Email marketing is an important component of running any kind of website, but especially so in the highly competitive, brand-driven world of ecommerce. However, many retailers unwisely decide to do without email marketing or run their programs in a way that actually alienates their customer base. Here are five simple rules for creating and maintaining an email marketing program that will build your online business website.
Even if your company doesn’t do business directly over its website, there are good reasons to use email marketing to brand your company and spread the word about your products and services.
First, it’s inexpensive and makes it to the target with lightning speed.
Second, many people check their email with much more regularity than they check their snail mail. Clearly this can be a great way of marketing your small business, but these few suggestions may help make this more successful.
Be targeted. Don’t send email to anyone who has not voluntarily opted in to your mailing list. This is not only rude, but in some cases illegal. Either way, it will do nothing for your small business brand. Send email only to people who have agreed to receive it and who are in your target audience.
Offer content. This doesn’t have to be long and drawn out; simply offer a few tips that are relevant both to the time of the year and to your business. Even a few lines may be enough to keep your message out of the trash, especially if you combine them with a catchy title. This content will reinforce your image as an expert in your field.
Offer news. Whether there is a new product line that you are particularly proud of or a special sale to celebrate some occasion, use every email as a method of offering new information that is relevant to your brand and your small business. Often, this will be even more effective than hard sell tactics, which brings me to the next suggestion…
Avoid hard sell tactics. People are flooded with these in almost every aspect of modern life, which has significantly cut the chances of response. More gentle, organics sales tactics work best with the modern customer. Simply tell them what you are offering and why they need it—no more, no less. Anything more will turn them off.
Offer a way to contact you. Better, offer several. Not only should the email be sent from your return address (so contacting you is a matter of pressing reply), you also should also give complete contact information including address and telephone number. This will not only improve your sales, but make you look more legitimate as well.
Be branded. Make sure your email communications, like all other communications, are harmonious with the brand image that you have worked so hard to cultivate. Include your logo design and all visual aspects of your brand in the logo. This will ensure that even if the customer doesn’t buy anything from you today, you are still building your brand.
Be considerate. Allow customers to opt off your list at any time. Also, avoid emailing more than once a month. Don’t flood your customers with marketing messages—it will only cheapen your message.
Email marketing can be very effective if you keep the actual marketing to a minimum and follow these few basic rules. This will give you a huge advantage in your market and allow you to communicate with your customer in a way that would otherwise be impossible.
How To Run An Email Marketing Campaign
There’s a fine line between email marketing and spamming, and asking permission is what makes the difference. Customers need to be asked to opt in to your campaigns, and they should be able to opt out as well. If your messages, however useful and well-written, are unwanted, they will only build animosity among the very people you are trying to impress. In a worst case scenario, you may even be blacklisted by many ISPs. The good news is that it’s not hard to get permission, especially if you offer a special coupon, ongoing offers, or other tangible benefits.
Build your database.
You can start by offering an incentive to opt-in, but this should not be your only strategy for building an email list. Many websites offer ‘co-registration’—that is, people have the option to join more than one email list at a time. You can join these programs, such as www.listopt.com, and then your website will be included as one of many options. However, take care that any outsourcer you choose for this function is indeed giving people the choices that they deserve and also that they are specifically targeting members of your target audience.
Offer more than a pitch.
Once people have the option to opt-out, you must give them a good reason not to do so. You should include a mix of information, with marketing messages mixed with useful tips and articles as well as a little humor or other entertainment to spice things up. Keep the tone appropriate for your brand, but ensure that people have a good reason to open those emails.
Love at first sight is a myth, and nowhere more so than in the world of business. Customers need time to warm up to your company and get to know what your brand is all about. An old rule of thumb is that advertising requires an average of 7.3 impacts to even make an impression. Because modern people are bombarded with marketing, that number may even be higher! Don’t spam people, but make sure you are sending out emails on a regular basis. Determine what interval is best for your customers and then stick to it.
Change with your market.
