With the introduction and massive popularity of social media marketing, you could be forgiven for thinking that email marketing is no longer viable. However, the reality is quite different and email marketing should continue to play an important part of your business’ online marketing strategy. This guide will review the basics through to best practice to ensure the effectiveness of your email marketing.
- The benefits of email marketing. Compared to direct mail, a well-executed email marketing campaign offers an extremely inexpensive way of building and maintaining relationships with your customer base. Furthermore, personalisation will increase the open, reading and click-through rates immensely. Email marketing is particularly effective as a follow-up strategy (see autoresponders and trigger based emails) to raise awareness of promotions and events, to offer advice, education and information, and to build large quality lists. Data-purchase or even harvesting is a short-cut and lazy method and will give you, at best, variable results. For the most part unsolicited emails will be regarded as spam and deleted, far better to get people who have expressed an interest in your products and service to sign up first.
- Integrate your email with social media. Maximise the effectiveness of both your email and social media marketing and combine the two; to reinforce your brand; promote your messages to a wider audience and to build your list.
- Permission and privacy. Sign-up is key to effective email marketing. If you haven’t first gained approval to email your message it will be regarded as spam and can engender bad will. The best approach is a double opt-in via a confirmation email linking back to your database or service provider. Although it can reduce the number of people on your list, it will significantly improve the quality. Make it clear to people what they are signing up for and how often and include a statement that you won’t share or sell their data. Permission rates can be increased by offering something of value, such as an eBook, white paper or discount.
- Freebies and rewards. Offering a free incentive to grow your list as identified above. It can also be used to increase loyalty. Make your subscribers feel part of an exclusive club by offering special deals or providing advance or prevue information.
- Content and relevancy. Following the permission based approach to email marketing means that you will have an interested list of recipients. It is then critical to send relevant and quality content to further develop those relationships in order to engage with them. Segment your data in line with your industry, products and services to send the right message to the most appropriate audience. Plan in advance mapping out a series of topics to ensure continuity with one key message for each. Write for the scan reader using clear sign-posting throughout and try to stick to a maximum of one page. Use compelling, relevant and on topic headlines and remember that email marketing is most persuasive when building relationships rather than pushing continual promotions or sales offers. Ensure your CRM system integrates with your list so that you don’t send a discount voucher to someone the day after they’ve purchased the product, as they probably won’t be too impressed! Use your company’s name or your name in the from box and offer plain text as well as HTML. Use the recipient’s name to personalise the message as this will improve click-throughs and action.
- Brand recognition. Confusion creates uncertainty. Encourage brand recognition by being consistent with the look and feel of your communications. Most service providers will offer a range of templates and themes which make the process very easy. Follow your brand guidelines and maintain a standard tone of voice.
- The importance of unsubscribe. In the UK and some other countries it is a legal requirement to include an unsubscribe link. Integrate any unsubscribes that you receive with your list to honour the request. There is nothing more frustrating than continuing to receive communications after you’ve identified you don’t want them and will create bad will.
- Include a call to action. Remind the recipient what you want them to do. It sounds obvious but will increase sales and it’s acceptable to include it twice, towards the top of the message and again at the end, and make the links obvious too.
- Avoiding spam filters. Permission-based email marketing will significantly improve the chances of your message arriving in the inbox, especially if you remind your subscribers to add your details to their safe recipients list. However, you still need to overcome the spam filters. Avoid using words in the subject heading such as Free or Discount or anything especially inflammatory such as £££ or $$$. Avoid using the last two within the content too.
- Maximising your click-through rates (CTR). Research indicates that recipients respond better to plain and highlighted text rather than a button or banner. And, as identified above, personalised and relevant content is also massively impactful. Many service providers offer a preview pane in the inbox; use this to offer a short teaser of your content. Try conducting your own tests with different subject headings (AB/split testing) and different formats in order to identify what works best for your client base.
- Timings and consistency. Studies indicate that people are more receptive to receiving email communications on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. On a Monday people are trying to get back into work mode after the weekend. And by Thursday and Friday people are looking forward to it again! In addition, be consistent with both the frequency and the timing to aid recognition and create trust.
- Using Autoresponders. An autoresponder is an email that is scheduled to be sent at a certain point in the future in response to a given action; ie, after someone subscribes to your mailing list. Autoresponders used in this way will help build trust in your brand.
- Trigger based email campaigns. Compared to an autoresponder, a trigger based email is used in connection with a customer’s action or behaviour, such as basket abandonment or non-action of saved quotes. Triggers have proved to be very effective in improving sales conversion because they offer online customer service with accurate timing and extreme relevancy. A word of warning, use it to improve your customer service, not to ‘pursue’ your customer, too much could be perceived as hounding.
- Email services providers. There are numerous email marketing service providers such as Campaign Monitor or Mailchimp etc. Integration is key to ensure your email marketing is effective, so look for CRM tools and social media marketing broadcasting as a minimum. Take a look around and try them out, see which you prefer. Personally, I prefer Mailchimp and use it for many of my clients.
- Measure and improve. Most services provide campaign statistics. Monitor the open rates, clicks, bounces and unsubscribes. Use this information to try different headlines and formats and gage the response.
- Always include an email signature. Include your company details near to or alongside the unsubscribe link, generally at the bottom of the email, with a link back to your website.
- The frequency of promotional emails. As a rule of thumb, try to only send out promotional emails after at least one information or one educational email.
- Traditional networking. If you are a member of a traditional networking group or attend conferences or events, take a sign-up sheet to your mailing list with you to give people you meet the opportunity to sign up right away. Follow the double opt-in approach afterwards for best practice.
Give me a call on tel: 07963 002065 or drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to talk to me about your own email marketing.
A hefty and lengthy blog this time, I hope you find it useful, do let me know!