Email marketing budgets continue to increase. However, knowing how to use email marketing successfully is paramount. Industry reports indicate a consensus on challenges faced by marketers, including: delivering highly relevant content, competing with social media for share of mind, measuring ROI, getting people to opt-in to email lists, database integration with email systems, legitimate email perceived as spam, and so on.* The great news is this – most perceived problems can be solved with the proper information and creative solutions.
Here are 12 basic ways to upgrade your email efforts:
1. Develop an Email Strategy. What do you hope to accomplish by sending emails to your customers/prospects? Increase awareness, educate, drive trial, sales, re-market or gain leads? There are a myriad of marketing tactics at your fingertips – it is important to know when, why, and how you will utilize them to grow your business.
Start by setting a realistic goal and focus your efforts [i.e. Grow email list by 20% or drive “X” number of downloads, free trials, etc. during “X” period.] Most importantly, make sure it is aligned with your overall marketing strategy.
2. Deliver Strong Email Messaging. Are you on information overload? Most consumers are. Smart brands deliver well-crafted and succinct email messages. In other words, don’t regurgitate 10 of your company’s best sales pitches/products in one email. Say one thing and say it extremely well.
3. Grow Your Email List. In order to become an effective email marketer you must have a receptive audience. A highly targeted email list [database] is at the core of a successful campaign. While there are numerous ways to capture leads, here are a few:
4. Develop a System. Email marketing can be handled in-house or outsourced to a consultancy. When outsourcing, engage partners that offer turn-key full service integration or initial setup for in-house campaign management. Should you decide to keep email marketing in-house, shop around for the best self-service online applications – not all are created equal.
5. Consider Pricing. Develop a marketing budget that accounts for email marketing expenditures. Many companies outsource email design, development, campaign management and reporting. This offers seamless integration and enables a company to focus on its strengths.
If you handle email marketing in-house, be sure to account for all associated costs. Depending on the size of your list, monthly subscriptions, time and staff resources can add up. Drive efficiencies and opt for applications that allow you to pay per campaign and per subscriber instead of monthly fees.
6. Deliver on Design. While email templates may seem hassle free – does the design match the brand equity you want to communicate? Put yourself in your customer’s shoes – do you think favorably of poorly designed email content? Quite possibly, your favorite companies do an excellent job with their email efforts… and you should too. If you are unsure, consult with a pro to mirror consistent branding with your website and marketing collateral. If your company touts superior quality or luxury all outgoing communications must be reflective of that same message. If it is not, you risk losing credibility and value fairly quickly.
In need of design inspiration? Here are some creative email designs from Email Design Review.
A quick note on design: If at all possible, avoid email companies that insist you put their logo on the bottom of each email. Like perforated business cards – it screams amateur. You know your value; make sure your customers do too.
7. Fine Tune your Message. Use a strong call to action. Be concise and keep the message simple. Remove cluttered and redundant messages. Test message receptivity and utilize two different Email Subject Headings [also known as A/B split testing].
8. Get Social and Go Viral. If you have a strong social media presence, now is the time to reap the rewards. Cross pollinate your email and social efforts by enabling users to socially share content.
9. Tune-up your Email Landing Gear. Brief story: Imagine this guy tells you about a fantastic offer to fly to Bora Bora. You are intrigued, so you check out the offer, book the flight, get on the plane and wait impatiently to arrive at your final destination. As you touch down, the pilot tells you, “Welcome to Burma.”
Not only do you lose respect for the airline [company] – you quite definitively won’t ever do business again with “that guy” [messenger] who told you about the awesome deal [message]. The same is true of email campaigns that are on a quick destination to nowhere. No matter how compelling your offer, design, and company is – if you drop customers off in nowhere land …and they get lost … they won’t return.
This is where the Landing Page factors in. A landing page is a targeted page [within your website] that coincides directly with your email message. It’s a shame to work so diligently on your message, dress up your email design and lose instant credibility upon one fatal click.
On the other side of the proverbial coin, done correctly, email marketing can successfully convert a prospect into a higher qualified lead or sale. Once accomplished, there is an increased probability of converting your prospect [traveler] into a customer.
10. Schedule and Send. There are many discussions that pertain to the best day to send email campaigns. They all end with ‘it depends.’ Start by evaluating your target audience, brand and competitive set. Sign-up for competitive emails to track frequency and distribution. Do the work – test your delivery schedule and refine your tactics.
11. Measure Performance. Once you hit send – the buck doesn’t stop there. It is important to track the performance [analytics] of your email. Gauge whether or not you met your goal. Measuring KPI’s [key performance indicators] over a period of time will assist you in fine-tuning your strategy, messaging, design and delivery. Some key measurements to take note of include open/unique open rate, click-thru/unique click-thru and bounce rate. Not interested in the numbers? If you prefer to digest the top-line ‘actionable’ information, ensure your agency can develop benchmarks from historical data to drive accountability.
12. Establish Best Practices. When you run several companies – including a global business development firm for emerging brands you tend to see it all. When you’ve revamped and analyzed a plethora of email marketing campaigns for Fortune 500 companies [and small businesses], one becomes astutely aware of best practices. Key takeaway: Strategic guidance coupled with focused tactical execution [and testing] is a winning formula for success. Learn what works best for your company and replicate it.
My last plea: Please don’t send marketing messages too frequently or to uninterested folks [fondly referred to as spam]. And hopefully, after reading this article your customers are on their way to a ‘Delete Reflex’ cure – one email at a time.
*Source: Industry Report: 2010 Email Marketing Report: Marketing Sherpa Research