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E-mail marketing can help your business grow, but a misstep can cause you to lose customers for life. Avoid the pitfalls with these dos and don'ts.
Do: Create a snappy subject line that doesn't sound like an ad. People are more likely to open e-mail that has a simple, newsy, and direct header.
Do: Use HTML rather than plain text. A well-designed newsletter or pitch containing product photos will help you get your message across.
Do: Design with e-mail reader preview panes in mind. Make sure key elements fit into an area no larger than about 600 pixels wide by 400 pixels deep.
Do: Rely on list-management software or services to deal with subscription changes, bounces, and new opt-in subscribers who have clicked links on your site or in your e-mail messages.
Do: Track your messages' effectiveness. Most list-management tools track open rates, numbers of subscribers who unsubscribe, and click-through response (see "Email Marketing Benchmarks for Small Business" for representative rates from one service). Test different messages and subject lines to see which ones produce the best results.
Don't: Get blacklisted. Use a spam checker to see whether your e-mail will pass through common filters or put you on a spam blacklist. Many mailing services have checkers of this type, and Lyris.com and Sitesell.com make similar tools available for free.
Don't: Assume that message recipients will see included images--some e-mail programs won't display them. Provide text descriptions for all graphics, and make sure your message is clear without the images. Never send attachments.
Don't: Send at the wrong time. The best days for business-to-business mailings are Tuesday through Thursday before 3 p.m. For residential customers, evenings and weekends work best.
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