Best Practices for Email Communication

email best practicesLike most people, I have a dedicated email address for all of my online "business": internet shopping, mailing lists, newsletters, and site registrations. I receive a shocking amount of messages every day, each email fighting to grab and keep my attention. My criteria for reading, deleting, or unsubscribing is rather mercenary, but there's really no other way to be.

No doubt, businesses are shifting their priorities around with the ubiquity of social media, but email still matters. In fact, according to Rebekah Henson at The 60 Second Marketer, "93% of online consumers still choose to interact with brands through email subscriptions rather than on a social network." This number does not diminish the fact that email marketing faces challenges, which, according to Dan Zarella's webinar "Science of Email Marketing 2012," include:

  • The volume and amount of clutter everyone gets

  • People are viewing email on their mobile devices

  • 88% of people surveyed use one inbox for both personal and work emails

  • 58% of people said they use a separate "junk" email address that they never check

So what is a savvy business to do? On the one hand, email marketing remains a reliable workhorse in the marketing stable; on the other, it may be hard to divine what it is the consumer wants. Luckily, Henson and Zarella have some great tips.

  • Henson advocates for a blended approach that tailors emails based on businesses' subscribers' social media habits. For example:

    • "Facebook users place the most value in entertainment and making public statements about their brand the world of email marketing, entertainment can equal relevance and variety in your content, upping its shareability value." Providing entertainment in your marketing messages means knowing your audience well and giving your subscribers more than a sales pitch...Create variety in your messages to entertain your Facebook segment. Add social links your subscribers can use to show off their brand affiliation to friends.

    • "Consumers on Twitter show greater interests in news updates, interaction and exclusive deals and offers. The key to keeping your Twitter segment engaged is sending exclusive deals and timely updates to keep them in the know about your brand or product."

    • Henson lists some great examples with screenshots.

  • Zarella has 9 pieces of advice. Among them are:

    • Powerful subject lines that "Tell the reader what they'll get from opening your email...people want to read or open emails that benefit them...Beware of sales-y jargon or high pressure words that are supposed to create urgency.

    • Make sure emails are visual. "According to HubSpot's statistics, 88% of people said they like emails from companies to be in HTML...65% of surveyed respondents also said they want their emails to be mostly images (as opposed to mostly text, or a mix of the two)...Give people images they can click (like a Groupon email) and they can read more on your website if they're interested.

    • Increase relevance for consumers through segmentation: "Separate your email subscribers into smaller, more targeted groups based on their interest, actions, and other attributes...Click-Through-Rate (CTR) was higher for companies who had multiple email lists, instead of only one major list. So by segmenting people and creating smaller, more targeted lists, you're able to send them users more appropriate - or relevant - emails."

    • Give subscribers exclusive offers

  • Finally, Christina Galbornetti at Target Marketing offers 10 helpful tips for formatting emails for mobile devices. Among them are:

    • Aim for 400 - 500 pixel width

    • Keep offer text in the top 200 - 500 pixels to ensure consumers won't delete the message before reading it.

    • Use a clear call-to-action button

    • Use HTML to ensure the email renders correctly over many platforms.

Perhaps your business is already using these tips. If so, how are they working out? Or perhaps your business has hit upon a method that works--care to share?

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Jenna Hannon

Jenna Hannon is a Canadian born technology marketer and writer living in Silicon Valley. She is currently Strategic Communications at Fanhattan, advisor at Treasure Data. Jenna is also an adrenaline junkie; as a kiteboarder, skateboarder, snowboarder and surfer.

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