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While email marketing offers up some serious returns for your investment, there’s also one truth that plenty of members of the community have a hard time facing: Email marketing requires a hefty amount of work in order to do things right. In an effort to trim down on the workload that goes into building a list, some brands seek out and purchase established contact lists. Unfortunately, buying a list of addresses is far from a good call. To help explain this point – and provide your organization with a more efficient and effective alternative approach to growing a list – let’s dig into the numerous perils that come with acquiring an already developed inbox audience.

Most Lists Aren’t High Quality

In order to properly explain why purchasing an email list is never a good idea, it’s important to impart one clear, concise fact about this process to you and the rest of the readers browsing this article – most lists for sale are bad. As Kate Harrison of Forbes magazine points out, there’s a reason that the owners of these lists generally aren’t too sad about letting such an asset walk out the front door. From poor open rates to an overabundance of abandoned addresses or spam accounts, the vast majority of purchased lists simply just don’t offer much.

Big Brother Doesn’t Condone This Activity

Additionally, Harrison goes on to explain that with the advent of tighter regulations and guidelines, the officials behind CASL enforcement and other spam-fighting groups aren’t exactly thrilled with this practice. The problem here is that by purchasing a list, you don’t offer your new readers a chance to opt-in to receive your messages. Sure, those that actually bother to open your incoming messages might have agreed to the original owner’s terms, but that doesn’t mean that they are on board for your content. Considering how stiff fines and penalties can be for those who stick their toes over the spam law lines, do you really want to test your luck with an unsuspecting and potentially disgruntled contact list?

Your Reputation Means More

In terms of future prospects, the HubSpot Blog’s Corey Eridon notes that even those who avoid fines and penalties still aren’t free of the hazards that come with purchasing a list. Internet service providers (ISPs) and email providers, like Yahoo and Gmail, keep track of shady practices, so don’t be surprised if your IPs end up banned or black flagged due to unacceptable email transmissions.

There’s also the reality that consumers using review sites and social media have no problem tarnishing your reputation via negative reviews and word-of-mouth anecdotes regarding unsolicited marketed messages. Think of it this way: If the shoe was on the other foot, would you really want some strange company spamming your inbox with offers and discounts that you didn’t ask to receive? At the end of the day, your brand’s reputation is worth far more than the minimal benefits offered up by purchasing a list.

A Better Alternative

Now that we’ve covered some of the most damaging outcomes that spring forth from this approach, let’s take a moment to talk about properly building your email list via trusted and proven tactics. Yes, doing things the right way is more work than simply forking over a hefty chunk of your marketing budget, but the payoff and goodwill that comes with this approach more than makes up for the effort that you put into this process.

According to the Marketing Profs’ Meghan Keaney Anderson, it all starts with giving your potential contact list membership options. From opt-in options on your blog, social sites, and other web content, to the ability to leave the list whenever they want, ensuring transparency stays at the top of your list of priorities is a great way to play by the rules of your audience, the various ISPs, email providers, and even the government.

Outside of putting the customer’s decision first, Anderson goes on to suggest filling your emails with only that of which they can benefit – and letting the world know about the deals held within. Between your membership spreading the good word to friends and family and your own outreach programs, it won’t take long for your contact list to become a healthy and vibrant community. When compared with the digital downfall that comes with most purchased lists, you’ll be happy you took the time to properly invest your resources in a custom contact list that can truly make your brand proud.

 

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It’s one thing to build a contact list full of eager and excited customers, but maintaining and growing this list is any entirely different matter altogether. It might seem like a fairly innocuous statement at first glance, but for most brands it represents a problem that is both hard to handle and harder still to solve. With this in mind, let’s spend a few minutes digging into how loyalty programs – and the rewards held within these strategies – can help keep your contact list engaged and ensure customers are always ready to open your next great email.

The Basic Concept

If you’re currently just dipping your toes into the world of email marketing, it’s probably a good idea to start with a quick overview of how a loyalty program works. Essentially, this type of strategy offers some sort of incentive – a reward – to customers that either stick around as part of your list, participate in a certain campaign, or even go so far as to spread the word about your email content to friends, family members, and other interested parties. It definitely sounds simple right now, but you’ll soon see that pulling off this approach requires quite a bit of planning and strategy.

