Email marketing has the power to harness interested parties and turn them into real, paying customers for your small business. If you’ve collected email addresses or sent out a promotion to increase sales, you already know this.

Email marketing software runs the gamut from simple and free to quite complex and more expensive. Depending on your needs, your resources, and your marketing budget, you can find a program that works for you.

Even after you’ve written your 50th campaign on your chosen software, you still may not have uncovered all the features in a program that may be more powerful than you realize. Here are some of the lesser-known features that even an expert might overlook. 

RSS Feed Autofill

If you maintain a blog, an updated e-commerce store, or a series of promotions, you can easily repurpose your updates for your newsletter. To give you a quick primer, your content updates are likely captured in a stream known as RSS without you having to do anything; which means you can easily set your newsletter to populate headlines, summaries, and links from said RSS fields. Depending on the software you’ve elected to use, you should locate an option to create an RSS campaign. Once you’ve selected this, look for a place to enter the url for the feed of your site. From there, follow directions and tutorials to pick and choose what elements of content you’d like to include. Finally, select options for format and scheduling. From there, you’ll have an automatically generated newsletter that requires much less hands-on work than you’d expect.

Easy Analytics

Since email newsletter subscribers may likely overlap with some of your best customers, it makes sense that you’ll want to learn as much about them as possible. Your software may provide some thorough tracking functionality, so you can see who opened your email, how far he or she read, and what links were clicked. If you track site analytics with Google, you may be able to integrate further: check to see if there are instructions for using the Google URL builder with your software.

Auto Responders

Many email software systems can do more than send scheduled updates to your list. One of the greatest optimizations you can make to your marketing is to create a welcome series when customers subscribe or arrange an auto responder that acts on cue—perhaps a week after an e-commerce order arrives, or maybe on a subscriber’s birthday. Check out possible automation in the software to make this happen, and note that it may cost you extra to unlock this functionality.

Segmentation

You’ve got more than one interest; so does your list. Some subscribers may love store updates and blog posts, while others subscribed only for the periodic sale or promotion. If you run more than one location, you might want to make sure you’re not boring residents in one town with news of a shop in another. That’s where segmentation comes in. You can have users check a box when they sign up (for example: “send me information about the Des Moines store,” or “send me information about the Iowa City store”). You can also sort lists yourself based on location or a subscriber’s previously expressed interests. Once you have your list sorted, consider each audience separately when you go to email an update. Staying relevant will keep your customers engaged and your list healthy. Most email software programs can help with this.

Preview

Look into the future to see how your email will appear on your customers’ screens, whatever device they’re on. Most email software applications can show you a very detailed suite of email displays, helping you optimize design and content for your readers, whether they scan emails mostly on mobile or prefer to use a desktop machine. MailChimp, for example, has a new resource called Inbox Inspector, which can show how different email clients will treat a given newsletter.

A/B Testing

Stuck between two possible headlines? Want to know, for example, if it’s better to say, “buy one get one free” or “two for the price of one”? You don’t have to take wild guesses if your email client is robust enough to offer A/B testing. If so, follow the directions carefully to set up test campaigns that have slight variations one to the next. Be sure to think about what kind of data you’ll collect from your campaign, ensuring that it will inform how you pick subject lines or lead images in the future. Again, this may be a feature you have to pay extra for, but if you want to get sophisticated with email marketing, it could be worth it.

SPAM avoidance

This isn’t a software trick, exactly, but it is still a good warning: you should have permission from all recipients on your list to send them email. But you can use your software to make sure your blasts never feel SPAM-y. Many providers make it easy to embed a permission reminder into your signup form, so that customers on your list don’t feel trapped. They know they have an easy opt-out. In addition, blog posts and tutorials from your software company may inform you on how to stay up to date about the metrics email servers are using to judge potentially SPAM-y emails. Often, the overuse of words and phrases like “free” or “open immediately” can signal to a server that you’re junk email, as can words about money, which send up the “scam” red flag. Excessive images and unusual formatting and punctuation are also warnings.

For all the time you’re putting into email marketing, you should be getting the most out of your software. Take the time to explore these features in your particular software program; they’ll make you a better user, and a better marketer.

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