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9 Laws of Successful E-Mail Marketing

Updated on November 24, 2014

Nine Rules for Successful E-Mail Marketing

9 Rules for Successful E-mail Marketing

As a person who gets inundated with email on a daily basis, I often wonder if most of these marketers even know how to reach me or the millions of people out there with multiple email accounts. Yes I have over 10 email accounts. Each dedicated to a specific part of my life or business.

I have one account that is only for family and it is never used for anything but communicating with family and close friends. Funny how often I get email solicitations in that account. They never get read. They are deleted at once or they are listed as spam and never even get to my in-box.

So what is a “legit” marketer or business to do? With tons and tons of spam out there, it is getting harder and harder to reach peoples in-box and its even harder to get them to open and read that mail.

I have not one, but two junk e-mail accounts. One of these accounts gets in excess of 1000 junk e-mails per week. Obviously I don't even read any of that junk...once a week I go in and delete all e-mails in both accounts.

I wonder how many times those two e-mail accounts have been sold or traded? Of course the marketers who use those two accounts will never reach me or sell me a thing. I also have an email account in which I do all my on line shopping. Again, it amazes me how much junk I get in this account as well.

I often see at the bottom of these junk e-mails how they got my address and sure enough it comes from a site that I purchased a product or service that “promised” not to sell or share my e-mail information with anyone. The dirty little secret is they really don't “share” my information or yours, they are “partnered” with other companies (as in they may even own those companies) so they are not actually sharing, they are considering you a customer of all of their “affiliated” or “partnered” companies. So technically they are not sharing your information outside of their company circle. Not a good way to conduct business in my book but it happens a lot.

There is hope. E-mail marketing obviously still works. But you must know HOW it works and how not to get listed as spam. Here are a few laws of e-mail marketing that works for those who follow them.

1. Send e-mail only to those who have “opted in” to receive it

Ideally you should use a double confirmed opt in which a confirmation message must be sent to the recipient, who then must reply to the message for the opt in to take effect. Don't ever use a blind opt out which forces the recipient to receive messages until they say no or opt out.

Consumer trust is something you must earn. One of the best ways is to truly respect their wishes when it comes to e-mail and never “share” their information with anyone including “affiliated” companies you are involved with.

2. Always honor user requests to opt out.

Make it a simple process and include a Web site URL or link in every message you send that allows the user to opt out. NEVER use a “reply to subscribe” as this does not always work if the user has multiple e-mail accounts which can be frustrating for the end user.

3. Confirm everything via e-mail: the opt in, orders, shipping and customer profile changes.

This will stop most problems of false information. If a fake e-mail address has been entered, the confirmation will either bounce or be delivered to someone who possibly has never heard of you in which case he will contact you and let you know your database needs to be updated. Always include an opt out mechanism in these messages. As an added bonus, use these messages as an upsell opportunity as well.

4. Allow users to specify their preferences.

What kind of information do they want to receive? How often do they wish to receive it? Encourage the user to give you as much information as necessary to allow you to effectively target them in your e-mail promotions and other e-commerce activities. But avoid asking for their life story. Instead, structure your program so that you gain more information over time with your customers permission. Also, when a customers request that you delete their account and information, DO IT! Don't archive it or keep fragments of it. Get rid of all of it.

5. Give value and you will receive value.

Customers won't and don't give you their e-mail address and other personal information out of altruism. They do it in exchange for something of value. It could be information you give or sell, a free gift, a coupon or a chance to win a sweepstakes. Be creative, but also follow through by delivering real value and never ask for more information than is really needed with your offer. One thing that turns off customers is requiring a phone number when all they are getting in return is a coupon for a free on-line item.

6. Your list is an asset but it should never be for sale or rent.

If you want to realize revenue beyond your own offerings, allow the users to opt in to receive offers from your partners. If you do this, then make sure you control the mailings and that your brand introduces other brands. The best way to keep your customers happy and your list clean is to never sell or rent your list to anyone. If you find a product or service that you think fits your brand or service, then send e-mails as yourself. In other words, if you have “partnered” with say ABC Company, then don't let ABC directly e-mail your list. You e-mail your list talking about ABC Company and then give them a link or URL your customer can go to if they have an interest. ABC Company never even sees your list.

7. Develop and post a privacy policy on your Web site.

You should include a link or URL that goes directly to this page on your site in every e-mail you send just as you include the opt out link or URL in every e-mail you send. You should also have a clear way for your customers or clients to e-mail you in case they have questions on concerns. This contact information link should be easy to find on your privacy policy page.

8. Respond to customer e-mail inquiries, promptly.

There is nothing more frustrating than sending an e-mail to a company and not hearing back from that company for days, weeks or never. Your policy should be, without question, that you respond to any e-mail inquiries within one business day. And yes in many cases a business day includes Saturday and even Sunday. This depends on the nature of your business. If you are a professional service, such as legal or financial, then a Monday through Friday schedule would be understood and accepted. But if you are a rock bottom bargain or coupon site, then it is reasonable to expect that your customers would believe you are open 7 days per week. Make it clear what your business days and hours are.

9. Don't use rented lists.

Gather e-mails on your own. Don't ever rent a lists. You will most likely be waisting your money anyway, as all those marketers who send e-mails to my two junk accounts. You never know where these rented lists get their information and you could open yourself up to legal problems by sending out mass unsolicited e-mail. Its just safer and more effective to gather your own e-mail information.

Bonus Law: Bonus, Remember the network effect still works.

Bad news travels much faster than good news and it travels even faster on the World Wide Web and it goes farther than ever before. An angry on line customer can broadcast his ire to millions instantly via the numerous blogs, social media sites, and consumer review sites. You don't ever want to get on the bad side of a single customer. Not only will the bad reviews spread like wildfire, it will also be available on line forever. Just ask some companies that deal with bad reviews from 10 years ago on a daily basis.

Its hard enough to please all of your customers through daily interactions, why increase the chances of negative feedback by not practicing proper e-mail etiquette?

Final Thoughts

By following the above rules, you will find that your e-mail marketing efforts will be well rewarded with new customers and more sales from existing customers. The basic rule is ALWAYS be considerate of your customers privacy. Just think about how you want your personal information used and then echo that with your customers. You will be seen as an honest and moral marketer and the accolades of your product or service will be spread far and wide, which will in turn garner even more customers and sales.

If you found this article to be useful please let others know. Feel free to add your comments below. And also feel free to view my other post here.


Submit a Comment
  • BusinessTime profile image

    Sarah Kolb-Williams 

    8 years ago from Twin Cities

    It can be difficult to balance email marketing and privacy against the policies of your third-party affiliates. Allowing an opt-out option is huge.

    Interestingly, I frequently find myself on the other side of this -- customers from several years ago sometimes add me to a bulk list to which they email reminders about local events that I couldn't attend if I wanted to, their family's new puppy, thoughts on Jesus...things, basically, not meant for customer service from a company they worked with several years ago. I always hit reply and put "unsubscribe" in the subject line, hoping that this "misunderstanding" on my part is enough to get them to delete me. No one has responded in offense yet...


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