Marketing your business online, no matter what you sell, is an absolute necessity these days. The longer you wait to do so, the quicker your business will become obsolete. This sounds harsh, but for many businesses that chose to stick to their old fashioned marketing tactics that produced little to no return on their investment, this became a reality or is quickly becoming so. A well thought out online marketing plan will do wonders for your business now and in the future.
For those of you who have already mapped out and implemented an online marketing strategy, congratulations, you are still one step ahead of most businesses. However, don’t think your job is done just yet. One of the most overlooked or ineffectively used marketing tactics continues to be email marketing. As more people understand the importance of search engine optimization or social marketing, more people start to forget one of the most cost effective forms of marketing – email marketing.
People are spending more and more time on their computers these days. Whether it is for work, pleasure, or both, the fact is that people spend significant amounts of time in front of their computer screens. One of the top activities that make up this time is email related. Email is the most common activity of Internet users, with over 90% of all Internet users claiming to be e-mailers. If you are not integrating an effective email marketing campaign into your marketing plan, then you can almost be sure that you are missing out on a ton of opportunities for new and repeat business.
How to Use Email Marketing Effectively
As with any marketing strategy, you must have a plan of attack for your email marketing campaigns before you just start blasting people with emails. Every impression you make to prospects, new clients or long time clients is extremely valuable so be sure to plan things appropriately. The following steps should help.
STEP 1: Manage Your Email Contacts Database
Obviously, before you can send out any emails you need to have someone to send them to. These recipients should (1) be willing to receive your messages and (2) have updated information. You would be surprised at how many email marketers waste time and money sending emails to people with the wrong information.
One of the best places to attain lists like this is right off of your own website. If you have been using online marketing to drive people to your website and your website is sticky and conversion oriented, then you should not be having any problems collecting new contact information. If your website has not been able to do these things, then learn how to Win Business and Influence Visitors from your website.
Another great way to attain useful lists of prospective customers is to purchase them from sources like InfoUSA or SalesGenie. These lists are relatively inexpensive and they also allow you to refine the types of contacts you want down to specific demographics or other qualifiers relevant to your target audience.
TIP: Once you have a solid email database, spend time going through your contacts and scrubbing out any recipients that you have qualified as being useless to your marketing campaign. Do not delete these contacts, just put them in a separate database. You never know when they may come in handy again.
STEP 2: Plan Your Email Marketing Campaign
Once your email lists are ready to go you can start to think about how to communicate to these recipients in the most effective ways possible. Here is a useful list of 7 Email Marketing Campaign Ideas:
- Letter announcing a new service or significant changes to an existing service
- Newsletter highlighting useful tips and company news, events, promotions
- Republication of an industry related magazine, trade journal or newspaper article
- Case study of a successful client solution you provided
- Reprint of an article you contributed to an industry magazine or publication
- Checklist of helpful tips for your industry / service
- Announcement of newly acquired clients
TIP: Sign up for a couple email subscriptions to receive email marketing from successful companies. This is a great way to find new ideas and to see what effective email marketers are doing. A couple great ones to follow are Guthy Renker and Apple.
STEP 3: Use Professional, Relevant Messages in Your Emails
One of the most surprising things is that many marketers still use poorly designed and poorly written email messages in their email marketing campaigns. These must be the same people who have the old, outdated websites. Either way, these messages get deleted almost immediately. If you are going to spend time and money marketing to prospects and clients, then make sure that you are sending them quality material. Your email marketing messages should meet all of the following criteria to be effective:
- Professionally designed (clean, easy to read, non-obtrusive or obnoxious colors)
- Limited imagery (too many images may cause your message to appear empty or worse, get blocked by spam filters)
- Well written, relevant content (text should be grammatically correct and written in a conversational tone)
- Provides links for accessibility (in cases where people cannot see or read your message, provide links to somewhere that they can)
- Includes calls to action (know what you want people to do once they receive your message and ask them to do it)
- Provides “opt-out” options (allow people to opt-out if they wish because if you do not you could find yourself getting blacklisted)
TIP: Just like with a website, if you are not a designer or lack that creative, artistic eye, then allow a professional to create your branded email messages for you. These designs can be used many times over so the investment is worth it for you in the long run. Programs like MailChimp and iContact provide some useful templates if your budget is limited.
STEP 4: Send Your Emails at the Most Opportune Times
Email marketing is relatively inexpensive compared to other forms of marketing. However, like any marketing campaign, there is always a way to cut costs even more to help your marketing dollars go even further. One of the best ways to do this with email marketing is to only send your emails at the most opportune days and times of the week. Let me make one thing clear, there are no “established” days or times that work best for every business across the board. You should test all of your campaigns to see when they receive the best response. That aside, the following recommendations should get you started in the right direction:
- Avoid weekends as lots of spam gets sent during this time
- Avoid evenings as lots of spam is sent then and you may risk having your message included in a mass delete
- Avoid Mondays as this is usually the busiest day for most people
- Avoid public holiday periods and summer holiday rushes
TIP: The best days and times to send email campaigns typically fall mid week, during working hours.
STEP 5: Track, Analyze and Refine Your Email Marketing Campaigns
After each email marketing campaign you send out, whether it’s once a week or once a month, you should ALWAYS be tracking and analyzing the success of your campaigns. By looking at success rates of your campaigns you will be able to refine your messages as needed. Remember, each impression you make with your prospects and clients are very valuable so always be looking to make the most of them. Here are some key metrics to look at when analyzing your email campaign’s success:
- Open Rate - This is the rate at which people open your email. Obviously, the higher the rate the better. Typically, anything above 30% is pretty good. The subject line you use is usually the biggest factor in determining how many people will open your message so get creative, but be straight to the point with your subject lines.
- Click Through Rate – This is the rate at which recipients click on your ads, calls to action, links or promos. Usually the ones that are placed towards the top or at the close of the message will get the highest click through rates, but experiment with different placement for different messages to see what works best for your audience.
- Percent Delivered – This is the percentage of your messages that were successfully delivered. Most good email marketing programs, like iContact and MailChimp mentioned above, have very high deliver rates. If yours is below 95% then you may want to look into another provider or contact your current provider to figure out what the problem is.
TIP: One of the best things you can do to increase the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns is to follow up with a personal phone call. Don’t hound people, but make the effort to check in with your recipients to see that they are receiving, reading and enjoying your marketing messages. Many people, believe it or not, still enjoy some human interaction every once in awhile.
These 5 steps on how to effectively market using email should be more than enough to get you started. If you need more in depth advice, then please check back for future posts on email marketing. Or, if you have any tips or tactics that have worked well for you, then we would love to hear about them. Please leave a comment or send us an email and we will be more than happy to feature your tips on this post.
Let us leave you with these 2 simple tips to help you get the best response from your email marketing campaigns:
1) Don’t be annoying
2) Provide something valuable and informative
If everything you do circles around these 2 tips, you will be in good shape.