Understanding the Need for Loyalty Programs

Of course, there’s always the chance that if you’re doing okay now, why rock the boat, right? While good enough might get you by for some time, the truth of the matter is that customers want more from brands in terms of content and value than ever before. In fact, The Huffington Post’s Seamus Egan goes so far as to say that these loyalty programs have never been more integral to the success of brands in the inbox as they are right now.

Basically, loyalty programs divide companies like your own into two categories in the eyes of consumers – those that succeed, and those that either fail or simply don’t try to make a lasting impression. On the positive side of this spectrum are brands like Starbucks, which racked up a 26 percent increase in profit and 11 percent jump in total revenue thanks to a smart and well-planned approach, according to Egan’s review of email-based reward systems. For the 20 percent of business that don’t have loyalty programs in place, or the 62 percent that believe this practice is just too hard to pull off correctly considering their current circumstances, the outlook isn’t as bright and sunny as the one viewed by companies like Starbucks.

Making Sure You Have Your Facts Straight

If you’re not interested in being on the wrong side of the debate, ClickZ’s Tia Matsumoto suggests that you better get your facts straight before you go charging off into the inbox. From understanding the makeup of your contact list audience in terms of attributes and demographics to testing different content and incentives, there’s plenty of variables to master before you release your offerings to the public.

Specifically, Matsumoto goes on to point out the need for constant interaction and engagement as part of the core of this program. As Matsumoto explains, the number of loyalty programs initiated in the last several years is on the rise, but consumer engagement and retention have fallen significantly thanks to shortsightedness on both the content creation and data collection fronts.

Finding the Right Plan of Attack

Once you have your facts in order and you’re confident you know enough about your audience to build a loyalty or reward system based around the inbox, what’s next? As Courtney Eckerle of Marketing Sherpa points out, moving forward is all about differentiating your brand. For instance, Eckerle reports that Sony’s try at an email-based rewards program netted an astounding 300 percent increase in conversions, all thanks to a fairly novel approach – letting the customer spread the word on behalf of their brand.

By offering sizable rewards that ranged from $100 to $250 per new recruit to the dual email marketing/credit card campaign, Sony captured a huge segment of viewers that would otherwise have never heard about this media giant’s inbox offerings. Naturally, your business might not be able to operate on the same scale or offer the same rewards, but the point remains the same. Email marketing is all about value, so your rewards better keep up with this concept if you want to keep your audience interested.

Whether you offer coupons to loyal readers or swing for the fences like Sony, with this info in hand you’ll be able to build a reward program that both engages and retains the attention of the people that matter most to your brand. For companies of all shapes and sizes that place a premium on the inbox, that’s a pretty hard scenario to top.

 

Email marketing is all about connecting with as many people as possible, in an effective and efficient manner. Unfortunately, no campaign ever keeps customers glued to their inbox forever. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to sit back and idly watch your contact list dwindle away into obscurity. With a proper understanding of the problem, as well as a smart strategy for maintaining and regaining your position, you can minimize the impact of opt-outs in your campaign and continue enjoying the benefits of email marketing moving forward.

Understanding the Core of the Problem

Before going any farther, it’s important to understand what actually drives customers to opt-out of your email contact list and choose another path. According to Julie Knudson of Small Business Computing, several roadblocks – originating both from your brand’s efforts and from issues on the consumer side of the process – lead to diminishing activity and drooping contact list numbers.

One of the prime offenders in this regard is poor email marketing practices. Whether it’s spamming your consumers day and night with messages or focusing too much on pushy promotions when generating email marketing content, losing sight of the basic value agreement that tethers your organization to these shoppers via the inbox and employing substandard practices is an easy way to force away the viewers that matter most.

Additionally, not understanding that value goes beyond coupons and limited time offers also creates a problem that can lead to opt-outs. This isn’t to say that customers don’t love deals, but rather that in today’s ultra-competitive online marketing landscape, these shoppers expect brands vying for their attention to go above and beyond with relevant and entertaining content, in addition to basic discounts and offers.

Finally, Knudson’s last piece of the opt-in puzzle isn’t really anything you can change, just something that you should be aware of as you develop your strategy; changes on the other side of the screen. From abandoning current email addresses and forgetting to rejoin your contact list to accidentally clicking the unsubscribe button, plenty of unfortunate and unintended errors by your viewership can artificially inflate opt-out numbers.

