In its infancy, email marketing resulted in inboxes cluttered with electronic versions of junk mail, the stuff consumers toss into the garbage with barely a glance. Anti-spam legislation and new requirements, including an opt-out option advertisers must provide, put some control back in the hands of consumers. Marketers were forced to become more sophisticated in their approach. In the second decade of the 21st century, social media radically changed how people communicate, and while email marketing is still effective, it must compete with Facebook and other social platforms for attention.

According to Dan Steiner, CEO of the web-design and internet-marketing firm Avila Web Firm, mass email campaigns today need to be fine-tuned to be effective. Methods that worked in the past are inadequate for today’s environment. In a post for Entrepreneur, Steiner points to the reasons even a carefully considered email marketing campaign may fail to bring in the desired results.

Top on Steiner’s list is a failure to understand your customers. You need to know their habits when it comes to email. Do they open your messages or do they send them directly to the trash? How many of your recipients click the “unsubscribe” link? Steiner suggests using a tool such as GetResponse to track email activity and use the data to better understand the potential customers on the other end of your contact list. You also want to monitor when most emails are opened, the click-through rates and responses to your call-to-action.

A dull or uninformative subject line will quickly have recipients clicking the delete button. Are you running a special promotion? Put it in the subject line. An inbox message of “50 percent off all this week” is a lot more interesting than “This week’s sale.” Is your message providing information about a product? Create a subject line that lets your customers know they will gain useful information by opening the email.

Are you personalizing your emails? If not, you are missing out. Try to go beyond merely adding a customer’s name. Try segmenting your list by region to include local references in your message, or track customer purchases to determine interests and target those interests in your message. If you are a small-local business, you or your employees may personally know your customers. People are much more receptive to emails from someone they know. Use your name to continue a face-to-face relationship that began in your brick and mortar business.

The fastest way to get potential customers to unsubscribe is to flood their inboxes with advertisements that don’t offer any value. People interested in your products will look forward to coupons, special discounts and sales information. Don’t send email messages you wouldn’t want to receive. Get to know your customers, treat them with respect, offer them sound values, and your email marketing campaign will pay off.



This article was written by Gillian Burdett for CBS Small Business Pulse.