18 top tips for successful email marketing

 

email marketing

Email is arguably one of the most useful tools in a small business’ marketing toolbox. It is incredibly flexible, cost-effective and offers an impressive ROI. Indeed most small businesses wouldn’t be without it.

A rosy future for email…

“9 out of 10 clients perceive email marketing as a channel of ‘importance’ or ‘great strategic importance’ for achieving business goals” DMA National Client Survey 2015

  • Email has an average ROI of $38 for each $1 spent
  • 92% of online adults use email, with 61% using it every day.
  • 76% of marketers are seeing active growth in their number of email subscribers
  • The average order value of an email is at least three times higher than that of social media
  • A message is 5x more likely to be seen in email than via Facebook

Email’s future continues to look rosy as newer technologies such as marketing automation offer even more options and email systems become better and better at identifying and getting rid of spam.

With this in mind, we’ve created a checklist of what we think are the key tips for ensuring your ecommerce business is making the most out of its email communications. So, in no particular order, here is our list of what to do and what not to do as far as your email marketing is concerned.

18 top tips for great email marketing

  1. Focus on content: The quality of your content is key to whether your emails succeed or fail. There is no point sending out emails where the content has no value to the recipient. Focus on sending out information that is relevant, entertaining or useful to your target audience – otherwise your emails we’ll remain unopened or go straight to the trash bin.
  2. Create killer subject lines: You may have painstakingly created an email that is packed full of valuable content for your audience, but if you don’t spend a bit of time crafting your subject line your email may not even get opened. Try to keep your subject line short and to the point and make sure it reflects the actual content of the email. Here are a couple of  helpful articles on how to create successful subject lines: 10 Simple Tips for Writing Killer Email Subject Lines and Best Email Subject Lines.
  3. Mix up your communications: Do not bombard customers and potential customers with just sales messages. You need to mix up the type of content you are sending. Of course, sales emails are essential but they be the only emails you send. Make sure you are also dispatching other useful content for example; newsletters, links to blog posts, helpful tips, relevant account information and so on. It’s all about having a good balance.
  4. Don’t use ALL CAPS.Using all capital letters in emails, particularly the subject headers can look a bit ‘spammy’. More importantly, they may get picked up by your customers’ email system’s spam filters and end up straight in Junk Mail.
  5. Make your email easy to read. Format your emails so they look visually appealing. Recipients don’t want to (and probably won’t) plough through reams of unbroken text. Use short paras, bullet points, images and sub headers  to break up the text. Not only will it look better,  it will also enable people to skim over your email and still understand what it is all about. Include a text only version too as you don’t want to exclude people who can’t open HTML templates.
  6. Personalise your email. Personalise your email when you can. This goes back to building a great permission-based database. Include first name and last name fields in your data capture forms. Research shows that emails that are personalised can lift open rates by  26%, click-through rates by 14% and conversion rates by as much as 10%.
  7. Proof your content: Always give your emails a thorough proofread before hitting send. Spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, missing information etc. can make you look unprofessional and could reflect poorly on your brand.
  8. Always have a clear call to action. With most of your small business email marketing you are likely to want the recipient to perform a specific action such as purchasing a product, leaving a review, registering for an event, signing up to a competition and so on. Whatever it is that you want, ensure your call to action is highly visible and leaves your audience in no doubt about what it is you are asking them to do.
  9. Test before hitting send. Once you’ve hit send there is no going back. Always send yourself a test email before you dispatch it to your whole small business marketing database. Check its format is multi-device friendly – you want people to be able to read it equally well on a mobile as on a desk top. Make sure all the links are working properly and give it a final once over in case you missed any spelling mistakes at the proofreading stage.
  10. Include an easily visible unsubscribe button. Make it easy for people to unsubscribe to your email communications. Not only are you required to do this, it is a great way to ensure you are keeping your email contact data clean and up-to-date. There is no point in sending out marketing communications to people who have no interest in your product – it serves no purpose and you will only annoy them.
  11. Grow your permission-based list. Focus on building a great permission-based email contact list. Email marketing databases can decay by as much as 23% a year so it is important that you look at ways to data capture new email address to enable your list to continue to grow.
  12. Consider email automation. Automated emails, particularly those that are triggered after a specific action, can have a great impact on your email marketing. In fact, research shows that transactional emails can have up to 8x more opens and clicks than other types of email, and can generate over 6x more revenue. Again there are plenty of excellent email marketing automation systems available offering this kind of email technology.
  13. Images help engagement. Using interesting and relevant images in your emails are a great way to capture attention and increase engagement. Most humans are, by nature, visual learners so by including images you can really lift response. Of course there are caveats – here is a helpful article on how to ensure you use images correctly within emails: Email Images: How and when to use them.
  14. Brand your email. Email is a great opportunity to strengthen your brand and grow your visibility. Include your logo in all of your email communications.
  15. Familiarise yourself with email rules and regulations. You don’t want to fall foul of the law, so familiarise yourself with the relevant legislation and best practice  guidance for you country. In the UK check out Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) and the Data Protection Act.
  16. Target your emails: Rather than sending out blanket communications to everyone on your database, try to target your emails to different segments of your audience. The more information you can gather about your customers, the better you will be able to do this. The more targeted you are the higher the likelihood of boosting your response rate and decreasing your unsubscribes.
  17. Test, measure, tweak. The great thing about email is that it offers you the ability to test, measure and tweak your emails quickly and easily to ensure you are getting the best response rates. There are plenty of excellent email service providers that offer free services to start-ups and small business. For example MailChimp offers a free service for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month.
  18. Don’t forget your landing pages. You may have just dispatched a top-notch email, full of interesting and inspiring content, however if you call to action buttons don’t take your recipient to an equally well thought out landing page, then your efforts will be wasted.

Of course, email marketing is a huge area and there a plenty more do’s and don’ts you will want to consider. But hopefully the above list gives you a helpful checklist to get you emailing with confidence.

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

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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

 

 

 

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.