How to Improve Your Email Marketing ResultsWith so much emphasis these days on search engine marketing and social media, email marketing gets overlooked. But for millions of local businesses it represents a steady performer in the marketing mix. Using email marketing effectively, however, can be challenging. Most businesses could improve results greatly by making a few changes to their email practices.

Here are 10 ways to make email marketing work harder for your business:

Improve your appearance
Your “Subject” line is critical. This is what most recipients see first. It determines whether or not to open your email. Subject lines of 30-50 characters are best and should convey a sense of urgency. The “From” field is also important. It’s usually best to use your business name (or your name if that’s more recognizable) so recipients know who’s sending the email and that it’s not spam. Avoid using an email address such as Don’t use words or phrases associated with spam such as “Free,” “You may have already won” or “Don’t delete!”

Hone your message
Craft your message so it appeals as specifically as possible to your intended audience. Be clear about which audience you are addressing. For example, are they current customers? Inactive customers? Prospects? Different audiences may have different likes, expectations and levels of knowledge about your business. Focus on one thing you want to accomplish.

Respect recipients’ time
Email marketing involves a special relationship because recipients have given permission to send them emails. So treat them with special care. Offer something of value – special deals, important news, insider access or VIP treatment – and never waste their time. Get to the point. Include links to pages on your website where they can get more details or take action.

Make it interesting
If you’ve done the preliminaries right and recipients open your email, keep them engaged by making it interesting, as well as worth their while. Use a conversational style (avoid sounding like a commercial) and let your personality (or your brand’s personality) come through. As you create your email, think as if you are writing it to a friend.

Create a strong call to action
Just as with other marketing messages, emails need a strong call to action (see “How to Create a Powerful Call to Action”). A strong CTA makes it clear what action the customer is expected to take and why.

Tap into testing
One of the nice things about email marketing is that it’s so easy to test. For example, you can easily try different subject lines and see which one works best. You might be surprised at your findings. Craft different main messages and see which ones result in the most clicks to your website. Try different offers and calls to action.

Segment your list
For many small local businesses, segmenting spells success. If your customers include different demographic groups (older, younger, men, women, etc.), try creating customized offers and messaging to the different groups. Segmenting will also reduce opt-outs because recipients get more targeted messages.

Take it slow and steady
The best email lists often build slowly and methodically. Purchased lists can be of dubious quality and value. Don’t worry if your list is small. Quality trumps quantity.

Dial the right frequency
Because email marketing is relatively inexpensive, it’s tempting to use it frequently. But that can backfire. The best frequency and time of day to send your emails depend on the type of business you operate. Finding the right formula is a learning process, so try sending emails at different intervals and times. Also avoid large gaps in your frequency. If customers haven’t heard from you in months, they may forget they opted in and consider your message spam.

Win the battle
Email recipients use many different email programs, including Outlook, Yahoo, Entourage, AOL, Apple, Gmail, Hotmail and others. A common mistake is failing to test emails to make sure they work properly with as many email programs as possible. An easy way to do this is to use an email vendor for your marketing campaigns and take advantage of their testing tools. A few options include Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, iContact and Vertical Response.

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