Redefining Your Strategy

So what can you do to fight back and revitalize the relationship with current contact list members before they also part ways with your email marketing campaign? As Syed Balkhi of Forbes magazine explains, it’s all about getting back to the basics and avoiding mistakes that reduce the original value proposition of your marketing messages.

First off, take some time to review your latest offerings and see if these emails actually stick with what you initially promised to provide to your contact list members. For instance, if your brand set out with the goal of creating an “insider culture” with early access to new products and discounts for subscribers, but somehow ended up straying off this path, it’s time to refocus and renew your commitment to this email marketing angle.

As for frequency and segmentation, Balkhi goes on to point out that these aspects of your campaign require constant testing and evaluation, not just when trying to fight back against increasing opt-outs. When it comes to segmentation, it’s important to create content that hits on the major demographics in your group, as the “one size fits all” approach is far from idle in the email marketing world.

Of course, the biggest question you have to ask yourself when redefining your strategy and aiming for fewer opt-outs revolves around the most important part of the email marketing process – do you still offer tangible value to these customers? If the answer is anything but a resounding “yes,” it’s time to get back to the drawing board and rethink what types of offers and content can truly spark the interest of these readers.

In terms of reconnecting with customers who accidentally unsubscribe or change email addresses without rejoining your list on the new account, the best way to regain lost ground on this front comes in the form of an active and vibrant social media presence. While there’s no guarantees that you’ll find a way to reach these viewers, having your posts shared, liked, retweeted, and spread in a variety of other ways presents your brand with the best chances possible to find these stray members of your campaign and bring them back into the fold. When combined with the rest of what you’ve learned about reducing the impact of opt-outs on your campaign, a strong social front stands as the perfect finish to a complete, and effective, email marketing turnaround.

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In today’s email marketing landscape, mailing list numbers are nice, but if you don’t have the content to keep these consumers interested, don’t expect them to stick around for very long. As Elite Email’s president, Robert Burko, explained in a recent post on Marketo, brands must ensure that they emphasize value when fighting with the competition in a packed inbox setting. To help get you on your way toward this goal, let’s spend a few minutes looking over some of the more effective ways you can add value to your email content as you prepare to roll out a new series of marketed messages.

Avoid Stock Content

One of the biggest ways to turn off your audience is by offering up bland information that’s easily found with a quick Google search. While this is definitely easier than spending time creating unique, engaging brand content, it’s not the best way to build a marketing strategy. In the place of boring, worn-out offerings, Shawn Naggiar of the Content Marketing Institute suggests that brands should personalize the experience as much as possible.

In the case of your marketed messages, this goes beyond simply starting greetings with the reader’s first name and toward building content that fits their habits and styles. Whether it’s a sporting goods company using this space to tie in its products to the world’s greatest hiking locations or a restaurant offering up tips for the ultimate romantic dinner date, having content that speaks to what matters to your audience is one of the best ways to add value to the email experience.

Don’t Be Afraid of User Generated Content

One of the most effective ways to learn about a product or service is to connect with someone you know, like a friend of family member, and get his or her opinion on the item. Thanks to the Internet, there’s no shortage of even more unbiased reviews and testimonials. With this in mind, it only makes sense to bring the value of a second opinion directly to your email audience with user-generated content, according to Courtney Eckerle of Marketing Sherpa.

As you harvest these social media posts, customer testimonials, blog reviews, and even comments off your site, it’s important to get permission from the original author. If you’re running a little short on options, don’t be afraid to reach out to your audience and request feedback. If you stick to these honest customer opinions that support your offerings and avoid faking the process with staged reviews, you’ll give a significant amount of value to the audience from the source they trust the most.

Highlight the Big Points

The old sayings about time being the most precious commodity or resource might seem worn-out, but there’s still some truth in these statements. With this perspective, one of the most unique ways you can add value to your emails is not with the content you offer, but how you offer this content. To save your readers time and effort when they open up your message, Kate Kiefer Lee of Forbes Magazine suggests making your content “scannable.”

Short paragraphs, subheadings, bolded statements, and even image breaks that help highlight important points all do this job exceptionally well. If you’re planning on releasing a particularly long message in your next campaign, take a second to add a teaser with info on the content at the top of the email. This way, your readers can get right to the point and start sifting through the message for the portions that matter most to them.

