Electronic Direct Mail

Why EDM?

Electronic Direct Mail (EDM) is used to target a large group of prospects or clients, and is focused on building (customer) relationships and generating leads.

List management

A quality list of names is essential to the success of your EDM. So, before developing your campaign decide on the purpose of the list, and clearly identify your target markets.

The Spam Act

By sending out emails to potentially hundreds of people you run the risk of being reported as a spammer. It’s therefore important to familiarise yourself with the Spam Act, and ensure you meet their requirements. Key to the Spam Act is that you must have the person's permission to send them an email. More information on the Spam Act can be found here as well as in our Spam Act wiki.

Under the Spam Act, you are permitted to email people whose names have been conspicuously published (e.g. on a website or in a brochure), and whose role is directly related to the subject matter of your message. Please see here for more information.

To avoid being mistaken for spam when sending email:

  • Don’t use money patterns in the subject line
  • Don’t include advertising words: best selling, cash, free, guaranteed, money, satisfied and so on
  • Don’t leave the subject field blank
  • Don’t send unsolicited attachments
  • Don’t use all capitals
  • Don’t use words/phrases that have inadvertent adult meaning
  • Ensure that the date is set correctly on your computer; an incorrect or missing date is a common sign of forged email headers
  • Do use a repeated pattern in the subject line (eg. Funnel Vision – How to…)
  • Do use a familiar name/email address

Building your EDM campaign

Objectives

align.me identifies two types of objectives for every campaign:

1. Buyer progression

Achieving buyer progression is a big accomplishment, and therefore considered the, ‘first prize’. To achieve buyer progression through your email campaign, you’ll have to determine what kind of progression you’re trying to prompt, and then tailor your email campaign accordingly.

It’s important to send out your emails rhythmically to create momentum for your campaign. However, to earn the right to send emails rhythmically, your EDMs need to provide your readers with content that is valuable to their specific stage of the journey, that will help them make decisions.

2. Positioning in the category

If your campaign doesn’t result in buyer progression, at least ensure that you’ve positioned yourself in the right category (i.e. provider of HR solutions). This is what we call the ‘second prize’. So, after reading your emails, you want your prospect to at least consider you as a provider whenever they’re ready to buy. For more information on positioning see our wiki on Thought Leadership.

Content grid

Now that you’ve acquired a list, it’s time to build your actual campaign. Start by developing a content grid for all your emails. A content grid functions as a framework for all your emails, and helps identify different topics and sub-topics. Build your content grid around a specific problem, for example the high labour costs of in-house telemarketing, and approach the topic from different angles (cause, trigger, problem, consequences, solutions and outcome). A content grid also gives your campaign rhythm.

The power of the subject line

The subject line determines whether someone will open your email, and is therefore very important. A good subject line will be short, descriptive, and offer the reader a benefit or solution to a problem, without sounding too ‘salesy’. To prevent your email from ending up in the spam mailbox, avoid the use of words like ‘free’ and ‘save’. A comprehensive list of words to avoid in your email campaign can be found here. You will also need to develop a title for your EDM series(align.me uses Funnel Vision), that readers will start recognising after a while.

Personalisation

Personalise your emails by including the reader’s first name in the opening; ie. ’Dear James’. Continue this pattern by personally addressing the reader in the copy of your email. Write “We offer you customised HR solutions” instead of “We offer leading companies customised HR solutions”. Personalised emails are more likely to attract the attention of the reader, and as a result are more likely to be opened. In addition think about the email address that you’re sending the emails from. Include your company name, and - if possible - send from a personal email address (eg. [email protected]).

Don’t forget to conclude your email with a signature that includes your name, title, company name and a link to your website.

Consider some of these advanced personalisation techniques.

Consistency is key

Consistency is very important for your campaign. Ensure to use the same template and layout every time you send out an email. This way, readers will start recognising your emails. Your timing also needs to be consistent, so send your emails at the same time, every time (eg. every Tuesday at 10.00am). In general, emails are more likely to be opened between Monday and Wednesday around or after lunch time.

Call to Action

To position yourself within a category or progress buyers from one stage of their journey to another, you will have to include a call to action in your email. Whether you’re trying to get readers to subscribe to your newsletter or download a whitepaper, it’s important to test your call to action. We recommend using simple A/B testing to identify your most successful call to action.

