Managing mass mailings in a digital world
“She wrote upon it:
Return to sender
No such number
No such zone…”
As Elvis chimed these words in my ear, I didn’t think about his broken heart. My thought was, “What a way to send a message!” The recipient of the letter clearly did not want to be communicated with. For a business using mailings to communicate with a market base, this kind of feedback can be valuable. When our letters are electronic messages sent over a “cloud” of network connections and packet delivery systems, a misguided email may return a cryptic bounce message, at best. The question arises of how to manage our communications strategically, effectively, while maintaining some level of personability.
Challenges to Email Management
For businesses that use email to communicate and market products or services, even the relatively straightforward act of maintaining a list of contacts has become vastly complicated. Common challenges businesses face when attempting to communicate strategically over email include:
- Simply keeping up with people’s email addresses
- Avoiding duplication
- Managing email “bounces”
- Keeping from being marked as SPAM
- Organizing your contacts so that you can better direct your messages
- Expanding your list of contacts to new markets or interested parties
- Creating emails that represent your company - professionally
- Tracking the results of your efforts
Effective Email Management
If using a spreadsheet to overcome these challenges no longer seems like pleasant or efficient use of your company time, you’re not alone. We’ve found over and over that a system created specifically to help you handle everything that’s involved in this seemingly simple task can save time, money, and headaches. Therefore, the solutions I will be offering in this post all require a good, functional email management system. Of the various products available, our choice is Constant Contact, so I will be using this system in my examples.
Contacts and Contact Lists
A list of contacts should be easy to maintain, organize, and grow. In Constant Contact, you can add contacts manually or import from an external document. People can subscribe to your email list automatically through a form you’ve posted, or share your email by forwarding or through social media links you’ve included in your mailing. Once you have your contacts together, you can organize them by category. Say you want to email one version of your newsletter to existing clients, and a slightly different version to potential customers.
Other things that make it easy to manage contacts:
- Search by name, company, or other criteria
- Sort your contacts based on your requirements
- Eliminate duplicates
- Remove contact, or add to a “Do Not Mail” list
- Import and export contacts
- Report on your lists – How many new contacts this month?
Simply put, you need the ability to keep track and organize contacts in one place quickly and easily. Seems basic – and a good systems makes sure that it is.
Sending Professional Mailings
The difference between a personal text email and a professional mailing is evident. As a business, you want to extend your brand into your marketing emails, and laying out graphics and text in an email can be tricky. With Constant Contact, you can easily create professional emails with custom color, images, links, the works. You start by selecting a template style – 2-columns, large headline, etc. - then add your content. You can change the color of your text and backgrounds, add images, link back to your website, include a coupon or special offer, and save your modifications to use again in your next mailing.
If your e-mail gets “bounced”, there is generally a clear reason, such as:
- There is a typo in the address
- The address is not valid or has been deactivated
- Your email has been blocked from this address
Depending on the reason, there are steps you can take to keep your e-mails from bouncing. It may be as simple as fixing a typo. In Constant Contact, you can view if any addresses bounced your e-mail and why.
We’re all accosted by unsolicited emails, and service providers are continually coming up with better ways to keep junk out of our inboxes. This is great for real spam, but legitimate emails you send to recipients who value what you have to say should not be filtered out. Some suggestions to keep your email from being blocked:
- Present yourself professionally and deliver content your readers appreciate
- Allow recipients to unsubscribe from your email list if they are no longer interested
- Don’t use language that can be considered spam-y
Your mailing should make it clear that you are a legitimate business with a valued message that’s worth spreading. This is included in your email template. Additionally, with Constant Contact you can run a Spam Check tool on each e-mail prior to sending, get valuable tips and access to resource, and if you continue to run into issues, there’s a team of experts on your side dedicated to helping you resolve the problem.
Since you’ve invested effort into creating content to share with your contacts, you probably are interested in your results. Are people opening your email? Are they clicking the links you’ve provided? Are they opting out, or sharing your content? Comprehensive reports give you statistics at a glance so you can refine your methods as needed.
A serious email marketing effort is truly that: an effort. It comes down to the basic principle that when a task easy to do, you’re more likely to do it. Given the considerations outlined, utilizing a system like Constant Contact is a no-brainer – you save time and money even if you use only the basic components. But to sweeten the deal, Constant Contact has even more tools you can use with your email marketing: ever take an online survey or get an email invitation that you can RSVP to right then and there?