7 Ways to Improve E-Mail Messages

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The status quo can be seducing. So easy and non-confrontational, it helps keep your to-do list short and your completed tasks list fully intact. But that status quo can stagnate your marketing efforts, ensuring that your e-mail program isn't the best that it can be. Occasionally every program needs a jump-start, even if it is successful on the surface.


Here are seven things you can do to keep the status quo lull from converting your e-mail program into a watered-down marketing and sales tool:


1. Cross-promote with other programs. Find another e-mail newsletter that your audience reads and propose a cross-promotion plan. Promote their newsletter while they promote yours. It can be an easy, inexpensive way to reach a new set of individuals online. Nothing more than a link and a simple descriptor of your newsletter is necessary. Explain the substance of the newsletter content and provide a link to the sign-up page, and subscriber growth should follow. Try it for a few sends and monitor the results.


2. Kick the habit. Retest the assumptions that have driven your e-mail marketing for the past several quarters or longer. Subject lines, layout, mailing schedule, etc. - all may be up for renewal. Perhaps a certain element has run its course and fatigue has reduced the punch of your program. People love new and improved products - just walk down any aisle of your local grocery store and notice the packaging. Test items one at a time to isolate the performance, and don't forget to establish a benchmark prior to retesting the particular variable.


3. Visit an old friend. Your e-mail strategy needs to be revisited periodically to ensure you're still on track for the various goals and objectives set. If you don't have a strategy for your e-mail program, you should. It's a key element in ensuring your program's success. If you've strayed from your plans, evaluate how to get back on track, update the strategy and stay in closer touch during the rest of the year.


Just like your marketing strategy, your e-mail strategy should include components of goals, metrics and timelines. Make sure it answers the questions: What am I trying to accomplish? How will I do that? When will I do it by? How will I measure what I've done?


4. Trends are always trendy - check them out. Look at your e-mail marketing reports, not from a day-to-day standpoint but on a week-to-week and month-to-month basis. Look at your subscribe and unsubscribe rates. Examine the rate of bad e-mail addresses being mailed to. Hone in on the breakdown of domains amongst your audience. Are Web-based readers clicking more or less? Are AOL members more active certain days of the week? How are these data points changing? Are they changing for the better? If not, now is the time to make adjustments. If you haven't fine-tuned your program for six months to a year, chances are that the trend isn't going in the direction it should be.


5. Be forward thinking. Build a forwarding application into appropriate outgoing e-mails. It's another free and easy method of getting your name and message in front of people who might be interested. Plus, it's coming via word of mouth, one of the best ways to be introduced to a prospect.


Know why a lot of banners and buttons on Web sites say "Click Here"? Because they perform better than those that don't. Either encourage forwarding through adding standard text to your message, or leverage a "forward to a friend" graphic linked to an application that is part of your newsletter or message template.


6. Capture visitors through signups. Are visitors to your site encouraged to sign up for messages from you? Is it clear that it is an option? You may only get one chance at them visiting your site, so take advantage of the brief time people will be there and make sure it's overtly clear how and why they should sign up to hear from you on an ongoing basis. Also ensure that a link to your privacy policy is near the point of data collection. The closer the better, as conversion rates improve with their proximity.


7. Survey your audience. Curious about what would make your e-mail program better? Ask those who care most - your customers, prospects or other people receiving the e-mail from you. Ask them what their favorite elements are and what they don't read at all. Make the survey short and sweet, and encourage responses through a small but meaningful giveaway.


Take a look at just one or two items on this list, and you'll shake the status quo blues that your program may have.


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