Email marketing is a great way of keeping customers engaged, but woe betides if you do it wrong
Also known as email broadcasting or just 'bulk email', this method of communication is as old as the internet itself and when managed correctly can work very well indeed. But as with any kind of mass marketing, done wrong it can damage your brand, cost money and can also alienate your customers.
It was when running computer fairs in the mid-nineties that I first experimented with bulk email. Spam was already a problem, so I made a big point of asking my customers if they wanted to join my email list. About 300 gave me their details and I made my first mistake by asking these people to write down their email address on a basic photocopied form.
Why was this a mistake? Because I had to re-type all the addresses manually into a text file afterwards. Not only was this very time consuming, but I quickly came to realise that many people have unreadable handwriting and so my first list ended up full errors. Because of this, when it came to sending my first bulk email, almost immediately I started to get bounced emails messages coming straight back at me. In their hundreds!
Email marketing campaigns are usually prohibited in your ISP's terms and conditions
Before too long, the phone rang and it was my internet service providers demanding that I stop sending out messages as their mail server was literally in meltdown. Apart from the misspelt addresses and the resulting bounce messages, my service providers just assumed that I was sending out spam.
They were not happy and very surprised when I insisted that the mass email was completely genuine and that every recipient had opted in. These were early days and was in a lucky position where many of my customers were hooked up to the web and long before most people knew what email was.
Back then ISP's were not geared up for managing email broadcasts and to a large extent, this is still the case. Email marketing campaigns are usually prohibited in your ISP's terms and conditions and often there are hard limits to the number of emails that can be sent each day.
In the early days, there was no special software for sending email to multiple recipients. Microsoft Outlook hadn't been invented and webmail providers such as Hotmail or Gmail hadn't even been thought of. All I had to work with was a very basic email program called Eudora and the only way to send to more than one person at once was to use the CC or BCC field.
The second mistake of my inaugural email campaign was entering all 300 email addresses in the CC field. CC is short for carbon copy, which means that every recipient gets to see the email address of everybody else who has been copied in.
These days, using the CC method for anything other than internal email is pretty much a hanging offence but even today people still make this simple mistake. The BCC field (blind carbon copy) on the other hand, hides everybody's email address and this is, of course, the correct way of sending small scale email circulars from a personal email account.
I don't know how many people eventually received my first mass email only to say that those that did seem to appreciate it and my company went on the build a very targeted list of opt-in email addresses which numbered over 18,000 actual customers. It was a powerful marketing tool but as with all advertising, the results could be difficult to measure and analyse.
Fast forward 20 years and many of the problems of email marketing haven't changed much;
- Collating and growing a list in the first place
- Ensuring those recipients have opted into your list
- Providing a method for people to opt out
- Purging a list of old or invalid email addresses
- Ensuring that emails get delivered
- Ensuring that they don't get treated as spam
- Measuring the results.
- Staying on speaking terms with your internet service provider
Fortunately, a number of methods and services have evolved to address these issues.
In subsequent blog posts I will discuss many of these subjects, please use the tags below to find related articles.
In the meantime easable.uk can advise on how to capture and build a valid email list and we can point you towards reliable companies who will deliver your emails successfully.
As well as promotional email, we can also advise about transactional email too. What is transactional email you ask? It's any email that is generated as part of an automated process such as e-commerce receipts, order confirmations and invoices.
You think these import email messages just happen automatically? Well, they sometimes they do, but that doesn't mean they get automatically delivered. Often they are mistaken as spam and never reach their intended readers. This leads to confused buyers, bad communications and customers complaints. Easable.uk can advise about how to manage this important aspect of running an online business as well as many others.
Getting email marketing right can bring many benefits, but getting it wrong can alienate you from your audience and damage your organisation's reputation.