Although many people use instant messengers to talk to friends and colleagues, emails still play an important role in communication. Business correspondence, account welcome emails, and newsletters are just a few examples. If you run an online store, for example, emails are one of the most important channels to reach potential and existing customers. You can send them updates about new products, discounts, holiday sales, etc. A good email campaign can increase your sales significantly.
According to AWeber’s 2020 Small Business Email Marketing Report, 66% of businesses use emails to communicate with clients and 60% find their email strategy to be effective. About 40% of businesses report an email open rate between 25% and 75%. If you have been neglecting this part of your web presence, it is time to change that.
Below, you will find some useful tips on how to maximize the effect of your campaign and how to avoid the risk of your emails being flagged as spam.
- Choose the right email provider
- Marketing automation platforms
- Standard web hosting account
- Newsletter and Campaign Software
- Build your email list
- Create an appealing email
- Make sure your email is delivered
- In conclusion
Choose the right email provider
If you want to send regular emails, you will need an email provider for that. You have two options – you can use either a dedicated email provider that focuses on marketing emails and does not provide any other service, or a web hosting provider that offers emails as a part of their web hosting packages. Both options have their pros and cons. We have listed some of them so that you can make an informed choice, but the features may vary between providers.
Marketing automation platforms
+ Ready email templates. You can use a drag-and-drop editor and create various workflows.
+ Track deliverability easily with built-in tools. Check how effective your campaign is without installing additional software or setting anything up.
+ Multiple auto-responder options are available. You can automate some of your work based on the messages that customers send you.
+ Easy integration with cloud e-commerce apps. Some automation platforms are even a part of large cloud e-commerce providers, which facilitates the integration process.
- Can be very expensive. A premium plan for a larger number of subscribers can go up to $2000/month.
- Very limited support. Many providers offer support only with their more expensive packages and/or only during working hours.
- More likely for emails to bounce-back. Automation platforms are used to send billions of emails monthly, so it is more likely that your emails may be sent out from an IP address that has been blacklisted by some spam monitoring agency.
- More suitable for large businesses. Managing marketing automation sometimes requires a dedicated team, which isn’t an option for smaller businesses.
Some of the more popular marketing automation platforms are MailChimp, Zoho Campaigns, and Campaigner. You can check them out if you are interested in what they offer. Please note that we are not affiliated with these services, and we cannot provide further comments on their service.
Standard web hosting account
+ Timely and professional support. Many hosting providers offer 24/7 support. ICDSoft, for instance, has a 15-minute response guarantee for technical issues, not just general questions.
+ Manage your whole campaign in one place. You can register a domain, set up mailboxes and mailing lists, and build landing pages all in one place. This can save you time and money.
+ Daily backups. A standard hosting plan includes daily backups, so you will not have to worry that something may happen with your email correspondence – incoming and outgoing.
+ Use Reply-to address of your choice. It is important to be able to communicate with potential and existing clients. Automation platforms usually allow only one predefined mailbox to accept incoming messages.
+ Get more for your money. A standard hosting plan usually costs less than a marketing automation plan, but includes many more services that you need for your web presence.
- You have to setup the automation yourself. With a hosting account, emails are a part of the overall service, but an email marketing automation platform is rarely pre-installed so you need to install an email marketing automation platform by yourself (don't worry - there are lots of plugins and packages that you can choose from)
- Lack of marketing tools. Automation platforms usually offer ROI analytics, competitor monitoring, etc., which again you will not find pre-installed with standard hosting plans, so they will need to be configured by you.
Newsletter and Campaign Software
There are different applications to send out emails through your hosting account – both desktop and online ones. As we focus on using only your web hosting account without installing anything on your computer though, we will not point out desktop software. One of the most popular free software packages for email newsletters is PHPList:
If your site is built with WordPress, you should check out the WordPress plugins below. WordPress has the advantage that you can manage your website, landing pages and marketing emails all in one place.
