An interview with email marketing expert Karen Purves (Part 2)

20 11 2009

Hopefully you enjoyed Part 1, for those of you who haven’t read it, click here.

Me: What is your opinion on e-newsletters?

Karen: At the moment, personally, I am sending HTML emails that discuss various blog posts I’ve done in more detail, but my Newsletter list is only a sub-set of my database. I don’t have any images, it’s all text, but I do format the text so it’s easier to scan, because that’s the other thing; people don’t read it the same way they read a book, so you have to structure it so that people can scan it and pick up the right information, and then go to wherever you are pointing them. I’m not necessarily using the format of a Newsletter, but I’m still doing the same function, and I think that depends on your market. If your email isn’t easy to read without the images, then I do tend to unsubscribe. That’s my own personal behaviour, so I think if I’m doing that, perhaps people who are reading my Newsletters are doing that, so that is why I don’t have a lot of images.

Me: How often would you recommend sending out emails?

Karen: I think that depends on your market, where they are in the buying cycle, and what you’re trying to do with them. First of all, your email marketing should have a schedule; you should know what you are going to be doing, with a combination of content and promotion. Providing you’ve got the content and promotion mix right, then the frequency will really be down to what the market can bear and what the market likes. You can find this out by asking for feedback. So I’m afraid there’s no rule; there are some ‘schools’ that say you must be in contact with your customers every week. Well frankly, if some of my suppliers contacted me every week, I would probably not continue to be a client.

Me: What would your Top 5 Tips be for start-up Email Marketers?

Karen: My first tip would be to sign up to an email marketing client. This is really important – they all have the mechanisms you need to maintain your email reputation, and your reputation is key to this, because you don’t want to end up being blocked, which is why sending mass emails from Outlook is just not a good move.

My second tip would be to create a Lead Magnet. By this I mean having different sign-up boxes for different topics you email about. This is good because people want to know about that topic, and then you have something to communicate with them about. Putting ‘Click here for our Newsletter’ might have worked 5 years ago, but it doesn’t work now. People haven’t got time to read newsletters just to see if there is something of interest to them in it.

My third tip would be to create an Ideal Customer. By understanding who you are emailing to, your emails will be more effective, because you use the language appropriate for that profile, and you will include information that that person actually wants to know about.

My fourth tip would be to keep headings under 41 characters. This is for both the subject line, and headers in the body of the email.

My fifth tip would be to track your stats. Even though I’m giving you these tips, you may say it doesn’t work for me. This doesn’t mean my advice isn’t right, it means that it isn’t right in your particular instance, but it’s giving you a good starting point. Although marketing has elements of science, largely it’s an art, and you will increase your performance in marketing by measuring, tracking, evaluating and using that feedback to alter your marketing in the future.

As a bonus tip, I would tell you to plan. Have a programme of communications you are going to have with your list. Try doing a rolling 3 or 6 month programme, depending how fast-moving your business is, that’s enough for you to have an idea of ‘OK, this is what I’m going to do with giving them lots of information, this is the information I’m going to give them, but why am I giving them this information? Because I want to promote xyz later on.’ If you’ve got that worked out, writing content doesn’t become a chore because you know why you’re doing it.

And that’s all folks! I’d like to say a special thank you to Karen for agreeing to be interviewed, and if anyone’s interested, her blog is here.

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