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The 10 step guide to generating fantastic response

March 19, 2010

One of the reasons that email has seen its market share grow exponentially in recent years has been its consistently high response rates. A well-executed email campaign can elicit responses of 20-30% - more than with any other direct marketing channel - and these can lead to strong customer relationships and ultimately, sales. In fact, two-thirds of the companies that invest in email admit to seeing it directly impact their sales figures.

A recent study found that 51% of marketers say they're looking for incremental improvement in revenue as a direct result of launching an email campaign, while their biggest goal is to increase customer loyalty.
Whatever your aim; the first obstacle is to create a campaign that's capable of generating fantastic response rates. At extravision we've had years of experience of delivering email campaigns that are a cut above the rest and deliver great responses as a result. Below are 10 key ingredients to running a successful email campaign.

Step 1. Make sure that you are emailing the right people

It stands to reason that, in order to get a high level of response, you need to have a successful delivery rate. But achieving this in today's spam-filled world isn't easy. Even non-spam messages can end up blocked or in junk folders, while some recipients choose to unsubscribe to emails after receiving the first one.

As such; it's absolutely vital to strategically plan your target list, think about your end goal and establish a list of targets that are most likely to help you achieve it.
After that, you'll need their email addresses and there are several different methods you can take. The best approach is to build up data through an opt-in list and by maintaining regular contact. Permission-based campaigns generate the best response rates, so encourage your customers and prospects to sign-up or agree to receive your emails.
Another handy tip would be to encourage them to add you to their address book - this is one of the simplest, but most-effective ways of ensuring deliverability. 

Step 2. Segment your target list for a personalised approach

According to the Direct Marketing Association, segmentation in email marketing remains in its infancy despite growth over the last two years. Just 27.7% of marketers segment their lists into six or more different audiences, while 39.8% put their target lists into two to three different groups, and 10.8% opt not to segment at all.

Although it takes more effort, the more personal your emails can be, the more likely they'll be to generate a good response. We're not just talking about making sure the email is addressed to the recipient personally, although this will obviously help. We're talking about making the content as relevant to the recipient as possible.

This comes from understanding who your customers and prospects are and what they're interested in. By doing this, you can add personal touches to the emails that will help build closer relationships. This will lead to a greater level of response and increase the likelihood of future sales. 

Step 3. Communicate peer-to-peer

As much as you need to think about the recipients, it's also worth spending time thinking about the sender. An email sent from a faceless marketing department will not be a well-received as one from real person. But choose that person wisely. If the recipient is in a senior management or director position, then the message should come from someone of a similar level within your organisation. Think of it as person-to-person campaign, or even peer-to-peer. 

Step 4. Get the right message to the right people

It's all very well getting to know and segmenting your target list, but it's a wasted opportunity if you don't make the content personal too. The first thing to do is think about what you want to say. If the customer is interested in one particular service or product you offer more than any other, then feature it prominently in the emails you send. If you put it at the bottom of all the other things you offer, the customer is likely to stop reading before they get to the relevant part.
Then think carefully about what will prompt the customer to respond. If you're offering a promotion, it needs to be something of real value to the customer. Free offers are popular, but due to the amount of spam emails in circulation, you may need to overcome the recipient's cynicism. 

Step 5. Embrace the friendly and conversational nature of email

The tone of the content is all important when it comes to prompting a response. Emails tend to be more chatty and conversational than other forms of written communication, so don't treat it the same way as a direct mail piece. The friendly, personal nature of email is one of the reasons why it has become such a popular tool for developing strong customer relationships - so embrace it!
It's best to use a copywriter or someone at your company that possesses good writing skills, as there's nothing more off putting than an email with bad spelling or grammar. Be clear with your message and read it out loud to make sure it sounds like it's from a person not a business.

In addition, any call to action you have needs to be friendly and the action you induce should be a click - either as a link to a landing page or the reply button. If not, the response is likely to fail regardless of how good the offer is. 