Once you have built an email marketing campaign and have a clean, targeted database, it is time to test your methods. Try sending out two different emails (one to half of your list and one for the other, for example) and see which works best. Often, slight changes can make a huge difference. Constantly modifying your email marketing will ensure that you are always in touch with your market.
4 Ways to Use Email Marketing to Increase Sales
Email marketing is a mature communications channel compared to social media marketing and text message marketing. It’s longevity is a testament to its ability to produce results for small business owners such as yourself.
Here are four ways you should be using email marketing to increase sales:
Nurture your leads.
If you have an email capture form on your website, landing page, social media page or anywhere else – you should be nurturing the people who submit the form.
Email leads are easy to reach (they told you where to contact them), cheap to connect with (some email software packages are free) and interested in what you have to say (they opted-in).
As a small business owner you should be tapping into this huge gold mine. Using email software like MailChimp, create a lead nurture campaign. That is, a series of automated emails that go out at set intervals after a person fills out your email capture form.
An email nurture campaign for a software company might look like this:
Immediately: Thank you email with promise not to spam.
Day 1: Free access to download industry related white paper.
Day 3: Free download of an eBook with helpful tips.
Day 5: Offer/discount/free trial of software.
— Leads who take you up on your offer will stop receiving nurturing emails at this time. Leads who do not take you up on your offer will continue to receive more nurture emails.
Day 10: Free download of a second eBook with helpful tips.
Day 17: Second offer/discount/free trial of software.
Use offers to get the sale.
It’s really important when putting together your email campaigns to include an offer. If your offer retail items this is easy as offering a percent off discount, free shipping or buy-one-get-one-free type of deal.
If your product is more complex, like a small business-priced SaaS (software as a service) you’ll need to get more creative. You could also offer a percent off discount. However, it may be more compelling to simply offer a 30-day free trial.
If your product is very complex, like an enterprise-level SaaS that requires a personalized on-boarding service, you need to get more creative. Offering a free trial won’t make business sense for you since many people won’t go on after the free trial and you lose the time spent getting them set up.
Instead you’ll need to offer incentives for signing up. For example, free consultation, waived set-up fees, or whatever makes sense for your product.
Using these offers in emails will help you nurture your leads and get the sale. Be sure that your actual sales team is aware of all of your email offers so they are not confused if someone calls in with questions about the offers.
Increase your retention rate.
Email campaigns aren’t just for nurturing new leads and acquiring new customers. In fact, research from Forrester shows that emails are best used for retaining your customers and increasing their lifetime value.
This means, after someone makes a purchase with your company, you should continue sending them emails at specific times. Think of this as nurturing your customers vs. nurturing your leads.
Send them information about new products and/or let them test them first. This makes them feel special. Send them periodic discounts, coupons and special offers. Send them birthday and anniversary promotions. In short, don’t forget about your customers after the first sale. Stay in contact!
Email is great for nurturing leads and customers and sending special offers – but some emails shouldn’t be about making a sale. Sometimes you should send emails that are simply to say hi and humanize your brand.
In these emails you can share exciting company news like a new round of funding, a key hire, a link to a great blog post or something else that isn’t necessarily about getting a sale.
All of these things are indirectly related to getting a sale (they promote confidence and trust in your company), but there is no direct ask. No push to learn more or to buy. These emails should be sent infrequently – but should be scheduled in to your normal email cycle.
What other ways are you using email for your small business? Leave a comment below!
Importance of Email Marketing During the Holiday Season
Although consumers in general plan to spend less this holiday, online shopping is still growing. If you are running an e-commerce store, this is the busiest and most competitive time of the year so you should be more aggressive to increase your sales.
Although there are many Internet marketing strategies and tactics today, email marketing logos continues to be an effective and cost-efficient strong weapon of choice. According to Direct Marketing Association, “For every dollar spent on email marketing in 2007, marketers can expect an estimated $48.29 ROI. Without a doubt, email marketing achieves the greatest ROI of all marketing channels we look at.”