Avoiding spam filters

There are many factors that can land your email in a spam filter. To prevent your email from ending up in the spam mailbox, avoid the use of words like ‘free’ and ‘save' in your subject line.

Other than the subject line, having images that are too large can trigger spam filters - and send your email straight into someone's junk box. If images are used, particularly when they are formatted, ensure that they are natively small and not shrunk using an HTML code. This is a popular trick with spammers when they attempt to hide images, and spam blockers are well aware of this.

To avoid this happening to your eDMS:

  • Find a spam testing site, and use this just before you send out your email to ensure it will get through
  • Talk to your ISP or security experts to make sure your emails are not sending signals that suggest that it is spam.

Some filters are stronger than others, so there is always a chance legitimate emails will be considered spam - but it's still important to consider image size when making your emails look pretty.

A/B Testing

A/B testing (also called split testing) helps you improve your email engagement rates. It works by comparing a test email, changing only one variable such as subject line, against your baseline email to determine which version gets the best results.

Design and Layout

One of the most crucial points to remember when designing the template for your email is that it must be tested inside each of the main email programs; Outlook, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo and Thunderbird to name a few. The average rule in catering to as many systems as possible is to ensure that your email width is around 600 pixels.

Over-coming image blocking

One of the most common problems that businesses come across in designing their email templates is the systematic blocking of images by most of the email servers (most of us have now become accustomed to the standard message: "Images are not displayed. Do you want to display images"). You must assume that a large portion of people will be too lazy to un-block the images. Fortunately, Brady Nord from Mojo-Themes has come up with several suggestions in overcoming this problem:

  1. Never put your message in images;
  2. Images are for aesthetics only. Because of this, I like to see minimalistic designs with email templates. This ensures that if and when the images are disabled, the content will still be displayed in an effective way;
  3. Using images to send spam text is not effective. All designs should include text. If you have one image which includes your whole message there is no chance of getting 'black listed'. Try to maintain an even ration between images and text; and
  4. Use the alt-text tag with your images. This will help people and your client know what your images are.

In addition to images not displaying, you can always assume that any and all CSS will break or not be displayed as planned. Instead of completely using CSS, use HTML tables to control the design layout. For more information visit The Basics for Email Template Design.

Using a mobile-friendly template

With an increasing amount of clients accessing email on-the-go via their portable device, it is essential that your email design and layout is compatible for mobile formats.

Neil Berman has listed Eights Steps to Good Mobile Email Design in his recent Email Insider column:

  1. Send your emails in MIME Multipart Format so they are readable on mobile devices that can display only the text version of your email;
  2. Keep subject lines to 15 or fewer characters or front-load it so your key message is in the first 15 characters;
  3. Make the most of pre-header text. iPhones allow about 140 characters in vertical view, so keep the text short and persuasive;
  4. For the best display on both mobile devices and the desktop, code your emails between 480 and 600 pixels;
  5. Keep the layout simple and stack information in one column;
  6. Take it easy on the images;
  7. Code all links and buttons with a target area of at least 44 x 44 pixels; and
  8. Test your design regularly on various devices to make sure your emails continue to render as you intended.

For more information and tips on mobile email design, Justine Jordan has created a very informative info-graph spread, showing the do's and don'ts for mobile email design, available here.

Vision6 A-Z of Email Design

The following are the major points from a report published by Vision6; an email, SMS, and social media marketing developer.

Header

It is tempting to make the header large and grand, however, avoid making them larger than 120 pixels high (approximately 2-3cm). If a recipient has images switched off in their email client, they won’t see any text because there is a large white space where the image should be. Also a large header will stop limit the amount of content that appears above the fold.

Subject line

People aren’t looking for reasons to open your emails. They’re looking for reasons to delete them. That’s why you need to write killer subject lines with your emails. A good start is to follow these tips:

  • Personalise when appropriate;
  • Be timely and relevant;
  • State the benefit;
  • 
Use brand recognition if applicable; and
  • Be as short and succinct as possible.

HubSpot takes a different view, and has loads of data to back it up.