Step 6. Grab their attention right away

The subject heading and first three lines of an email are most important of the content. More than a billion emails are sent in the UK on a daily basis, so you need to grab the attention of your recipients straight from the off.

The subject heading needs to cut through all the other emails in the recipient's inbox, without being flagged up as spam. Several words like 'free', 'discount', loans', 'amazing' and 'opportunity' are all likely to be regarded as dubious, while explanation marks and question marks can also affect your spam rating.

A good subject heading needs to immediately identify to the customer why the email is relevant to them. And providing the content is already relevant for the recipient, a subject heading which accurately explains what the email is about should be enough to entice them.

When they do click through, the content should be clear and concise. Avoid big blocks of text, perhaps by limiting paragraphs to a maximum of four sentences. People don't want or have the time to read long messages, so using bullet points and numbers can be a useful ways of making your message more palatable.

Put yourself in the recipient's shoes - think about how the email will look on their screens and how you would want the information displayed. 

Step 7. Run test emails to make sure that your message is right

There's nothing worse than sending out an email to your entire target list, only to then find it contains a glaring error or it completely misses the mark. When you think it's right, send out a number of test messages to small sample groups in order to assess the potential response. While this can be useful when sending multiple messages, it's important on every occasion to avoid mistakes.
If the message isn't right, or the tone is inappropriate, not only will it deliver a poor return but it could do permanent damage to your brand. 

Step 8. The right message needs to be sent at the right time

Email is not an exact science, but there is a general rule of thumb that a a business campaign should avoid obvious holidays, Monday mornings and Friday afternoons.
According to the DMA, between the hours of 8am and 3pm, email makes up 30-35% of the average user's media exposure. This drops off during the late afternoon and early evening, only to peak again between 8pm and 9pm, as users return to their inboxes to wrap up the day.

However, every target group is different. B2C recipients are a different kind of audience to B2B customers, especially as many people only access personal email during evenings and weekends and business email during the working day. The better you know your target market, the more you can begin to understand their email habits and time your emails accordingly. 

Step 9. Deal with the responses - good or bad

Once you've sent your email, there's still a lot to be done. Even in a well researched list of email addresses there will inevitably be a number of bounces and unsubscribes to deal with - typically in the 20-30% range. Coping with these can be time consuming, so be prepared - maybe with an automated email management system.

To improve the efficiency of your campaign, you should make sure all undeliverable email addresses are deleted before your next email.

If recipients respond with an 'unsubscribe' request, remember that it doesn't mean they're no longer a customer. It just means they want to receive less emails from you. Failure to remove them from your future mail-outs, however, could destroy any relationship they had with your brand.

Like with bounces, undeliverables and unsubscribes, you will also receive responses that require a reply from you. Any requests for information should be dealt with as quickly as possible, ideally within the first 24 hours. If you don't have the resources to respond fully in the first day, then an auto-responder is an ideal stop-gap measure.

However, don't leave it too long before issuing a more personal response. If a recipient has been in touch, then they are clearly interested in your product or service and your response could lead to the start of a long and rewarding relationship. 

Step 10. Don't over-do it!

Your campaign is up and running and you have a captive audience to communicate with. One of the biggest dangers at this point is to send too many emails.
By doing this, your customers and prospects will either begin to ignore anything you send or they'll become so annoyed that they'll unsubscribe. This is a sure-fire way of damaging the relationship you've begun to build with customers and will have a negative impact on the reputation of your brand.

In summary

With response rates of 20-30%, email marketing is an essential tool for all sales and marketing decision-makers. However, achieving the channel's full potential takes a lot of effort, planning and management. At Extravision, we have the experience and expertise to help our clients reach their goals and establish long-lasting relationships with customers.

To find out how we can help your business or for more information on any of the points above, email [email protected] or call +44 (0)161 817 2929.

Posted by Paul Latham

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