How To: Get Your Feet Wet With Email Marketing

Email marketing still ranks as one of the best ways to reach your targeted audience with low cost of deliverablity, trackable statistics, ROI, and almost instant broadcasting of your message.

With this said, bulk email marketing can be a difficult process for both small business and large corporations. Many rules and regulations have come in place to protect end users from SPAM, and some of the technology has been changed which sets limits on how many emails can be sent from a hosting provider. You will also be faced with several road blocks like email readability and readership opt-out.

The first place you need to start is with your email subscriber list. What, you don’t have one already? It’s OK if you don’t, you can buy bulk opt-in email address from many places online like PostMasterNetwork. If you don’t have the funds to buy a list, you will need to set in place a method of collecting past, present and all future customers / visitors emails.

If you run an online e-commerce site, you may already have emails in a database of your past customers and orders. It is best to implement something like a form to collect email address from visitors on your site. Make sure you tell them you may send them newsletters or emails from time to time so they know to expect email from you. You can also look in your email software for email address as well. Outlook, Eudora, Thunderbird, Lotus Notes, and many other email software programs will allow you to export your email contacts into an Excel document that you can later use as the foundation of your email marketing plan.

Now that you have a list of email subscribers, you need something to send to them.. a message. I think it’s in bad taste to start out your first email campaign with a straight forward sales pitch. Sure, your only doing this to try to make some money.. but these people have never heard from you before, and will most likely trash your ’sales pitched’ email you sent to them as SPAM. They are not expecting it yet and may decide to be taken off your list if you come on too strong at first.

I would rather my first email to my subscribers be a thank you email letting them know that on a routine basis I will be sending them email newsletters updating them on my products or services. I might even thank them by sending them a coupon or discount code that they can use for a one time purchase of goods. This will delight your email subscribers and get them ready for more emails you will be sending.

From this point, things get serious. You will need a way to bulk deliver these emails and automate the process. If your list is small enough, you might be able to send out emails one by one through Outlook, but chances are you have a large list and need a method to get these newsletters emailed automatically. Many email software programs like Outlook will let you bulk send an email message, but will choke on emails being sent to more than a handful of people, causing your computer to stall, freeze, and even shut down.

If you have PHP installed on your hosting account or server, I can recommend highly PHPList as your email marketing software. I have used this software many times over the years and have customized it to my liking for several other things. You can have your developer install it for you, or try installing it yourself. If your too timid for something like this, then you may need to send out your email newsletters with a hosted service like Bronto. Be warned, using a service like Bronto can be costly! PHPList is free software and will cost you nothing to send emails. Many hosted services like Bronto charge a monthly fee and also a fee per email you send.

One benefit you will get from a hosted service like Bronto over an application you control like PHPList is the fact many hosted services have the use of ‘white listed email servers’, which means they can almost guarantee delivery of your newsletters to your customers.

Many times your email may be tagged as SPAM if your server is tagged as a spamming email server. Companies have to pay and abide by strict guidelines to keep their ‘white listed’ status, which helps ensure your email gets to where it needs to go and not in someone’s spam box. If you use PHPList on your own, and misuse your email abilities, you can end up ‘black listed’ in many spam reporting applications and your emails from here on out will always be treated as SPAM.

You have your list, you have your message, and you have a method of sending out these bulk email newsletters… Now what?

You have the option of using TEXT formatted emails, or HTML formatted emails when sending out your newsletters. Text formatted emails are by far the most used type of email formatting, you probably get 80% of your emails in text format and every email reader ( web based, desktop based, and mobile based ) can receive and read text email.

HTML emails provide you more options you may like such as graphics, color layout, improved reading, and tracking ( such as who opens your email and who followed what links in your email ). HTML emails can be designed to look anyway you like and provide some of the best ROI if done correctly. Think of HTML emails as a mini website delivered right to your Inbox. With this said, you will encounter many problems with HTML email such as deliverablity. Many 3rd party email accessories will mark your HTML email as SPAM if your graphic content outweighs your text content.. and many email applications will not even be able to read your HTML email at all, producing a lot of ugly errors you have no control of.

If your email does get to the clients Inbox, and is formatted correctly with HTML, there is no guarantee they will be able to properly see it. The browsers in web applications may read your HTML differently and place graphics and text in different areas then they should be… and of course many applications like Outlook my even prevent the user from seeing the graphics in the first place, only showing the reader the text with a bunch of red X’s.

Before you send any HTML emails out in bulk, be sure to test the email in different email applications to ensure it is readable and understandable. Many professional applications like PHPList and Bronto allow you to supply both an HTML formatted email and a TEXT formatted email. Sending both will help prevent any problems people may have with reading your email.

In your bulk email marketing efforts, be sure that in every, I mean every, email you send has your full contact information. Tell the reader they have the option to opt-out of future emailings and provide them a method to do so. You don’t want some unhappy reader going to their ISP or attorney to stop you from sending your emails they no longer want. Professional software will allow you to do this and even automate the opt-out process for you, again I recommend PHPList and Bronto for this.

Everything seems to be going great.. the emails are sent and you seem to be all smiles, but what good is any marketing plan without stats? Now is the time to start looking into how well your email marketing strategy did and what you may need to do to improve it.

PHPList and Bronto both offer tracking and stats for your email newsletters. Professional software will allow you to view how many emails bounced ( maybe a wrong email or an email that is no longer valid ), how many got delivered successfully, how many have not been delivered.. but will be tried again later for you, how many people actually opened the email and who they were ( great for targeting even more specific services to certain people ), how many followed links or clicked in the email, and how many decided to opt-out of your future emails all together.

As you get better with bulk email marketing, you will be able to put readers into certain lists and target niche newsletters to certain readers at certain times, thus increasing your chances for ROI with those readers. You will also be able to determine based on stats what your readers like to read about and what they are interested in, which will give you a better understanding on what to send to them in the future.

One area many email marketing professionals overlook is the many opportunities missed on emails sent from automated systems like email receipts, shipping confirmation emails, profile update emails, and the such. Any email, ANY, can be a marketing opportunity for you and your company. Review all your automated emails that may come from your site and figure out what opportunities you have to market something to the reader in that email.

It may be just a simple banner or sales phrase.. maybe even a link to help them subscribe to your new newsletter system.

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