A Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing

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What is Email Marketing?

Email marketing or “E-Marketing” is a style of direct marketing that uses email to communicate a message to an audience. Email marketing can be described as anything from sending emails to enhance existing relationships between merchants and their current or previous customers, to encouraging customer loyalty, or to generate repeat business. Email marketing is also used with the purpose of customer acquisition or to convince current customers to make an immediate purchase.

Digital marketing has changed essentially every facet of the purchase path for today’s consumers. We use digital tools every day for anything from researching a product before buying, reading/posting reviews on products or services, to following your favorite brand(s) on social media. When it comes to communicating to your customers, the message has always been the same. The only thing that differentiates it is how you communicate to your customers.

Why is Email Marketing Important?

Email Marketing has several advantages over traditional mail marketing, making it an extremely powerful marketing tactic all business owners should capitalize on. Here are a few key advantages:

  • Email marketing technology is used by 82% of B2B and B2C companies (Ascend2)
  • Email marketing can allow businesses to reach out to their customer base with relevant, personalized messages
  • Email marketing is cheap in comparison to direct mail marketing and other channels of advertising. Whether your email marketing campaigns target hundreds, or even thousands of consumers, it is going to cost you a fraction of the price.

What disadvantages are there to email marketing, you may ask? There’s always the rejection and/or spam rate of your emails by a consumer’s email program, which negatively affects the delivery rate of emails. This concern has been predominantly wiped out with the idea of “Opt-In” and “Opt-Out” / “Unsubscribe” emailing, where a customer consents to receiving your emails or chooses to no longer receive your emails. With Opt-in emailing, the idea of unsolicited emails is, ideally, eliminated.

ROI of Email Marketing

Email Marketing has one of the highest Return on Investment out of all online channels and it is frequently reported to be the most effective form of online marketing, aside from search marketing. In the ever popular and increasingly expensive online advertising space, email marketing remains the leader of cost effective marketing. Paired with today’s available analytics, an exact ROI can be tracked and has also been proven to be high when done properly.

For the last ten years, email marketing has consistently prevailed and outlasted other marketing categories generating the highest ROI. For every $1 invested, email marketing generates $38 in ROI, making it the best online marketing option for business growth. (VentureBeat)

What is ROI?

Return on Investment is a performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare a number of investments’ efficiencies. When done properly, ROI will measure the amount of return (or profit gained) on a specific investment in relation to the investment’s overall cost. The ROI is an extremely popular metric due to its simplicitiy and versatility.

How to calculate ROI

To calculate ROI, the return (or profit gained) of an investment is divided by the cost of the investment and the end result is expressed as either a percentage or a ratio.

Before you bring in the analysts, you will first want to set goals and designate objectives. What “gain” is most important to you or your company at the time of your email campaign? Whether you’re focused on ensuring people hear about your company, increasing conversations with your customer or simply making the sale; deciding your goals is key to successfully calculating and tracking your ROI.

If you need some help calculating your ROI, check out this ROI Calculator from Email Marketing ROI. This tool allows you to freely enter and adjust different factors that affect your overall ROI. Tools like ROI Calculator are great for those who prefer a simple financial calculator to do all the work.

Reasons to Use Email Marketing

Still looking for ways to use Email Marketing? Or maybe you’re unsure if the content you want to share with your audience is fit for an email campaign. Below are several reasons to take advantage of Email Marketing when communicating to your customer base:

  • Sharing company related information (updates, major changes in staff, etc.)
  • New products / product releases
  • New services or changes in existing services
  • Promoting sales or other targeted offers
  • Loyalty benefits (rewards, anniversaries, program updates/changes and/or exclusive promotions)
  • Related industry news
  • Upcoming events (meet and greet, webinars, etc.)
  • Engagement (asking for feedback or sending out a survey)

Types of Email Campaigns

Depending on the content you intend to share, there are several different types of email campaigns to choose from. Four of the most common types of email campaigns include newsletters, promotions, invitations, and announcements.  Below you will learn what they are and get a good idea of when to send them.

Newsletter

What is it? An email newsletter provides useful information and content to your audience. It can be tempting to fill a newsletter with promotions about your products, but you are likely to turn off your subscribers. Email newsletters are your chance to present yourself as an expert in your field. It is not about what you sell; it is about the expertise you can share, so you can build trust towards making a purchase later or increasing customer loyalty. Your newsletter should provide content that can better the people or businesses you serve. Promotions can be included, but any promotional content should be unobtrusive, and the secondary focus of your newsletter.

When should I send it? Most companies today send an email newsletter once a month. Many companies have also been known to send weekly newsletters and then some who send quarterly newsletters. You should first determine what is manageable for your team and second, consider how often your audience wants to hear from you. If you don’t have new information to share on a weekly or monthly basis, consider a quarterly newsletter. It is important to not overwhelm your audience with emails just for the sake of sending emails. Your campaign should be concise and well planned according to your business needs.

Promotions

What is it: Email promotions are targeted emails that highlight a specific product, sale or savings voucher. The goal of email promotions is to generate a sale, increase overall sales, purge older products and to also maintain brand awareness. Many email promotions come across as blatant advertisements. The most successful promotional emails will provide valuable content such as product reviews/in depth information, customer experiences, problem/solution scenarios with one of your products as the solution or free samples or gifts. This content will add value to your customer, making your promotional content more enticing.

