Many businesses implement the use of email marketing in tandem with their overall marketing strategy. From e-commerce sites to brick and mortar stores, large or small, business all around are engaging in email marketing to increase sales. Statistics don’t lie, 88% of B2C firms currently use email marketing and another 10% are planning to use it before December 2011. This is great for business as 72% of responding companies reported ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ return of investments for email marketing plans.
Therefore, whether a business has an email marketing plan in place, or are thinking about adding one to their current marketing strategy. There are some valuable tips that cannot only increase performance, but can also gain subscribers and increase the ROI.
1. Preliminary Research
Even if a business has an email marketing plan already in place, a business should engage in research to determine their target markets and demographics.
A business should know who they’re trying to target in order to know the correct way to connect to their customers. Without the proper knowledge of the types of customers interested in a business’s products and/or services, marketing tactics fail, no matter the medium. Big business, small business and major corporations succeed because they understand whom they are trying to market to.
A business offering dog treats wouldn’t promote on a cat forum. Of course, they could, but it would be much more beneficial to promote on a forum dedicated towards dog owners and lovers. With that being said, research can be carried out in a number of ways. If a business already has a website or is active within social media, surveys and polls could be taken. If this is not an option, looking at customers who buy from possible competitors could be of good use.
2. Email Marketing Specific Research
Before a business starts sending out emails, they should become familiar with some of the intricacies involved. Not that there’s many, but understanding how email marketing works is the key to success.
Reading up on the statistics, metrics and analytics involved with email marketing is a good start. Therefore, a business doesn’t have to fall prey to tactics and strategies that have failed for others. For instance, 54% of people who unsubscribe from permission emails said the reason was due to emails coming too frequently.
A statistic such as that could help a business owner understand maybe why they’re seeing a rise in unsubscribers. Another statistic stated that 49% of people who unsubscribe from permission emails said the reason was because content was repetitive or boring over time. This could also help business owners see that diversity in content is of prime importance.
3. List Building Strategies
Once a business knows the markets they are trying to attract, promoting the email campaign is the next step. There are hundreds of methods available to use, but there are time-tested methods that most business owners use.
Allowing customers to subscribe via the company website is one of the most basic strategies used. A link should be available on every page, not ostentatiously, but as a subtle reminder to customers.
They are already on the website, which signals a modicum of interest. So to capitalize on this interest is necessary. Also, there should be an option to subscribe when customers check out, most likely, if they have already bought a product, they will be interested again.
As a reminder, subscription should be as seamless and easy as possible. A business should consider a customer’s attention span as very little. Therefore, everything from website browsing to signing up for a newsletter should be fast and simple. Another option is to submit RSS URLs to RSS directories. This should be done as much as possible with the target market in mind.
4. Promotion Though Social Media
The use of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube should not be understated. A large number of email subscribers can be gained through a company fueled social media construct. Not to mention that, polls and surveys can also be conducted through these sites to get a better understanding of customers.
On Facebook, an opt-in option should be prominent on the company’s landing page. Offering incentives such as free shipping, or the ever-popular free e-book is also a good way to draw attention. Although, statistics show that many users who sign up for a newsletter or company email for free incentives rarely open emails and later unsubscribe.
Another option is to add a re-tweet button to a dedicated website opt-in page if available, if not, placing the button on the website landing page is also acceptable. This allows customers the chance to share the opt-in information to their friends, who could share it with their friends, etc. the list could go on and could lead to thousands of potential customers.
Another good tactic is to manually tweet the opt-in information. It should be noted that statistics state that peak hours for social media traffic is from 9am to 3pm, therefore, tweeting or Facebook posting during these hours could yield more results. Ideally, according to one study conducted in 2011, the best hour to tweet is during the midweek or weekend at 5PM EST. Also, studies have shown that to maximize possible traffic on Facebook, posting at noon on a Saturday would give the best possible visibility.
5. The Importance of Content
While most businesses focus their attention on gaining more subscribers, enough attention isn’t focused on the actual content of the email. Content, whether it be on a company website, Facebook, Twitter or in an Email should be relevant, engaging, timely and influential.
As stated before, 54% of people unsubscribe due to boring, repetitive content. That is 54% of potential lost business, which is never a good thing. If a business doesn’t have the correct people to write copy for emails, someone should be hired, or services should be sought out of house.
Another interesting point is that the subject line on an email should be familiar and comfortable to customers.
A staggeringly large number of people regard emails as ‘junk’ or ‘spam’ just by previewing the subject line. So ensuring that this doesn’t happen is crucial. This could be done by setting up a slogan for email subject lines or a familiar phrase. Also, subject lines should never be fully capitalized, use excessive exclamation marks and be deemed as too pushy, such as: “BUY NOW BIG SALE!”
Another reason not to follow such practices are because caps lock ridden headers and certain words, ‘free’, ‘money’, usually get emails placed in spam folders because of spam filters. And no one reads spam messages. Just as a reminder, 40% of US and UK internet users said the reason for not regularly opening/reading email marketing messages is that they consider the message to be spam.
6. Frequency of Emails
Another tip is that emails should not be sent out too frequently. Excessive emails beget unsubscribers and are quickly regarded as spam. This is tricky, as a business does not want underexposure as this leads to loss of interest, but they also don’t want overexposure, which leads to unsubscribers and annoyed customers. Finding the perfect balance could take some time and personal research. But according to studies, for businesses selling products and/or services, weekly or biweekly emails is the best course of action.
