10 indispensable small business tips for effective email marketing

email marketing tipsEmail 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.

planning email campaigns

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.

6. Newsletters

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

Email newsletter

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.

8.Personalisation

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

cross promote marketing channels10 . 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

 

 

 

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9 tips for writing a killer email subject line

emailThe subject line of an email actually wields a surprising amount of power. Indeed 35% of recipients open emails based on subject lines alone.  A strong subject header can mean the difference between an email being opened or passed over for something more appealing.

So, as a small businesses owner how do you make your communications stand out in the sea of emails your audience receives every day?

 144.8 billion emails are sent every day

At some time or another most of us have been guilty of hastily cobbling together an email header at the very last moment with little thought. However we should really be thinking of our subject lines as an enticing headline that supports the content of our email. Much like a newspaper article, a press release or blog post, time should be spent crafting the most effective headline as possible. Afterall what’s the point of having an email packed with cracking content if it doesn’t even get opened?

Of course different approaches will appeal to different audiences, but there are some universal tips you can implement to help you create more effective subject lines, thus improving your email open rates.

9 Top tips for effective email subject lines

1. Be clear.  If ever in doubt about what your email subject line should be, chose clarity. The majority of your recipients will want to know upfront about what they can expect to find when they open your email.

“Don’t sell what’s inside, tell what’s inside” Mail chimp

 

So be clear about your content. Most importantly, be honest about your content. You won’t win customers by trying to entice them in with false promises, in fact they more likely to bypass your email next time.

2. Keep it short. The general rule of thumb is to keep your email subject line as short as you can. Try to aim for under 10 words. Remember 40% of emails are opened on mobiles devices first so if you make it too long your meaning won’t come across in the 4-7 words that average mobile screen can fit.

If you are struggling to get the number of words down, keep to the point, get rid of any unnecessary filler words and put your strongest words at the beginning. Get into the practice of editing down. For example instead of ‘Enter our free prize draw to win £500 to spend on stunning jewellery from our latest collection’ (17 words) you could edit it down to ‘Win £500 of jewellery from our new collection’ (8 words). Same message just shorter with the keywords right upfront.

5 tips to improve online video content3. Try numbers . Using numbers in your email headers can be a great way of getting noticed. For example here are some ones in my inbox that grabbed my attention and got opened:

  • 5 ways to sprinkle on the sparkle (Boden)
  • 23 ways to blow your valentines socks off (notonthehighstreet.com)
  • 7 golden rules for content marketing (Econsultancy)

I’m not sure of the psychology behind it, but studies seem to agree that odd numbers and random specific numbers seem to get higher open rates, so it’s definately worth giving numbers a whirl.

4. Mix up your content. Your header is only as good as the content inside. So if you find yourself stuck in a pattern of sending the same type of emails over and over again, your subject lines are probably going to reflect this. So reboot your content and surprise your audience by sending out a variety of different email communications such as competitions, newsletters, special offers, blog posts, sneak previews, quizzes, surveys and so on. It follows that if your content is varied and interesting, your email headlines are more likely to be too.

adding humour to email5. Introduce some humour. This can be a tricky one to get right but if you manage it can work wonders. A bit of humour can be a sure-fire way to grab attention and get your email to stand to from the crowd. A good example is Groupon’s much applauded subject line:

“Best of Groupon: The Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve)” 

Puns or plays on word can also work well – holidays and seasonal promotions can lend them selves quite well to this. Here are a few of seasonal examples from notonthehighstreet.com who do creative email headlines really well.

  • They do say ‘drink and be merry’… fill your festive boots
  • It’s the best thing since Christmas…Easter we so glad to see you 
  • Pretend like you had this planned for ages…valentines day sorted

Being clever can be great but remember don’t try to be so clever  that no one can work out what your on about. If you do want to try writing some email headers with a bit of humour checkout this blog from Vertical Response – it’s got lots of examples of amusing subject lines alongside some great tips.

