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Email Best Practices

Email Marketing for Consultants

Conducting a long-term email marketing campaign with precision and accuracy is your consulting business' most lucrative opportunity to achieve success from your online promotions. Committing to a campaign over an extended period of time requires an investment of time, energy, manpower and resources. A long-term email campaign is not a procedure readily achieved without paying close attention to a number of highly critical factors or seeking professional expert assistance. When you are ready to make the commitment to email marketing over the long haul, there are a number of significant factors that must be taken under careful consideration.
Email marketing is fundamentally different from conventional Yellow Pages listings or advertisements in a related trade magazine. In conventional media, the advertising liability triggered by the placement of the ad is limited to whether the statements found in the ad copy are factual. If the ad copy passes the test of verifiable truth, then the advertiser need not worry about meeting any further legal standards. With email marketing, there are two separate regulatory structures that must be adhered to: Consulting industry self-regulatory standards and federal (as well as state) laws. Failure to meet these conditions can lead to legal repercussions for your consulting business.
Traditionally, consulting businesses gathered personal information from customers through business cards, existing clients, via signup sheets and other methods. However, federal law dictates that information about customers cannot be entered into your email subscription list until clear permission has been obtained from the customer. Any form of data about any client placed on your subscription list without clear and specific permission from the prospect to receive those emails is a violation of both government law and consulting industry standards.

Federal law demands that direct approval must be obtained from the prospect, logged permanently and made available for future review. Consulting business owners and managers should know penalties for violating these regulations are severe, with fines of thousands of dollars for each email sent in addition to possible incarceration.
CAN-SPAM Must Be Honored
The federal CAN-SPAM Act legislates and oversees email marketing in the USA and describes clear standards of business regarding online marketing. This form of legislation is called an "opt-out" because it requires immediate and complete compliance should any subscriber request to be taken off an email subscription list. The United States federal government considers violations of CAN-SPAM extremely serious, and violators are subject to severe penalties including hefty fines and even jail time.
Unsubscriber Facilitation
Your consulting firm must have an obvious, simple and effective way for subscribers to file a claim demanding the elimination of their complete informational record from your computer systems. All email marketing campaign messages are required by law to contain a prominent unsubscription link that must be swiftly enacted by your business upon receipt. Failure to comply with unsubscription solicitation goes against federal legislation and can lead to severe legal sanctions against your consulting company, as well as its executives.
Bouncing Email Control
Whenever a consulting marketing professional sends a message, be it personal or within the business arena, one of these three results will occur:

The send is successful; email is delivered as intended
The delivery is delayed due to an inbox issue, i.e. a soft bounce
The send is not delivered because the email address is no longer in existence or has been blocked, i.e. a hard bounce

If consulting email marketers continue to send media to addresses resulting in a hard bounce, ISPs will interpret campaigns as professional spamming practices; generally, spammers do not weed their lists of addresses, resulting in hard bounces. When a consulting email marketer sends a missive to an address known to be unreceptive by the routing ISP - an address that Mailer Daemon has already recognized as undeliverable - you may find that your company develops a reputation for spamming, which can land your organization on an IP blacklist. When blacklisted, your business may be prevented from sending any email, including personal messages, business replies and of course your subscription campaign emails.
Privacy Policy
Some consulting firm managers and owners simply visit the website of a competitor and copy their privacy policy. Not only does this activity create duplicate text content (an action penalized by search engine indexing functions that can bring about a drastic drop in your results listing position), it also creates legal liability. Your privacy policy should be drafted for your specific business by a consulting industry business attorney who will ensure it precisely accounts for your online activities.
Proper List Segmentation
Opt-in email list segmentation is a critical procedure many consulting business owners ignore. List segmentation takes into account many factors about subscribers, including demographics, geography and behavior patterns in your audience subgroupings. Given the enormous range of service needs between types of consulting clients, it is clear that meeting individual needs of subscribers is a helpful business tool. By applying segmentation procedures and crafting your email newsletter content to those particular requirements, behaviors, geographic and demographic elements, your business will appeal to individual needs and propose more exact types of services, programs, procedures and products for each consulting client.
Ongoing Content Testing
Some consulting business owners and managers choose to send out exactly the same content to their entire list, obviating the possibility of engaging in A/B testing, which are tests compiling particular content for each segment of your email marketing subscription list to send out in minute volumes and determine the type of response received from each variable. By engaging in long term, comprehensive A/B testing, you can focus your overall online marketing strategy to your business' benefit.
Obtaining the Prospect's Data
In the Internet age, potential customers are less inclined to reveal personal information about themselves. This consulting client's preference for privacy must be balanced against your business' need to cull their demographic data and improve your segmentation efforts. Incentives like discounts, special offers or free consultations in exchange for demographic information necessary for email segmentation information can compel consumers to provide critical data.
Analyzing the Prospect's Behavior
The primary methods of performance and efficiency analysis for online marketing campaigns can be arrived at through email metrics such as open and click-through rates. Any consulting manager or marketer can easily understand the three types of subscribers on an email newsletter list:

Subscribers who do not open any email and should be deleted from your list
Subscribers who regularly read email but do not act on marketing material or click through to your webpage should remain on your email list, since they sometimes interact with your consulting business in ways that may not involve a click-through, such as a phone query or personal visit to your location
Subscribers who both regularly open and click on your email message are the most significant and quantifiable email prospects; composing tailored content to suit this category of subscribers provides you with segmentation opportunities
Good Email Practices
Your email campaigns should always follow best practices. It is important to compose your subject lines with a great deal of care and attention, which will help your reader understand what content is contained within the email, providing incentive for them to actually open it. Multiple landing pages should be set up on your website, featuring targeted and variegated content that ties into your segmentation program's A/B testing tasks.
Email Metrics
The statistical information in this guide shows 61 percent of all consulting business managers and owners surveyed were not aware of the click-through rate achieved by their email marketing campaigns. Thirty-three percent did not know their open rates at all. Consulting business owners and managers should familiarize themselves with those metrics if they expect to have a comprehensive understanding of their email marketing campaign's progress.