Mistakes are powerful lesson builders. Email marketing inherently brings mistakes. That’s because it’s free and everyone who can push “send” can use it.

Yet the wise have learned from the mistakes, testing multiple email methods to maximize results. The barrage of pointless emails, lengthy, unfathomable benefits or worse — the spamming of America — has caused readership to plummet.

Follow these tips to maximize your return on this powerful marketing tool. (And before you think I made these up, these are based on a four-year study from MarketingSherpa, the online marketing heavy-hitter think tank.)

  • The “from” line. How many emails do you send with your company in the “from” area, thinking, “Hey, they know me and my company, so this is a good, trustable source?” Wrong. One of the primary strengths of email is being “personal,” so making the “from” box appear personal is the exact same advice behind “blind” or “shielded” direct mail envelopes. Personal emails get read first; many company ones are trashed instantly. Get in that first group.
  • Remain consistently “known.” Often a company will send an email from the salesperson, then from the customer service representative, then from accounting, and then back to the tech to confirm an appointment. It’s better to have a consistent spokesperson communicating in the “from” line by name, or “customer service” or something creative like “TheDreamTeam@...”

Know your subject

Subject line branding attempts. Have you been told by the “experts” that putting your company name in the subject line is a good branding idea? They’re wrong. Findings from the research team said “This single mistake sends response rates tumbling.” So quit slamming them with your company name if you want your emails to be read.

  • Subject lines determine open rates. Consider that your subject line is the headline for the email. If you’re sending sales-heavy stuff like, “Check this out” or “We have some great deals,” then consider yourself deleted.
  • Create the best subject lines. Use curiosity, unfinished sentences, entertainment, intrigue, question, controversy. These consistently out-pull the corporate-ego schlock everyone else is sending.
  • Be brief. I got a subject line this week that said: “Come by our booth to see our new product.” In many email programs, most people can’t see more than about 30 characters. Keep subject lines under 40 characters.
  • Formatting nightmares: We all get emails in two basic forms:  HTML (graphics, formatting) and plain text (plain and legible). But which is better? My advice is send in HTML but with very plain graphics. Why? Testing proved that high graphics — though nice to see — slowed emails, reduced open rates and appeared as blank emails more often. And though plain text gets read more often, it does not share stats like HTML.
  • Common link mistakes: Lazy marketers or unaware contractors often send links that are more than one line long, causing it to slip to the next line, rendering it unopenable except by cutting and pasting. Nothing kills response rates faster. Avoid link-wrapping and long tracking links. Better yet, name your links alluringly for more clicks.
  • Prefix disaster. Lots of email senders think its “old fashioned” to include the “HTTP” portion of addresses because you don’t need it. I disagree. Include it because larger providers won’t present your link as “live” without the URL. Give the full prefix or expect a far lower open rate.

If you’re going to use email — and you should — use it well.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a national marketing firm for contractors. Snips readers get a complimentary customer retention kit by emailing freeSNIPSstuff@hudsonink.com. You can also call Hudson, Ink at (800) 489-9099 for help or visit  www.hudsonink.com for other free marketing articles and reports. Remember to follow Hudson, Ink on Facebook and LinkedIn for more marketing tips.