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When it comes to customer outreach and interaction, email marketing is critical. The problem? It’s easy to do it wrong. Before you start sending a barrage of messages to every user on your list, review these five simple steps for effective email marketing. Nailing the basic stuff is 80% of the work.

1. Understand the spam rules


Just because you’re promoting a noble cause—your design work, for example—doesn’t stop your messages from being flagged as spam. For the full story, you can read about the CAN-SPAM act to gain a deeper understanding of the law, but put plainly, you may only send bulk emails to those who have given you permission. This typically means that they’ll need to check a box when signing up for your site or service. Keep this in mind before you email your whole database of registered users without asking.

2. Make it easy to subscribe to your emails

Given the strict spam rules, your top priority should be to get signups for your email list. You should have an email signup form wherever your customers are, whether that’s on your website, blog, Facebook page, or in your store. The easiest way to gain new subscribers is to ask them whether they’d like to receive an email newsletter when they first sign up. The problem? This adds one more step to registration process, and studies show that each additional step can turn potential signups away.

Alternatively, you might provide a link for users to join your newsletter when you send them a registration verification email, or else present a checkbox to sign up when they make their first purchase. Regardless of the methods you use, always provide a brief sentence that tells users how signing up for the newsletter will benefit them.

Finally, make sure that your subscribe form is short and to the point. Start by collecting the pertinent information and you can always send an email later on asking for more details. A single button or checkbox is a fine place to start.

3. Send a welcome email

When somebody signs up to be on your email list, it’s good practice to send a welcome email. Welcome emails serve the functional purpose of confirming the user’s addition to the list, but they also provide an opportunity to get the user excited about future messages. If you are in a position to give a special welcome offer (10% off your next purchase, $5 store credit, etc.), the first email is the perfect time to do it.

People quickly learn to glaze over certain emails while clicking on others: train the user to look forward to your emails from the very first message. Giving people an exclusive offer will make them feel appreciated and get them excited for the future.

4. Send useful content

Nothing is worse than signing up for a company’s email list only to be sent content you don’t care about. But, how do you know what content readers want from your newsletter? Ask them! It’s an easy solution and one that your readers will appreciate. Asking the question on Twitter or Facebook can lead to hundreds of responses that allow you to better understand your customer’s needs. Another good place to look for content ideas is in the comments on your site. You’ll often start noticing consistent requests for the same type of content—whether special offers, intriguing articles, or visual summaries.

Don’t have enough users yet to get solid feedback? Look at your own inbox. Which companies’ emails do you read? Why? Both LinkedIn and Spotify have strong email marketing campaigns. TLinkedin focuses on posting compelling articles from business leaders, while Spotify provides a visual summary of all the hottest music, plus links to listen to the latest hits.

Finally, consider adding a small link to each email that asks, “Was this content interesting to you? Yes or No.” Over time, you’ll be able to see exactly which emails resonated—and which didn’t.

5. Establish a schedule

Most people appreciate knowing when to expect correspondence with a company. If you can establish a schedule and send a regular, engaging newsletter, customers will start to look forward to getting your email and will be more likely to share the newsletter with their friends. How often you send your newsletter is different for every company – some choose to do a monthly newsletter, others weekly.

As you start to experiment with sending newsletters, follow the analytics and track if the newsletter is being read. If you start to see a decline in people opening the email, you are either sending too many emails in a short amount of time or not sending emails frequently enough to stay in your users’ minds.

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Posted by Ben Taylor

Ben Taylor is a marketing manager at FindTheBest, a research hub that helps people think like experts. He also writes film reviews at TheCroakingFrog.

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