How small online businesses and start-ups can plan for email success

email marketing plan

Email remains one of the most useful and consequently best-loved tools in a small business’ marketing toolkit. Despite plenty of claims that time is up for email it continues to flourish – showing no signs of being pushed to the sidelines by newer entrants such as social media. Indeed, you are 6x more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than you are from a tweet.

According to recent statistics, the average person gets 121 emails a day and the human race as a whole gets 193.3 billion. Of those 193.3 billion,  business emails account for 108.7 billion.  With such high volumes you would be forgiven for thinking that people would be fed up to the back teeth with email.  On the contrary,  as consumers we continue to embrace email it because despite the high levels of unwanted communications we still find email valuable.  We actively sign-up to receive email from companies we like for information, offers and news. Indeed 95% of people who sign up for a newsletter from a recognised brand consider the email useful.

Small business owners and start-ups love email because it is:

  • Flexible – it is quick to set up and dispatch and we can use it for all sorts of business communication.
  • Cost effective – it won’t break the bank – indeed most email marketing providers offer free plans which is great for small businesses and start-ups. For example MailChimp offers up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails free per month.
  • Great ROI – email has one of the highest ROI of any marketing tool. Research shows that for every $1 spent, email marketing generates $38 in ROI.
  • High conversion rate – when it comes to purchases made as a result of receiving a marketing message, email has the highest conversion rate (66%), when compared to social, direct mail and more.
  • Plenty of DIY  options – there are so many excellent email marketing providers out there that we can create professional, visually appealing emails  all on our very own.
  • Lead generation – 89% of marketers say that email is their primary channel for lead generation.

 

Planning for email success

“An email communications strategy defines the value you can offer to different target audiences through the range of different types of email to maximise response.” Smart Insights

We’ve established that email is a valuable tool for small businesses and start-ups . The majority of use email for all sorts of varied business and marketing communications. However in order to really optimise the potential of email marketing and help grow  your business, you should spend some time looking at your email strategy and planning your email marketing activities. If you have a rather ad-hoc and scatter gun approach you could be missing out.

email marketing plan

 

 

Taking a step back to review your current email marketing, identify any possible gaps and taking a systematic and planned approach to implementation really can help boost performance.  We’ve outlined a few key areas to consider when you are at the planning stage to ensure you are getting the most from your email marketing.

Know your goals and set objectives

A key question to ask yourself is what are the key goals for your email marketing – what is it you want to achieve? For example do you want to boost online sales, generate leads, grow brand awareness or build customer relationships ? The clearer you are about what it is you want to achieve the more focused and effective your email marketing will be.

Critical to this is knowing your audience – even at a simplistic level you will have different objectives depending which customer group you are targeting. For example, you may want to reach out to your lapsed customers and your objective may be to get them to re-engage  or get feedback as to why they lapsed. Or for customers who abandoned their cart midway through their purchase your objective would be for them to go back to their basket and complete their purchase.

Of course your goals and objectives will depend on your business and how you segment your customers, but the point is you need to have a clear goals and specific objectives in place to enable you to create emails that achieve what it is you want for your business.

 

Map it out visually

I’ve found that a great way to get  handle on your email marketing communications is to map it out visually. A visual representation such as a flow chart will help you quickly identify all the various customer touch points, how you approach customers depending  upon where they are on the customer journey, your different target groups, the frequency of which you send your emails and so on.

With this amount of information it is far easier to digest visually. Any gaps that offering a potential email opportunity will be far easier to spot.

flow chart

 

Growing your list

Your email is only as good as the data you have. Marketing databases naturally degrade by about 22.5% each year, so planning ahead so that you continue to grow your list is an important element of email planning. What activities can you implement to plug any shortfall and build your list? For example;

  • Do you have a way for people to sign up to email communications such as a newsletter on your website?
  • Could  you consider implementing a refer a friend scheme?
  • Could you run a competition on social media?
  • Have you tried offering a free e-book download in return for contact details?

How does it look?

Thinking about how you create your marketing emails will also ensure a better response.  For example –

Brand consistency – email communications are a great way to build brand recognition so having a hold on all the emails that you send will help ensure that you are consistent across all your marketing communications .

Content – interesting, informative and engaging content is important if you want you email to get opened – there is no point sending out an email if you have nothing of value to the recipient in it. Plan ahead for interesting content – for example are there seasonal times of the year where you have special promotions or new products coming out?  If so timetable them in advance.

Visually appealing – visuals help people engage with content so spend some time sourcing interesting images and breaking text up into digestible chunks will make it more inviting to the recipient.

Email Automation

“Transactional emails have 8x more opens and clicks than any other type of email, and can generate 6x more revenue.

As a small business owner or start-up, there is a strong chance you are undertaking your business’ email marketing yourself. Indeed 91% of us are fulfilling our own marketing needs, often using an email service provider such as Mailchimp, Vertical Response or Weber. There are plenty of excellent providers on the market and if you haven’t already considered email automation then it is something that is worth thinking about when you are at the planning stage.

Automated emails are essentially email that are triggered automatically after a specific action. For example abandoned cart emails are often triggered automatically after a potential customer has abandoned their basket  and not returned to it after a specific period of time has lapsed. Another example is the automated email that you usually receive once you have subscribed or signed up to a newsletter.

Not only do automated emails help free up your time but statistics like the one above seem to suggest a very positive effect on response and revenue.

Have you buttoned down all the legal bits?

Sounds obvious but when you are planning your marketing just make sure that you have covered all the legal bits such as data-protection. Have you got permission to contact the person you are emailing? Have you included a clear unsubscribe button on all your email communications?

In the UK you would need to look at the Data Protection Act 1998 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulation Act.

Measure and review

An integral part of your email marking planning is how you intend to measure and review performance. If you don’t measure your activities you won’t know what’s working well and what not working. When you are setting out your objectives it helps to include a measurable element for example, on an email newsletter your objective may be to achieve a 20% open rate.

Industry benchmarks can help with this initially for example current industry averages for email open rates and click-through rates for ecommerce are 16.82% and 2.48% respectively.

However you decide to measure the response rate of your email campaigns, just make sure you are setting realistic targets.

The key message to take away is that putting some time aside to really plan out your email marketing, will ensure you are fully optimising the benefits email can bring to your business, through generating better response, new leads, higher conversions and better customer relationships. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences of email marketing so please do leave a comment. 

Email image courtesy of nokhoog_buchachon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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