Location Is Everything

One of the best tools in your email marketing bag of tricks is understanding the location of your target audience. Naturally, this is a little tougher for national or international brands to pull off, but if you’re honing in on shoppers in a certain city or region, this knowledge is good to use during your campaign. As Angie Zener of Marketing Land suggests, tailoring your content to add value in the form of local updates is a smart and savvy way to build an even better relationship with these consumers.

Whether your brand is sending out severe weather warnings during a particularly bitter winter, or you have the chance to remind customers to pick up sunscreen and sunglasses with a UV index update during those hot summer months, adding value in the form of localized message content is a smart way to add enhance the quality of your messages. While this, and the rest of the tips in this post, will require a little extra effort on your end, there’s no doubt that your audience will love this new approach that’s engaging and rich in meaningful content.

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Running an email campaign is a lot like taking a swing for the fences in baseball. When things go your way, the home crowd – in this case your online audience – cheers wildly as you round the bases and enjoy the increased traffic that’s flowing into your website. Unfortunately, as any email or baseball guru will tell you, stepping up to the plate, or inbox, with a perfect batting average is just a myth. The reality is that it’s foolish to not have a plan for when you’re in a slump. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some simple tips you can employ as part of an email marketing “win-back” campaign. This way, you’ll have everything you need to reignite those conversion numbers and get your audience back into action after the excitement of your initial push slows down.

Add in a Solid Offer

One of the quickest ways to get your readers back into your campaign is to throw out a nice offer. At the top of the list, actual savings – anything that falls into the “X dollars off” range on your products and services – performs nearly two times better than any other return deal. However, regardless of whether it’s a limited time discount or free content like an eBook download, offering anything specifically for the people who have fallen off your brands marketing bandwagon can help right the ship and get them back to eagerly awaiting your regular emails.

Don’t Shy Away From Hard Data

When it comes to brand awareness and decision-making, too many people that pull the levers and knobs behind the campaign rely on the concept of “gut instincts.” Sure, in plenty of industries having a strong hunch or read on the company can take you a long way, but email marketing is a much more stats driven affair. With numbers on open rates, inbox activity, and a slew of other metrics, pinpointing the exact segments of your audience that aren’t responding, as well as what these individuals like, has never been easier or more readily available. Because of this, let the stats do all the heavy lifting in your win-back campaign and follow their lead. Not only will this help increase your response rate, it can save you a ton of time and money developing and rolling out these messages.

Never Write Anyone Off

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when it comes to starting up one of these re-engagement initiatives is to assume that portions of your inactive audience are off limits. While it might seem like a long shot to get back in touch with the people who haven’t opened one of your emails in months, the truth of the matter is that win-back campaigns can drum up interest with customers who haven’t responded in up to 300 days. Basically, it’s never too late to get things rolling again, even with the most unlikely of candidates.

Not surprisingly, the same holds true for the time that comes after you fire off these win-back emails. As long as the reader hasn’t opted out, there’s nothing stopping you showing that persistence is a virtue with this group of out-of-touch consumers. Considering that you just might one day pique their interest enough to rekindle a connection with your brand, it’s well worth the effort of covering every nook and cranny of your contact list, no matter how unlikely the lead might seem.

Your Subject Lines Matter More Than Ever

If you’re familiar with a large portion of the posts on this blog, you’re well aware of just how powerful the subject line is when it comes to enticing customers to dig a little deeper into your marketed messages. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that having optimized and powerful headings in this area is crucial to a great win-back campaign. To help you get there, skip the caps button and generic terms, like “urgent” or “final notice,” and focus more on explaining just how valuable your offers for returning customers can be. This way, when your forlorn viewers sit down and start sifting through their messages, these emails can stick out on the preview pane for all the right reasons.

Build Toward a Follow-up

One of the biggest misconceptions about these types of campaigns is that once you re-engage your customers, you’re done with the work. Unfortunately, all this does is put you back into the same spot later on down the road. Instead of finding yourself in this endless engagement cycle, focus on working multi-level offers and follow-up requests into your campaign that keep your audience active and connected with your company. If you can do this, your customers will always have a great reason to keep your brand on their minds, ensuring that lost segments and lackadaisical contact list entries become a thing of the past.

