Whether you provide goods and services online or in a brick and mortar location (or both), email marketing is essential to grow your business. That's because email campaigns provide the best return on investment versus any other marketing channel.
How much better does email perform in an ROI showdown? For every dollar invested, $38 of revenue is generated. At the same time, you must incorporate industry-standard best practices to create the most effective campaigns possible. Only then will you achieve the maximum benefits available from email marketing.
So, what are these best practices? How exactly do they relate to business email etiquette? We'll go over seven key principles below to keep you operating within the law and in the good graces of your customers.
Different types of email marketing
Before diving into the finer points of email etiquette, here's a list of 15 different marketing emails the following discussion is applicable to:
thank you message
More types than you thought? A good rule of thumb is to remember every communication you have with a customer or subscriber is a marketing opportunity.
Business email etiquette for marketing campaigns
In the big picture, business email etiquette boils down to communicating honestly and to the point, while making each message beneficial to all parties. It also means, as you'll see below, following the law when contacting people with marketing email campaigns.
Don't worry! None of this is too complicated. But it is important to do everything correctly so you can avoid inadvertent problems.
1. Get permission.
Before sending out any kind of email campaign, you should receive explicit permission from every recipient to send them messages. Sure, part of this is being polite. After all, just like nobody wants junk mail showing up unannounced in their physical mailbox, the same is true for email.
Beyond that, however, is the law: the United States' CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.
Image source: CAN-SPAM
The CAN-SPAM Act regulates how businesses employ both bulk or individual emails for marketing. Your emails must:
use accurate email addresses in headers.
use non-deceptive subject lines.
clearly identify messages as advertisements.
tell recipients where your business is located.
allow recipients to easily opt out and honor these requests promptly.
CAN-SPAM is no joke: Each individual email found in violation can incur penalties up to $41,484.
This is why you should never send unsolicited emails. If too many messages are filtered out or reported as spam, your sender reputation score will drop dramatically. This can result in your emails being uniformly blocked, in addition to significant fines. To avoid these problems, have every single recipient explicitly subscribe to your distribution list.
2. Send a welcome email.
While the welcome email was one of the 15 marketing messages identified above, it's also an essential component of email etiquette.
By sending out an immediate welcome email, you're documenting for customers that they successfully signed up. Plus, this email acts as a friendly bridge between signup and direct promotions. Finally, if a recipient didn't sign up or signed up mistakenly, they can opt out now before you contact them again.
There are a few takeaways in this GAP welcome email:
The text at the top – "Thank you for signing up with us" – verifies the customer's subscription.
The 25% discount is a nice perk which reinforces the benefits of subscribing.
3. Provide relevant content
Everyone's time is valuable—which is why you must provide relevant content in your email marketing campaigns. There are two basic ways to do this: segmenting your lists based on user data, or by having users choose what they want to receive.
For example: you can have all customers use a single signup form. When you offer multiple product lines or services, however, you should segment this master distribution list by demographic data. This includes location, age, gender, education, and past purchases. For example, Amazon frequently does this with buying and even browsing history when sending out emails.
You can also let users decide what they want to receive, as with this selection of Amazon home services newsletters.
In addition to these newsletters, Amazon offers hundreds of others on different topics in almost 40 categories. No matter which approach you use—or both, like Amazon—distributing relevant content builds goodwill with subscribers because it demonstrates you value their time.
4. Be clear and concise.
Another way to show you value your subscribers' time is by being clear, concise, and direct in your emails. The rationale for concision is based on the fact that the longer it takes to convey a message, the less impact the message has.
If you can use a word with one syllable instead of two or more, do it. It's the same as using one word instead of five as per the example in the infographic below: "at this moment in time" versus "now."
The need for brevity is why traffic signs typically use one word: stop, yield, exit, merge, and so on. Each sign has a message which needs to be communicated as quickly as possible to drivers. After all, no one wants to be forced to pull over at every traffic sign and read an essay printed on it to know what to do next.
Your subscribers feel the same way about the marketing emails you send them.
5. Proofread, proofread, proofread!
Your customers must take you seriously if you want them to do business with you. And they want you to respect them by only sending your best work. That requires you to not only take your marketing collateral seriously, but to demonstrate that you do. And proofreading is a quick and easy way to accomplish this.
Or, to put it another way: How many careless errors can you get away with in a marketing email? The answer is simple: zero.
Image Source: JamiBarnett
To produce the cleanest copy possible:
take some time away from what you've written before proofreading.
use a hard copy for proofreading instead of reading it on a computer screen.
read your text aloud.
double check the formatting for consistency.
have someone else read it aloud to you.
You may find yourself working on a tight schedule with no one else around. Beyond reading a hard copy aloud, you can use the text-to-speech feature included in most word processing programs. Even listening to your writing this way will help you catch mistakes you might otherwise miss.
6. Don’t overwhelm subscribers.
One of the problems with becoming fixated on email campaign metrics is it can lead to actions which ultimately reduce marketing results. After having an especially high-performing campaign, for example, you may be tempted to immediately go back to subscribers with yet another offer.
Don't do it! While you may enjoy some short-term success, the long-term effect will be subscriber fatigue. Even worse, if recipients feel too inundated, they'll filter these messages out of their inboxes, unsubscribe, or even report your emails as spam.
Instead, as per The New York Times email newsletters below, let your subscribers know how often they can expect to hear from you: daily, weekly, monthly, or some other time frame.
Image source: NY Times
Once customers know when to expect your emails, this will reduce the chance of subscriber fatigue. In fact, they'll begin to look forward to and anticipate your emails once they know the distribution schedule!
7. Keep it professional.
The final piece of business email etiquette is to always remain professional. Respect your subscribers and the time you're asking them to spend reading your marketing messages. To aid with this, answer each of these questions:
Is your message clear and concise?
What is your call to action (CTA)?
Is the tone and language appropriate to your audience?
Is it as short as possible?
Can you deliver what you're promising?
Did you focus on message recipients and their needs or only talk about yourself?
Did you include a clearly identifiable unsubscribe option?
All this requires a thoughtful, balanced approach. On the one hand, you don't want emails to come off as clunky or formulaic. You also can't afford to be so freewheeling that your email's presentation distracts from its message and purpose.
The overall concept of email etiquette is not complicated: be helpful, honest, and polite. Once you drill down to a more granular level, however, there are the multiple potential pain points noted above to anticipate and avoid.
After you gain a handle on business email etiquette, check out these additional resources about email marketing to build your brand:
It's easy to begin thinking of email marketing metrics such as bounce rates, open percentages, and the number of click-throughs as an end unto themselves. Never forget, however, that ultimately, you're dealing with regular people who—just like yourself—want to be treated with genuine courtesy.
Want to make sure your email marketing campaigns avoid winding up in spam folders? Check out our complete guide to spam filters.
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