Recently, Tech Cocktail sat down with me to discuss their top 5 questions about email marketing:
1. What's the biggest mistake made in e-mail marketing? 2. For boot-strapping tech startups who have limited manpower, where do you rank e-mail marketing compared to social media and blogging in terms of importance? 3. What's the number one piece of advice for optimizing open rates? 4. How import a role does design play in a newsletter? Do you have any general tips for improving one's e-mail layout? 5. What's the most important question marketings aren't asking in regards to e-mail marketing?
Here's the video and transcript:
Tech Cocktail: What's the biggest mistake made in e-mail marketing?
Christopher Penn: I'd say the biggest mistake in e-mail marketing is not testing. I'm constantly amazed by the number of people who assume they've got a best practice in place and they don't test. In this day and age, it's all about testing. Making sure you're doing all of the things that are experimental, that you're finding new and different ways to provide value to your community, new information to your audience, and serving them well. There's all kind of new innovations. There are ad server innovations, there are ways to pull RSS feeds and blog posts in, there's multivariate testing in e-mail. There are many ways that people should be testing and they're not.
Tech Cocktail: For boot-strapping tech startups who have limited manpower, where do you rank e-mail marketing compared to social media and blogging in terms of importance?
Penn: When it comes to the importance of e-mail, social and content creation, it's not a linear scale of importance. It's more like the legs of a tripod. You have content, the meat and potatoes - the value you can provide. The distribution, which is e-mail and to some degree social. And there's conversation, which is really social's main domain of expertise. These three things work in a virtual circle. You have good content, you distribute to people, and then you have conversations which creates more awareness which gets more people back to the content, which gives you greater distribution, which creates more conversation.
These things happen in what I like to call a virtual circle. If you do it right, it builds on itself and makes you a more powerful marketer. With few exceptions, these can be relatively low cost to do. They're a lot of work, a lot of effort - you have to build a lot of expertise. They're not going to be bank breakers like PPC is going to be or direct mail.
Tech Cocktail: What's the number one piece of advice for optimizing open rates?
Penn: The number one piece of advice for optimizing open rates is this: provide really good content. People will look for your e-mail - they will spread word-of-mouth about it.
I like hold up the gold standard of this, Peter Shankman's Help a Reporter, his list - which has 200,000 people or something like that - he sends out three times a day. In the world of e-mail marketing is totally nuts, but he has a ridiculously high open rate. Every single version of his newsletter there's an opportunity for you or a colleague or someone in a related industry to get some free press. There's tremendous value in that. Every single issue of HARO - people spring to open it, trying to beat their competitors to replying to the journalists for the opportunity to get some free earned media.
So, provide really good value and people will want to open your e-mails. If you provide value thats only so-so, then all the little tricks like pre-headers and subject lines won't matter as much.