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Six Tips for Getting Started With Email Marketing
By: Larissa Harris
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As you can tell by looking at your overflowing inbox, we are at the height of the email marketing season. But many businesses ignore this intimate method of contacting their customers.
1) Choose Your Email Marketing Solution.
Use an online email marketing provider like Icontact, ConstantContact, MailChimp, ExactTarget, MyEmma, or VerticalResponse (just to name a few). They offer a wide range of pricing and services to help you. Just do an online search and research which one is best for you. Some charge by the number of people in your list; others charge by the number of emails you send. The best reason to use a service is that they have agreements with many of the larger ISPs to be white-listed and most emails sent from their server are passed through to their recipients.
2) Build Your List.
Upload your current customer database if you have it, and gather more emails. All the providers I’ve used and researched have the option to create a link or embedded form onto your website that updates your list automatically. Make sure you are collecting all the data you want now and include fields for your subscribers' demographics and interests. This will help you segment your list and target your market.
3) Craft Your Auto-Responders.
A “welcome” message is the email that goes out automatically if someone is so enthusiastic about your product that they’ve signed up to receive regular emails from you. Take advantage of this precious marketing moment and send them a confirmation that they’ve signed up, thank them, and tell them how they’ll benefit from receiving your email. Use the same level of thought to develop messages for transactions, as these are golden opportunities to cross-sell. Follow up with a “product review” email. You can use the reviews in your future marketing messages advertising “Customer Favorites” or “Top Rated Products.”

4) Design an Email That Reaches Your Clients.
Deliverability is the challenge for all email marketers. The better mailing list management services offer a filter test that can tell you the spam score (the level at which spam filters will kick in) with details about where your email failed.
A few design considerations include:
  • Do not "shout" in your email campaigns by using all caps.
  • Avoid using exclamation points.
  • Never use exclamation points or question marks in the header.
  • Don't use light-colored fonts on a light background or dark font colors on a dark background. This is considered spam.
  • Use terms such as "free," "limited offer," "bonus," "buy now," and “guarantee” sparingly and never in the subject line.
  • Don't try strategies like F R E E or F*ree to get around the filters; they can detect it.
  • Using an image for spam word text may work, but an email containing only images will be flagged.
  • Don't send from an @something-offers email address.
  • Don't use large fonts.
  • Put your call to action above the scroll.
  • A link for “Forward to a Friend” and share buttons to social media sites are essential.
5) Clean Your List.
Keeping people on your list that aren’t responsive is a waste of time and money and can get you black-listed. “Hard bounces” should be removed immediately and “soft bounces” (if the server was overloaded or down at the time you sent to your recipient) should be removed after a few chances.
6) Listen to Your Audience.
Continually learn your customers’ behaviors and motivations by following the demographic information you acquire along with any comments, product reviews, and activities.  Also, study your past campaigns in order to determine what content works best. Refine your list as you move forward and sharpen your messages over time.

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About the Author
Larissa Harris is a graphic designer, Web developer, and social media marketer. Read her blog, LarissaHarris.com; "like" her Facebook page; or follow her on Twitter
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