  • Use key words proven to get better click through rates.
    • Do use terms known to increase CTRs:
      • photo and
      • who
    • Don't use terms known to decrease CTRs:
      • best
      • always
      • easy
      • how to
      • credit
      • cure
      • magic or
      • free
  • Don't get personal. Making references to the reader by using the words “you,” “your,” or “you’re” in the headline decreases CTR.
  • Have reasonably long headlines. Headlines generate the highest level of engagement at moderate lengths (81-100 characters).
  • Use brackets to tell viewers what to expect. Bracketed clarifications, which are clarifications of the type of content represented by the headline - e.g. [Infographic], [template] or [video], increase CTR
  • Don't make the topic unnaturally urgent. Using words that convey a sense of urgency (e.g., “need,” “now”) in the headline decreases CTR.

Read the full report here.

Content Code (book by Mark Schaefer)

Offers his 'Ever-So-Useful List of Best Blog Post Headline Practices:

  • Make it tweetable (i.e. short). Headlines with eight words or less are shared 21 percent more than average.
  • Make it descriptive and accurate. Never mislead readers. Make it creative enough to stand out in a crowded list of content choices.
  • Reference a numbered list to increase social transmission by 50 percent (like: “Six Extraordinary Lessons from The Content Code”).
  • Make sure the headline offers something helpful.
  • Include one keyword or phrase to help a search engine determine the theme of the article and aid your SEO.
  • Don’t let your headline be an afterthought. The headline is the most critical part of the post. Work it

Above the fold

Make sure your main call to action is ‘above the fold’ most readers will use a preview pane when skimming their inbox; therefore the top 400 pixels of your email are the most crucial for capturing the audience’s attention. fold.

View online

Use a “View online” link so that if someone is having trouble reading your email they can view a correctly laid out version online.

Branding

Ideally, you should place your company logo/ branding in the top left hand corner of
the email header. This will allow for easier company/brand recognition.

Top links

Provide easy links for readers to follow including key calls to action. In particular, these links should sit “above the fold”
and serve as shortcuts for people who are skimming or returning to your email.

Consistency

Is there a continuity of design from the email itself through to any landing pages/ shopping cart/other links (e.g. PDF documents)?

Social media links

You can also use social sharing links such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to promote your social media pages.

Prioritisation

In journalistic convention there is a concept called the ‘inverted pyramid’ (imagine a triangle that points downwards) this convention states that the most important information should be placed at the top of an article and given the most attention. Emails are no different so make sure that everything is ordered by importance.

Links

Use “More” links to place snippets of info in the email and link through to more detailed landing pages. This will reduce the overall length of the email and allow you to track the reader’s interests. Within the message, links should be shared between text & graphic. Where possible avoid using ‘click here’ but rather link the actual text you want to link, such as “visit our website”.

Scanning

To optimise your email for scanning remember that most people tend to scan an email in an ‘F’ shape so this is where your most important content and calls to actions should sit. You can also use headings, colour, fonts, links and buttons to make your email easier to scan.

Email footer

Ensure the footer of the email contains
all the required information for spam compliance and best practice. The reader should clearly understand who sent the email, why they are subscribed to the list and how they can unsubscribe or change their subscription.

For the full report visit the Vision6 A-Z of Email Design.

Sending your eDM

There is a wide variety of Email service providers and Marketing Automation tools available. Based on our experience, we recommend a tool with the following features:

  • Tracks click through and open rates
  • Manages unsubscribes
  • Personalisation functionality
  • Supports html and text emails
  • Generates subscription forms
  • High number of emails that can be sent per day

As a final step in the process, develop a procedure that captures how to handle spam enquiries, bounce emails and updating your database.

Measuring performance

Some key metrics to look at when analysing the effectiveness of your eDM include:

  • Open rate
  • Click-through rate (CTR)
  • Bounce rate
  • Unsubscribe rate

Key Email findings

Some key findings from the Vision6 Email Marketing Metrics Report Australia:

  • The most popular platform for accessing email is via mobile
  • Gmail is the top email client people use in a desktop and webmail environment, beating Apple Mail and Outlook.
  • The average click through rate for emails was the highest on Sundays, however the fewest amount of emails were sent on Sundays. This shows the importance of understanding your specific customer's behaviours.
  • Click through and open rates have been relatively steady and bounce rates gradually decreasing. However, you must consider the industry in which you serve, as these rates may not be as steady as the average.

Vision6 publishes eDM benchmarks for various industries every 6 months. These reports can be downloaded here.