An Introduction to Email Marketing

Posted in: Marketing, Work on November 30th, 2010

In this digital world of daily Viagra deals, Nigerian bank scams and Farmville updates, many businesses find it difficult to engage customers with legitimate email marketing. Email marketing however, can be a very useful tool provided you take the time to build relationships with your subscribers and avoid becoming a spammer.

Although many of us send a range of marketing and sales emails to customers, effective email marketing gives customers what they want, provides direction and is eventually analysed for success. This process can be simplified by using email marketing services and by taking your time to build a clean list and analyse your customer’s needs.

Building Your Email Marketing List

The most important part of growing your list is obtaining permission to send marketing and promotional emails. This means having a signup check box on your online forms, sending a personalised courtesy message  or simply asking people face to face. A sure-fire way to find yourself in spam hell (and likely banned from email marketing services) is to add every email address you have to your list and start shotgunning out messages willy-nilly.

Ideally you would segregate your list by demographic, customer type and how they joined your list. This helps you effectively target your campaigns, rather than sending general sales emails to everyone. If someone receives email they don’t expect or didn’t sign up for they will at best ignore it, and at worst, report it as spam.

Choosing an Email Marketing Service

Online email marketing services provide tracking, analytics and simplify the creation of rich html emails. Many businesses choose Mailchimp’s free plan because of the clear analytics, social media integration and ease of use. If you are looking for high volume plans or advanced tools you can try the paid plans offered by MailchimpiContactConstant Contact or Aweber.

Whichever plan you choose, ensure that it offers open tracking, click tracking, bounce tracking, what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) email editor and reliable support. Other handy tools include social media integration, Google Analytics integration, embeddable web-forms, support forums, training materials and the ability to group subscribers within a list.

Creating Your Email Masterpiece

The most important part of email marketing is building a relationship with your readers and this means giving them what they want! This is where the segregated list comes in handy. Maybe you have a group of Facebook signups? They would be quite likely to engage with Facebook promotions. Or maybe one of your groups  is labelled as “expired product subscribers”, making them the ideal target for subscription renewal specials.

You should also include clear calls to action to encourage your readers to follow a pre-determined path, leading to a conversion of some kind. A conversion could be anything you determine such as an online sale, completion of a form or a visit to a page on your website.

Don’t be a Spammer

Sending unsolicited email is called Spam and is illegal in many countries. To decrease the likelihood of emails going to the spam box, don’t send email from your Gmail or Yahoomail account and try to avoid common spam triggers such as multiple exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!!!!, OVERUSE OF CAPITALS, words like “Free”, “Congratulations” and “Buy Now” in your subject lines and multiple images or attachments.

Email Campaign Analysis

Although often forgotten, thorough analysis of your email campaigns is essential for optimising future campaigns and this is where choosing an email marketing service with extensive metrics is a plus. At a minimum you should check open rates, click-through rates and bounce rates. If you want to take your analysis to the next level, you can append Google Analytics tracking codes to your links to get full goal and conversion tracking and run A/B tests where you test two similar email campaigns against each other.

And don’t be disappointed when only 22.8% of your list open your wonderfully crafted, Shakespearesque email masterpiece. The industry standard for open rates is 20-30% so just be grateful for anything over 20%. If you are regularly getting open rates of less than 20% then you need to rethink your target market and goals.

Used wisely, email marketing is a great tool for promoting your business, however sending spam is a great way to lose clients and credibility. Build your list ethically, plan your campaigns and most importantly give your customers what they want.

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