Email is king! Here's how to be an awesome email marketerWith social media, mobile marketing, and other newer and sexier marketing alternatives, a lot of people say that email is losing its luster. The fact remains, however, that email marketing is still one of the most effective online marketing activities that your company can engage in. The Direct Marketing Association says that for every $1 a company spends on email, they get $40.56 in revenue.

Today we are going to look at some rules, that when followed, will make you an exceptional email marketer, and will help you get more ROI from the email you're sending.

1. Follow CAN-SPAM requirements

Not only is this federal law, but it's just the right thing to do. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 establishes some very basic standards for sending commercial email, and I'm sure you're aware of this if you are already sending out email marketing campaigns. This one goes without saying, but I'm saying it anyway.

2. Don't buy email lists and add them to your house list

There's a reason that reputable email marketing providers won't let you add purchased lists to your house list or simply send email to a rented email list using their service. When you send to rented email lists--even ones where people have opted in--recipients will see this as spam and mark the messages as such. When that happens, your email marketing provider's reputation gets tarnished and risks being shut down. If you decide to send to recipients on a purchased list using your company email server, you risk tarnishing your own company's domain, IP address, and getting penalties from Google.

3. Build your list through social media and your blog

Since I mentioned what not to do in the last point, I figured I should let you know how to build your email list the right way. There are several ways to build your list responsibly. We like to use social media messages on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to tease our blog content. When people click to read it, there's a call to action button at the very bottom to subscribe to our blog (you'll see it below). There's also a form on the right where you can subscribe. Each blog post should have at least a call to action somewhere on the page so a person can subscribe by email.

4. Build your list with landing pages

We discovered this little trick a while back, and it has grown our own email list more than any other technique. We've even had people comment on how clever it is... On your landing page forms, include a question that says something like, "Subscribe to our blog?" Rather than making this a yes or no proposition, word the choices "Yes" and "No, I don't want free information." There's something about the wording of the "No" response that gets people to opt in. After all, who doesn't want free information?

5. Segment your email list

We just covered how to build your list, and now you need to carefully consider who you will send your email to. Sophisticated email marketers know that an email targeted to a small number of highly relevant recipients will work better than blasting your message out to everyone. For example, don't blast your most recent blog post out to all of your contacts. Send it instead to blog subscribers. If you've published a new tip sheet or guide on a topic, send it to just those people who have indicated that they are interested in that particular topic.

6. Don't over-design your email

Email design is not something that we touch on a lot, but it's darn important. Email programs like Outlook and web viewers like Gmail or Yahoo! Mail render email differently. What looks great in one may appear broken in another. You might be surprised to know that most of the email that we send and we send for clients is rather plain-looking. Other than a logo at the top, we try to reduce visual clutter. You shouldn't design your email to look like your homepage. Here's why:

  • People read email on large screens and small devices. Your big images might not look good on mobile devices.
  • Images take longer to load, which is important if your customers read their email on mobile devices.
  • Putting important content in images increases the risk that your content won't be seen. Gmail, Yahoo! Mail and similar readers will hide images by default.
  • You run the risk of your message being shuffled into the junk folder if there are too many images.

For best results, keep your email simple, concise and focused.

7. Know your Sender Score

Just because you send your email to a list doesn't mean that every email will be delivered. You need to be aware of what percentage of emails make it to their destination. Luckily, there's a tool for that. Sender Score is a free service of Return Path, and when you put in your domain name or IP address, it gives you a score between 1-100 that denotes the reputation of the outbound mail server.

If you're sending email campaigns from your own domain, simply put in your web address (ours is If you're using Mailchimp, for example, simply put in and test the sender score.

This is important because many email vendors don't have good sender scores. I've noticed that several of the most popular services have relatively poor sender scores. Look for consistent results above 95%.

8. Email your contacts regularly

If you leave people on your email list and never email them, they will be surprised to get your email after several months. Surprise, in the negative sense, is the last thing that you want your recipients to experience, because they will mark your messages as spam. Make sure that everyone gets a message at least every 6 months if not more often.

9. Don't be afraid to drop people from your list

It's no secret that companies value large lists. Email lists are like trees, though. They need to be pruned so they can stay healthy. Not only should you drop all hard bounces from your list altogether, but you need to examine your list for recipients that never open your email. If a recipient hasn't opened your email in 6 months, consider dropping them from your list. This will save your marketing department money and reduce spam complaints.

10. Include calls to action

Every email that you send to your recipients should be for a purpose. Including a prominent call to action in every email increases the click rates of your email and gets the recipient to take action. Be careful though, to only include one or two primary actions per email. Cluttering your email with more than one or two calls to action will disrupt and confuse.

Follow these ten rules and you're well on your way to being an exceptionally good email marketer with results to show for it.

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