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Subject lines are the bread and butter of any great email marketing campaign. While outstanding content is a must if you want to make a splash with your audience, turning them off before they even click “open” is any brand’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to the people on the other side of the screen. To help you avoid this calamity and clean up any offenders in your stable of marketed messages, here are 10 of the top offenders that have doomed countless emails to the virtual trashcan.

Free

First up on the list is a word that can’t help but sound the spam alarm for readers. While it might seem like a great idea to fit this word into your messages, the reality is that using “free” in the subject line is extremely common among scammers and spammers, who use this as a cheap tool when trying to pull a quick one on readers.

Stop

Having an email jump off the screen with the word “stop” is definitely a very particular experience for your audience – just not in the good way. There’s definitely plenty of merit behind the concept of disruptive marketing tactics, but issuing a command or trying to convince your readers to change their ways in this part of the message is not the right way to go about this process.

Donate

For the non-profits out there, email marketing is all about bumping up donations and awareness, so this one’s a little tricky. However, the key to still weaving the concept of viewers taking action into the content of your emails is to save “donate,” “charity,” and the rest of these keywords for after you make your pitch. Going the opposite way and placing this word in the subject line will simply put a halt to any momentum you could be generating for your cause.

LOL

A quick look at your Facebook or Twitter feed provides all the proof you need that “LOL,” “OMG,” and the rest of your audience’s favorite web slang are all still alive and well. However, that doesn’t mean these acronyms have a spot next to your brand name in the inbox. Keeping your messages and subject lines light and conversational is one thing, but don’t cross the line with slang that’s better suited for your personal social media pages.

Last Chance

While this entry is more of a phrase, it still deserves a spot on the list. “Last chance,” “act now,” and all the other call-to-action terms really shouldn’t be the focal point of the message header. Instead, use expiration dates and limited time offers in the body of your emails to get your audience in gear and visiting your web page or brick-and-mortar store.

Help

Much like “donate” and “charity,” “help” is a word that shouldn’t make its home in your email subject line. Again, taking a stand on an issue or advancing your cause via the actual body of your message is far more effective than using words or phrases that unfortunately come off as pleading or pushy in the subject section.

Reminder

Surprisingly, people don’t respond well to words like “reminder.” While it might not make much sense at first glance, this word invokes feelings of repetition, which in turn has a strong connotation with common spam tactics. This becomes even more apparent when first time messages bring this word into the subject line as a method of faking familiarity – a concept that’s not limited to just this entry.

FWD: or RE:

Like “reminder,” “FWD,” “RE,” and other traditionally automated tags can be surreptitiously added into the subject line to befuddle unsuspecting readers. Sure, being sneaky and trying to pass off your next message as a continued conversation might trick a few unsuspecting readers, but don’t expect your open rates to stay up for long once your audience catches on to this underhanded tactic.

Webinar

If you keep up with content marketing slang, it might seem like a no-brainer to throw in terms like “webinar” in your message headers. Unfortunately, there’s a very real disconnect between inbox open rates and emails that jam these words in the subject line. While drumming up interest for your content is never a bad thing, keep the particulars to the core of the message and let a simple, straightforward subject line stand on its own.

Awesome

Rounding out the list is perhaps the biggest blunder looking to derail your email campaign. Today’s marketing world is full sales pitches and message headers that try to pump up products with over-the-top wording and unnecessary superlatives. The worst offender of all of these words is, without a doubt, “awesome.” Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being proud of what your brand has to offer; just don’t fall for the trap of slapping “awesome,” “amazing,” “epic”, and all the other overused exemplary adjectives in front of every other word in your subject line.

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The world of email marketing is far from static or stagnant. In fact, it seems like a single day doesn’t pass without some new development shattering what we think we know about connecting with customers via their inboxes. Recently, AOL decided to keep up with this trend by dramatically altering how they handle email verification and spam for incoming messages to its user base. If you plan on promoting your brand and shipping out offers and discounts to your customers via email, you’ll want to stick around and find out exactly what AOL changed, and what you need to do to make sure you don’t end up with a logjam of bounced messages coming back from this ISP.

