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E-mail best practices

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Last month at the Online Marketing Summit in San Diego, Joel Book, director of e-marketing strategy at e-mail company ExactTarget, presented best practices and strategies for effective e-mail marketing.

In his presentation, Book outlined 10 strategies to improve the effectiveness of e-mail marketing:

  1. Start with an e-mail communications plan.
  2. Use search to build your e-mail opt-in list.
  3. Give the customer a reason to opt in.
  4. Use a customer preference center.
  5. Provide content that is relevant and timely.
  6. Send e-mail on behalf of the person who has a relationship with the customer or prospect.
  7. Design e-mail for usability.
  8. Use Web analytics.
  9. Use e-mail to enable CRM success.
  10. Find ways to improve deliverability rates.
Book presented several case studies to illustrate best practices for these strategies.

Regarding content that is relevant and timely, Book pointed to ExactTarget customer Scotts Co., which develops lawn care products.

“In certain parts of the country, there was an outbreak of grubs, and Scotts found out about it through its call center,” Book said.

Scotts used e-mail alerts to educate lawn owners in affected areas about the outbreak, and explained how to recognize if they had a problem and what to do about it.

“The content was segment-specific and data-driven,” Book said.

To design e-mail for improved usability, Book said e-mail marketers should explore new technology such as Eyetools, which analyzes user behavior through eye-tracking technology.

He also said e-mail marketers can drive action by using the subject line to present a specific offer. For example, client Home Depot had a campaign for opt-in users in which it offered a 10% discount to registered users in the subject line.

On using e-mail to enable CRM success, Book pointed to Unico System, which makes central heating and air-conditioning systems.

“Unico’s challenge was that they had six different constituencies, and everyone was being treated alike,” Book said.

So Unico used e-mail, along with a CRM system and Web analytics, to create custom landing pages for its different audiences, such as architects and contractors.

“Unico stores all its data in a Salesforce.com database, and uses the data to drive a welcome e-mail,” Book said.

The e-mail contains a link driving the recipient to a custom landing page on the Unico Web site. Unico also uses print advertising to drive its different audience segments to its landing pages.

Finally, Book said, e-mail marketers should try to improve deliverability rates through testing e-mail campaigns, asking the subscriber to add the marketer to a safe sender list, conducting a deliverability audit and registering for services such as Sender Score Certified, a Return Path service.

The Online Marketing Summit was held Feb. 22-23. It attracted more than 300 business marketers, who discussed effective strategies for online marketing.

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