Articles for Retailers - Kizer and Bender

Email Marketing 101

by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender

You may have heard that email marketing is dead. It’s not. Email is still at the top of every marketers list for reaching customers quickly, effectively, and inexpensively; that’s why big retailers send an email blast each day. A study by eMarketer found that there will be around 236.8 million email users in the U.S. by 2017. Here’s how to reach them:

•  Choose a professional email marketing company to create your campaigns. There are hundreds of companies out there that can get you up and running and marketing like a pro in a matter of minutes. Most of them give you the ability to create email newsletters, surveys, calendars and social media promotions, and all of them offer statistical information so you can track how you are doing. You can choose from a variety of templates or create a custom one that’s unique to your store.

Retailer favorites include Constant Contact, Email Contact, SnapRetail, and MailChimp. Each one offers a free trial period so you can try them all and then choose your favorite.

•   You must obtain permission first before you send customers your email blast. The email companies listed above will do this for you. The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) act gives consumers the right to stop a business from emailing them; failing to adhere to it is a violation of the law.

•  Collect email addresses organically. In addition to having sign-up sheets at the register and online, make asking for the shoppers' email address part of the regular checkout process.

Don’t waste your time and money purchasing email lists. The people on those lists may have opted into receiving email blasts, but they didn’t give that permission to you. They may not be qualified to buy or interested in what you sell. And they may be offended that you emailed them without their permission.

•  The goal of your email marketing is to entice the customer to take action by visiting your website, or better yet, get them off of the couch and in to your store. Each one must have one clear message. It’s okay to send out an occasional newsletter with lots of articles – and links to your website – but for the most part, your email marketing needs to focus on one subject. People’s email boxes are crowded – you have a limited amount of time to capture their attention.

•  Think more photos, less copy. Big photos. Photos that when clicked go directly to your website for a closer look at that cool product. It should take a reader just 20 seconds or less to fully understand the message you are trying to convey.

Every photo you use should be linked to a web page that will give the reader more information about the product or the option to click to buy.

•   Use your own photos! Using an image you found on Google Images is a bad idea. Those photos are property of someone who holds the copyright. A B2B consultant we know used two photos on a webpage he thought belonged to his client. They didn’t and he was fined $12,000. Take your own photos, ask vendors for photos you can use, or use a service like Adobe’s Photo Stock. Some email services offer royalty-free photos as well.

•  Limit the amount of fonts you use to two, and use a Serif font that 12 points or larger. Think about the customers you are trying to reach; we’re willing to bet that a lot of them are ages 40+. Know what happens when you turn 40? A disease called Presbyopia that affects your ability to see clearly up close kicks in and they can’t see your email without their reading glasses. Give your readers a break – blow up the font a little.

•  Rock the landing page; the first page readers see when they click on a link in your email to enter your website. This page needs to be important, colorful, interesting and fun. Remember, you have just seconds to grab their attention before they move on to something else.

•  Test the URLs to make sure that they work. You worked hard to put together that email blast. You used a great photo and you loaded it up with clickable links. Now make sure that those links take the reader where you intended them to go.

•  64 percent of people say they open an email because of the subject line alone. (Chadwick Martin Bailey). Make it compelling.

Most email marketing companies agree that it’s best to limit your subject line to 50 characters or less. You can use more characters when it’s absolutely necessary or when you need to target a specific audience, but understand that the length of your subject line will vary depending on which device the reader uses. Cutting off the subject in the wrong place could result in a very different meaning than what you intended.

•  Avoid “ Flag” words. “Free”, “Help”, “Act now!”, “Order Now”, and symbols like “!!!” or “#1”, and anything in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS in your subject line will probably get your email snagged by spam filters before it has a chance to reach a mailbox. Know what else? Spammers like to use red type near the top of their email blasts. If you do this, there’s a good chance your email could get bounced as well.

•  Make your contact info easy to find. Know what drives customers crazy? When they want to give you a call, or send an email, but they have to search for your contact information.

•  Add a “Call to Action”. You want to create a sense of urgency and encourage the reader to stop in quickly or make a purchase online ASAP. You can do this by adding a limited time offer such as “Please respond by _____”, “The first 50 people to respond will receive _________”, or even a coupon with an expiration date. The call to action will help you determine if your email marketing is catching the reader’s attention.

•  Be consistent. Send your email blasts on a regular basis. Choose a particular day of the week and you’ll train customers to watch their email boxes to see what’s new at your store. We know a retailer who sends out her email blasts on Wednesday. She missed one once and dozens of customers let her know.

•  Always test on a variety of devices before you hit send. 65 percent of email today is accessed via mobile device (Moveable Ink). You want to be sure that your email blast that looks so wonderful on your desktop looks just as good on a mobile device, so do test run or two before you hit “send all”.

•  Measure your results! You can send out gorgeous email blasts, but if you don’t take the time to measure your results then you are wasting your time. How can you improve your marketing if you don’t what works and what doesn’t?

Every email marketing company gives you access to a full report on what happens after you tap “send.” You can see how many people opened your email, which links they click on, who shared it with friends, who subscribed, who unsubscribed, and more. Learning what your customers respond to will help you hone your marketing skills.

Play with your email marketing to find the style and content that works best for you. Have Fun. If you are excited about your email marketing chances are your customers will be, too!


Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender are professional speakers, retail strategists, authors and consultants whose client list reads like a “Who’s Who” in business. Companies internationally depend upon them for timely advice on consumers and the changing retail market place. KIZER & BENDER’s observations are widely featured in national newspapers, national and international industry and consumer publications, and on radio and television programs across the U.S. You can learn more at