6. Offer a benefit . Including a clear benefit to you reader in your subject header can help increase your open rates. When you are crafting your subject line focus on the benefits rather than the features. Using strong benefit words can work well as they imply a promise of what is inside, for example

  • Increase
  • Discover
  • Learn
  • Win
  • Earn
  • Save

7. Urgency and Exclusivity. Subject lines that create a sense of urgency and exclusivity can give a 22% higher open rate. Here is a great example of an email I received recently from Banana Republic that covers both these elements. The subject line was: Our 40% online private sale ends today.

email urgency and exclusivity

And yes it did work as I did take advantage of the offer.

8. Don’t be mistaken for SPAM. The last thing you want is for your email to look like possible spam .

69% of email recipients report email as spam based only on the subject line.

People tend to steer clear of subject headers that look a bit ‘spammy’. So don’t be temped to oversell and be careful if you’re using overtly sales words like FREE in your headlines.  Definitely avoid using ALL CAPS as it shouts of spam.

9. Test and monitor. Most email service  providers will have ‘insight’ tools that will enable you to monitor your email performance. Simple A/B testing of your subject headers is a great way to find out what works best for your particular audience, helping you craft stronger performing headlines.

Finally, before you press SEND…

Before your send your email merrily on its way, double-check your subject line to ensure there are no typos and it can’t be misconstrued to cause any offence. If in doubt it’s always a good idea to ask yourself the following question: If you received this email would you open it, ignore it or assume it’s SPAM?

We’d love to hear some of your tips for creating powerful email subject lines, so please do leave a comment. 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Types of Emails that You Need to Start Sending Out Now

Email marketing is one of the oldest internet marketing techniques. It’s been around for ages. If you think, sending emails to promote your products/services is an anachronism of a bygone era, you couldn’t be more wrong. Emails are still a very effective way to attract and retain customers.

I know this will come as a surprise to you, but emails still deliver tremendous ROI. According to a Gigaom research report, ‘Workhorses and Dark Horses – Digital Tactics for Customer Acquisition’:

Types of Emails that You Need to Start Sending Out Now56% of respondents say email marketing is very effective for customer retention.

Marketers also believe emails are the most effective model for revenue generation.

These figures leave very little room for doubt that the “humble” email, for long considered to be the old marketing workhorse, is as effective today as it was a few years ago. The efficiency and deliverability of email marketing hasn’t dulled one little bit in spite of the arrival of other tactics like content and social media marketing.

But there is a problem. With over a 100 billion emails being sent and received every day, the construct of your email assumes tremendous importance. You can’t just send any email to your target customers. You need to send an actionable email that makes people want to buy your products or services. As can be imagined, this is easier said than done. But, if you want to leverage the immense potential of email marketing, you can’t just send any email to your target customers; you need to send emails that work.

Let’s take a closer look at the kind of emails you need to start sending out, if you want to capitalize on your email marketing efforts:

1. The ‘We’ve Got Something Good for You’ Mail

We’ve Got Something Good for You

Send a mail if you really have something important to say to your target customers, for e.g. you’ve got a new product you want to introduce, a fantastic video chat lined up or something else.

The Inc. mail is talking about an amazing event that has been planned. It is a video chat with the founder of Quirky, and it’s free! The mail makes its point brilliantly, without going overboard. Its design is clean and professional looking and has an understated appeal about it.

The key here is to make your point in a manner that encourages recipients to take action. The focus must be on ‘conversion’. If you take a look at the example of the Inc. email, you will find that readers will want to ‘sign up’ for the video chat. The text and use of images is right on the ball. Its design and wording is absolutely perfect.

2. The ‘Offers’ Mail

Offers

If you are sending an email about special offers, make sure the best offers are clearly displayed in the mail. This is the kind of actionable email that has a higher chance of bringing customers to your website or even physical store. You will do well to remember that your target customers don’t have all the time in the world to go through your mail; what’s more, you are not the only seller sending them emails about product offers and discounts. So, it’s important you are able to make your point quickly and effectively.

3. The ‘Reminder’ Mail

Reminder

A no-nonsense reminder email about a special offer that is about to end should be sent to people on your email list. Reinforce the USP of the offer without beating about the bush and end the mail with a link to the offer. Such mails are simple, straightforward and make their point quickly.