When should I send it: Promotional emails can be sent at any time, but best practice would be to strategically place promotions on your marketing calendar throughout the year to spread out your marketing opportunities. Companies have been known to have promotional heavy sales towards the end of a fiscal quarter, end of year or holiday to meet profit goals. When generating your promotional emails, develop campaigns of multiple emails instead of a single email. As your inbox likely proves, promotional emails are sent more frequently around major holidays. Think about sending promotions around more obscure holidays to stand out from the crowd.

Invitation

What is it: Email is an excellent medium to extend an invitation to an event, webinar, group, etc. When an email invitation is opened and accepted, the event is either automatically added to their calendar, or the invitee is likely within a few mouse clicks, to add it totheir calendar. This allows them to quickly respond, RSVP and add the reminder to their calendar. Email invitations make it easy to collect responses and see who within your audience, who is truly interested in the information you’re providing.

When should I send it: As you are planning events throughout the year, include sending email invitations on the to-do list. For a conference, convention or larger event, you will likely want to start your email communication 4-6 months in advance. For smaller events such as open houses, workshops or seminars, 4-6 weeks out is generally the right amount of time to start inviting. Doing this will allow yourself to develop and plan and will also allow your audience to fit the event into their schedule. If you are hosting events online such as webinars or chats, 1-4 weeks in advance is generally ample time to collect a sufficient group of attendees.

Announcement

What is it: Email announcements are most commonly used to keep your contacts informed of what is going on in your business or in the world that directly affects your contacts. For example, if you hire a new staff member, send an email to announce the hire to your contacts with a brief bio about the person and their contact information. For businesses in specific industries such as travel or finance, send an announcement when weather may affect travel or when stocks jump. Announcements keep your business in front of your customers and instill confidence in your brand and expertise.

When should I send it: Announcements are the one type of email that you can’t usually plan for. Consider having a few templates designed and ready for when an announcement needs to be sent. Having a template at the ready prevents you from scrambling to write content and design a template. As an expert in your field, it is important to discern when sending an announcement will boost confidence or cause unnecessary worry.

Consider creating several templates that match your brand so you are ready when it is time to hit send. By carefully planning your email marketing in tandem with your overarching marketing strategy, you will strengthen your marketing efforts exponentially!

Email Tips

Whether you’re a large corporation or a small business owner, here are some tips to keep in mind when using email marketing.

Emails should fit your Brand. Using templates is a great way to customize your communications to match your brand’s overall look and feel. You can do this by including your company colors in a creative way and by clearly and strategically displaying your company logo. You will want your emails to be consistent with your company’s content so that your subscribers feel familiar from the start. This will inadvertently increase overall Brand Awareness and lead to Brand loyalty.

Subscribe & Unsubscribe. You can post a signup form on your social media channels, blogs or where ever else your customers or fans are already active. However you go about obtaining your customer data, you should make it easy for existing and potential customers to subscribe to your emails and likewise, they should have an easy option to unsubscribe from your communications.

Send Welcome emails. This is controversial depending on who you ask, but more and more businesses are sending Welcome emails (either one email or a series of “welcome” emails) to remind people that they’re on your list. You can personalize your emails to new subscribers to make it feel “special” and excite them for future communications or even send an exclusive offer as your way of thanking them for their patronage.

Your audience should be able to scan your emails. Today, everyone is busy and everyone gets an extensive amount of emails on a daily basis. Let’s assume your readers are interested in reading your email, but you don’t quite have their undivided attention. Break long groups of text up into short paragraphs. Bold important content you want to be sure is seen and take advantage of subheadings and pictures to help guide your readers through your email and make it easy to scan. Add teasers at the top of your emails or newsletter to entice them to keep scrolling or engage with hyperlinks. If you can’t break up large bodies of content, think about using “Read More” links so your customers can get to the article when it is convenient for them.

Test and Learn. Try testing the effectiveness of subject lines and email headers to see which one gets more opens, CTR (Click-through rate) or generates more sales or website traffic. By taking the time to research what preforms best, you will ensure that you’re delivering the content your customers want. You can also send test emails to colleagues to make sure you email content is without design mistakes, looks good and displays on different screens (computers, phones, tablets).

Always think Mobile. If your email doesn’t show on mobile devices, it will not perform to your expectations. Everything you send out should be mobile friendly, so look into using a responsive template. If you think back to making your emails “scannable,” you’ll remember how busy your subscribers are (just like you!) and they are more likely to check their emails on their phone. Sending out an email that will only display on a computer will only lower you open rate and CTR. So it’s important to make sure your emails are mobile friendly.

Avoid Spam. It is easy to send spam if you don’t know any better. You can read up on the CAN-SPAM act to avoid any unnecessary trouble. To summarize, you can send bulk email only to people who specifically asked to be on your mailing list. If you collected email addresses for a luncheon, a giveaway or any kind of event invitation, then you cannot send marketing emails unless that was made clear during those signups. The majority of online retailers have put in their terms and conditions that simply making a purchase on their website gives your consent for them to send you marketing emails. It is not a bad idea to remind your customers/subscribers how they got on your list in the first place.

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