Newsletter - collect emails, segment them and design your newsletters with ease. Spam protection, GDPR compliance, double opt-in and detailed tracking are a few of the plugin features.
Mailster - although this is a premium plugin that does not have a free option, it is one of the best plugins out there. You can add opt-in forms, track how many people open your messages, click on them or unsubscribe, see how many emails bounce back, schedule campaigns and much more.
MailPoet - another great plugin that allows you to set up subscription forms and create emails from scratch or use a number of templates. The free version supports up to 1000 subscribers. If you run an online store, MailPoet can be integrated with WooCommerce.
Email Subscribers & Newsletters - This plugin comes with unlimited templates, country localization and GDPR double opt-in support for new subscribers. It does not have a limit for the number of subscribers, lists or forms you can have.
If you are not sure where to start, we have prepared a video that will show you how to build your own subscription system on your hosting account using only free tools - WordPress, WooComerce, Elementor, and the Newsletter plugin:
Build your email list
After you choose a provider, you have to build a list of people to contact. It is important that you get people’s consent to send them emails. Scraping/buying emails, importing them into some mass mailing software and blasting a message may work in the short term, but it will have a negative impact in the long run and is most probably illegal. Sooner or later, unwanted messages will be reported as spam, which will result in your domain and mail server getting blacklisted.
There are different ways to get legitimate subscribers:
- Add a pop-up on your website. The pop-up should not be intrusive, but it should be large enough to catch the attention of the visitors on your site. Use short sentences, large fonts and suitable colors. Add a unique call-to-action button – instead of “Subscribe”, use “Get a free pair”, “Join the fun”, “Count me in”, etc. Use a clear design and do not ask for too much information from your visitors. Apart from their email address, you can ask them to enter their first name. This will allow you to send them more personalized emails later.
- Add a subscription checkbox on the registration page. If you offer an account registration option on your website, the registration page is a good place to add a checkbox for visitors to subscribe to a newsletter or other emails. The advantage of this option is that visitors will not have to fill anything else, so they may be more likely to sign up if only a mouse click is required for that.
- Add a subscription box on the home page. If visitors are interested in the products or services you offer, they are more likely to subscribe to newsletters if they see an option to do that next to the content they are looking at. You will have more options for the layout of the subscription form as you will have more space compared to a pop-up.
- Add a subscription option to your emails. If you sell goods or provide services online, you probably send a welcome email or a payment receipt to your customers. You can add a small link at the end offering your customers to subscribe for a newsletter or future promotions.
You can separate your subscribers into different groups based on different criteria – some preference in their account, the page they signed up at, past orders, country, etc. If you sell pet food, for example, it makes sense to send information about cat food promotions to cat owners, but not to dog owners. Targeting the right people can boost your sales.
Create an appealing email
Once you have a list of subscribers, you should think about the email you will send them. The layout can often be as important as the content, so you should pay attention to the details.
- Write a simple and catchy subject line. This is important as the subject will be the first thing people will see. You can send a great email, but it won’t matter if people don’t open it. You should catch people’s attention, but don’t tell them everything – get them to open the email to find out more.
- Choose the right content. A wall of text or a single large image with no explanation will probably put customers off and they will close or delete your email. Depending on the purpose of your email (regular newsletter, promotion, product update), you should find the right balance between text and images. If you offer a service, mention a few advantages, but not all. If you offer a product, display a few varieties. Make sure customers will have a reason to continue to your website to read more information or see more images.
- Create a visually pleasing email. Use contrasting colors to make the important parts of the email stand out. Use large fonts so that people can read the text on a mobile device. Desktop and web-based email applications can render HTML messages, so you should take advantage of that.
- Add a good CTA button. Use a different color to make sure the button is visible. Similar to the subscription box on your site, the CTA button should deliver a clear message. “Buy a new domain name” is much better than “Click here”, for example.