You don’t have to make a song and dance about a reminder. The Copyblogger mail makes its point in three lines. All one needs to do is glance at the mail to find out what it wants to say. It’s a text book example of a reminder mail.

4. The ‘Don’t Miss Out’ Mail

Did You Miss It This email illustrates the importance of an email subject line. The words ‘Last Chance to Register’ create a sense of urgency and a fear of missing out on a great offer. The email copy talks about the offer (chance to attend a webinar) and what’s it all about. The idea is to make sure the recipient gives your mail a reading if he/she hasn’t done so earlier.

Never stop trying to sell a product/ service to somebody who you feel will be interested in it. But how do you make sure your emails don’t put the recipient off? You can do this by ensuring your emails reinforce the point made in the earlier emails. Think of it as progressive reinforcement. This makes it easy for your mails to make a degree of sense to the recipient.

5. The ‘Leverage Holidays’ Mail

Leverage Holidays

One of the best times to send an email is during the holiday season, when your customers are looking for products that could be gifted to friends or family. If you are selling products/services specifically designed for the holiday season, send a mail like the one ‘Leaders in Heels’ sent its target customers. The mail includes an image of the product, a description that says why it’s a perfect pick for the holiday season and a link that takes readers to the ‘buy’ page.

As a business, you need to continuously explore new avenues that help you sell your products and services; the holiday season is a recurring avenue that shouldn’t be missed at all costs. If you are a products-based business, you could sell products that make for ideal gifts; on the other hand, if you are selling specific services then a special holiday discount on some or all your services will be a very good idea.

How you go about making the most of your holiday season is your call, but do it you must. And in email, you have a potent medium that will successfully put your holiday products/services offerings in front of your customers.

6. The ‘Welcome’ Mail

Welcome

If somebody is showing interest in your products and services, send a welcome mail. It should include links to the download page (or products page) and also a ‘how-to’ page that offers detailed information about product functionality.

Evernote follows up the welcome mail with a series of ‘tip mails’ that help first time users create their first Note and also optimize the use of this suite of software and services. The idea here is to help users become more conversant with the functionality of your products. You don’t want a scenario wherein a target user’s interest in your product turns into frustration, just because he/she is unable to optimize its use.

7. The ‘Freebie’ Mail that Doesn’t Come Across as Such

Freebie

A business needs to engage with its existing and potential customers regularly. If you are running a business, it’s difficult to come up with new product/services or send a personalized discount offer all the time.

The next best thing is to send useful, actionable niche centric information in the form of a freebie. It could take the form of free eBook, guide, video or podcast. Such freebies can boost your reputation and increase the trust factor in your brand.

The more such freebies land up in your customers’ inbox, the better it will be for your brand’s awareness and reputation. What you are also doing by sending such mails is telling your customers that you are not only interested in selling to them but also want to help improve their knowledge base; you are also interested in helping them take better business decisions.

At the end of the day, it is trust and reputation that will help in customer acquisition and retention.

8. The ‘Newsletter’ Mail

Newsletter

One of the ways you can use emails to regularly engage with your business’s target audience is by sending a weekly/monthly newsletter. This newsletter can include information about the latest product launches, discount offers and also the latest happenings in your niche. The key is to make your newsletters as interesting as possible. You want them to be read and the stories in them to be shared. You don’t want them to be ignored.

Coming up with an interesting and extremely readable newsletter every week, or month, isn’t easy. You need to think of it strategically and cannot afford to take this task lightly. Your marketing team needs to sit down with your content writers to brainstorm ideas. These ideas need to be worked out keeping the needs of your target audience in mind. Think of your newsletters as ‘solutions providers’; thinking of them as marketing material will just make them one dimensional. Try and make your newsletters as multidimensional as possible.

This will ensure your target audience looks forward to your newsletters.

9. The ‘Did You Miss It’ Mail

Did You Miss It

Don’t confuse this with a reminder mail. This one starts off with the assumption that the recipient must have missed out on signing up for a particular service (read solution) or buying a particular product.

