When it comes to marketing your business, email marketing is one of the most effective and underrated channels you can use. It's sometimes misrepresented; I often see clients describing it as an “email blast” or “email shot,” making it sound like a war with their clients, or, a one-tme event, as a friend of mine says, a “spray and pray” approach. Yet email marketing, when done properly, starts an ongoing conversation with your clients, and keeps them engaged steadily.
According to Econsultancy’s Email Census 2011 report, which surveyed 900 digital marketers, almost three-quarters of companies (72%) rated email marketing as “excellent” or “good” in terms of return on investment. This is a higher percentage than any other marketing channel received, aside from search engine optimization (73%). Email marketing clearly has potential.
However, as with any other marketing channel, following time-tested strategies can help set your business apart. Here are some key guidelines for successful email marketing:
1. Avoid Sending Your Message as a Graphic
A lot of email clients, such as Gmail, block the initial display of images, forcing the user to make an extra click to download graphical content. If a user receiving hundreds of emails a day needs to make an extra click to see your email, he may end up dedicating this click to sending your email to trash, or worse- “mark as spam.”
Make use of pictures and buttons for calls to action, but make sure your message body is all text to keep it simple and easy for your reader.
2. Focus on One Point
Unless you run a blog or a digital publication, talking about many subjects in one email message can be confusing and may create what marketingexperiments.com calls “friction,” or consumer aggravation. Reduce friction by sticking to one main point. You can then scatter calls to action throughout your email to drive clicks, without deviating from the central message.
If you must cover many subjects, make use of headings, white space, and contrasting colors to separate content and it easy to read. Many group buying sites now excel at content segregation; for example, notice how the different deals are well segregated and visible in this email from GrouponUAE:
3. Make it Easy to Skim
People don’t read emails as much as they skim them these days, so don’t drown your audience in a lot of text. Focus on the key message you are delivering. If you need to give more details, save them for your website. Remember that the sole purpose of your email is to drive a click and send your audience to a landing page where they can continue the conversation you started.
4. Use a Better Email Client
It’s easy to send a funny joke to your database of contacts
using, say, Outlook, but nurturing a dialogue with your prospects
takes a little more finesse and analysis. Use a professional tool
like Constant Contact, Vertical Response, or Lyris to help you:
- personalize your emails automatically e.g. Dear Sam
- track how many people opened your email
- track how many people unsubscribed
- track which version of your email generated the most clicks and more.
5. Retarget in your follow-up
If you’re in the business-to-consumer (B2C) business, retargeting can do wonders for you. Retargeting is the process of determining your follow-up efforts based on clients’ responses. By using a professional email marketing platform, you can divide up email recipients by their level of response, and follow up accordingly. For instance, if 15% of recipients opened your initial email, you can avoid spamming those readers by only sending a reminder to the other 85%.
6. Think Mobile
According to technology research company Gartner, mobile phones will overtake computers as the most common device used to access the internet worldwide by 2013. 3G technology is fairly fast, yet, returning to my first point, many people won’t wait for a graphic to download in order to read your offer. Use pictures and call to action buttons if you like, but be sure the main message is text.
Also keep the subject line short, and make sure it includes the key ideas you’re trying to get across. Here are two examples from daily deals site Cobone that illustrate what to do and what not to do:
7. Segment Your Customers into Groups
Last but certainly not least, manage your database by segmenting it into target groups. If you’re a fitnesswear company, you may want to segment your clients by gender, sending a slightly different version of your email to both segments. Small changes like the color of your headings or your email tone can have a significant impact in terms of click through rates. For example, here a specialized email for women produced a slightly higher click-through rate.
In general, email marketing is a very affordable and effective channel to market your business. Start using it, track your progress, and you’ll start reaping the rewards of your efforts.