E-blasts are a great way to communicate with your customers about specials or new information about your products or services.  If you have shopped online or signed up for emails from a business, chances are you receive e-blasts on a regular basis.  They are eye-catching emails sent out to a group of contacts to inform or create a call to action.

But don’t just start emailing everyone in your address book or you may turn away customers.  Here’s what I suggest:

Find an e-blast service to manage contacts, analyze statistics on the effectiveness of your message, prevent SPAM, conduct surveys or polls, and create interesting e-blasts.  I’ve been using iContact for several years and have found it offers a lot of great features at a competitive price.  A couple other services are Constant Contact and Mail Chimp.

Build up your contact base and make sure to categorize them well for optimal targeting.  iContact offers a sign-up form you can create with your own custom fields.  This is a great way to sort out customers based on their interests, purchases, demographics or whatever is important to you.  The more you can specifically target a group, the better your results will be.

Keep your e-blasts brief, yet informative and interesting.  Start with an eye-catching banner.  Make sure to include your logo and website and/or phone number.  This banner should link to your home page or the special you are e-blasting.  Keep short paragraphs, inserting links where necessary.  Brevity is your friend here.

Make sure you highlight the call to action.  What do you want the recipient to do after viewing your e-blast?  Identify the action and make it as easy as possible for your contact to perform that action.

Test the e-blast prior to sending.  Different email clients display graphics differently.  For example, one graphic I use is an animated gif of our catalog.  It is small and in the corner, but eye-catching because the pages are turning.  It looks great in my Gmail or older version of Outlook, but in more recent versions of Outlook, animated images are disabled so you only view the first image.  This worked out fine because the first page was the cover and that told the story as well as the page-turning catalog, but if your image is a series in which animation is necessary, it’s best to re-think the graphic.

Also test for spam ratings.  Why bother sending an e-blast if your contacts won’t receive it?  Send enough high-spam rating e-blasts and none of your messages will get through.  Prevent this by running a spam test through your e-blast server and keeping the balance between text and graphics fairly even.  Certain words, such as casino, can also trigger a high spam rating.

Include a text-only version that is equally interesting.  Some people have html emails disabled so if you create a really incredible html e-blast, but no text, they will receive a very boring, blank email and most likely delete it or mark it as spam.  So make sure you create a text version with all links spelled out and even offer a link to the html e-blast online so they can view it if they choose to.

Respect unsubscribe requests.  Even though there are unsubscribe links at the bottom of every e-blast I send out, we will receive email replies from some recipients asking us to unsubscribe them.  If you get this request, make sure you follow through with it.  And no need to reply—they already didn’t want the first e-mail, they surely do not want any more.  iContact allows me to simply click on the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email they replied to in order to unsubscribe them, so it is very easy.

Include contact information.  It seems obvious, but just as you have an email signature or a business card, make sure you provide your contacts with a way of reaching you.  The easier you make it for them, the more likely they are to do it.

Study your statistics.  In mail replies, a 6% response was considered good.  In e-blasts, expect at least twice that percentage and much higher for highly targeted e-blasts.  Determine what is working and continue those tactics and stop doing what isn’t working.

Keep it simple, interesting and relevant to get the most out of e-blast marketing!