Now, one of the reasons why this happens is they were not interested in your product or service in the first place. But that was then and there is a good chance that circumstances have changed; your product/services can make more sense to them now than they did earlier. There is no harm in sending a mail talking about the recipient having missed an opportunity to use your product/service and the fact that it is still available to them.

Such mails make a great deal of sense if they are backed by solid evidence that the recipients are actually interested in using your product/service.

10. The ‘Give it a Rethink’ Mail

Give it a Rethink

Think of a scenario where a potential customer has signed up for a free service, but you want to get him to sign on for its paid version. You need to keep reminding that person the paid version is a sound investment and can deliver high ROI. The fact is that your target customers will sign up for different free services they believe will help their business in some form or other.

If you don’t remind them to try the paid version of your service, they might continue to use the free version; and if and when they do decide to try out a paid version of a service, that particular service might not be yours; some other provider might have beaten you to the finishing line because he might have sent those ‘rethink’ emails, which you hadn’t.

It’s important to remember that when a customer finally makes a decision to sign up for a paid service he chooses the service provider who’s been making a solid case for the paid service.

Your Turn

If you are not sending in these emails to your existing and potential customers, you are missing out on a huge opportunity to grow your sales. If you belong to a school of thought that sending emails is an outdated marketing tactic, its time you rethink and start implementing a well-defined email marketing strategy. You will soon realize that emails are a great way of adding new customers and retaining old ones.

The great part about using emails is that their scope is not limited. You can craft them the way they fit and in a way that you believe will deliver maximum returns. This is what makes email marketing so special and is a big reason why it has stood the test of time as a marketing tactic.

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10 ways small businesses can maximise email opportunities

email marketingIs your small business making the most out of email?

We rely on email for all sorts of essential business related activity. Indeed the majority of us would struggle to do with out it. As a communication tool email has a number of great benefits and yet many small businesses are probably not using email to its full potential.

Email is an essential component for any business’ marketing toolkit, therefore taking a fresh look at how you can maximise your use of email is a worthwhile exercise. You may be surprised at just how versatile a tool it can be.

Email offers small business owners a number of benefits

Email is one the most cost-effective and flexible communication tools a small business can use.  Despite consumer concerns over privacy and spam, it still remains an extremely popular way for people to communicate.

The benefits of email:

  • Cost-effective – there are a number of excellent, competitively priced email marketing software solutions available so it doesn’t cost much to get up and running. And, as you can see from the statistics above ROI is impressive.
  • Adaptable – email can be used for all sorts of business communications, from simple order confirmations to sophisticated advertising campaigns
  • Targeted – you can segment your audience any which way you like. Specific groups can be targeted with relevant and appropriate content.
  • Do-it-yourself – automated email software is straightforward to use which makes it simple for you to produce creative, professional emails all by yourself.
  • Quick – email can be put together and dispatched remarkably quickly enabling you to send out spontaneous communications or respond to competitor activity almost instantaneously.
  • Brand building – each and every time you send out branded emails you are reinforcing your brand, growing your brand presence and building awareness amongst your target market.
  • Measurable – email marketing can be measured quickly and easily enabling you to test and tweak your promotions each time to maximise response rates

10 ways small business can maximise their use of email

Succesful email marketing is about utilising email strategically to deliver a variety of messages. Email shouldn’t just be used for sending out business communications such as order confirmations or shipping and delivery information. There are many other excellent ways to maximise your use of email marketing. We’ve listed a few ideas below to help get you thinking about how you can use email more effectively to help grow your business.

1. Promotions: Email has to be one to the most versatile vehicles for communicating your promotional messages – whether you are sending out a stand-alone email promotion or supporting a wider integrated marketing campaign. So if you haven’t already started using email to offer special promotions to customers then now is the time to get creative.

Segmenting your emails and testing promotions on different audiences is simple with email. This makes it a quick and cost-effective way to test and measure the effectiveness of various promotions on different target groups. So think about what email promotions you can offer your customers  such as discount voucher codes, early-bird sales previews, free delivery and returns, refer a friend and so on.