The Big Changes

In a blog post detailing the move, AOL unveiled the particulars of this email verification change. Basically, emails that claim to originate from the ISP’s servers must undergo a series of checks that ensure these messages actually fit the bill regarding credentials and authenticity. If it turns out that these messages simply use an @aol.com in its address but originate from a different server entirely, then all bets are off once AOL’s system starts sending up the red flags. Messages that fail this check will bounce right back to the sender, making sure that the email never comes close to the intended recipient’s inbox.

AOL’s Logic Behind the Move

So why is AOL completely changing its policies regarding server verification? While some might think it’s a direct shot at the email marketing industry, the truth is that promoted messages are simply a unintended causality in this ISP’s continued efforts to fight back against spammers and their illicit messages. Near the end of April, AOL users became the target of a widespread spam attack, leading to numerous compromised accounts and even more junk messages making their way to new mailboxes. To help stop the problem at its source, the ISP decided to shut down one of the biggest tools in the spammer’s kit: Spoofed messages that edit the outgoing address. Unfortunately, if your brand is also using this technique for legitimate purposes, chances are you’ll need to rethink how you reach out to customers before your messages start showing up in these customers’ inbox again.

A Growing Precedent

Of course, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened for those who dabble in email marketing. Recently, we covered the news and offered some insight on a similar change unveiled by Yahoo. Not surprisingly, the circumstances leading to this action were eerily similar between these two ISPs, so seeing both platforms come to a similar conclusion makes sense. Again, this growing precedent isn’t a knock on email marketing so much as it is the mistakes of a few – think spammers and others trying to pull a quick one on unsuspecting viewers – ruining a good thing for you and the customers who enjoy checking out your latest offer or discounts.

The Future of ISP Interactions

Until service providers can find a way to eliminate spamming and junk emails that hit the inbox stuffed full of viruses and shady links, chances are that these new verification checks are going to become the norm in the email industry. While there’s no guarantees that Gmail, Hotmail, and the other big names out there will definitely follow in AOL’s footsteps, if spammers start to put more pressure on the ISPs that haven’t made the switch, you had better believe it won’t take these platforms long to shut down spoofing and legitimate usage of these domain names alike.

Redefining Your Mailing List Strategy

Before you do anything else, the first change to your strategy is one that needs to happen ASAP if you rely on an @aol.com outgoing address – stop sending messages that are just going to bounce right back to your platform. From here, switching up your domain to one of the other free options out there, like Gmail or Hotmail, can help alleviate your issues in the short-term. However, as you can see, there’s a definite argument that one can make for all of the major email ISPs to eventually follow AOL and Yahoo’s lead on this issue.

To protect your email marketing operations in the long-term and make sure your messages always hit the consumer inbox on time, consider going with a domain name you either own or operate. This way, you’ll never have to worry about internal changes coming from AOL or any of the other big names directly affecting your ability to stay in touch with an audience that’s eagerly awaiting your next email.

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Saying that Gmail is kind of a big deal to your email marketing operations is like saying that it might get a little rainy during a hurricane. With over 425 million users, including 5 million businesses, and 66 of the world’s top 100 universities, chances are that a big chunk of your email contact list is dedicated to reaching out to Gmail’s vast base of users. Because of this, making sure you know how to tailor your messages and target these customers is one of the biggest hurdles standing between your brand and an audience that is more than willing to keep in touch. To help you along the way, here are five great tips for connecting with the millions on Gmail, regardless of how big your contact list is currently.

Avoid Constantly Changing Sender Addresses

Having a “From” address that is all over the place is not a smart way to make a good impression on these users. The main problem here is that most email users equate a constantly changing From address as a highly spammy tactic. While some marketers do incorporate constantly shifting sender addresses, this isn’t exactly the company you want to keep when it comes to your brand’s outreach. Instead, stick with a stable and easily recognizable address. This way, your audience can view your emails more like a message from an old friend and less like a shady scam sent by a spammer.

Don’t Go Overboard on Shortened Links

Speaking of spam tactics, one that often finds its way into the world of email marketing is shortened links. While there is nothing wrong with slimming down your message with a shortened link or two, having a message full of these sometimes cryptic looking additions can leave your Gmail users wondering if this message is full of digital landmines that they’d rather not navigate. Instead, keep things simple with only a few links and let the body of your message speak for itself. This way, Gmail users don’t get the wrong idea and blacklist your message before finishing the first sentence.

