You'll already know by know how much value I put on regular email contact with all my members and potential members. I think it's really important to help people on a regular basis by providing great tips and advice, in the hope people will join my private members' club or even one of my web consultancy courses.
But sending out emails is just the half of it. To be most effective and get the highest response rate, you need to personalise your emails as much as possible and that involves segmentation.
This can be as involved as you like and I'm certainly learning and improving all the time but let me give you a few ideas as to where and how to personalise/segment your emails.
Firstly, call people by their name, especially in the subject of the email. That's a no-brainer! Then you need to split up who's already bought from you against those that are still "prospects" as it can be off-putting to existing customers to be treated as if they've never bought from you. And yes, I'm guilty of this as well and if you're an existing client - sorry ;-)
If you can, take this a degree further by splitting up your emails by department. So, if you run a sports shop and someone has bought weight lifting equipment from you, they'll likely be looking for different bargains and advice than someone who's bought a dartboard!
By the way, it is insane to ignore people that have already bought from you. You should always send a few, sequenced emails reassuring them of their decision and offer thanks and product-specific support.
Naturally, someone that has bought a car from you will want to be treated differently to someone that has bought some packaging materials and also the frequency of the emails should be considered as well. People are likely to buy more packaging materials on a regular basis for example.
In either case, your emails should always be informative, not just a sales message!
Now, I appreciate that what I'm about to say will largely depend on how good your CRM(customer relationship management) is, but if you want to be really cute, you should further divide your emails into :
How they came to signup.(Did they use the search engines to find you and download information about weightlifting equipment from you, or did they join our newsletter after a friend recommended them on their mailing list which caters for discount sporting goods?)
Location. A car buyer in Huddersfield will be a lot more interested in an offer about a new showroom opening locally than in say, Luton.
And Lastly - demographics. Yep, that means age, gender, marital status, race - you name it.
Basically, what I'm saying is that if you have a decent list(and if you don't - start making one!) then just like I keep preaching about having multiple streams of niche traffic with regards to search traffic, you should have multiple streams of niche email open rates.
Conversely, try and make your email signup forms specific, rather than 'general' as well, for better signup conversion.
Using the example from earlier, A weightlifter would far prefer to join a mailing list offering "101 Weightlifting Tips" than "101 Sporting Tips".