A Crash Course for Building a Solid Framework for Success
Whether you’ve just started your email marketing program or have been at it for years; if you’re increasing your frequency or changing providers, there’s a lot to know about delivery, open rates and permissions. What was the rule of thumb a decade ago, has changed. What rules were in place in the past, but ignored, are now being enforced. If your program was grown organically throughout the years, you may not even know what’s required as a business using this marketing vehicle.
As you continue to develop your email marketing program, following are best practices that provide a solid framework for success.
Research and become very familiar with the CAN-SPAM rules to be sure that you have a solid understanding of what you must and must not do. The acronym stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing. You may find the entire CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 at www.ftc.gov if you want all the legalese. Here are the highlights:
- Include your physical address on all emails. This illustrates that you are not a fictitious entity and gives individuals a way to contact you outside of email.
- Every email should include an easy and free method for opting out (unsubscribing) of receiving future email communications.
- Honor unsubscribe requests within 10 days.
- Do not make false claims in the “From,” “To” and “Reply to” fields. Do not claim to be someone you are not.
- Monitor all emails at all times, especially if a service sends out emails on your behalf. You are ultimately responsible for what goes out into the world.
- Do not add anyone to your list without getting their permission.
- Do not share or sell the email address information in your list.
It is essential to keep all contact data as accurate as possible (I feel like I’ve said this before … hmm). This will assure the accuracy of any verification processes or appends you perform.
Collect email addresses at any outlet where there is direct interaction with a player/guest. This includes the players club, the hotel, kiosks, websites and social media pages. Make every effort to link those email addresses back to an account in your player system so that you can keep everything consistent and up-to-date. Having your data all in one place, as much as is possible, will make it easier to manage and keep accurate.
Email Appends and Opt-In Emails
CAN-SPAM rules discourage the purchase of email lists. You can’t just start sending email to people who do not already do business with you. An email append to your existing data paired with an opt-in email satisfies the CAN-SPAM rules regarding purchased lists because you are starting with an existing player/guest record. A data append uses the name and address data of your player/guest to find additional information about those individuals; in this case, an email address associated with that player/guest. A clean and up-to-date database is essential for a successful append.
Every first email you send to a player/guest should be one that asks for permission to continue sending emails. Whether you’ve been collecting emails for a period of time, you’ve just done an email append, or your program has been up and running and you are accumulating new email addresses, send that first email out and get that official opt-in.
That first opt-in email is also a great time to gather information from your player/guest about their preferences; how often they want email, what topics they are interested in, etc. A short survey link with 3-5 questions would be ideal for this purpose. Oftentimes, an offer of some kind may be used as motivation for opt-in.
Every email you send out must have an easy and free method for opting out of receiving emails from you, otherwise known as unsubscribing. You must comply with that unsubscribe request within 10 days of receiving it. Keep a running suppression list of unsubscribed emails to make sure that you don’t send to those addresses in the future. Using an outside company or agency to help with your email marketing program can help you manage your opt-outs and invalid email addresses as your program progresses.
This time let’s talk about the best practices of putting together the emails; creating subject lines, formatting text or copy, graphics and videos, and some basic information about supporting your email programs.
Why is this a topic for a best practice discussion? You tell people what the email is about; doesn’t seem too complicated, right? Well, yes and no. CAN-SPAM rules require that you not be misleading in the subject line of an email, but you also need to be aware of the “buzzwords” that may set off a domain’s SPAM filters and send the email directly to a Junk Mail or SPAM folder instead of an Inbox, where you want it to be. Do you use words and phrases including:
- big bucks
- luxury car
- special promotion
- weekend getaway
- limited time
These words and phrases may seem harmless, but they may trigger a SPAM designation if other best practices are not used properly in conjunction.
Keep subject lines short and to the point, avoiding filler words, and place important words first so that they will appear entirely on a mobile device. Use the recipient’s first name to get their attention, and never start a sentence in the subject line that is completed in the body of the email. Using ALL CAPS is also a bad idea in a subject line and, for goodness’ sake, don’t make spelling errors!
Email Text or Copy
Be certain to use Responsive Design in creating your email messages. This allows the design to auto-adjust to the browser or viewing application that your device uses to display an email. You don’t want graphics or text to be lost in the display process of an email app on your phone.
Keeping the text or copy of an email short and to the point is also a must. You don’t want your recipient to have to scroll too much to get the purpose of the email. Especially since you don’t know if they will be viewing your messages on a mobile phone, tablet or desktop computer. The less work on the part of the recipient needed to see what you are presenting, the more likely your entire message will be seen and acted upon.
SPAM filters will scan the content of the email’s text just like the subject line. Keep your messaging concise and consistent. Don’t use a lot of ALL CAPS, excessive punctuation (!!!!!), and again, watch out for spelling errors.
Graphics and Videos
Appealing graphics are always a good idea in any marketing presentation. Keep your brand consistent, and don’t use graphics and effects that are too large and take too long to load. An email that is too slow to load, especially on a mobile device, may be deleted before it has a chance to be seen or set aside for later and forgotten.
Videos should be made available via a link in the email rather than embedded in the email itself. Again, short load times are key, but videos are hugely successful when they’re relevant and consistent with your brand and message.
Supporting Your Programs
Domains like Google (Gmail), Yahoo, AOL (yes, they are both still out there!), Hotmail (MSN) and many more, have a tremendous amount of responsibility to make sure the messages that make it to your inboxes are not harmful in nature. That includes written content, as well as embedded or attached viruses and malware. GDPR rules in Europe and the implications for what that means for future rules in the U.S. have put even more pressure on domains and email providers to ensure the safety of our inboxes.
The best practice for your email program in today’s environment is to educate your players and guests about your email program in the same way that you would a new and ongoing promotion.
Tell them what they will get when they allow you to send them email. Tell them what kinds of messages and offers you will send them. Tell them the email address their offers will come from and ask them to add that address to their address book and to whitelist the domain with their email provider (the part after the “@ symbol” in an email address). And even after all of that, remind them to check their SPAM folders to make sure your messages aren’t tagged as SPAM.
Email marketing is a never-ending exercise in trial and error, just like every other marketing endeavour you undertake. Paying attention to these basic best practices will give you a solid foundation for building a successful email marketing program.