Every small business must find a cost-efficient way to market their brand to a wider audience in order to grow. That is where email marketing comes in. Email marketing remains the most cost-effective way to attract and retain customers. According to marketing software company HubSpot, 99% of U.S. consumers check their email daily. More than 50 percent check their personal email account more than 10 times a day, and it is by far their preferred way to receive updates from brands.
Let us begin our discussion on email marketing by answering these questions:
- What is Email Marketing?
- What Are the Benefits of Email Marketing?
- How to Get Started with Email Marketing
- How to Measure the Effectiveness of Email Marketing
What is Email Marketing?
Email marketing is a form of direct marketing that uses email to promote your brand’s services or products. Unlike advertising messages which are distributed to people in mass, email marketing targets consumers and businesses directly through their email address.
Email marketing can help make your customers aware of your latest offerings. It can also play an important role in raising awareness about your brand with prospective new customers and keeping your business top of mind with your current customers.
What Are the Benefits of Email Marketing?
There are several ways your business can benefit from email marketing:
Email marketing enables you to segment your customers into different lists based on their preferences. This provides you with the opportunity to send highly personalized content. By making your offers relevant to the customer’s needs and preferences, you will get better results. Too many messages that are not relevant could result in customers ignoring your emails or unsubscribing altogether.
- Better Relationships with Customers and Prospects
Email can help you to earn a reputation as a valuable resource in a niche your business serves. Rather than just using email as channel for sending sales pitches, you can foster trust with your customers and prospects by providing them with content relating to your business that they will find useful. Once you begin creating valuable content for the customer, you will have an edge over your competitors.
- Increases Sales and Business Growth
Once you begin email marketing you will have a channel set up from which to promote new services or products, seasonal specials, and other sales incentives to your customers. The people whose trust you have earned will likely appreciate learning about new things you can offer them. And who would reject an opportunity to save money on a service or product that they need and use?
- Low Cost at Scale
One of the biggest benefits of email marketing is that it enables businesses to reach a large number of people at a very low cost. There is no difference in the time and effort required to send a campaign to 20 recipients versus 20,000 recipients.
Many of the popular email platforms offer free subscriptions for a limited number of email contacts. Subscription fees are typically driven by the number of contacts. This means that when you are first starting out there is a good chance your email marketing expenses will simply be the labor involved to write the content and design the email.
- Increased Traffic to Your Website
Adding relevant links to your email campaign helps to engage your audience and drive traffic to your website. Links will allow your reader to select which detail they want to understand better or read more about, without distracting them with information that may not be useful. This means you can send shorter emails with links to more detailed information on your website, that you do not want to take up space in your email. Then, while your audience is on your website, they can explore other content they may have an interest in.
How to Get Started with Email Marketing
If you are new to email marketing, the business of getting started may seem overwhelming. Yet it is not too difficult if you take one step at a time.
Step 1: Choose an email marketing platform
Do a few internet searches on “email marketing platforms” and you will quickly recognize the top players. At Inner Architect we have used the highly popular MailChimp and Constant Contact platforms which are excellent solutions for basic email marketing needs. There are other platforms like ActiveCampaign which we now use that have powerful automation capabilities which enable you to schedule automatic messages based on actions a subscriber makes.
Step 2. Pull together your contact list
Most businesses will have some existing contacts to start an email list. Think of the customers and people you already have an email relationship with. Do not get discouraged if you are building an email list completely from scratch. You will be surprised by how quickly your list will grow when you develop and maintain a process for collecting contact email addresses. Start by telling customers that you will be promoting seasonal specials via email. You can add an online sign-up form to your website and encourage your social media followers and loyal customers to sign up.
Step 3: Add your contacts to your email marketing account
The fastest and easiest way to add contacts to your account is to start by saving your contact list in a .csv file using Excel. Most major platforms will allow you to import a .csv file or add individual contacts manually.
Step 4: Create an email template with your branding
Most of the major email marketing platforms include a portfolio of free templates that you can customize and use repeatedly for multiple campaigns. While the design process may feel cumbersome in the beginning, once you gain some practice it is just a matter of swapping out text, images and links from campaign to campaign.
Step 5: Write your first email message
This is probably the most fear-provoking step of all for most people new to email marketing. Try to relax and just be yourself. Pretend that you are talking one-on-one with a customer. Include these three components in the email message:
- Headline – What are you offering?
- Body – How will it help the reader?
- Call to action – What would you like them to do?
Step 6: Work on subject lines
A good subject line is key to getting your email messages opened so it is worth your time to get it right. Your goal is to come up with a line people won’t be able to resist opening. It should be a short, snappy (around 40 characters) and a statement that you can back up. Include words that suggest a sense of urgency. There are subject line tools available online that will give your subject line a score and provide suggestions on how to make it stronger.
Step 7: Send yourself a test message
With your business’ reputation on the line, you should strive for near perfection in your email presentation. While the output may look fine on your computer screen, sometimes there are issues that you cannot see until you review a test message.
Step 8: Schedule your campaign
There are days and times that produce better open rates than others. It all depends upon your audience and industry. Scheduling times is definitely an area you should be testing.
Check out this advice from Constant Contact for best times to send an email campaign.
Step 9: Track your results
Most popular email platforms have report features that allow you to measure the performance of campaigns. Open rates measure the percentage of people that opened your email. They typically are an indication of how compelling your subject line is. By testing subject lines, you may discover better performing options.
Click rates measure the percentage of recipients who clicked on one of the links in your email content. Studying your click reports will allow you to identify customers and prospects that are particularly engaged with your content. These folks have not only taken the time to click on your email, they have also demonstrated that they have read your content fully enough to want to learn more in the links. Analyze which links were successful in capturing interest to gain insight to best future results.
Bounce rates measure how many emails are not reaching the recipient’s inbox. There are two types of bounces, each providing different explanations for why the email is not being delivered to the intended recipient.
A soft bounce occurs when a temporary issue with the recipient’s email address prevents deliverability. The delivery is delayed yet in many cases, the email server will reattempt delivery several times over a period of hours or even days. The message is only considered undeliverable if the retry period expires without a successful delivery.
A hard bounce occurs when the email message is deemed permanently undeliverable. An email address that generates a hard bounce should be immediately removed from your list so that you will not send any further messages to that recipient.
And finally, monitoring your unsubscribe rate is important. The most common reasons that people unsubscribe are:
- Too many emails are being sent.
- The content is not relevant or tailored to the recipient’s preferences.
- Recipients did not know they were subscribing.
- Too much or too little content.
Want to get started with email marketing yet lack the staffing, time, or interest in running your email marketing program? Please contact us at 415-485-6961 to discuss how we can help you.