Keep up a Reliable Headcount

Another smart way of targeting Gmail users is simply knowing how many you have on your list. While this might seem like a “duh” statement at first, there is a lot of info you can glean from an accurate headcount. Comparing Gmail usage to other providers gives you the basis you need to properly interpret analytics. For instance, since Gmail caches images to keep user information private, and you potentially have a large number of Gmail users on your list, viewer location and other tracking statistics may be way off base if you are assuming the numbers accurately represent your entire audience. Should this be the case with your current system, having a revelation like this regarding your Gmail users can not only help you plan around gaps in information regarding this audience, but also gives you the added benefit of refining the numbers supporting the other portions of your email contact list.

Understand the Real Power of Segmentation

Plenty of email marketing “experts” like to talk about segmentation, but chopping up your audience by email service providers isn’t exactly being thorough. The best way to segment your users, specifically those who stick with Gmail, is to sort your list by interests. Whether you find this information via surveys or by tracking activity on your page once users click your links, having this knowledge on hand gives your list a new sense of definition that can drastically improve your targeting process. Considering that really connecting with your customers is the name of the game in email marketing, it only makes sense to put a little more effort into the process than just checking off whether they use Gmail or some other service provider.

Do You Really Know How Deliverable Your Emails Are to Gmail Users?

To wrap things up, the biggest way you can enhance your targeting and success with Gmail users answers a pretty simple question – are they even reading your messages? With over 85 percent of the world’s email traffic considered malicious in nature, it can be pretty hard to get users to even give you a chance to move this message out of the spam folder on Gmail and into their inbox tabs. By tracking placement rates, you can see where your message ends up 7 days a week, clueing you in on a sudden shift in the wrong direction – namely toward the virtual email trash can – and giving you a chance to retool these messages toward more relevant and desired content that entices Gmail users to give your brand a second look.

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Everyone who has a stake in the world of email marketing loves to talk about the “power” of reaching out to customers in their inbox – but where are the hard facts backing this up? If this is your first go round with tailoring messages toward a specific audience, there’s plenty of stats, known as key performance indicators (KPIs), that can help you sift through all this talk and find out what’s really working and what might need a little bit of tweaking before the next email campaign. Instead of wasting your time listing off dozens of KPIs that may or may not have some bearing on how you gauge success, here are the five crucial stats that not only apply to any email marketing initiative, but also do the best job showing off exactly how well things are going once your messages hit the audiences inbox.

Gross Sales

First on the list is the gross sales stat. While it might seem pretty obvious, there are few performance indicators that make it easier on you when you need a quick and simple method for figuring out what’s working and what’s not. The whole process for evaluation goes a little something like this; email campaign starts and sales go up, then you’re doing something right. If sales stay the same or dip, it’s time to bring things back to the drawing board and retool your plan. Naturally, this is cutting out a ton of variables – changes in the industry, new product releases, etc. – that can shift sales one way or the other, but it’s a great indicator to start the evaluation and lends itself well toward digging into the more specific measurements.

Site Traffic

Another KPI that takes a look at the big picture is site traffic. Like the name implies, this one’s all about taking note of visits to your site from repeat customers and new shoppers alike. While most companies just glance over the totals for this site metric, doing so could cause you to miss out on some highly valuable info every time you don’t spend more than a few seconds looking into this stat.

Understanding the nature of the visit helps you break down performance by going beyond the plain old “good” and “bad” labels. Instead, looking into how many new or unique visits come in, or how often repeat visits occur with known customers, helps explain your sites traffic in terms of what segments you do well with and what segments might need a little extra attention. Depending on your products and services, looking beyond the surface of this KPI can really give you the insight needed to knock the customers’ socks off with your next set of emails.

Click Rate

Going a little deeper, click rates can help you sort traffic into different groups via the source – who’s coming in from your emails, from social media, Google search pages, etc. – in addition to frequency and the type of visit.

With this information in hand, you can determine if a link was compelling enough to warrant a click, and if users are responding to certain landing pages more than others. On top of all this, by having the raw numbers in hand and comparing them with the metrics from your other outreach avenues, you can really gauge exactly where your emails stand in your entire marketing initiative.