As previously stated, content should be relevant, timely, engaging and influential. This could mean many things, as this statement is rather broad, but in shorthand, content should make customers feel as if the company is the authority of whatever they are selling.
Customers should believe by reading company content that they are at the top of their game, that they are innovators in their field. This leads to trust, and building customer trust is important. This is not to say that companies should lie, but their content should reflect a good amount of knowledge about their industry and field.
Content should also be interesting to read, not some bland copy template. Passing around ideas and brainstorming unique content should be carried out to avoid standard, stale sounding copy. Remember, 49% of people unsubscribed because of copy/paste content.
Relevancy is also important, as no customer who signed up for a comic book newsletter wants to read about business finance in France.
Content should pertain to the given industry, but thinking about unique angles is not a bad idea. Because the user who signed up for the comic book newsletter has probably heard debates about Batman vs. Iron Man, but taking such content and spinning it in a different direction can keep interest and still remain relevant.
The last bit of information is timeliness.
If a company has an email newsletter sent biweekly but is having a special sale or event, sending out an extra email is advised. This isn’t to say that this should happen every week or day, but when the time calls for it. Stacking up chips for that one big blowout event could easily garner higher sales volumes. On the same note, content should reflect recent or current events within the industry and company. This is to not only bore readers with information they’ve already heard, but to also remain influential and relevant.
7. Email Design
55% of mobile phone users with internet access check their email. This also coincides with the statistic that 13.6% of emails are opened on a mobile device or operating system. With email marketing, it would be smart business practice to ensure that all emails are optimized to be opened via mobile phone. That is over half percent of potential customers, and leaving that area unsupported could lose customers and sales. Visually, emails should be intriguing but not cluttered and off-putting.
This means avoiding lots of flashy pictures and colorful text.
Ideally, emails should be clean-cut, without large blocks of text that is hard to read. Most people simply browse through their emails, and seeing a large wall of text can be intimidating. Leaving spaces so readers can easily rest their eyes in an easy to read font is the best route to take.
Emails should be tested on multiple browsers at multiple connection speeds to ensure that every possible reader can clearly see and open the email. This is also a good idea to ensure that HTML codes are properly formatted. Emails should also be unique and different from the plethora of other emails in circulation. This could be achieved by hiring a graphic designer to design a personalized newsletter, or email template to use.
Company logos should also be prominent to ensure brand recognition, as well as links to the company website.
8. Building an Email Marketing Strategy
All the tips involved in this article lay a plan, a framework, for developing and implementing a concrete email marketing strategy. But all of this information is useless, unless it is developed into a cohesive, sound action plan that yields results.
This can be done by hiring a social media specialist, or by researching development strategies independently. But for now, the basics are outlined within this article, and a tentative framework to work with is as follows:
- Identifying goals
- Discovering the proper target markets
- Researching competitor email marketing plans
- Analyzing the state of the current marketing plan
- Devising a schedule for sending emails and online promotion
- Setting up strategies to evaluate goals
Some of the information has already been discussed, but as for the other points, they will be discussed later. It should be noted that this is just a bare bone plan to help businesses get started, or to help guide current plans that are in action. But if a business feels the need to change or implement another step, it should be done. A marketing plan for any division should never be looked at as stagnant and rigid. They should be dynamic and ever changing, ever evolving and moving to higher planes, constantly adapting to new ideas, concepts, threats and speed bumps. With this in mind, a business should have a basic framework in mind in regard to marketing, but not a concrete model.
9. Setting Goals
Setting goals is what keeps businesses competitive and evolving. Without properly setting goals, businesses would lose track of what they wanted to do, and would loft around in confusion. Even if these goals are never clearly stated or written down, every business owner has them, or at least, they have an idea of the type of success they wish to have.
But clearly stating and keeping business goals in mind leads a clear path towards success, and keeps things together. With this is mind, setting goals pertaining to an email marking campaign is almost necessary.
This ensures two things, one, that businesses can clearly see where the campaign failed and where it succeeded. And two, goals clearly define the type of success a business wishes to achieve. Goals steer businesses in the right direction by setting definite benchmarks for success.
With marketing, setting a goal of ‘getting 500 new subscribers by Q4’ lays the groundwork and sets the wheels in motion towards making that goal a reality. Keeping this in mind, doing so also helps direct action towards making this possible, and this causes decisions that would have otherwise been overlooked.
Discovering the types of goals, however, is challenging and differs from business to business. That’s where quality research comes into play. If a company knows where it stands, it can easily figure out where it wants to go. While some goals may be unrealistic for some businesses, it may be quite possible for others.
10. Evaluating Success
With every marketing plan, evaluating the current state of a given campaign should be carried out regularly.
This can be done through a host of useful online marketing analytics, metrics and tools that can see exactly how a campaign is going in a multitude of different areas. This is necessary to do, yet most small business owners fail to do this.
This may be because some small businesses don’t feel it necessary to do so, or because they see analytic tools as complicated and hard to use. Both statements are untrue, and there are easy solutions to both. A small business should measure its success in the same fashion as a major company.
Seeing where a marketing plan is failing and changing the current plan of action can greatly improve ROI, customer satisfaction and can, above all else, increase sales. Knowing where something is going wrong is the first step towards fixing it.
There is nothing wrong with a new feature being unsuccessful, the problem begins when the problem isn’t noticed. On the other hand, if a business owner feels that online analytics are too complicated, there are easy fixes. One of them is to seek help out of house. There are hundreds of reputable marketing services that could handle the heavy lifting, and if this is not an option, there are e-books, seminars and conferences that could help someone learn the basics.