- Add testimonials. If a potential customer hesitates, they may be more inclined to order a product or a service if they see what other people think about it. Add a few short testimonials to your email and a link to a testimonials page on your site or to a third-party review website like Trustpilot or Yelp, for example. The latter option may be better since reviews on such websites are usually considered to be more trustworthy as the platforms filter out fake reviews.
If you have any doubts, check your own mailbox. Think about the emails that got your attention and what part of them you liked the most. You can also do some A/B testing and send emails to friends and colleagues to see what they think about them.
Make sure your email is delivered
A good email campaign does not end with composing a message and sending it to a list of people. You should also do your best to make sure the message is delivered to people’s Inboxes successfully. Here are a few tips:
- Do not send your email to people who have not opted in for that. It may be tempting to do that as you will reach more people and you can find (and unfortunately, even buy) lists of emails online. Even if you get a few new customers this way, however, it is likely that many people will report your email as spam. As a result, your domain and/or mail server will get blacklisted, so you won’t be able to contact even your legitimate subscribers in the future.
- Do not send the entire batch of emails all at once. You may be sending a legitimate email with legal content to subscribers who have opted in to receive it, but if you send too many messages in a single blast, some spam monitoring service may mark your domain or mail server as one that sends out spam. Removing the blacklist entry after that may take time and may even cost you money, not mentioning the potential losses of not being able to contact your customers.
- Choose the best time to send the email. Depending on the product or service you offer, you should choose when to send your message. It could be in the morning, in the evening or during business hours, for example. If you send the message at night, people may not even open it when they see it in the morning among other unread emails.
- Add an Unsubscribe button/link. Emails that do not include such an option are often treated as spam by automatic filters. It is also more likely for a person who wants to opt out to report such an email as spam if they cannot simply unsubscribe. In some countries sending emails without an Unsubscribe option is even illegal – the US CAN-SPAM Act is one of the most popular examples of such legislation.
- Avoid using certain keywords. While there isn’t a list of words that are treated as spam, some phrases are more common in spam emails than others. Do not use things like “weight loss”, “earn cash”, “important information regarding”, etc. You can find lists of such spam flag triggers online, or you can check your own mailbox and see what words spammers use the most, so that you can avoid them.
- Set up SPF and DKIM records. SPF, which stands for Sender Policy Framework, is a text record that defines the mail servers allowed to send emails on behalf of your domain. DKIM, or DomainKeys Identified Mail, is an authentication method that uses an encrypted digital signature to verify that a message is legitimate. Adding these two records to the DNS zone of your domain name will increase the deliverability of your emails significantly. If you have a hosting plan with ICDSoft, you can enable each of these two records with a click.
You will find a lot of free online tools that can help you to check if there would be any issues that would prevent your email from reaching its recipients. You can easily see if you have to create any records for your domain, if the domain has been blacklisted by some spam monitoring agency or even whether your email will pass a standard spam check. Here are a few of the tools you can use:
Mail Tester – a great tool that checks your domain against blacklists, calculates a spam score using the SpamAssassin filter, checks for broken links and reports any possible DNS issues with your domain.
MXToolbox – a collection of tools that can give you information about possible domain, DNS or mail server problems.
SPFWizard – a simple and easy-to-use tool to generate an SPF record
SocketLabs – create a DKIM authentication key with a few clicks
Here is an example of the information you can see if you use Mail Tester:
Planning is very important when it comes to launching a successful email campaign, so you should build your strategy carefully. Choose a suitable email provider without exceeding your budget, but also without making compromises with the level of the service or the ease of its use. Spend enough time on designing your email – choose a catchy subject line, add a good CTA button, make sure that the message looks appealing in terms of content and colors. Do not take chances – you can always ask friends and colleagues to give you some feedback before you send out the email.
Over time, you will become more experienced, so you will be able to create better emails in a shorter period of time. A well-composed message that reaches your clients’ Inbox can increase your return of investment (ROI) multiple times. This is why, you should not ignore this channel of communication. If you follow our tips, you will be one step closer to success.