This is a guest post by Savannah Marie, a writer and online marketing enthusiast. She is the editor of her blog, Mixios, which focuses on online marketing, social media, and business. Enjoy the post, folks!
One of the most viable tools in the online marketing arsenal is sending offers, updates and promotions via Email. Social marketing and purchased ads, while broader in reach, don’t seek to address an audience nearly as directly as an email message. Of course to do it effectively is easier said than done. It can seem a lot like the virtual version of cold calling. So, here are our top 10 tips for marketing via email like a pro (in no particular order, of course.)
Pick a client that serves you best
Just like picking a personal email service, you want to choose an email marketing platform that you’re most comfortable with. Some cost money at certain thresholds, some are free. Some require web development knowledge, some are very user-friendly. A vast majority of larger companies use a service called Constant Contact, which costs money and is designed for huge lists. For the little guys, we recommend a service more like MailChimp. It is free of charge (up to a certain number of recipients) and offers templates, email list-building tools and analytics.
Build your list honestly
Once you have your email client, you need to start getting email addresses. Most clients have an option for embedding a submission field on your website or sending signup invite links. But, what’s more important is that you only collect addresses from people in an honest and transparent way. Don’t add personal email addresses you already have to your commercial list. This might get people to mark you as spam, or worse, complain directly to their email providers. Make sure you tell people exactly what they’re signing up for when you’re collecting their information.
Collect additional demographic information
Sure, you want to collect each recipients email address. But, when you’re setting up your process, it could be valuable to collect a little bit more information. For example you could grab their name so your emails can be personalized. Beyond that, collecting geographic information could help you to segment your list later and target specific promotions based on your customers’ location.
12 Palms Private Rehab Center uses their contact page to gain valuable demographic information. Not only do they ask for the basics like name, number, and email address, they also include a text box asking the visitor what additional information they can provide. By giving visitors an option to express exactly what they want from your site, you can offer them the best customer service experience possible.
Develop a plan
So you have your list, and you’re ready to start communicating with your customers. One of the biggest mistakes small business make is that they approach emails without a concrete plan—leading to sporadic messaging and untargeted techniques. Instead, ask yourself some questions before you start developing emails. Do you want to send out monthly newsletters about your latest promotions? Do you want to send daily product offerings? Or perhaps you want to send weekly coupons to stimulate sales. Whatever your plan, you just need to make sure you have one.
Templates and Design (Make it pretty and functional!)
Most email services provide templates to get you started on designing your email. This could be a several-column newsletter format, or a simple, blurb-style message. You can pick your color schemes, add your logos and paste in your text. It’s a good idea to set up a few personalized templates so that when you send subsequent messages of the same style, your audience doesn’t get confused by seeing a new look. Make it professional and eye-catching, and you’ll see better response.
Be smart with your subject lines
When asked to pick one end-all-be-all tip for email marketing, most professionals would probably put subject lines front and center. These are the frontlines of your messaging. If you can’t grab your reader at this point, they’ll never open the email. There’s no secret trick, but in general subject lines need to be clear, direct and, most of all, relevant to your audience and the topic of the email. Hint at what the user can expect without being too sales-y. Give them a reason to feel like they need to open that message.
Snippets are important too!
One of the most neglected parts of writing a solid marketing email is the snippet. For those less well-versed in this stuff, a snippet is the small bit of text that shows up as a preview for the email. When opened, it will appear as small text at the very top, just above any graphics. A lot of information can be placed here, but in general, you want to make sure you have your call to action (what you want each reader to do) in that sentence too. That way, if they don’t get down to the bulk of the email, you’ve at least given them the option to act at the very beginning.
Give the reader something to do
This brings us to a more central point of marketing communication in general: make sure all of your messaging has a clear purpose and call to action. If the email is meant to be strictly news-based, then indicate why the news is relevant to the recipient. If the email is asking readers to click through and redeem a coupon, tell them why that benefits them and give them a huge button that says “Redeem Now” or “Start Saving.”
Review and Reflect
After you’ve sent your campaigns out and you love how your email and your messaging looks, you need to see if it’s working. Much like with any marketing, take a look at the metrics. In email, there are two major factors: the open rate (how many recipients opened your email) and the click-through rate (how many recipients that, once inside the email, followed through with your requested action). If your numbers seem low, try new subject lines or try clearer CTAs. Trial and error is the name of the game, folks.
There are always rules
A closing tip is to make sure you understand the rules of email marketing and spam filters. First off, most email marketing clients require you to close your emails with a traditional postal address where recipients can contact you (it’s actually a law!) But beyond this, it’s also best to avoid words like “win” and “free” and “contest,” because they will often trigger email services to shuffle your messages to spam folders, and that’s not good for you or your customers.