As the owner of a small business you are almost always thinking of how best to grow it. Numerous times you’ve heard about how massive social media is and that businesses must take advantage of the potential.
Email marketing vs. Social media. What works better?
Sure, email marketing is by no means trendier but its way more effective.
- Firstly, email has greater reach; there are three times more email accounts than there are for Twitter and Facebook combined. Daily email traffic dwarfs every web search made on every search engine.
- Second, while Facebook and Twitter are sociable, email is personal and has a professional/business perspective to it. This is the place to develop business relationships.
- Third, email is more attention-grabbing compared to a tweet or post that may go unnoticed. Before someone opts to delete an email message, he or she must see who the sender is and what the subject is; you can work this to your advantage.
- Finally, email gets recipients into transaction-mode much better than social media can ever hope to. This is where to make sales and find more customers willing to pay you.
Convinced? Welcome aboard.
With these 7 steps you’ll effectively kick-start your business’ email marketing campaign.
1. Identify the objectives of your email marketing campaign
In marketing your business you are basically thinking of how you can make more money within a short period of time. It’s therefore fair to have revenue and time as your primary objectives.
With regards to revenue (sales and your bottom line) do you wish to: Increase sales? Increase repeat business? Make the sales cycle shorter? Reduce the cost of doing business?
With regards to time, you can actually use email marketing to automate vital aspects of business e.g. handling various customer interactions, handling administrative obligations, etc. ‘Delegating’ tasks in this way will spare you more time to run your business more efficiently.
2. Craft themes from these objectives
With your objective(s) identified you need to figure out a theme(s) that will motivate your audience to take actions that will lead to the accomplishment of the objective(s).
- A promotional theme will be effective when you need the audience to buy products/services or to take specific actions. Such an email may contain product/service descriptions, coupons, links to more information about a call to action, and steps on how to take the action.
- An informational theme will help you to share information with the audience. News articles, event calendars, FAQs and announcements are shared in this manner.
- A procedural theme is used to communicate official information, clarify processes, and issue notifications. Such emails are used to welcome new members/subscribers, announce official statements, explain company policies, etc.
- A relational theme is used to foster personal relationships with the audience. Typically one-way in nature, such emails include season’s greetings and customer recognition messages.
Depending on your objectives you may sometimes find it appropriate to send multi-theme emails. In such cases ensure that the main objective is stated first and then use appropriate headings to creatively introduce the sub-themes.
3. