Prior to 1971, nobody knew what email was. In 2012, we sent 294 BILLION emails per day. Love it or hate it, email is now a part of our daily lives. For businesses, email is one of the primary marketing vehicles for reaching customers. It is a cost-effective way to send targeted, personalized, and automated messages.
What is your email marketing strategy?
No marketing plan would be complete without consideration of an email strategy. It is a smart way to communicate with your customers and increase your bottom line. In developing your email marketing strategy, you should be able to answer these questions:
- How can email help us reach our sales goals?
- How can email help us nurture our customer relationships?
- How can email help us raise awareness of our brand?
Consistency and frequency are paramount.
In order to see real benefits, you must have a consistent presence. It is important to keep in touch with your email subscribers on a regular basis, as consistently executed marketing keeps you top-of-mind. How often you press the 'send' button will vary, but don't go longer than a month without touching base with your email subscribers. Weekly communication is usually a good goal to start with, and increase from there if you are able.
You MUST be relevant.
To be consistent and frequent and yet avoid being annoying, you need to make sure your list is appropriate and you're sending out information that is relevent to your readers. It's better to have a targeted list of a few hundred motivated and engaged subscribers than a lackluster list of 50,000 people who don't even open your emails.
Email marketing tips to live by:
Don't be spammy.
This is the #1 rule to remember when sending email marketing campaigns, newsletters, or updates. If you are spammy, even if you don't intend to be, there are consequences. Unintentional snafus, like the word "Free" or an overuse of exclamation points in your subject line may trigger spam filters, which sends your email straight into your users’ Spam folders, never to be seen. What a waste of time and effort!
Don't purchase lists or email people without permission and expect to get away with it. The resulting influx of spam complaints can blacklist you in a heartbeat. Two of the most common spam filter triggers are 1) having the subject line in all capitals, and 2) including too many images and not enough text. So don’t just send one large image as your email, or even a low ratio of text to image.
Test subject lines.
Your subject line can make or break your email campaign success, because it’s what subscribers use to determine whether to even open your email or not. There is no one solid rule for email subject lines, which is why it is important to test different ones. During Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, his one word “Hey” subject line proved wildly successful. Short and conversational may also work for you. Subject lines with the recipient’s first name tend to generate a higher open rate. Don’t get too caught up on length – email subject line length has no effect on open rates, so instead focus on tone and content.
Make sure you account for mobile.
Your emails should be friendly for those who are opening and reading them on a mobile device. And don’t forget, any links from your emails should direct to mobile-friendly landing pages.
Why is mobile so important to your email strategy? 3 fast facts...
- According to Litmus’ Email Analytics, more email is read on mobile than on desktop clients and webmail.
- 75% of Gmail users access their accounts on mobile devices.
- The number of mobile email users is predicted to grow 23% in 2016.
Choosing an email marketing service provider:
There are many email marketing services available for small businesses. How do you choose the right one for you? Here are some factors you’ll want to compare when you are making a decision:
- Learning curve / ease of use
- Integration with your current workflow / third-party apps
- List management (importing subscribers, segmentation)
A comparison of popular email marketing platforms:
Mailchimp. Mailchimp is my personal favorite email marketing platform. Its Free plan offering is its biggest draw for many small businesses — zero cost up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. Signup forms are easy to integrate into your website. Inbox Inspector (which is a paid add-on — $3/test) allows you to test your email for spam triggers and view your email in various email clients. Autoresponder/Drip Campaigns are possible, but is also a paid add-on ($10/mo). There are intuitive drag-n-drop templates for a quick start. You’ll get Google Analytics integration, along with hundreds of other apps and services. A/B testing is included. When creating your campaign, you have an instant preview of both mobile and desktop views.
Constant Contact. Constant Contact is one of the oldest running email marketing services, so they must know what they’re doing! Pricing starts at $20/mo for up to 500 subscribers. They offer about 250 third-party integrations, including Google Analytics, Salesforce, and Unbounce. Social media marketing tools are included. Other beneficial features include event registration and promotion, surveys, and coupons, which aren't native features you’d typically find with other email service providers.
Aweber. The cost starts at $19/mo for up to 500 subscribers and unlimited number of emails. Aweber features an easy drag-n-drop editor with over 700 email templates to choose from. (One downside: you can’t custom build your own template.) Aweber allows for A/B testing and you’ll get extensive reporting and tracking. There are 50+ apps (like Facebook, Salesforce, Zapier) that you can integrate with your account.
Listrack. Not purely an email solution, Listrak is for high-volume retail businesses that have a larger budget and more robust needs. (They do not display pricing on their website; you have to call and arrange a demo. So, figure a hefty setup fee, at least a few hundred a month after that, and probably an extended contract commitment.) Listrak brands itself as an integrated digital marketing platform for retailers for all customer touchpoints (email, mobile, social, web, stores). Their email marketing offering is enterprise-level that is based on “360° customer insights.” If you want to make sure your email efforts are based on relevant integrated data across your retail business, something like this may be what you need.
Infusionsoft. Like Listrak, Infusionsoft is also more than just email, it’s a sales and marketing software. However, it is much more affordable than Listrak ($199/mo for 2500 subscribers and 12,500 emails) and specifically targeted for small business. Infusionsoft’s big draw is its full-blown CRM (Customer Relationship Management), along with automation/drip campaigns and lead nurturing capabilities. It has social media and other third-party integrations. Just beware, some have reported it has a moderate to difficult learning curve when first getting started.
This is not an extensive list, only some of the more popular ones. Others you may hear about are VerticalResponse, Emma, Benchmark, and Get Response.
Effective communication that creates a lasting impression...
Email marketing is part of your larger marketing strategy. It includes capturing leads (which you’ll want to have integrated into your website), organizing campaigns, content development (often tying back into your website’s blog), designing the email (either using a predesigned template, or better yet, having one customized for your brand), and analyzing what happens after you send.
A great deal of time and effort go into an email before the 'send' button is pressed. Make sure that time is not wasted and incorporate a plan that will boost your bottom line.