can email be part of a comms and marketing plan?

by Dan Slee

Okay, so hands up if you've ever sworn at the number of emails you have?

Around 300 billion emails get sent every day in the UK and around 90 per cent of them are spam and viruses, according to the Radicati group.

Hands up too if you've ever felt as though a fair slab are being sent right at you.

Me too.

But the reality is that good email campaigns work.

In the West Midlands, deliver stories to the inboxes of 70,000 subscribers every working day. Around 90 per cent of their traffic comes from email. That's a startling figure and one which quietly underlines the role of good email. It's a story I wrote about in more detail here.

Can email be part of a comms plan? Absolutely.

For me, the email is the great overlooked comms channel. It's the channel that billions use but most forget. In 2009, there were 1.9 billion users. By 2014 the pediction is 2.5 billion.

That's not to say put all your eggs in email. But do remember it along with web, print and social. But make them work together.

How do we do it better?

The Mailcamp event at the National Audit Office in London was a tremendous starting point and saw practioners gather from across Government and the private sector. Steph Gray of Helpful Technology, Llloyd Davis and Nick Holliday deserve credit for the event.

Here are 25 things I learned:

1. The town of Scunthorpe gets caught in spam filters lots.

2. People will sign up for emails on really niche topics.

3. What makes a winning email? Write a headline. A short explanation. Lift a quote. Give them a call to action: 'join!' 'come along!' 'find out how you can too here!'

4. An email to schools about a Dick Whittington pantomime has been caught by spam filters.

5. So has one about eating faggots (nb. that's a Black Country meal.)

6. Mailchimp is a really good way to send bulk email. But it costs if there's more than 2,000.

7. A click through rate of 25 per cent is what to aim at.

8. Constantly promote your email sign-ups.

9. In 2002 there were 5,000 subscribers to the National Archive email newsletter. In 2012, there's 190,000.

10. Lots of big organisations use govdelivery as a way to send out targeted email updates.

11. Blue State Digital handled Barack Obama's email marketing for campaigns and use it as part of a wider comms strategy. Their five tips are:

  • Put a call to action in each email.
  • Avoid email newsletters that blast information and are unfocussed.
  • Send it from a real person. And be transparent about the purpose.
  • Test, test, test. Send them at different times to see if there's an impact.
  • Proof read. Check everything twice.

12. Government sends an email to headteachers. It contains need to know things and other things. It had a really poor click through rate until it was reviewed.

13. Mono blasts of information are not the way to go.

14. Google Analytics is the email marketeers best pal.

15. It's not hard to set-up and run mailchimp.

16. There is a blog about better email marketing design. It's called A man called @iamelliott does it.

17. 45 per cent of the population use smartphones and half of them use it for email every day.

18. 27 per cent say email is easier to use on a phone than desktop.

19. Don't have lots of text in an email.

20. Use big buttons for people to click.

21. Emails that look like emails aren't the way forward.

22. People spend on average 51 seconds reading an email.

23. Only a quarter of government e-bulletins are opened.

24. Emailing in Welsh can see the spam filters come into play.

25. You must, must, must make sure than emails work on mobile phones.

Dan Slee is senior press and publicity officer at Walsall Council.

Picture credit.


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