Email marketing seems to be a much overlooked tool for affiliates in the UK compared to the US where affiliate marketers seem to have it somehow embedded in their DNA at birth.

I always thought it was pretty simple, but after a few conversations recently I’ve come to realise that might be because I’ve been doing it since about 1995. So here are a few tips that should be enough to get you started if you’re interested in building your business using email.

1) Pick sectors where there are lots of similar offers, and where the consumer is likely to come back for the same sort of offer many times, or try several suppliers.

Some examples might be:

  • Competitions – compers have a big appetite for new offers
  • Gambling – the hard core will play many different casinos, bingo rooms, poker rooms and betting shops to get the best value from deposit bonuses and other offers
  • Credit cards – mailed less often, but many people will chop & change their cards every year
  • DVD rental – many people will try a few suppliers before they settle on the one they want.
  • eBooks & software – I hate myself for admitting it, but people who buy “information products” (as the spammy septics put it), buy a lot of them.
  • Dating – because some people just aren’t ready for commitment yet
  • Fashion – my wife’s wardrobe is testimony that just one handbag just won’t cut it.
  • Beauty – neither will just one shampoo.

2) Keep your list specific. I mean REALLY specific. I have one list I set up that just mails Playstation 3 competitions, and the click through rates (CTR) are over 30% – an amazing stat for freebie emails. Once I got to the end of all the PS3 comeptitions I could find I did a few Xbox and PSP competitions, and the CTR went into single digits. Still not bad, but here’s the crux of it, when I found another PS3 comp, the figures had been damaged permanently. If you start mailing crap to your users, expect to end up in the junk box. Forever.

3) Get a decent email supplier.

I can thoroughly recommend Aweber for building a new list, their delivery rates are great as they don’t allow people to import potentially crappy lists without confirmation from every email on the list. They also allow you to set up a series of emails that run on a set-it-and-forget-it basis.

Once you get a bit more savvy and have a bigger list that you want to run in-house, PHP List, and Interspire Sendstudio are both ones I’ve used quite happily. Interspire has the advantage that you get some open and click through reporting built in, although it costs a bit more I think it’s well worth it by the time you have a few thousand on your list.

4) Don’t ask for too much information

Email (obviously) and a first name so you can personalise the mail are all you really need. Putting someone’s first name in the subject line can improve your open and click rates by around 20%, well worthwhile. If you need more than that, I’d suggest you are trying to send too many types of offers for your list to be effective.

5) Test different email styles and creatives.

I mean test the BIG things, like subject lines, whether to use HTML or plain text , whether long or short emails are better for your list and whether or not to use images.

I’ve seen all these go either way in different campaigns so try them all. To be certain whether you’ve made a difference you’ll need about 50 responses to one or other of the tests. If your list isn’t big enough to do that, just stick to one format until it is. A basic HTML with the same logo as your site at the top, some copy that says why you are sending the email and promotes the offer, and a clear link to wherever you want them to go is a good start.

6) One email, one message.

Don’t confuse the reader. Give them a compelling offer in the subject line, follow it up in the email body and make it clear to a drunk, 6 feet away what they’re supposed to do next.

Your reader isn’t an idiot, but they have a lot more important things in their life than your email. Don’t make them do the work for you.

7) Make the unsubscribe easy.

If you don’t they’ll hit the ‘this is junk’ button, and the reputation of your whole list will be in bad standing with the likes of Hotmail & AOL. You’ll find it much harder to get your emails through in future.

I hope this helps a few people get started with a list worth having.