10 E-Mail Marketing Dos and Don'ts

Remember to track your message's effectiveness

Most online e-mail marketing companies offer professionally designed e-mail templates that are easy to customize with your own artwork and colors. E-mail marketing can help your business grow, but a misstep can cause you to lose customers for life. Avoid the pitfalls with these dos and don'ts.

Do: Create a snappy subject line that doesn't sound like an ad. People are more likely to open e-mail that has a simple, newsy, and direct header.

Do: Use HTML rather than plain text. A well-designed newsletter or pitch containing product photos will help you get your message across.

Do: Design with e-mail reader preview panes in mind. Make sure key elements fit into an area no larger than about 600 pixels wide by 400 pixels deep.

Do: Rely on list-management software or services to deal with subscription changes, bounces, and new opt-in subscribers who have clicked links on your site or in your e-mail messages.

Do: Track your messages' effectiveness. Most list-management tools track open rates, numbers of subscribers who unsubscribe, and click-through response (see MailChimp's Email Marketing Benchmarks for Small Business) for representative rates from one service). Test different messages and subject lines to see which ones produce the best results.

Don't: Get blacklisted. Use a spam checker to see whether your e-mail will pass through common filters or put you on a spam blacklist. Many mailing services have checkers of this type, and Lyris.com and Sitesell.com make similar tools available for free.

Don't: Use JavaScript or background images. These will not show up for recipients who are using Outlook 2007.

Don't: Fail to include an unsubscribe link and a physical mailing address with your message, as required by federal anti-spam law. Consider including a link to your company's privacy policy, too.

Don't: Assume that message recipients will see included images--some e-mail programs won't display them. Provide text descriptions for all graphics, and make sure your message is clear without the images. Never send attachments.

Don't: Send at the wrong time. The best days for business-to-business mailings are Tuesday through Thursday before 3 p.m. For residential customers, evenings and weekends work best.

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