How not to fail at email marketing

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Don’t be a boor

The initial concern with the introduction of Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) in 2014 was that it would all but kill email marketing as a viable tool for businesses to reach their customers.

The anticipated demise of email has been “greatly exaggerated.” More than 124 billion business emails are sent every day worldwide.

It is also worth noting that email’s popularity as a communication tool is more than double that of other mediums including direct mail, mobile apps, social media, push notifications and mobile wallets. Suffice to say, email marketing is still No. 1 … with two caveats.

The 2 immutable laws of email marketing

Follow these rules and enjoy many years of fruitful email communication.

  1. It has to be relevant.

  2. It can’t be too frequent.

Anyone can send an email to a list of addresses. Getting a positive response is another thing altogether.

1. It has to be relevant

Email Marketing Man with Tablet
Sending emails to people who have no interest in the message will only annoy them.
Photo: Tyler Franta on Unsplash

One of the main reasons for CASL was to curb the random mass mailings that inundated recipients with nonsensical information (aka spam) that was of virtually no interest to anyone but the senders. Having to sift through a pile of unwelcome emails made it difficult for people to access the information they really wanted to read.

Now that the CASL dust has settled, there has been a notable improvement in the quality of email content. Relevancy, as it turns out, has trumped volume as king of brand communication.

2. It can’t be too frequent

Another critical concern/question raised by CASL’s introduction centres on frequency. Specifically how often should you send an email to your contact list? How much is too much?

In this regard, many companies continue to err on the side of caution, sometimes limiting their email marketing efforts to once per month.

Email Marketing Stuffed Mailbox
Email open rates generally fall as frequency rises. People get tired of you.
Photo: Валерия on Unsplash

There is some debate as to the right number of emails to send out on a monthly basis, but there is a consensus that limiting yourself to just one email per month does little to create brand awareness.

While you won’t inundate anyone to the point of annoyance, a single email will likely go unnoticed.

So, what is the right number? According to a recent study, more than one but less than 15 per month.

Finding the sweet spot

The key to finding the right balance regarding frequency is to test within the range of between two and four emails per month. Then let your contact list tell you the right number.

If you see a steady increase in unsubscribes, then you know that either you’re mailing too often or your content isn’t relevant to the reader. Conversely, if you see a positive response to your email frequency, then keep doing what you are doing.

Related: Increase email response with market segmentation

Email marketing nirvana

Now that you understand the importance of both relevance and send frequency, how do you reach the pinnacle of email marketing success?

The Beginner’s email marketing guide for small businesses is a good place to start — even if you consider yourself a battle-tested marketing veteran. It provides great tips on everything from email design to Subject line wording and personalization.

A Subject line can either entice the reader to open your email or dismissively click it away into their trash bin.

Email Marketing Click and Collect Sign
Photo: Henrik Dønnestad on Unsplash

If you do not want your email to become a metaphor for the famous Thomas Gray quote about how “Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness on the desert air,” then you should spend almost as much time on crafting your Subject line as you do on your content.

Here are a few tips:

Be honest

“Hilarious Cat Video Inside!” is not a good Subject line if your email does not contain a cat video.

Be brief

Limit yourself to 10 words. Nothing bad will happen if your Subject line is 11 words, but in general, shorter is better.

Create a sense of urgency

Using phrases like “only three days left” could boost open rates.

Focus on the first words

When a reader is previewing your email in the inbox, he or she might only see the first few words of the Subject line. Make them count.

For additional pointers on writing Subject lines that stop traffic, check out this post.

The final word on email marketing

The core foundation of an effective email program comes down to three basic principles:

  • Provide relevant content that is of interest to your readers.
  • Manage the frequency of your emails based on their response.
  • Make your Subject lines truthfully compelling.

When all is said and done, like any other form of communication, email marketing has to deliver value to the recipient. Focus on providing relevant news and insight, and the results will speak for themselves.

Image by: Sophie Dale on Unsplash

Jon Hansen
As the editor and lead writer for the Procurement Insights Blog, Jon Hansen has written nearly 3,000 articles and papers, as well as five books on subjects as diverse as supply chain practice, public sector policy, emerging business trends and social media. He is also a two-time Ottawa finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award (out of a group of 15,000). An internationally sought-after speaker and moderator, Jon is also the host of the highly acclaimed PI Window on The World Show on Blog Talk Radio, which has aired more than 800 episodes since its initial broadcast in March 2009. Blog Talk Radio named him as one of their top 300 hosts. Connect with Jon on Twitter or his website.