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There was a time when you could blast a single message to big list of email addresses and get decent results. Those days are over. Today, email service providers (ESPs) are the gatekeepers of people’s email inboxes, and they’ve invested a lot of resources into making sure the only messages people see in inboxes are one that recipients truly want.
That means to get good email marketing results today, you need to understand and follow the do’s and don’ts of email marketing. Keep in mind, the full list of email marketing do’s and don’ts is very long and includes technical, content, design, list, engagement and more best practices. These email marketing best practices apply to businesses in all industries, including the cannabis industry.
If you’re not an email marketing expert who devotes all or most of your time to email marketing, then you could feel overwhelmed by all of the do’s and don’ts. My advice is to start with the do’s and don’ts that are most commonly missed – the big ones that can make a huge difference to your results.
Once you’re sure you can follow those do’s and don’ts, do some more homework, learn more about email marketing best practices today, and implement more improvements. Truth be told, it’s a never-ending process of educating yourself and updating your techniques to get the best results.
With that said, following are five email marketing do’s and don’ts that you should start following right now to get the best results.
Who is on your email list? You need to create buyer personas for each of your target audiences and send the most relevant email messages to each niche audience (see #2 below for more about relevancy).
When you segment your list and write a personalized email message for each segment, ask yourself the same question before hitting the send button for each message and list, “Does everyone on my list truly want this message?” If the answer is no, then you need to segment your list more and create more relevant content for each list.
The Takeaway: Small, targeted lists are good. Large, bulk lists are usually bad.
Email marketing success today depends on personalization – not just adding the recipient’s name to the message but actually writing customized content for each niche audience.
Therefore, remove the phrase “email blast” from your vocabulary. The days of sending one-size-fits-all messages to big lists are over. In fact, sending a generic message to a lot of people could cause more harm than good to your results. Why? Because ESPs expect email marketers to only send messages people want.
How do ESPs know if you’re sending messages people don’t want? The answer is engagement.
The more people positively engage with your messages (e.g., opens, clicks, forwards, replies, etc.), the more likely ESPs are to think you’re sending content people want. As a result, more of your messages will go to inboxes. On the other hand, the more people negatively engage with your messages (e.g., leave it in the inbox without touching it, deleting it without opening it, taking a long time to open it, marking it as spam, blocking you as a sender, etc.), the more likely ESPs are to think you’re sending content people don’t want, and more of your messages will go to spam or junk.
How do you get more positive engagement (and better results)? You do it by segmenting your lists (see #1) and personalizing the content in the messages you send to each audience so each message is as relevant and valuable as possible. See #4 to learn more about adding value.
The Takeaway: Personalized messages that speak to the targeted recipient list are good. Generic, watered-down messages are bad.
Research shows there are several best practices related to email subject lines that can help you get better open rates and stay out of spam or junk folders. For example, studies have found that subject lines written in title case (like the title of a book or article) or initial caps (where the first letter of each word is capitalized) perform better than those written in sentence case (where just the first letter of the first word is capitalized).
To avoid landing in spam folders, make sure your subject lines don’t include irregular capitalization, excessive punctuation or symbols, or grammar and spelling errors. All of these are spam flags that could cause ESPs to send your messages to spam or junk rather than inboxes.
Finally, your subject lines should be personalized to the specific audiences who will see them (see #1 and #2), and they should add value to recipients (see #4). In other words, your subject lines should intrigue recipients so they want to read more (they must be relevant to be intriguing), and they should motivate recipients to click and open the message (they must add value to be motivational).
Key Takeaway: Match your subject lines to each audience and make sure they say something useful and relevant or no one will open your messages.
People receive a lot of email messages every day. If your messages aren’t highly relevant to each recipient, no one will open it. Cryptic messages that don’t add value will be ignored (or worse – marked as spam).
People simply don’t have enough time to weed through the clutter anymore. Instead, you need to make it as obvious as possible to each recipient that the message you send is specifically for them and offers something they want or need.
The way to do it is by segmenting your lists and personalizing the content so the most valuable aspects of your messages are highlighted for each niche audience. In addition, you should answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM?) again and again. Here’s an example of how this would work from the recipient’s perspective:
It’s your job to clearly tell recipients what’s in it for them if they spend time engaging with your email marketing messages. You can do it by talking more about them and less about you, your company, and your products or services. In other words, use more “you” copy and a lot less “we” copy.
The Takeaway: If your email marketing message doesn’t add value to every recipient, you need to segment your list and/or personalize your message even more.
What do you want people to do after they read your email marketing message? That should be your call-to-action link. Research shows that buttons work better for call-to-action links than hyperlinked text, so use a button to make it obvious what the recipient’s next step is after reading your message.
Ideally, the call-to-action link should lead to a page on your website. A unique landing page created specifically for the email campaign with a contact form on it is typically best, but you could lead recipients to your site’s general contact form page or to a highly relevant page on your website as long as there is a contact form accessible on that page.
Make it as easy as possible for recipients to take the next step and deliver what they expect to find based on the content of your message.
Your goal is to get people on your website where they can look around, get to know you better, and build trust in your brand. Not everyone is ready to buy at the moment you email them, unless they’re already a qualified lead at the bottom of the funnel (or end of the buyer journey). For everyone else, you need to nurture before you try to sell. Therefore, your call-to-action shouldn’t always be to buy now.
It’s also important to remember that links to email addresses or phone numbers aren’t tracked by email marketing software providers or ESPs. You want get accurate credit for those clicks! Therefore, avoid using a link that leads to an email address or phone number as your call-to-action link, or you won’t be able to track the success of your campaign (and ESPs won’t be able to track that positive engagement).
The Takeaway: Include a call-to-action button in every message that leads to a page on your website where recipients can learn more and contact you (or where they can make a purchase if your message is sales-oriented or promotional).
Did you notice a running theme in this article? Segmentation and personalization aren’t just the first and second items on the list of email marketing do’s and don’ts. They’re also part of every other item on this list. In other words, they’re the foundation of email marketing success today and permeate into every aspect of email marketing strategy, implementation, and results.
The reality today is that email marketing has gotten a lot more complex in the past decade, but with the right knowledge, you can get great results from your efforts. Start with a strong plan for segmentation and personalization and follow the do’s and don’ts discussed in this article to get on the right track!
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