Legal, ‘must-have’ and ‘yes please’ email marketing features

9 minute read

What do you need? Tick ‘yes’ to each of these items and you’re definitely on the right track.

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First – The legal requirements

It’s easy. Email (and other forms of direct marketing) is highly regulated. Don’t even think about sending an email campaign without these items firmly in place.

a) Permission
To be strictly correct, permission, as originally described by Seth Godin, is not a legal requirement – it’s an ideal. The law sets out the conditions for ‘consent’ with the proviso of reasonable, if somewhat strict, interpretation as to its use. It’s true there are lots of similarities between permission and consent and the latest provisions in the European Union GDPR actually bring the concepts of consent and permission even closer together. In either case, emailing those who haven’t signed up or aren’t expecting to receive your messages is unlikely to succeed and may well get you into trouble.

b) Sender Identification
There are two aspects here. Identifying yourself is a legal requirement. If you are a private or public limited company you must include your company’s registered name, number and location details. It’s typical to include this in your email footer (by the way, a link to this information is not sufficient). The second aspect regards deliverability and engagement success. It’s not a legal requirement but an encrypted sender authentication (such as DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) has a big impact on delivery and sender recognition (that’s your from name and from address) has a big impact on whether or not your email is opened. Genuine marketers make themselves visible for good reason.

c) Unsubscribe
You must include an opt-out at the point of data collection and an unsubscribe option in every email you send. You must have a process to actively execute any unsubscribe requests and, if push comes to shove, you must be able to demonstrate that your unsubscribe process is auditable and effective. As a nice reader friendly feature some offer a selective opt-out, allowing your subscribers to manage which of your communications they do and don’t want to receive, and many also capture useful information at the point of unsubscription to better understand what has gone wrong. If unsubscribe is requested, do it, do it well and move on.

Next – the ‘must-haves’

There are literally thousands of ESPs (Email Service Providers) offering easy, low cost email marketing solutions. If you can’t do these basic features – maybe look elsewhere.

a) Responsive Design
Latest research shows that around 50% of all email opens are made on a mobile device (typically a tablet or a smartphone). If your email is hard to read or interact with on a mobile device it’s highly likely (possibly as high as 80%) that it will be deleted. Responsive design is much more than just scaling down your desktop design to fit a smaller screen. Collapsing multi-column layouts to a single column of scrollable content is the most obvious adaption but good responsive design also optimises things like reordering content, optimising image display, font size and line spacing and the suppression of features less useful on a mobile. It’s a must have. Don’t write an email without it.

b) Marketing Automation
If there’s a single key to email marketing success, it’s relevance. The right message, to the right person, at the right time. Marketing automation; that’s triggering individual one-to-one messages based on specific reader needs or actions, is one of the best ways of ensuring your messages are timely and relevant. Welcome emails, confirmations, birthday offers and abandoned basket recovery sequences are just some of the many applications. Automation will improve your consistency and efficiency, an it should be no surprise that automated emails like these typically exhibit significantly higher rates of open and engagement than your standard newsletters and scheduled messages.

c) Split-testing
Email marketing presents endless opportunities to test, monitor and refine your campaigns. Split-testing allows you to use samples of your overall audience to measure receptiveness to specific areas of your marketing. Subject line is known to have a big impact on open rate, but which subject line will resonate best? So, create multiple campaigns with different subject line variations and send each to a sample audience. The most successful (based on whatever success criteria you specify) will automatically be sent to the remaining bulk of your audience. It’s simple, automatic and can double your engagement rates.

Finally – The ‘yes please’

Doing the basics well will get you by, but if you want to join the ‘Premier League’ of email marketers here are some ‘gotta get that’ features to look for that will elevate your marketing beyond ‘the rest’.

a) Data synchronisation
Data applications like CRM systems, booking and reservation systems and eCommerce platforms all contain useful contact data and intelligence which could help you refine and target your email marketing effort. Of course you can move this data between applications manually (export, transfer and re-import using a CSV file is common) but this is time consuming, prone to error and doesn’t scale well. Integrating your data applications together, either with pre-built connections or via an API (Application Programming Interface) allows data to synchronise automatically, ensuring you always have the latest information available. It’s efficient, robust and a game changer for any expanding business.

b) Subscriber Profiling
All you need (apart from their permission of course) to send an email campaign is an email address. But there’s so much more. Collecting useful intelligence (we call it insight) and creating a unique profile of interests and preferences for each subscriber allows you to much more accurately target future information. Some profiling information can be asked for directly (name, gender and birthday are common examples) and much more can be gleaned by observation (location, content preferences and even online browsing interests). Collect it sensitively and use it responsibly – read on…

c) Personalisation
Profiling and personalisation go hand-in-hand. It’s easy to forget that email is essentially a one-to-one medium and addressing their readers as individuals is an important concept which many email marketers miss. Segmenting your audience and presenting personalised content increases relevance and will significantly increase reader engagement. A simple personalised greeting is a good first step but savvy email marketers take personalisation much further, building campaigns which dynamically adapt to include or focus on content which is known to fit the profile interests of audience groups or individuals. Female clothing to your female shoppers, meat free specials for vegetarians and local outlet or delivery areas – use your imagination.

All ticked? Job done.