmentation tools, and may also provide the ability to add dynamic blocks into your emails so you can send different content to different segments within the same email, although you may have to pay a bit extra for the functionality. By making use of personalisation you can increase engagement with your emails.

Even if you don’t yet have the data to easily segment your subscribers into distinct groups with distinct interests, you can get your customers to help you by asking them to give you a bit more information about their preferences.

Most ESPs will provide you with access to a Preference Centre, which is linked in the footer of the emails you send:

Most ESPs will allow you to customise your Preference Centre to ask people to fill in additional fields such as their birthday or their job title, and you can also ask them to subscribe to specific lists such as “blog” or “promotions.”  In this way, you can get a better idea of the types of emails different people prefer to receive the and the subjects that interest your customers.

3. Programme Creation

Your ESP should enable you to set up automated emails at varying levels of complexity. At their most basic level, you should be able to build drip campaigns that trigger a series of emails when a subscriber meets a certain criterion. At the more advanced level, you can build very complex workflows that send personalised content based on specific actions that subscribers take at each stage in the workflow. This will move people between lists and help you nurture your leads to a point that they are ready to become customers by feeding them relevant information at the right points in their journey.

Every business using email as a channel should have a set of basic programmes in place in order to get the most from  their activities including:

  • A welcome programme that sends to all new subscribers giving them more information about what to expect from their subscription, about your business and encouraging them to update their preferences and follow you on social media
  • For e-commerce businesses, an abandoned basket programme that triggers if subscribers add items to their shopping cart but do not check out
  • A re-engagement campaign that sends to subscribers who have not opened any recent emails, which encourages them to start reading your emails again or unsubscribes them if they do not engage with the programme
  • A post-purchase campaign that triggers a week or so after the customer will have received their purchase offering additional incentives to visit the site or make additional, complementary purchases
  • A loyalty campaign aimed at the highest-spending or most-frequent customers offering them a thank-you for their loyalty
  • A birthday campaign that either offers a birthday reward on their actual birthday or, in the case of B2B customers, celebrates the anniversary of their purchase.

4. Calendar for Campaigns/Business as Usual Emails

You should always have a plan for regular email sends so customers get used to seeing content from you at regular intervals - whether that is daily, weekly, or monthly. If your emails are random or too infrequent then you will have a much higher rate of people unsubscribing or, worse, marking your emails as spam. If they are very infrequent you may find yourself needing to run a new warm-up campaign.

Plan your email campaigns to work in conjunction with your marketing calendar and ensure you offer a mix of different types of sends - sales-specific emails as well as content-focused emails that aim to entertain and educate.

5. Data Capture and List Building/Management

Every email list has a natural rate of contact loss. People will abandon or change their email addresses (or change jobs if you are a B2B business); they may decide they get too many emails and unsubscribe, or they may simply stop opening your emails and need removing in order to maintain a healthy open rate to ensure that your emails continue to land in inboxes.

In order to counteract this, you should work to replace these lost contacts and to grow your list over time. You can do this through a well-placed signup form, through an opt-in on your contact form and through regular marketing campaigns aimed at driving sign-ups to your list. This will require investment in incentives whether that is running regular competitions or producing exclusive, valuable content, or providing a compelling one-off offer to new signups.

6. Email Template Creation

You should make sure that you have a flexible email template (or set of templates) that reflects your brand, works on any device and makes it easy for your subscribers to read and engage with your content.

A good template will make it faster and more efficient to build your emails, but it will also help subscribers recognise your brand and associate what you send them with the experience they have on your website.

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