Maximize the ROI of e-mail efforts: 4 tips

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With postage and printing costs rising—and direct-mail response falling—more small businesses are using e-mail as their No. 1 marketing tool. In fact, 51% of businesses plan on increasing their use of e-mail as a business development tool this year, says a Marketing Sherpa survey.

Still, your e-mail faces many potential barriers, including spam filters and increasing in-box competition. Here are four tips to generate the best ROI for your e-mail marketing efforts:

1. Don’t bet your e-mail program on rented lists. According to the survey, 70% of businesses reported good performance from e-mail sent to house lists, compared with just 5% for rental lists. So the best lists are homegrown. Use rented lists in small quantities to test messages and prospect in new market niches or ZIP codes.

2. Build a great in-house mailing list. Think quality over quantity, since a list of 1,000 very interested people will always outperform a list of 10,000 semi-interested people. So look at your current e-mail list carefully and collect e-mail addresses at every chance.

3. Offer relevant content. Once you have the ability to target your lists, you can deliver highly relevant content. That’s not only going to get your e-mails opened, it’s going to produce results.

A great way to do this is to structure your e-mail as helpful advice. If your list is segmented, send separate e-mails and tailor the advice to the particular segment. Give prospects part of the “solution” to the problem and then encourage them to call you. This keeps you positioned as a solver not a seller.

4. Structure e-mails to get through filters and get opened. If you use a service such as Delivra or Constant Contact, always use their spam analysis features. These alert you to changes you can make in copy, graphics or links to improve deliverability.

Subject lines are critical. What’s the most important word or phrase that will flag your readers’ attention? Put it first in the subject line. If you’re not an expert in this area, for about $200 you can hire a professional copywriter to create Spamfree content and “get it opened” subject lines.

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