2. Newsletters: Of course despite having just espoused the benefits of email sales promotions, successful email marketing shouldn’t be just about sales. Vary  your email communications by also sending out informative content to customers such as emailing out a regular newsletter. Your newsletter should have content that is focused on adding value to customers for example company news, industry trends and developments, links to blog articles – essentially information that your customers will find engaging and of interest. 

3. Announcements: Good news should be spread!  If you’ve got something important to announce such as a new product, improved services (especially if the improvements have been brought about by customer feedback!) or interesting company developments then send out a standalone email. An interesting subject line about a new product launch is bound to get interested parties opening your email.

4. Welcome emails: If someone has just purchased from you for the first time or registered with you, then a welcome email shows you appreciate their custom and is a great way to start building an ongoing relationship. You want your welcome email to be personable and encourage two-way dialogue. So thank new users for their business and give them some helpful information that such as how to contact you.  Also, promote interaction where you can such as adding links through to your website or social networks.

5. Customer retention: Email is an excellent way to ensure you are keeping in regular contact with customers. It is important to reward customers for their loyalty – remember it is this group of customers that are your most profitable so neglecting them makes no business sense. We’ve already mentioned email newsletters as a great way if keeping in contact but also think about showing loyal customers you appreciate them by emailing them special offers that reward loyalty such as:

  • Sneak VIP previews to new collections or products launches
  • Early doors to any forthcoming sales
  • Occasional loyalty rewards such as a money-off voucher, a discount code or free delivery .

6. Abandoned cart emails: With the average shopping cart abandonment rate about 68.07% anything you can do to help reduce it can only be positive! Sending out a gentle reminder email to customers that have abandoned  their basket mid purchase can work really well. Indeed according to e-consultancy in 2013 48.1% of basket abandonment emails were opened and of these 33.3% went on to purchase a product.

7. Seasonal greetings: As we’ve previously mentioned your emails shouldn’t just be sales, sales, sales. Sending out a timely holiday email greeting at the end of the year thanking people for their custom and wishing them all the best for the year ahead is a good way of showing you appreciate their business and will stand out from all the other sales emails they are receiving this time of year.

8. Social sharing: Email is a great way to encourage interaction on your social media sites. So when sending out your emails, actively point out your social media presence by making sure you have your social sharing buttons visible. Remember all your marketing tools should be integrated and supporting each other to achieve the best results for your business.

9. Blogs: If you are writing blogs for your website, then don’t forget to email your customers and potential customers informing them of each new post. Not only are you providing customers with added-value content that they may well find interesting you are also building customer relationships by keeping in regular contact.

10. List building – Use email to build your email list! Putting a prominent ’email sign up form’ on your website is a simple and effective way to gather permission based email addresses. Publishing an email newsletter is a great way to grow your list, you can encourage opt-ins with an email sign up form saying something like ‘subscribe to our Newsletter’. Customers can then simply add in their email address there and then.

Conversely, you should also use email to keep you contact list clean and up-to-date. Putting a Unsubscribe button on all your emails will get rid of uninterested contacts and ensure you are only sending out information to those parties who are genuinely interested.

It’s simple to get started…

Getting started with more creative email marking isn’t difficult and needn’t be expensive. There is some excellent marketing software available – many of who offer free trials or a free service for emails under a certain quantity. For example MailChimp allows you 2000 subscribers and up to 12,ooo emails for free – which is great if you are just starting-up in business. Of course you’ll need to do a little research to choose the right email marketing software for your particular business. To help get you started I’ve listed a few (both big and small) below.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this subject, so please do leave a comment.

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos

Why Email Marketing Could be the Next Best Thing since Sliced Bread

OK. So that was a bit of an exaggeration. But just a bit.

While email itself has been around for about 43 years, email marketing is about 36 years old. Did you know that the first ever email marketing campaign, for Digital Equipment Corp, generated over $13 million in revenue for the company? This was sent to just 400 email IDs.

Not much has changed since 1978. Despite many expert predictions that its end was near, email marketing continues to go on strong – unglamorous and unheralded – but extremely ROI efficient.

According to ExactTarget, a digital marketing and analytics company; as of 2014,

  • 95% of online consumers use email.
  • 91% of consumers reported checking their email at least once a day.
  • 70% say they always open emails from their favorite companies. Conversely, only 18% say they never open commercial emails.

