I have always been a bit of a fan of email marketing and have remained a loyal advocate even during its little wobble about 10 years ago when concerns over SPAM were giving it a bad name.
Happily it has had a bit of a renaissance in recent years from improved legislation, accessible web analytics, advancements in database marketing and just good old experience. Hopefully email is now back and will remain in its rightful place as an invaluable online marketing tool for sometime to come.
838 billion marketing messages were sent in 2013
56% of businesses say they plan to increase their use of email marketing in 2014
74% of consumers prefer to receive commercial communications via email
Benefits of email to small businesses
Small businesses in particular should look at email as a really useful component of their marketing toolbox. I may be a bit biased but I think small businesses would be hard pressed to find quite such a cost-effective and flexible marketing communications tool as email.
Cost-effective . With the right tools you can create great looking email newsletters and promotions yourself at minimal cost. Indeed, ROI for email remains strong. According to the UK’s Direct Marketing Association’s 2013 National Email Client Report the average return on every pound spent was £21.48. It also found that 89% of marketers asked felt email marketing was “important” or “very important” to their company.
Measurable. Accessible web analytics have made it much easier to quickly test and measure the performance of your email marketing. You can identify what works and what doesn’t – adapting your communications appropriately
Targeted. It is simple to segment your audience and target your messages and promotions to specific groups.
Immediate. Unlike direct mail (don’t get me wrong there is a still a significant place for direct mail marketing) you can get an email campaign out almost instantaneously – in a matter of hours rather than days or weeks.
Integrated. Email is great at supporting your other marketing tools. For example, you can use it as part of an integrated campaign to drive people to specific promotions on your website or your social media pages like Facebook or Pinterest.
Flexible. Email can be used as a channel for all sorts of varied communications. For example:
- Special promotions and offers
- Welcome messages
- Breaking news: product launches, feature developments
- Customer surveys and customer research
- Purchase confirmations
- Shipping and delivery information
10 top tips to help you get the most out of your emails
Here are 10 quick tips to help you improve response and make the most of your email marketing communications.
- What do you want to achieve – what’s your objective. Sounds obvious, but you need to start off by thinking about what exactly it is you want out of a particular email communication. For example, are you looking to increase sales, is it a retention drive or are you providing a service update for a customer. Having a clear idea will enable you to focus and send out the most appropriate communication to achieve the desired response. In other words don’t just send out emails for the sake of it – always have a clear purpose.
- Subject header. According to research nearly one-third of email recipients open email based on the subject line alone. So make certain to put adequate time aside to think about what is going to get your recipients interested enough to open your email. Saying that, you do need to ensure that what’s in the subject header does actually correspond to the content of your email! Finally, try to keep your subject line short and to the point – under 50 characters is the generally agreed rule of thumb.
- Content. As with most digital marketing, content is king! Think about what you are going to write and it’s relevancy to your recipients. Keep it fresh and make sure it offers some value to your customers and potential customers. Don’t be tempted to just send out sales emails, try to vary it by sending out a mix of communications such as newsletters, competitions, feedback surveys and special offers. And don’t forget to check your grammar and spelling – nothing shouts unprofessional than sloppy content.
- Targeted and relevancy. Essentially this is about ensuring you send the right message to the right person. There is absolutely no point sending out information that has no relevance to the recipient. For example if you are a pet store, sending a special dog food promotion will be of no interest or use to customers that only have fish. Poor targeting simply means you risk alienating customers.
- Call to action. Again sounds an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many emails go out without a clear call to action on them. Make sure the content of your email ensures that the recipients are in no doubt about what it is you are asking them to do. For example if you need them to click-through to your website then make sure there is a visible pathway to an obvious link on which you would like them to click.
- Landing page. Leading on from a solid call to action, it follows that your landing page must reflect what it is they are clicking through to. For example if you are offering a special promotion, then you should have a specific landing page for that particular promotion. Sending them through to your homepage where they then have to look around for links to the special promotion is a sure-fire way of loosing them.
- Timings. Think about your how often you are sending out email communications to people. You don’t want to don’t deluge them, equally one email every six months isn’t really going to help you either. Find a balance that works for your particular audience. And remember if you are mixing up your communications and keeping them relevant then your audience is more likely to be responsive and timings won’t matter quite so much.
- Benefits. What’s in it for your recipient – what incentive is there for them to open your email over all the others they are getting? For example a special money off promotion is going to save them money, a newsletter is going to provide them with interesting information, a customer survey will help you provide them with a better service and so on. You need to clearly convey the benefits to your audience if you want to increase response.
- Design and layout. Keep your design and layout clean and clear. It should be easy for your recipient to read and find the information they are interested in. For example use titles, sub headers, bullets points and so on to break up text and help people navigate. And don’t forget about images – a good image is a great way to engage people.
- Test and measure response. With web analytics so accessible, there is no excuse not to test and measure your email communications. This way you can find out what works best and tweak your future communications accordingly to elicit the optimum response.
A good way to help remind you of the key factors for involved in successful email marketing is Chaffey et al’s very useful CRITICAL acronym – summarising the key points we’ve touched upon.
- Creative and copy
- Targeting and timing
- Landing page
Oh, and make sure you don’t forget about email legislation!
Most countries have in place legislation to protect people’s privacy and personal data. You need to make sure you spend a bit of time familiarizing yourself with your countries specific legislation. For example in the UK you would need to look at the Data Protection Act 1998 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulation Act. This will ensure you keep on the right side of the law and don’t upset your customers!
We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this post, so please do leave a comment.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitaPhotos.com
This is spot on…I don’t think there is anything to add. I will say that “test, measure, and adjust” is the mantra I hold onto with regard to email marketing.
Thanks for your comment Dan. I couldn’t agree more, the more you test, measure and tweak your email communications the better your response rate is going to be.
What is different about email marketing and spam distribution, it seems to me that the same thing?
Spam is unsolicited emails about random, often suspect topics without any way to opt out from sources you’ve had no interaction with. Proper email marketing is content from a credible business that you have an interest in receiving updates about that businesses products and services which is as a result of you signing up to it or having bought something from the business where their terms and conditions say you’ll be signed up to the email. Email marketing has a clear opt out process so unlike spam, if you don’t want to receive it, it can easily be stopped.
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