It’s no surprise that businesses often question the effectiveness of email marketing since it inundates our inboxes 24/7/365. Although “digital detox” and “inbox zero” are now part of our everyday vernacular, email marketing is still one of the most effective communication channels that businesses have in their toolbox. When used correctly, email marketing can help you build strong relationships with loyal customers, promote your brand to prospective ones, and increase your business’s bottom line through sales.

Whether your business is brand new to email marketing or a seasoned pro that wants to learn about the latest trends, the four steps below will set your business up for success with this cost-efficient marketing channel.

4 Steps to Email Marketing Success

Choose an Email Service Provider (ESP)

Unless you are running complex email automation sequences for a Fortune 500 company or an e-commerce store, the best email service provider for your business should have two characteristics: it should be low cost (ideally, free) and be scalable. Email service providers — like MailChimp, Klayvio, and HubSpot — have designed their platforms specifically to meet the email marketing needs of small- to medium-sized businesses, so they are user-friendly and have plenty of training resources.

Build Your Email Marketing List

After you have picked out your ESP, the next step is to build your email marketing list. While putting an opt-in form on your website is a great starting point, you will need to offer prospective list members an incentive to sign up (often called a “lead magnet” by ESPs). Popular lead magnets are e-books, white papers or case studies, webinars, a complimentary consultation, coupons and discounts, and newsletters.

If you are drawing a blank on what to offer as a lead magnet, think about the questions that customers ask you. For example, accountants have probably spent a good amount of time in the past year answering questions about the new tax laws passed by Congress. Writing a short e-book explaining how the changes affect different entities would be an outstanding lead magnet that would build your email marketing list.

Build and Optimize Your Email Campaigns

After you have contacts on your email marketing list, it’s time to create and fine-tune your email marketing campaigns. Your focus should be on increasing your email open rate and click-through rates (CTR). While this step will involve testing and learning, there are a few universal rules you should follow to ensure you don’t get caught in the dreaded spam filter.

How to Avoid the Spam Filter:

  • Never rent or buy email lists: Every single contact in your database should have opted-in to receive your emails. If you do business within the European Union, use a double opt-in sequence to comply with GDRP.
  • Set up custom domain authentication using DKIM and SPF: Internet Service Providers (like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft) use DKIM and SPF authentication to scan incoming emails for spam or spoofed addresses. If your email fails this authentication, you are likely to end up in your contact’s junk folder.
  • CAN-SPAM compliance: Every email you send must include your business’s physical address, a clear and obvious unsubscribe link where readers can opt-out, and clear and accurate “From,” “To,” and “Reply to” language.
  • Personalization: Use merge tags to personalize the “To:” field of your email campaign (this also helps with open and click-through rates).
  • Trigger words: Avoid using overly sale-sy words, such as “buy”, “clearance”, “discount”, “cash”, and “free” (the most notorious offender).

Besides following these best practices on avoiding the spam filter, you can also show subscribers how to whitelist your emails by adding your address to their contact list. Many of your contacts will happily oblige as we have all had that “oh no!” moment when clearing out our junk folder and see an important email that our ISP marked as spam.

Be Mobile-Friendly

Just like your website, it is crucial that your email marketing campaigns be mobile-friendly with responsive formatting and loadable media. A large percentage of email is opened on mobile devices and you are competing for attention in a crowded inbox. If your email doesn’t render properly, the reader will probably move onto the next message — negating all the time and resources you spent preparing that email.

If you use one of the email service providers mentioned above, opt to use one of their pre-formatted templates; not only will it save you time, but they have entire teams of developers that are constantly testing (and re-testing) their templates across hundreds of devices.

Like many other facets of marketing, email is as much an art as it is a science — so give yourself the freedom to experiment and learn what tactics work best for your business. However, if you are having trouble setting up your ESP account or can’t get past the spam filter, consider reaching out to the experienced professionals at Wren Interactive. Besides getting your business’s email marketing up and running, their digital marketing team can assist with website design, social media and reputation management, search engine optimization, and advertising.