Handy hints for managing email marketing campaigns

To manage an email campaign effectively one has to be familiar with the requirements of a number of different fields including graphic design, web programming, copywriting, database management, and statistical analysis.

The web abounds with email marketing tips, and most of them are simple commonsense ("include a link to your website"). We thought it would be nice to contribute some hints that will actually be useful! Whether you're handling all the duties yourself or managing an in-house or outsourced team, here are some useful bits of hard-earned advice about what to do behind the scenes before and after your email marketing campaign.


Make sure that your email abides by the requirements of Australia's Spam Act 2003 and the Australian eMarketing Code of Practice, and make sure that the recipient list for your mailout contains only people who have consented in some way to hearing from you by email. If you're not sure about your obligations then visit spam.acma.gov.au or consult a reputable email marketing professional. Spam hurts the whole industry - don't add to the problem.

Make it easy to unsubscribe from your mailout and make it obvious how to do so. Don't require the recipient to jump through hoops like logging in to a profile or emailing a list administrator. If it takes more than one click to unsubscribe, it's too hard.


Use a proper email sending application or delivery platform that will enable personalised delivery and provide stats on recipient behaviour. Don't just dump all your recipients into the BCC field of a message and send it from your desktop! A blind mailout to a BCC list doesn't give you any useful info about the recipients and how they responded to hearing from you - you don't even know if they got the email at all.

Some commercial mail servers will see that huge list of addresses in your message's BCC field and assume that the message is spam, and just silently drop it without an error message. You won't get a bounce message and the recipient(s) won't get the email, and neither of you know anything happened.


Tidy up your recipient list. When you first concatenate your various databases together chances are you'll end up with a mishmash of name styles depending on how the details were originally recorded. You'll have "John Smith", "Smith, John", "Mr John Smith", and possibly "Jane and John Smith". Take the time to tidy up your data and standardise the name format - your recipient will respond better to a message starting "Dear John" and you'll avoid the impersonal "Dear Smith", and "Dear Mr", and the just-plain-embarrassing "Dear Jane and".

Ensure your email has a fallback option for salutations if a clear firstname isn't present in the database and can insert something like "friend" or "subscriber" - no-one likes being greeted "Dear FIRSTNAME_NOT_FOUND". And having a coherent database will make the delivery reports much easier to manage and understand.


Test, test, and test again. The code-and-design aspect of email marketing is as much art as it is science due to the quirks of the various programs that people use to read their email. For various reasons some email clients render text, styles, and layouts in unpredictable and sometimes totally illogical ways (yes I'm looking at you, Microsoft Outlook). Code and designs that are 100% valid and which look perfect in an editor or a web browser will be broken and ugly for no apparent reason when viewed in a mail client.

The only way to prevent this is to test diligently. Even when you think everything is perfect... do more testing. If you change a single thing, even just a simple text typo, test again. Because for no sane reason that insignificant little change you just made to the final draft might change the way the email is displayed to the recipient even if there's no way on Earth it should. Test again!


Make informed decisions about your email marketing. The greatest advantage of email marketing is that the sorts of things that were previously justified on the basis of hunches and feelings can be backed up (or disproven) by real data.

Of the messages you sent, how many arrived successfully? Of the people who received an email, how many opened it? And who were they? Of the people who opened it who visited your website as a direct result? Would they have responded better if you sent the email in the morning or the afternoon? On Monday or Friday? If sent by "Companyname Inc" or by "Jane Smith"? With proper reporting at your fingertips you can get answers to questions such as these.

Even before the campaign proper goes live run split tests (aka "A/B tests") wherever possible. Create variations of your newsletters with different layouts, subject lines, salutations, delivery times, text copy, you name it. Note what works - discard what doesn't. A good email-marketing provider will be able to automate this for you.


If you need help with these or any other issues relating to email marketing, call us today on 08 7127 0435 or email info@chillichocolatemarketing.com!

A version of this article was published in My Business.
(Image credit: Loving Earth, Creative Commons.)


+Simon Garlick