Channels like email marketing can be used for a variety of reasons, including the targeted broadcast of a newsletter to keep your customers informed about how they can overcome, for example, their particular challenges and issues. They can be used as part of customer loyalty, promotional and sales campaigns too.
Startups spoke to a panel of owner-managers and entrepreneurs to find out more about how to achieve email marketing success. They provided the following tips:
1. Think about what you want to achieve
Think about your goals and objectives for the campaign before you embark on it. Martin Gibbons, CEO of Peoplemaps, says he uses email marketing both to inform and sell: “By far the largest contributor to my sales is email marketing, and I run sophisticated and simple email marketing campaigns. During some months I send out as many as 4 million emails.”
Prestige Golf Signs’ director Kris Lea uses email marketing to attract golf course tee sign sponsors from local businesses, and it is utilised as a customer retention tool. “Using a dotMailer email marketing solution we communicate with our 40 golf course partners to inform them of developments our end; and to send out discounts off golfing accessories”, he explains.
2. Build your email marketing contact list
There are two ways to build up a list of customers and prospects: the first is organic and involves capturing prospect and customer details as and when they make an enquiry or transaction in a customer relationship management (CRM) database. The second involves buying the data from a reputable list broker like Corpdata and Mardev.
Choose your data provider carefully to buy a quality contact list. So don’t just think just about traffic, but how you are going to build your email marketing list, and how you are going to derive a return on investment from it.
Jason Harris, sales and marketing manager of Thames Print Room, says he has elected to update his own database, and he asks customers to fill in their details when they place orders. He also bought a list of local businesses. Do remember that it’s the relationship with your customers, prospects and partners that really matters most.
“Don’t ask for something until you have offered something in return”, warns Martin Gibbons. So don’t expect your customers and prospects to give you permission to contact them if you don’t give them a reason for allowing you to collate, store and use their personal contact data.
3. Make your subject lines engaging
Subject lines can make the difference between whether an email is classed as spam or something worth opening to read. There is no hard and fast rule, but you need to make sure that subject lines are contextual and demonstrate a level of targeting, personalisation and relevancy to each individual within a particular customer segment.
Test out a few subject lines on a small audience within each target segment, and then use the subject lines that work best for each type of customer. Use any customer insight that you have to find out what kinds of offers and communications each customer or customer segment is interested in hearing from you about.
4. Don’t use ‘noreply@’ email addresses
By using a ‘noreply’ email address you lose the opportunity to communicate with your customers. It also gives the impression that you don’t wish to talk about them or hear
If they have something to say to you, but can’t other than by searching for another means of contact with you, then they might find the whole experience annoying and at worst they would forget about you. So create an opportunity in your email marketing strategy for them to engage with you.
5. Avoid recipients’ junk mail folder
“You can’t guarantee that your emails won’t fall into people’s junk mail folder because you are at the mercy of the recipient’s ISP”, says Kris Lea. Spam is also very much
defined by the person receiving your email marketing communications, and it can damage your relationships with your suppliers, partners and customers. So it’s best to avoid doing it.
If your email communications are perceived as spam, you will find that 50% of your recipients won’t have received them. The trouble is that spam-like words like pills or sex can be quite innocent and legitimate. Thankfully, some email marketing solutions offer a spam-scoring tool to help you to avoid falling into this trap.
You can also ask customers and prospects to add you to their ‘safe senders’ list. This will allow your communications to go straight to their email inboxes.
6. Determine the ideal newsletter length and frequency
Gibbons advises that carrying out a customer survey is a good idea when trying to determine the length and the most appropriate broadcast timing of an email marketing newsletter. So ask your target audience when they would prefer to receive it.
Certain days and times of day might also help to optimise your open and click-through rates. Catch them at a time that is convenient to them. Send out a sales offer at the
right time and your emails will attract a higher open and click-through rate, leading potentially to an increase in sales.
Sending it out at the wrong moment could lead to the reverse, and you could end up being accused of sending out spam.
7. Content: understand what works best
By undertaking research and asking your customers and prospects some short questions every time they contact you, and by testing out your email marketing communications, you can find out what works best and what doesn’t work at all. It’s important to avoid sending your target audience irrelevant offers and information.
Inspire them by providing them with a reason to act – otherwise known as a ‘call to action’. By personalising your subject lines and email marketing content, email marketing solutions provider Eloqua says it’s possible to achieve average open rates of between 20-40%. So it’s worth thinking about how you are going to achieve this aim.
Kris Lea emphasises that email marketing is not about trying to sell customers and prospects the “whole thing through an email”. That’s the job of a salesperson. So he thinks that length does matter.
“If you make them too long, people say that they haven’t got time to read them, and we try to keep our creative content above the fold, so that the recipients can immediately see three or four links”, he adds. The links like these ones should take them to a campaign portal or your main website by mentioning items that are likely to be of interest to each individual or customer segment within your target audience.
8. Comply with Data Protection legislation
Compliance to the Data Protection Act is also crucial – opt in your prospects and customers to any communications you send out – even if you have purchased a pre-approved email marketing contact list. Do this by sending out an email, requesting permission to communicate with them through their preferred channels.
Provide them with a reason and an incentive to receive email communications from you and one for sharing their contact data too. Also, give them an opportunity to opt out and unsubscribe from your customer databases.
However, it’s still legitimate to ask someone why they wish to opt out. You might be able to resolve any issues or concerns that are affecting your relationship with a particular customer or prospect. You could either gain a sale or create an opportunity to make a customer more loyal to your brand.
Yet let go of those that are determined to communicate with you. They are not required by law to communicate with you, and any refusal to comply could lead to a complaint to the Information Commissioner being made against you by that person, and at worst you could end up in court. It’s just not worth it. So don’t spam anyone!
9. Choose the right email marketing platform
There are a number of email marketing platforms out there. The cloud offers you the opportunity to trial ones offered by companies like Eloqua and dotMailer for 30 days. It works as a pay-as-you go payment model, so there are no long-term licence costs and agreements. You use their platforms as and when you want to.
Try to find an email marketing platform that enables you to track customer behaviour, measure, analyse and manage your campaigns. For example, a certain topic within your email newsletter might be more of interest to your audience than others, or a certain promotion might prove to be more popular than another. So focus on what works and adjust your campaigns accordingly.
10. Adopt a multi-channel approach
Email marketing shouldn’t be seen in isolation. Thanks to cloud computing technologies, which allow you to access a plethora of marketing applications from the web, even small and medium-sized business can access a wide range of enterprise-level tools to permit a multi-channel and campaign management approach to your marketing campaigns.
For example, you could also use social media to enhance your campaign by including a link to Linkedin, Facebook or another social network – depending on your target audience. Social media can be used as a means of extending your conversations with your customers.
Like with email marketing social media networks can help you to make them more aware of your brand, allowing you to interact with customers, partners and prospects. Moreover, by following these top tips, included within a multi-channel approach, your email marketing campaigns, can potentially bring you much success.