Another statistics from Shop.org shows that email delivers sales at an average cost per order of less than $7, compared to $71.89 for banner ads, $26.75 for paid search and $17.47 for affiliate programs.
Here are 2 clever ways to use email marketing this holiday season:
- Suggest a gift. Offer gift ideas and packages specific to a person like dad, mom, friend, lover, brothers or sisters. This will make shopping a lot easier for many of your customers.
- Offer Christmas deals. Most consumers are in the mood for shopping these days so why not offer a promo they simply can’t resist? This will encourage them to buy more in return for a small concession like incremental discounts (example: 10% for purchase above $100, 15% for above $200, etc.)
When it comes to online marketing, email is still widely considered the most effective channel (if used correctly). Social media and content marketing are big contenders but email marketing remains king. In fact, according to a Forrester report put out on September 24, 2012, email is the top factor in influencing repeat purchases.
While email is an important channel to include in your online marketing efforts, to really boost your overall campaign effectiveness, you should integrate your email campaigns with social media to help increase sales.
Why Email Alone Isn’t Enough
Think of it this way: you are very likely not sending an email every single day to each of your customers, leads and prospects; however, it is very likely that you do post a Facebook update or Twitter update at least once per day. Additionally, when you do send an email not every person who receives it will open it. However, on social media sites your daily messages simply show up without needing to be “opened.” By convincing your audience that they should be on both your email list and part of your social media community, you ensure a more consistent communication with them.
Of course there are a few caveats. First, your messages on social media sites and in your emails need to be different enough that there is value in engaging with both. Second, you must work hard at building up a highly engaged social media community otherwise your messages will be lost in the shuffle of hundreds of other updates.
In fact, Facebook has an algorithm that determines if your message will be shown to all of your Facebook page “likes” or not. Basically, if you post an update and it gets a lot of traction early on (meaning it starts getting likes, comments and shares quickly) it will shown to more people and you will get more leads from Facebook.
This is Facebook’s way of making sure only quality content gets shown to the majority of its users. If Facebook allowed spam or low quality messages into everyone’s Newsfeed people would stop using the site. With their algorithm, Facebook holds brands accountable for creating high quality content. If you don’t, you will be penalized by not having your content shown. It makes sense!
Similarly, on Twitter if you don’t create quality content your messages will be lost in the mix because your followers won’t add you to lists. A list is a group of Twitter accounts that a user wants to keep track of more easily.
For example, I might follow 15 clothing brands on Twitter but I am more likely to shop at one or two of them frequently, so I would create and add those couple of brands to a specific list. This way, I can quickly view messages from that list and see messages from companies I find most important.
If one of those companies was consistently spamming me with low quality messages or simply sending me the same messages I see in their emails, I would either unfollow them, unlist them or unsubscribe from their email list – all things you don’t want to happen.
This same tenant of needing to create high quality content to get your community to engage with you is true on any social network (Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, etc.).
A good rule of thumb is to never post something without first asking yourself, “Does this post provide value to my audience?” If the answer is “no” don’t post it. If the answer is “maybe, kind of, sort of…” don’t post it until you modify the message so that it clearly does add value.
The answer to this is very easy: provide them a value proposition and then ask them directly.
But, how do you ask? And when do you ask?
There are certain opportunities where the ask is easy. For example, when someone completes a purchase or submits a lead gen form on your site, place the call to action on your Thank You page.
For example, “Thank you for your purchase, we’ll be shipping it out right away. While you’re waiting, why not join us on Facebook for future discounts, coupons and exciting info?”
You could also add social media icons to your newsletter if you send one. Additionally, in your newsletter you could directly ask your readers to join you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. A strong call to action followed by a value proposition is always a good formula: Join us on Facebook for discounts, contests and other promotions!
Are You Ready?
Armed with all of this information, are you now ready to start integrating your email marketing campaigns with social media? I hope so! If you have any questions, leave a comment below and we’ll try to answer them all.