Proof that the time-tested medium is not just alive and kicking, but actually looked forward to by 70% of potential customers.

So now that we have established that email marketing is important and you would probably be doing your business a disservice by ignoring it, let’s look at all the benefits it can bring you and then maybe you would be a tad less skeptical of the headline of this piece.

So what are the benefits of email marketing? Read on.

Easy to create and execute

Email maybe yesterday’s technology, but creating state of the art emails with all bells and whistles is easy as pie with today’s technology. Hundreds of tools exist that allow even the most untrained person to simply drag and drop design elements into beautiful templates and shoot off a well-crafted marketing message to millions of users.

Easy to create and execute

Sending out emails is again ridiculously simple now with services like MailChimp, Aweber, Mad Mimi and the likes dotting the crowded email automation software space. There is no dedicated infrastructure set up required by you as a business owner. All you need is an email account to send out the marketing mails, a creative that conveys your message effectively, a cleaned up database and a tool to actually deliver the messages.

Cheap

The fact that email marketing is so ridiculously cheap is probably the biggest reason why it has managed to hold its own against the new big boys of marketing like PPC, SEO and Social Media.

According to Experian, email marketing is 20 times more cost-effective than traditional media. For only a few pennies each, email can drive traffic to your storefront or Website more effectively than a TV or PPC campaign.

Moreover, email marketing requires you to reach out to existing customers or atleast potential customers who have willingly signed up to receive communication from you. The fact that it is  6 to 12 times less expensive to sell to an existing customer than to a new one, makes the cost to returns ratio of email marketing even stronger.

Targeted, no spillage

With most traditional media like television, print or radio, you can filter down to the most probable audience for your message, but there is no guarantee that a 45 year old man might not be watching a commercial for pop colored nail polishes that are all the rage in high school corridors.

This problem is addressed to some extent with SEO and PPC. But even with them, there is always some amount of wasted advertising dollars with the wrong audience watching an ad meant for someone else.

Targeted, no spillage

Email marketing neatly solves this problem by only addressing specifically those people who displayed an interest in your product / service, hence making targeting as laser sharp as it gets.

Decide the timing

Anybody who has dabbled in any traditional marketing would recall the days when you would wait for hours for your ad to show up on TV. After all, you could buy a particular time band, not a precise moment in time on television. Even when your ad does finally show up, there is no guarantee that your intended audience actually saw it. The same holds true for all other forms of marketing as well – there’s only so much control you have on when your message will be broadcast and if your audience is in a receptive mood to it at all.

With email marketing, you get to decide exactly when the email will be delivered to your customers’ inboxes. Knowing your customers’ habits, it is entirely in your power to time your emails such that they are in a position to read and absorb what you want to convey to them.

Interactive, shareable

Emails, unlike PPC or SEO or TV, allow for a two way dialogue between a customer and a brand. You can reach out to your customer and find out their preferences, they can reply to you with things that they want or stuff that’s bothering them, you can tailor your communication to your customers based on their specific requests – the possibilities for engagement are endless.

Email forwards were probably the pre-cursor of the social media sharing craze that we are witnessing today. Interesting content, even commercial content, can and does get shared very frequently via emails.

Quick, immediate results

With almost all other mediums taking their own sweet time to being in the dough, the results of email marketing are often very immediate. It is possible to roll out a fresh campaign within a matter of a few hours – something that is impossible with any other marketing platform – and the responses generated from email campaigns are equally instant.  The overall results of bulk emailing are seen almost entirely within 48 hours of sending out the initial email.

No geographical restrictions

As long as you have an email database (accurate and updated regularly), it does not matter where your target audience is located. Your message will reach a customer located on another continent at the same time and at the same cost that it takes to reach any local customer.

No geographical restrictions

The reverse can be applied equally successfully to email marketing. You can specifically geo-target customers from a particular region using email marketing at no extra cost or effort – yet another benefit that is unique to email marketing.

Measureable

A marketing email is a number cruncher’s wet dream. Almost every tiny aspect about email marketing is measurable and relatable back to actions on your website.

