Quality Trumps Quantity in Ad Agency Email Marketing

Email filters eliminate roughly 20% of legitimate emails
by Todd Knutson

A 2008 study  by ReturnPath found that email filters eliminate roughly 20% of legitimate emails.

The days of blasting out email messages to large lists in order to drive new business leads are over. Today, the most successful email communications take the following into consideration:

Target Audience: If your list is over 1,000 contacts, divide it further by geography, title, job function or industry, or use a combination of these variables to build a truly targeted audience. Better yet/whenever possible, send to individuals, not groups.

Get Personal: The message, offering, or invitation should be created ONLY for this unique audience. You may repeat the message to some degree, but avoid sending an identical message to every prospect group. Think about email communication as you might a thank-you card: you thank an individual for a particular reason, and usually mention something that resonates with them. How likely are you to send a generic, photo-copied thank you card?

Short and Sweet: Emails should be no more than seven to eight sentences long, including the call to action. Attention spans are short: keep messages simple and clean.

Call to Action: Communicate a clear call to action. One call to action is the best, especially if there is a time-sensitive deadline. Offering more than two in a single message will send your audience in multiple directions.

Good Timing: Plan when you want to receive responses. For example, if you're trying to generate leads over time, don't send one large, single email. It's also important to consider what might be going on with your intended recipients. If you send them messages during their busiest time of year (e.g. accountants at tax-time) you're unlikely to generate a good response rate.

Track Responses: Response rates teach us about our prospects. Measure how many you send, open rates, click-through rates, forms completed, etc. Test subjects and body copy to optimize your various rates, and monitor how your messages perform on different days and times during the week.

Additional Resources for Email Best Practices:
  1. "Your Reputation Holds the Key to Deliverability (PDF)." ReturnPath.com, August 18, 2008.
  2. "StreamSend Delivers Smart Email Marketing Guidelines for 2009" Yahoo Finance, January 14, 2009.
  3. "How to improve your e-mail deliverability." By Karen Bannan. BtoBonline.com, February 19 2009.

I'd like to thank Robert Miller, who did the initial research for this post.

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