The age old question that I hear time and time again from clients is, how often can I email my database? I have to admit, when I get this question, red flags go off. It’s like a relationship in a Woody Allen movie. If you have to ask, then it probably means the romance is over. My response when asked this question is with another question.
Why and what are you emailing them?
If you have something valuable to say and share (TRULY valuable…not just to your bottom line, but to the benefit of your customers as well), then your customer database will listen. Most people forget, email was the first “social” digital marketing platform, in the fact that it wasn’t always one sided. People could respond. A great way to think about your email marketing strategy is applying the same rules of a conversation (albeit a professional relationship…not a “lets-grab-a-few-beers-after-work relationship”). Here they are in no particular order:
Don’t be pushy. Don’t harass your database with an endless stream of your offers, especially if they have shown no expressed interested in those offers. That isn’t to say you can’t spring an offer on them from time to time, but remember the “DVR” rule of marketing. If your customers can skip a commercial, they will.
Say it once. Repeating the same exact message over and over again makes you look desperate. Feel free to add urgency, but change up your tone, your message, the look, the feel. Something. Make it look fresh, even if the intent is the same.
Follow the Rules. SPAM (like the potted meat kind of Spam) is not only bad, it’s illegal (okay, potted meat isn’t illegal). Learn the rules of engagement. How are you collecting your database? If you are scraping the internet and scanning business cards that you picked up from your local pancake house, STOP. ICANN has rules that you can find and follow, but really skip down to the end. I can zip all this up for you pretty neatly under “Find a Way“…
Know your Audience. As in any endeavor when you are sending a message, you should never write to yourself. You are NOT the audience. Your audience has expectations, desires, needs, and indeed…breaking points. And they are not all the same, so shotgunning your message probably isn’t the best way to get the word out.
Monitor the health of your database. Your email database has vital signs that you should definitely track. Open rate, click rate, delivery rate, and opt out rate are the top four in my opinion. If any of these dip down, then you are going to want to review your message and perhaps change your course of action. To belabor the “conversation” motif, a drop in open rate is like a crowd of people yawning during a speech you are delivering. You get the point.
Find a way. Some of you may have read the above points and thought to yourself, how the HELL do I do all of that. If you are sending emails out of Outlook (or Gmail, or Yahoo, or Hotmail, or your email hosting provider), you can’t do all of this. And you can’t do of this because you shouldn’t be using those platforms for email marketing. To do all of this you need an email marketing platform that allows you to host/store your email database, segment that database, create email campaigns (via templates or uploaded custom designs), schedule delivery, tracking analytics, include opt outs, include “web versions” of your email, create and embed web forms, etc. Everything I just listed is standard for email marketing platforms.
Finding and using a professional email marketing platform will prevent you from breaking the rules (unless of course you want to break them…which some of you do…you know who you are.).
There are hundreds of them (though admittedly only dozen that are worth it). Some are geared specifically toward certain market verticals (like e-commerce or hospitality or spas), some are “small business”, some are “fortune 500 only” type products. My recommendation (you did want my recommendation, right?) would be MailChimp. It’s a “one-size fits all” platform that has a number of really cool integrations.
At the end of the day, you want to check functionality, pricing, and INTEGRATIONS before you make your choice. I’m big on integrations. You want your email marketing platform to communicate with as many of the other tools that you currently use as possible.
Remember. Work Smart. Not Hard.