Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Email Marketing in ACT! - The Basics

We've recently experienced an increase in the number of people inquiring about e-marketing from ACT!

E-marketing differs from standard "mail merge" in that it provides a feedback loop, enabling you to measure the performance of your emails by looking at open rates and engagement. In this blog we walk through the basics of e-marketing.

Send what to who and when

The first thing you need to think about is what kind of e-marketing you want to do and how often your emails will be sent. For example do you want to send a regular newsletter, announce product/service updates, advertise events/promotions etc?

The next thing you will need to do is decide who will get your emails and whether the message needs to change depending on factors such as location, product interest etc. - this process is called segmentation.

Setting up your database

Before you can segment your database you need to ensure your database is set up to store relevant contact data and organise your contacts for easy reference. For example you may wish to:
  • Set up a check box field that identifies whether a contact is to receive your emails
  • Set up an unsubscribe field so you can track which contacts no longer want to hear from you
  • Ensure that there are fields available for storing any other information that will be used as segmentation criteria (e.g. location, product interest)
  • Set dynamic groups for each of your segments - the criteria for your groups would include "where the subscriber field is checked" and "where the unsubscribe field is not checked" plus any other relevant criteria

Integrating E-marketing with ACT!

There are a number of e-marketing solutions that can integrate with ACT! Listed below are two that we think are worth considering. Each of these have different features, pricing and levels of integration to ACT!
  • Swiftpage: Swiftpage is the most highly integrated solution to ACT! It's plans start at $14.95 USD per month however most businesses will benefit from the Pro plan at $44.95 USD per month.
  • Mailchimp: Mailchimp is easy to use and has a huge range of flexibility and integrates with a range of other web services such as Wufoo and SurveyMonkey. It is also competitively priced with most businesses benefiting from the "forever free" plan, and other businesses normally fitting within the $30 or $50 USD per month plans. The integration with ACT! is sold by a third-party developer for $99.95 USD (one off cost) and is not as complex as Swiftpage but is suitable for most businesses requirements.

E-Marketing best practices

Now that your database and e-marketing service is set up it's time to run your first campaign. Below are some tips'n'tricks for sending effective emails:
  • Comply with the law: clearly state how people got onto your mailing list, how they can remove themselves from the list (i.e. unsubscribe) and your physical address on EVERY email you send.
  • Watch out for spam filters: certain text, icons and phrases in your emails can fast-track your emails to your recipients spam box - read this article to learn how to avoid spam filters.
  • Design for readability: make sure your emails look good regardless of the recipient's screen size and whether images are turned on or off. If available you can also run an inbox inspection before sending to see how your emails appear in different email clients and devices.
  • Include a call to action: Tell people what you want them to do once they have read your email. For example "get a free trial today!" or "visit our website for more info". If you want to get fancy you can use tracking software to see how many recipients respond to your call to action.

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