Right from the mundane numbers like open rates and CTRs, marketers can now measure the number of times a single email was opened by the same customer, what time was it opened; open timings can be co-related with purchase timings on the brand’s website; customer preferences can be gauged with heat maps of clicks on a particular email; email creatives can be tested out for efficiency by measuring various engagement factors; and so on.

Understand customer needs, build customer profiles

All that data that can be mined from marketing emails can be put to very good use with the emergence of Big Data and sophisticated marketing analytics.

The way a customer interacts with a marketing email reveals a lot about his or her needs, buying habits and communication preferences. These bits of data can be combined together to form consolidated user profiles for every single customer. A 360 degree customer profile is like a gold mine in the hands of a company. It can be used to create products and services that would best suit one’s customers, and allows you to tailor the online and offline experiences a customer has with your brand based on deep customer knowledge instead of depending on good old luck.

Personalization is easier

As described above, the rich customer data that is gleaned from email marketing can be applied to creating custom made, personalized user experiences.
Why is personalization important, you may ask? I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves.

Leads who are nurtured with targeted content produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities.
~ DemandGen

Personalized emails improve click through rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10%.
~ Aberdeen

While on-site or in-store personalization are uphill tasks with huge automation, data mining and execution costs, personalization in emails comes at no extra cost. Right from personalized subject lines that include a customer’s name in them, to personalized content based on the customer’s purchase history and user profile, to even scheduling emails based on the time best suited to specific customers or customer segments, the options for customization and personalization are myriad.

Recover lost customers

Studies show that approximately 67.91% of all customers who begin to buy a product online, discard their shopping midway and move out of an average e-commerce site. Unfortunately, just about 29% of companies currently analyze and take action on shopping cart abandonment as per another study by Redeye.com and eConsultancy.

Don’t be one of those companies that allow hard-earned visitors to your website walk away without any attempt at recovering them. Email is a great way to reach out to these customers in a low cost, high efficiency way. Studies show that retailers earn $5 worth of revenue with every single cart abandonment email sent out.

High open rates with mobile

You don’t need me to rattle off large statistics to know that mobile is the next big thing. Hell, it’s probably the current big thing. With the growth in smartphone penetration, we have seen email open rates on mobile going steadily up.

From 42% in January 2013, emails opened on mobile devices grew by 21% and stood at a full 51% in December 2013.
~ Litmus Software

This is an encouraging trend for email marketing which was suffering from falling open rates in the last few years. The switch to mobile emails has meant higher reach and higher conversions for brands.

Allows triggered, real time messaging

We have all experienced that tinge of surprise when we see an email in our inbox that correlates the content of their messaging with a recent action that we made on that brand’s website.

These magical emails are “triggered emails” that are sent out in real time in response to a customer’s behavior on a website.

Allows triggered, real time messaging

Triggered emails can be sent out for various events e.g. a welcome email when a user signs up into your website for the first time, a reminder email for monthly purchased items, birthday or holiday greetings emails to prevent a dormant customer from lapsing and so on.

Open rates stand at about 50% for triggered emails, while CTRs for triggered emails are double at 10% as compared to business as usual emails. – Epsilon Email Trends and Benchmarks Study 2013.

A/B tests are easier

Every professional email marketer knows that no email can be sent out without testing it out first. Tests can be carried out instantly and with very little effort using current email marketing tools. Various aspects of email can be tested for open rates and conversions like the subject line, the time of send out, the creative, the right customer segments and much more.

The fact that testing is quick and free makes it easier to create more precise and relevant pieces of communication.

Super high ROI

Email holds the distinction of being probably the most cost effective tool in a marketer’s tool kit.

Email marketing delivers $67 or revenue for every $1.7 spent.
~ Direct Marketing Association, 2011

With its low costs and low barriers to entry, email marketing is easily executable by the smallest of companies. Its high reach and equally high ROI ensure that every penny spent on email marketing can be accounted for in full for every single campaign carried out.

That is more than what can be said for the new kids on the marketing block. What say Facebook, Twitter?

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