December-05

Congratulations! Your customers trust and value you enough to give you their email addresses.

Now that you have those coveted pieces of marketing permission, what do you do with them?  Before looking into what can be done with email addresses, it’s good to know what can’t be done with them.

Legally Speaking

Did you know there are laws regarding commercial email messages?

Meet the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003). Quite the mouthful, isn’t it?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) describes the CAN-SPAM Act as “a law that sets the rules for commercial email, establishes requirements for commercial messages, gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and spells out tough penalties for violations.”

The FTC also provides a rundown of the CAN-SPAM Act’s main requirements, which we’ve paraphrased below, along with adding some some helpful tips.

What You Can And Cannot Do

  1. Make it clear that the message is coming from you. Don’t manipulate, lie or hide the email origin. Using email addresses with your business domain name gives credibility to the message and helps people detect spam and phishing attempts.
  2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines. There’s a difference between catchy and crafty. A subject line is almost like a promise. People open emails expecting a fulfillment of that promise. Don’t let them down. Keeping your word builds trust. Trust is good.
  3. Identify the message as an ad. You know it’s a promotion, but recipients may not. Letting people know your message is an ad aids in transparency and clarity of message.
  4. Tell them where to find you. CAN-SPAM requires businesses to include a physical postal address on their commercial emails. Providing a physical address encourages open communication and automatically boosts legitimacy. How else are people going to know where to send your birthday presents?
  5. Give people a way out, then respect their decision. Having someone unsubscribe from you emails is not the end of the world. In fact, it helps fine tune your marketing audience. Resourceful businesses offer several subscription categories and give people an option to pick and choose their subscription preferences before unsubscribing completely.
  6. Know what you’re sending and what’s being sent on your behalf. Ultimately, you are responsible for your messages, even if you hire email marketing vendors. Review all content for accuracy and appropriateness. It’s your name on the line.

Basically, be honest, treat people with respect, and protect your brand character. Now that you know what you CAN and can’t do, let’s get to doing it!

Confirm Their Interest

Providing an email address in order to receive an e-receipt is not the same as signing up for an email list. Enter the opt-in. Interesting enough, the laws that require an opt-out mechanism do not require an opt-in, per se.

Still, best practices for commercial email marketing definitely favor an opt-in strategy. Before sending further messages, send the customer an email with a link to confirm their subscription.

Entire volumes have been written on crafting the perfect opt-in subject lines. But the formula is pretty straightforward.

“Thanks for your purchase of a Superiffic Sweater!  Would you like to keep in touch?”

This extra step allows customers to consciously choose to receive your messages, which, in turns, improves rate of opening.

Welcome Them In

Now that the customer is officially on your email marketing list, send them a welcome email. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Let them know you appreciate their business, highlight a few opportunity products and events. Include a special welcome discount or promotion as a thank you for joining your list and an incentive for return visits.

“You’re on the list! We’ll keep you up to date. And here’s a coupon code for 15% off your next Superiffic Sweaters order.”

Know Your Emails

There are a few standard email types. Whether highlighting promos, asking for feedback, providing specialized content and information or directing to members to social media properties, each email type offers different calls to action.

Using these different email types increases the number and variety of opportunities to initiate interaction with your customers.

Give Them Stuff

The most common email type is, of course, promotional.  

Their mission is simple: let people know about sales, hot new products, events, and seasonal specials. On the most basic level, this email can be the equivalent to a Sunday newspaper insert highlighting weekly specials.

But you don’t want to be basic, do you?

With today’s analytics and data mining, there are far more opportunities to increase interest and sales through personalization. Create several promotional emails based on varying departments and products and use analytics to match them up with your customer’s purchasing habits.

“How about something to match that sweater? We’ve got Superiffic socks to match on sale all week.””

As your customer responds to your emails through opens, clicks, and conversions, utilize tracking analytics to further personalize your messages based on your customers’ viewing habits and behaviors.

Ask for Feedback

December-06

You’ve made the sale. Give your customer a few days to enjoy their purchase and then ask how they like it. If your site offers the option, ask for a product review, and direct them with links to do it.  

You can also ask for service reviews and general feedback about their experience on your site, products, shipping, company, etc. The more you learn from individual customers, the more you can improve your relationship with customers on an individual and mass basis.

“We hope you’re enjoying your Superiffic Sweater. Would you be willing to leave us a review?”

Beyond surveys, direct feedback to an email you sent is catnip for your product and sales teams. Getting usable input on what works and what doesn’t about your product or service can provide valuable insights to the team.

Tell Them Something They (maybe) Don’t Know

As a small business owner, remind your customers that you are more than a business; you are part of the community. Let them know that care about your community and neighbors. Showcase local events and news related to your business.

Are you sponsoring a 5k for a worthy cause?

“Stop by the Superiffic Sweaters tent after the Townsville 5K!  We’d love to say ‘hi’.”

Send an email with details about the event, the organization, and ways they can get involved. One caveat: if your business extends beyond your local community, set up your email with geographic parameters to keep your messages relevant to the recipient.

Invite Them To Be Social

Do you have an Instagram account? Facebook? Snapchat? Pinterest?

Emails are the perfect way to boost social followers. After all, your email list members are, in a way, already following you. Don’t just add icons with links to your social properties in your email’s footer. Use the visual opportunities afforded by email to display Instagram photos with links to view more on your account.

“Superiffic Sweaters are everywhere!  Follow @SuperifficSweaters on Instagram and share the places you feel Superriffic.”

Ask customers to post their own photos and tag you. Include a tweet of the day or link to an interesting story featured on your Facebook page. Social media is made for interaction. Capitalize on the fact that your customers are already online and increase engagement to boot.  

And of course, never miss an opportunity to do a giveaway or other promotion with your followers.

A Couple of Closing Thoughts

Make sure that you’re keeping track of these interactions in your customer relationship management system.  Powerful integrations in most email platforms make this easy and intuitive.

With all of these ways to engage your mailing list, it can be tempting to overdo it. Make sure to give your customers breathing room. The don’t need to hear from you every day.  Or maybe even every week. Every business (and every customer) is different.

Remember- be honest, treat people with respect, and protect your brand character. Do that and you’re already on your way to success.

Author Bio: Melissa Reinke is a writer for TechnologyAdvice.com. She is a storyteller, editor, writer, and all-around word nerd extraordinaire. She spends her days managing web content and her nights unwinding in myriad creative ways.

Armed with a degree and a pen, loves to tell stories. When not telling stories, she also works. Hard to decide which one she likes more.