Email remains one of my favourite marketing tools. If effectively implemented it offers a number of benefits that make it an indispensable part of any small business marketing plan. Email is low-cost, flexible, measurable and, perhaps most importantly, has a very healthy ROI. According to the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) 2015 Client Report in the UK the average ROI for email is £38 per £1 spent. An impressive growth of 53% year-on-year.
With email software becoming more advanced and accessible every year, it has opened the door for smaller online businesses to produce some excellent, innovative email campaigns – giving even big companies with hefty budgets a run for their money.
Of course, no matter how fantastic the possibilities of email, there are still some universal best practice guidelines that every business should take on board in order to make the most out of their email marketing efforts. I’ve outlined below 10 tips that can make a real difference to how your businesses email communications perform.
1. Plan your email communications
“Clients are moving away from ‘spray and pray’ methods to a more considered approach.” DMA 2015
Before enthusiastically firing off emails left, right and centre, take a step back and look at your email communications as a whole. Spending some time putting together an email strategy for your business will be time well spent. Set some clear goals – what are you looking for your emails to achieve? For example:
- Converting prospective customers into active customers
- Building awareness of your brand
- Growing your marketing prospects database
- Customer retention through the provision of interesting and valuable information
- Driving traffic to your website
Segmenting your audience and creating a clear plan of action for each customer group will help ensure that not only have you covered all your bases but you are creating the right balance of optimising conversion opportunities but not over-mailing. Creating a flow chart or table of your email communications is a great way to visually summarise all your activities in one place and enabling you to see the wood from the trees when you are contending with a sea of potential email interactions.
2. Purpose, message and CTA
Once you have your email strategy in place, think about the purpose, message and call to action for your emails. Without these they are unlikely to perform as you would like. Think about:
- What is the specific purpose of your email? What outcome are you looking for your email to achieve?
- What message do you want to convey? Even if the desired outcome or purpose of the emails are the same how will you tweak the message to reflect the particular audience segment you are targeting.
- Do you have a clear call to action? Is it clear to the recipient of the email what it is you are asking them to do? And do you have a strong link to a relevant, supporting landing page?
3.Email marketing software
Advances in technology has meant small businesses can produce their own professional, visually exciting email campaigns without breaking the bank or requiring huge amounts of email expertise. Email marketing software just keeps getting better. Email marketing solutions such as MailChimp, GetResponse, AWeber, ActiveCampaign and MadMimi make it easy for complete novices to create exciting and effective campaigns.
Even better, if you are a start-up with a small number of subscribers you can get up and running for free. For example with MailChimp if you have under 2000 subscribers you can send out up to 12,000 emails a month at no cost.
4.Event triggered emails
According to the DMA marketing automation is growing and triggered emails are driving revenue growth. Indeed in their 2015 National Client Email Report, emails triggered by events or behavior were responsible for 30% of revenue.
We know that the customer journey is complex with a numerous touch points, so being able to trigger automated emails after specific identifiable events have taken place can have real impact on your success. For example identify and set-up automated email responses to customer behaviour triggers such when someone registers on your website, enters a free prize draw, downloads a white paper, signs-up to your newsletter or even leaves their shopping cart abandoned will optimise the effectiveness of your email marketing.
A lot of this goes back to the importance of taking a considered and strategic approach to email marketing. Investing your precious time planning your email communications really can pay dividends in the end.
5. Data, data, data
Of course your emails are only as good as the data you have. Therefore good data is a premium asset for your business. Actively building and continuously growing a ‘white hat’ marketing prospects database is essential. Research shows that Email addresses degrade naturally at about 2.1% per month equating to an annual rate of about 22.5%.
You may need to give people a bit of a nudge to impart their email address. I know that with the amount of email communications I receive from different companies every day, makes me think twice before I hand over my personal details. Enticing people in with an incentive can be a good way to build and replenish your database. For example, competitions, free prize draws, downloadable white papers, newsletter sign-ups, exclusive subscriber offers and giveaways are all ways to offer something valuable to potential customers in exchange for their precious contact information.
I’m a big fan of newsletters. They are a great vehicle for communicating all sorts of varied things to your audience. Focus on providing interesting, varied content aimed at engaging your audience. A good newsletter can help with brand awareness, brand building, customer retention, driving traffic and ‘soft sell’ conversions. When creating your newsletter content think about what information your audience is going to be interested in and keep it varied. A newsletter is not the environment for hard sales.
Content could include:
- Links to your latest blog posts
- Industry news and trends
- New product launches or sneak previews
- Competitions and giveaways
- Special offers and discounts
- Case studies or client stories
- Surveys and polls
- Event calendars
7. Digestible Content
Engaging content is essential. But even the best copy in the world won’t be read if it has been presented in a indigestible and unappealing format. Carefully structure your email from subject line right through to a clear call to action.
Scannable: Break up text so a recipient as able to easily scan the email to pick up all the key messages. When laying out your email use headings, sub headings and bullet points to break up text in to more digestible and bite sized chunks.
Strong subject line: Your email content may be amazing but if your subject header doesn’t grab attention and stand out against all the other emails they are competing with then your hard work will be wasted. Your email will remain unopened or in the bin. Spend a bit of time crafting a compelling subject line. News, tips, how to, offers, question and using numbers are all good opens. Try to keep it short and to the point (aim for under 10 words) but most importantly make sure it accurately reflects the actual content of your email.
Visually appealing: Including photos and images is a great way to engage the audience. We are naturally visual learners so using images that support your content are a great way to capture your audience’s attention and conveying meaning instantly.
Proof read: Spelling and grammar mistakes can look sloppy and reflect badly on your business. Always proof read everything a couple of times over prior to dispatch.
If you can, try to personalise your emails. Dear ‘Jane‘ will have a stronger impact and higher response rate than no greeting or a general hello. According to HubSpot personalised emails improve click-through rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10%.
Most email software tools can happily add in automated personalisation so if possible personalise all your email communications. When you are building your database aim to collect first and last name fields from your prospects. This takes us back to point 5. Incentivising your data capture will help you get fuller contact details.
9. Cross promotion
Taking an integrated approach to your marketing should yield stronger results. Cross promoting across all your channels is a great way to reinforce your message and strengthen your brand – just ensure you remain consistent. Email newsletters are a particularly good tool for cross promotions. For example:
- Provide links to your all social media platforms – Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ etc.
- Promote your blog posts.
- Drive traffic back to your site with links to relevant content
- Cross promote giveaways, offers and competitions
10 . Legislation
And finally but most importantly, make sure you don’t fall foul of the law by keeping on top of email legislation. If you are UK based then familiarise yourself with the Data Protection Act 1998 and Privacy and Electronic Communications regulations Act. Not only that most email marketing services like MailChimp won’t accept your data unless you can ensure it’s ‘white hat”.
Implemented effectively email marketing offers small businesses a number of tangible benefits. I hope taking onboard the 10 tips outlined above will help you on your way to successful and fruitful email communications.
We’d love to hear your own thought and experiences on email marketing, so please do leave a comment