Email marketing is a key communications tool in the marketing mix for small and medium sized enterprises. If you get it right, it is cost effective, targeted, personalised, measurable and good for attracting and retaining customers. In the 2008 Email Census, email was rated the second-best channel (after search engine optimisation) for return on investment.
Your emails should be helping to build a trusted relationship, establishing your expertise and ultimately increasing repeat and new sales. The most successful emails combine valued content with short sales and marketing messages that have links to specific ‘landing’ pages on your website for more information. Regular contact with customers will ensure that they learn about your offering ready for future purchases. However, if you get email marketing wrong it can be an enormous waste of time, damage relationships and restrict the future use of this ideal marketing channel.
So how do you get your email marketing right?
Before any emails can be sent you need a database and to have an ongoing data collection activity. You should segment your database so that you can target emails to the appropriate recipients. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) reports that most companies segment into 2 or 3 separate lists.
Start with your existing customer base and collect more new contacts through your website, all marketing forms and via sales staff at every possible opportunity.
Keep the data you collect to a minimum at first – too many questions will put people off. Start with first name, last name, company name and email address. If appropriate, add male or female tick boxes and options to specify areas of interest and options for frequency of emails. Roadrunner email
Ideally you should offer something in return for their email address and say what they are signing up to. For example, you can offer a useful article or a voucher and state that they will receive a newsletter every month or be the first to hear about special offers about their preferred product.
Direct email marketing is best suited for communicating to people you have had some contact with, rather than cold prospects. However, to reach prospects, it is a good idea to investigate how you can tie in with emails from another trusted partner or supplier.
It is essential to clean your database regularly. After each email campaign you must remove all those who have unsubscribed and look at how the responses to the email may allow you to further segment your list. For example, all those that clicked on a particular link can be grouped for future specific email content.
If you have undelivered emails, make a phone call. Find out what the new person’s email address is and find out where the previous person has gone so that you can get back in touch. Every name is valuable, particularly in Business to Business (B2B) markets, where there may be a limited number of potential customers. You could have a message in your email asking recipients to let you know if they want to change the email address that is used to receive this newsletter to try and avoid losing people.
Have a plan for your email marketing.
• What are your objectives? These could range from repeat sales and up selling/cross selling to recommendations for new sales and new customer acquisition.
• What type of messages will you send? Email content can include some or all of the following: valuable useful content (how to guides), sales messages, surveys, invites to events, newsflashes.
• How often? Once or twice a month is common, once a quarter will not be enough to achieve the goal of building a relationship and keeping your brand in the reader’s mind. How often will you have something valuable to say? Frequency can be adapted based upon buying habits, seasonality and on the responses received and customer segments’ preferences. Remember to act promptly after first receiving a contact’s details. If you do not communicate with them for several months after they sign up they may not open your email, unsubscribe or worse report you as spam.
• What time? The only way to make this a more exact science is to analyse the responses you get and test different scenarios, as well as applying your understanding of peak sales times and your customers’ buying cycles? For desk based people, it is likely that they will have more uninterrupted time to review emails first thing in the morning.
• What application will you use? The most common solution is to have web-based email application interface, provided by an email service provider, that allows you to manage all your email marketing in-house. The alternatives are a fully managed external service or an off the shelf package. There are a variety of web-based applications that are very affordable for small to medium sized businesses. Some providers will also create a newsletter template based on your corporate branding ready for you to use. The smaller systems often stand alone and allow you to upload all your existing contacts to the application and add in new ones and create your own data fields for segmentation and personalisation. Other email applications will enable the data from web forms to directly feed into the email contact database and integrate directly with CRM systems.