One of my partners at Bee has been getting a lot of calls from car insurance salespeople, all representing different brands. He sold his car two years ago and has no plans to buy another one in the near future.

We were all amused at first by how patiently he answered these calls.

“No, Ma’am, I don’t need car insurance. I don’t own a car currently, and have no plans to buy one. You have the wrong information.”

The repetitiveness of these calls and his refusal to get annoyed had me intrigued (and annoyed on his behalf). They’re just doing their jobs, he said, with an inaccurate list someone gave them. It isn’t their fault their brand doesn’t have a problem spamming people.

I’m not offering up this anecdote just so you know what a lovely guy my partner is, (he is – and it’s annoying), but it also got me thinking about email marketing and how, more often than not, it has come to be associated with spam, especially in India.

I find this really unfortunate because email marketing is a great tool for brands. Unlike traditional marketing channels like print or television, email marketing gives you real-time insights on the success of your marketing campaigns. For small businesses who have limited marketing budgets or resources, email marketing is especially valuable. Email marketing, done right can help you tell your stories quickly and cost effectively, generate leads for your business, learn what’s working and what’s not, and most importantly create lasting value for your brand.

“Email marketing done right”. And here lies the crux of the problem. I’m not referring to your campaign content or strategy here. This is all about getting the basics right, so you don’t annoy a whole bunch of people and give them a reason to dislike your brand.

It isn’t difficult to make the switch. All you have to do is set up and stick to a set of ground rules that put your audience first. It’s quite like the sentence in the Hippocratic Oath, ‘First do no harm’ – either to your customer’s opinion of you or your brand narrative.

If you don’t quite know how to go about setting up your ground rules, you’re welcome to get started with Bee’s list of tried and tested best practices:

1. Always ask for permission.

2. Include an Unsubscribe link in every email.

3. It’s 2017. If you’re still managing your email lists manually, now is the time to invest in an email marketing service. Not only do you get excellent insights into your subscriber behaviour, using a service allows your subscribers to opt out themselves, sparing you the hassle of manually unsubscribing them or even worse having your emails marked as spam. We use and recommend MailChimp, but there are a lot of options out there for you to pick from.

4. Never, ever buy email lists. Purchased lists are notorious for poor hygiene and can spike your spam rates because the recipients did not give you their permission to mail them. Say it with me: Spamming people is bad karma.

5. Handwriting is often hard to decipher. Create and use a digital sign up form on your phone, tablet or computer instead of handwritten forms at conferences and tradeshows. You can use services like TypeForm or even MailChimp.

6. Re-engage inactive subscribers. We do not recommend culling inactive subscribers in the name of list hygiene because a lot of times inactive subscribers are most likely engaging with you on another channel. But permission like most things does go stale, so you should, however, give your subscribers the opportunity to change the terms of the relationship they signed up for or opt out of it. I particularly love this example from Jet Blue, incidentally, another brand we love. It checks all the boxes on re-engagement and is brilliantly on brand.

 

Re-engaging your subscribers – the jetBlue way

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