Small Business: Successful email marketing

With all the email coming at a customer,

With all the email coming at a customer, it's important to make messages from your business compelling, experts say. (Credit: iStock)

Jamie Herzlich

Newsday columnist Jamie Herzlich Jamie Herzlich

Herzlich writes the Small Business column in Newsday.

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About 15 percent of marketing emails get opened, and only about 25 percent of openers click on a link to delve further, according to the Database Marketing Institute.

Combined, that means only about 5 percent of the emails sent are opened and stir action, notes DMI.

A key way to help improve those odds is to create emails that resonate with your audience and provide value, say experts. Otherwise, they'll end up deleted or in the spam folder.

"You only have a mere second or two to capture their interest," says John Harrison, a partner at The Brand Compound, a Woodmere-based branding and marketing communications agency.

With that in mind, here are some tips on boosting your open rate:

Create a relevant subject line: Avoid subject lines that look like spam, such as all capital letters, the person's full name unless you have something personal to say or know the person, and using the word "free" too often, notes Arthur Middleton Hughes, author of "Strategic Database Marketing 4th Edition" (McGraw Hill; $60) and vice president of DMI, a Fort Lauderdale-based email marketing and database education organization. "You're trying to avoid the spam filters," explains Harrison, who would also stay away from exclamation points and over-the-top offers.

Don't be wordy: The subject line should be no more than 40 characters, advises Harrison. "It should be thought-provoking and relate to their business, not your business," he notes. For instance, when Optimum Solutions Corp., a Lynbrook information technology solutions and software provider, was trying to get the attention of school districts, it put in the subject line: NYS Education Department Mandate Information, says Optimum marketing coordinator Tracy Doktor, who works with The Brand Compound. It wasn't too wordy, but piqued interest. The body of the email shouldn't be too wordy either, preferably 250 words or less, says Harrison.

Add links: Including interesting links in the body of the email could help increase the "dwell time," says Hughes. That's the amount of time spent reading your email. A strong email has a "high dwell time," he notes. The links could range from product ratings and reviews to surveys and opinion polls.

Personalize it: It helps if the email comes from a named sender rather than info@ or sales@, says Mitch Tarr, chief executive of ZinMarketing, an email marketing consultant in Napa, Calif. "Who the message is from plays a big role in whether you open it or not," says Tarr. It also helps if the email is signed by a person with a name, telephone number, etc., rather than just a generic email from the corporation.

Pay attention to frequency: Many small businesses are afraid of sending emails too often, says Tarr. While you don't want to be a pest, you could probably double whatever you think your frequency should be and be OK, he notes.

Be mindful of timing: Mondays and Fridays aren't the best days to send out an email, notes Harrison. On Mondays recipients are wading through all the weekend email, and on Fridays they're gearing into weekend mode. It's also better to send it out before 3 p.m., says Harrison, so they're not in end-of-workday mode. "I believe sending late morning is best," adds Doktor of Optimum Solutions Corp.

Test your results: You never know what works unless you test (i.e., frequency, offers, etc.), says Hughes. For instance, you can see what happens if you email half your contacts twice a week and the other half once a week.