Email marketing is a powerful tool for businesses, providing a high ROI if implemented properly. There are many reasons why it's worth investing the time and resources, but the most valuable reasons involve customer relationship management, lead nurturing, and growing your network of contacts. In this article, we’ll cover:
- Finding an email management platform
- The importance of segmenting your email audience
- Building a permission-based list; avoiding spam
- Creating an email signup form
- Identifying different email types for your campaigns
- The best date and time to deliver your email
- Measuring the ongoing effectiveness of your campaign with specific metrics
If you’re still not sure why email marketing is necessary, read our previous blog – Why Set Up an Email Campaign?
Step 1: The Basics: Find a good email management platform.
Find an email management tool such as Aweber or MailChimp that is specifically designed to host and customize email campaigns. It would be beneficial to have an idea of how many subscribers you expect to initially reach, because the number of contacts on your list may determine how much you pay per month. For a small business, spending an average of $20 - $40 per month is definitely worth the investment. If you’re concerned about spending a little extra money, consider the average U.S. business email marketing ROI is $40.56 per $1 spent.
Step 2: Segment your emailing lists according to the audience you want to reach.
One of the greatest functions in email marketing is the ability to separate your prospects from your customers. You can’t put everyone into one big list and expect to stay interesting or relevant. Consider creating a “top customer” list, in which you offer exclusive promotions, or send personalized “thank you” messages.
Take advantage of the automation features in your email management platform, and let it do all the work. You can easily automate lists so individuals are moved from one list into another. For example, an online purchase of any kind could trigger an individual to be moved from the prospect list into the customer list. Don’t be afraid to have several different lists in order to properly segment your email audiences.
Step 3: Begin building a permission-based list. Don’t become a spammer.
There are two basic types of emails used by email marketers: spam and permission-based. When you set up your email marketing campaign, always create an opt-in and opt-out program. An opt-in lead is anyone that expresses interest in joining your mailing list. It is very important that you confirm this lead by automatically responding to their subscription request with a confirmation email. Unless the lead takes the action requested in the confirmation email, you should NOT send any messages to them. Otherwise, you risk being perceived as a spammer and can ruin your business’ credibility.
Step 4: Create an email signup form on your website or a separate landing page.
You'll need to create an opportunity for people to sign up for your email campaign. Create a simple, single-page website (landing page) where you direct people to sign up for your email list. This can either be hosted on your company site, or have its own domain name. This page gives people the opportunity to submit their name and email address so you can collect them as a lead. Once this signup page is created, you can begin using inbound marketing tactics to direct traffic to this page. When someone subscribes, you will be able to segment them in your contact list and begin growing a relationship through your emails. Here are a few tips on creating content for an effective email signup page:
- Design the page for people with short attention spans; keep it short and simple.
- Clearly explain benefits and advantages of signing up. What will the subscriber get out of it?
- Never include links or any navigation that distracts people away from the "subscribe" or "signup" button.
- Know who you're talking to. Use language and a design that is relevant to the email audience you're trying to reach
Some email management platforms like Aweber or MailChimp will give you email signup forms to choose from, which can then be embedded into your website or landing page.
Step 5: Identify different email types for your campaigns, know their purpose, and set goals.
It’s important to stay consistent with your email content throughout a campaign, while setting specific goals on what you want to achieve. Here are the most common email types, including the pros and cons for each:
- Dedicated Email – Contains info on a specific offer, event, etc.
- Pros: Focuses on a specific call-to-action in the email, easy to create and measure
- Cons: Homogenous content, can be less consistent in keeping the reader’s interest
- Lead Nurturing – Effective in reaching out to new leads, but shouldn’t be used over extensive periods of time with the same contacts
- Pros: Very timely and repeated campaign, easily automated
- Cons: Usually a slower conversion over long periods of time, inconsistent tracking.
- Sponsorship Emails – Paying a vendor to send email ads on your behalf
- Pros: Can be highly targeted based on the vendor
- Cons: Might be costly; needing to trust the vendor
- Transaction Emails – Basically a confirmation or “thank you” email. Can be easily automated after signing up for your email campaign or purchasing a product
- Newsletter – Highlights interesting content while helping subscribers scan over quick information
- Pros: Good for prospects and customers, brand awareness, re-purposing content, using diverse content
- Cons: Diluted call to action; may need a higher emphasis on email template design
Step 6: When it's time to deliver, the timing must be right.
When you've finished creating the content for your email and you're ready to send it, remember that timing is crucial. Try experimenting with different delivery times for each segment in your contact list, and continually analyze the results to improve the reach of your campaign. The company GetResponse released an infographic in 2013 after extensive research on the best dates and times for email delivery. You can review the infographic and results at the following link:
Step 7: Most importantly, measure the results.
The most important thing about running a successful email marketing campaign is to track and measure the results. Here are some key performance metrics you should look for to optimize your ongoing campaign:
- Bounce Rate: This is the percentage of total emails that were not delivered to the recipient's inbox. There are 2 types of "bounces": hard and soft. A soft bounce is usually due to a lack of email storage space or problems with the recipient's server. A hard bounce is often due to an invalid email address, and will most likely never be delivered. Remove hard bounces from your contact list to avoid looking like a spammer to the internet service provider.
- Delivery Rate: These are the emails that were actually delivered to the recipient's inbox. Try aiming for a delivery rate of 95% or higher, and if it is slipping over time, check for invalid email addresses.
- List Growth Rate: This will be a good indication of the current health of your email campaign. You can calculate growth rate by subtracting opt-outs and hard bounces from new email subscribers within a month. Then, divide this number by the original list size.
- Click-Through Rate (CTR): The number of people that clicked one or more links within an email message. This is a good indicator of how relevant your email content is for the recipients, and can vary greatly depending on the type of email being sent. For example, newsletters often have higher CTRs than promotional messages or business updates.
- Email Sharing: This is the percentage of recipients that shared your content with a friend. You can measure it by embedding a "share this" button, or something similar in your message and track the results.
- Conversion Rate: This is the percentage of people that clicked on a link or took a specific desired action. Conversions are the greatest measurement because it tells you how relevant and motivating your content is. You will most likely have to integrate between your email platform and your web analytics to track conversions when directing people to a specific URL.
- Unreliable Email Metrics: The open rate can be misleading because people may open your emails but never see all of the content due to image-blocking being enabled. The unsubscribed rate is unreliable because many subscribers to your email won't take time to unsubscribe from receiving messages.
When you launch your email marketing campaign, don't expect it to be perfect right away. As you segment your audience, develop relevant content, and measure the results, you will begin to see the great benefits that a successful email campaign can offer.
Here are some additional email marketing tips and research to help increase your email ROI.
- Know whether you want to boost clicks on content inside the email (response), or simply get email opens (awareness). When creating a subject line for an email, longer subject lines tend to have a higher click through rates; shorter subjects tend to get more email opens.
- Mobile opens accounts for 47 percent of all opened emails…try making email templates mobile friendly.
- According to a study by SocialTwist. they monitored 119 referral campaigns from leading brands and companies over an 18-month period. The results showed a significant advantage to email’s ability to convert new customers compared to Facebook and Twitter.
- The first 90 days is the prime window in developing loyalty with new subscribers.
Cockrum, Jim. (2011). Free Marketing- 101 Low and No Cost Ways to Grow Your Business Online, John Wiley & Sons. New Jersey.