Bounced Messages

Stepping away from KPIs that are mostly used to show how good things are going with your emails, here’s one that can help uncover a big problem that might be undermining all of your hard work – bounced messages. Companies that experience high bounce rates are dealing with a contact list that’s full of incorrect or deactivated email accounts, both of which lead to undeliverable or “bounced” messages. If you’re working with a marketer or software that has the right tools, simply setting up your system to automatically ditch these duds as soon as they bounce will go a long way to clean up your list and more importantly increase your ROI.

Churn Rate

The final KPI that should be an essential part of your next email marketing evaluation pulls a little bit of inspiration from some of the others on our list. The churn rate of an email marketing campaign keeps track of the number of people who decide to opt-out of your contact list. Obviously, in a perfect world you wouldn’t see any; however, it’s just part of the marketing process, so turning a blind eye to it can only hurt your options moving forward. Instead, staying aware of your unsubscribes, as well as how they stack up to new and sustained contacts, can give you a great overview of where your outreach stands – especially when you pair it up with the other leading KPIs found on this list.

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Imagine this scenario: Your email audience is turning over rapidly, click and open rates are plummeting, and you have no clue how to fix this mess. It might not be your worst nightmare, but it has to be pretty high up on the list if you’re serious about the future of your online brand. Thankfully, there’s plenty you can do to give your email marketing campaign some much needed virtual CPR. With these five tips, you’ll have the tools in hand you need to say goodbye to sluggish results and reinvigorate a disinterested audience.

Don’t Go the Quantity Route without Quality

One of the biggest mistakes an email marketing campaign can make is to go the spam route. While quantity isn’t always a bad thing, emailing your database all the time with junk is a surefire way to turn off your viewers in a hurry. If you’re already trying to keep up the pace with lots of regular emails and that’s not working, consider scaling things back until you start pumping out content that’s worth reading. By refining what they’re reading and then upping your monthly and weekly messages, you can rebuild an audience that’s tired of having to sift through offerings that are better suited for the virtual trash bin.

Clean Up that Preview Text

Just like web pages that don’t bother filling out the meta description for entries on Google, Bing, and the other search engines, having weak preview text can wreak havoc on your email’s chances of getting opened. Think of it this way: if you’re checking your inbox while enjoying a morning cup of coffee, are you going to click on the email with sloppy text that doesn’t fit in the preview area, or the one with a clean, simple explanation of what’s inside? Unless you’ve got a thing for poorly optimized emails, you’re probably going to make the same choice as your audience and click on the email with tidy and enticing preview text.

Power Words and Numbers Go a Long Way

Taking this a step further, make sure that your subject lines, preview text, and headlines in the actual email really pop in the viewers’ eyes. While this sounds like a marketing buzzword deal, it’s actually a big reason why some email lists generate massive traffic and others find their way to the spam folder. Sensory and emotional words are the big draw here because they evoke response from viewers.

Instead of the bland “please read” approach, try telling your viewers what happens if they don’t read your email, or what they can gain by reading it. This way, you’re creating a call to action that gets them interested in what you’re actually promoting. Similarly, using digits instead of writing out numbers also stands out in an inbox. In fact, the “5” in the headline of this post might have been the hook that got you to click on this tip list in the first place.

Time is Money

Time is money; it’s an old saying that’s mostly meant to teach people the value of a great work ethic, but in this case we can give it a new spin. Basically, when your viewers are reading your emails is just as important as what they’re actually reading. If you’ve got great content but can’t seem to generate any traffic off of it, it might be time to switch things up as far as when you’re shooting off these emails. Depending on your target audience, figuring out what time’s best might be a little tricky, but that’s nothing that some A/B testing or trial and error can’t sort out. Once you’ve got it figured out, you can check this box off of the list of potential problems that are keeping your readers disinterested.

Give Them Something Extra

Last, but certainly not least, is the tried and true concept of giving your audience more stuff to get them in your virtual storefront. If all else fails, there’s nothing wrong with offering better discounts more often to liven up a flagging or stale email list. Considering that the alternative, facing turnover that hovers around a 33 percent a year average, is basically the last rites for any email list, it can’t hurt to see if giving an extra coupon or limited time offer here and there can help. Combined with all the other tips and tricks on this list, periodically putting these kind of “enhanced” promos out could be just the spark your list needs to come back to life and get your bottom line in the green again.

Bullhorn

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