Email Marketing: Still Great for Business
In recent years, social media and mobile marketing have received a lot of attention. Even though email marketing may not seem as sexy, it still remains the cornerstone of digital marketing. In fact, with a strong content marketing approach, email is more powerful than ever.
Email marketing helps boost customer loyalty with your brand, drive business to your online (and offline) store, integrate multi-marketing channels, and fuel the growth of social networks. Here are some tips to get you started with email marketing.
Set up a company-branded email
A number of small businesses use gmail, hotmail or other free email accounts because, well, they’re free. But getting a branded email through a domain name can help you appear more professional and legitimate to prospective customers. Small businesses face a lot of challenges, so why not take lack of credibility off the list? In a recent Verisign survey, 90% of consumers agreed they are more comfortable becoming a customer of a small business that uses a branded email than one that doesn’t. The same survey found that consumers are almost twice as likely to believe a business is more credible if they use a branded email address.
Typically, the cost and effort for branded email is low. If you don’t yet have a domain name for your business, you’ll need to register one to set up branded email. The name you select for your business says a lot about your business, so take care to pick a domain extension that’s credible and widely recognized. Most domain registrars and hosting companies will have an FAQ on how to incorporate or forward your new email address into the most popular programs such as Outlook, Apple Mail, Yahoo etc., or will provide you a branded email service for only a couple of dollars a month. If you’re wedded to how your Gmail works, for $5/month Gmail supports integration with branded email through Google Apps for Business.
Building your list is probably the most important part of email marketing. It’s important to make sure everyone on your list has opted in to receive marketing emails. We recommend you follow these industry standards:
- Always put your customers first by marketing the benefits they will receive.
It’s better to generate list growth than to buy it.
- Add an email signup call-to-action as a custom tab on your social media page.
- Collect email addresses at events
- Promote an online contest like a free giveaway, and have entrants sign up or submit with their email address.
- Add an opt-in form to the homepage of your website or blog
- Collect emails during your checkout process (in-store or online).
- Partner with a complementary business and have them promote your newsletter.
- Make sure that consumers opt-in directly to receive communication from your brand, and verify that their information is never resold, rented or otherwise misused.
- Use a provider that enables seamless follow-up: once the consumer signs up, send your subscriber an immediate confirmation or “welcome” email.
- Make sure you’re up-to-speed with CAN-SPAM laws that sets the rules for commercial email.
Choosing an Email Service Provider (ESP)
When determining the ESP you should choose, it’s important to have an idea of how many subscribers you have and in some cases how often you plan to email them. Most ESPs base their pricing plans on these factors.
There is a large selection of ESPs to choose – ranging from easy to use web-based solutions to robust on-premise providers. As a small business getting started you should consider a solution that will help you grow, cost you minimal, and don’t lock you into large contracts. Here are some suggestions:
Creating Email Content
When creating copy for your emails remember to keep it short and simple, but relevant. Ask yourself if your customers will find the content valuable and if it’s worth their time to read.
Here are some other tips:
- Establish the purpose of your email, as it will set the expectations of what your subscribers will expect to receive (i.e., Promoting a sale/product, testimonials, running a contest)
- Make sure your brand name is included in the FROM name
- Use a branded email address (that displays your domain name) to establish credibility
- Subject lines should be 35 characters or less (don’t use all caps)
- Call-to-actions should be clear and enticing
- Use short sentences and bulleted text
- Personalize when possible
- Make sure social sharing links and/or ‘Forward to a Friend’ options are added.
- If using a WYSIWYG, don’t copy directly from Microsoft Word.
Knowing When to Send
Unfortunately there is no magic formula that works for every business. Sending two emails a month may be too often for some and not often enough for others. Testing is the best way to determine how often you should send, and what day or time of day will get you the highest engagement rate.
- Select a few subsets of your list
- Establish your baseline metrics (select the time you think will work best)
- Create and schedule your test emails based on variables like subject line copy and time sent
- Measure and analyze the results to determine which had the highest engagement rate
- When you’ve got your ‘winner,’ send to the rest of your list that didn’t receive your tests.