Improve Your Email ROI with These Four Easy Techniques

According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) small businesses enjoy a $43.52 return on every dollar spent in email marketing. That's the strongest ROI-yielding direct marketing tactic, and it's a result that even small businesses on a small business budget certainly can't ignore. If you're not quite seeing a 4,300% return on your email marketing investment, why not consider one or more of these kick-starts:

*** Take Advantage of Personalization

If you're using an email service provider, you should already have an abundance of personalization options. And if you're trying to do email marketing the old-fashioned way, there are several software options that will allow you to merge database fields into your message.

If you've never taken advantage of personalization through data merge, give it a try. But be careful to avoid over-personalization as it can come across as spammy, and even trigger a few spam filters. You want to be sincere and natural. Look beyond merely dropping in a first name here and there. What other information do you have that can be incorporated into your message, such as city name, business name, employee size, recent purchases, buying patterns, motivating factors etc.

And when you're ready to take your personalization to the next level, consider adding personalized URL marketing to the mix.

*** Move Into Segmentation

Segmentation is where the real ROI comes in. Most small business owners take their entire mailing list and send the exact same message to each and every person on that list. But if you're running a buy-one-get-one-free special on Blue Widgets, do you really want to send that message to customers who just purchased blue widgets last week? Or if you're adding marriage counseling to your list of services, do you want to notify your clients who recently went through a divorce? You get the picture.

By segmenting your list, or breaking it down into smaller lists, you can send relevant messages to your prospects and clients. You'll see your open rates and response rates soar. Segmentation and relevance go an extremely long way in building trust, loyalty and, in the end, your bottom line. And it doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. Chances are, you already know more about your clients and prospects than you realize. It's just a matter of coordinating your point of sale information with your email database.

*** Improve Utilization of Your Transactional Messaging

This continues to be an area that many small businesses drop the ball in, mostly because it's so easy to do. Transactional email messages get opened at a higher rate, they get read more thoroughly, they get clicked on more often, and they are not subject to can-spam laws. And since you're already sending them, you might as well make the best of them.

Transactional messages are any messages sent in regard to a customer or prospect transaction, such as:

* order confirmations

* customer service messages

* information request messages

* service confirmations

* shipment notifications

* reservation confirmations

* e-tickets

* inventory updates

* invoices

* payment notifications

The problem is, for many small businesses these messages are automated by the email service or the ordering system or the point of sale software. Many small business owners don't even know what their transactional messages say. They're sort of "out of sight, out of mind".

But your transactional messages are worth paying attention to. Because they do get read from top to bottom, you've got a great opportunity to add a relevant promotional message. Are you sending an order confirmation for a red whachamajiggy? Why not add a promotion for the whachamajiggy carrying case? If you're emailing an out-of-stock notice on Software 3.0, you can add a promotion for Software 3.4.

There are a few rules you must adhere to if you want your transactional messages to fly under the can-spam radar:

• Your transactional information must be the main objective of the email message.

• The transactional data must appear at the beginning of the message.

• At least 80% of the message must be comprised of transactional data.

(Remember, just because your transactional messages are not subject to can-spam laws does not mean your recipients can't report you as a spammer to their ISP. Don't get carried away with the transactional message/promotional mix.)

*** Look Into Email List Append

This one is a tricky one, and I only recommend it as a very last resort. And for full disclosure, I have never utilized this tactic for either myself or for any Modern Image Communications clients, so I'm not speaking from experience here.

There are companies (if you search for "email append" you'll find tons of them) that will take your current client or prospect mailing list and match it up with a database of known email addresses. They'll add the email addresses to your mailing list and return the completed list to you, usually as a Microsoft Excel or .CSV document.

Depending on the service you choose, there are several different ways of paying for this service. First, the company might charge a flat fee no matter what the outcome is. While your up front investment is relatively low, the results aren't guaranteed and you may receive your mailing list back in the exact same condition it was in originally.

Some companies charge per record updated. If you send them a mailing list of 5,000 names, and they are only able to match 250 email addresses, your overall fee is minimal. And, obviously, if they able to match up 4,854 names, you end up paying more.

And a few companies offer "guaranteed email addresses" meaning the email addresses are 100% up to date and accurate. Taking them up on their guarantee can be a little time consuming. You must send out an email message rather quickly after getting your list - usually within 10 days. And you must send back your bounce records to show exactly which email addresses bounced and why they bounced.

Keep in mind, these are the actual bounce records that are returned from the recipients' email servers. This does not refer to the bounce report you receive from your email service provider (such as 1Shopping Cart or Constant Contact) saying X number of email messages bounced. So, if you're less than technical or if you don't send any email messages outside of your ESP, this may not be the best option for you.

If you do decide to go the Email Append route, be very careful about what you do with these newly acquired email addresses. I do not recommend that you automatically add these addresses to your newsletter list or start barraging these people with marketing messages. To avoid spam complaints, a simple email message inviting them to join your mailing list or downloading a free report is usually all you can get away with.

It's true that email marketing provides one of the highest returns on marketing dollars. If you haven't experienced those sky-high returns yet, try employing one or more of these practices and you'll see your ROI increasing in no time.


Karen works with entrepreneurs who own high traffic websites and helps them implement split testing and optimization to recover the revenues they don't even realize they are leaving on the table.

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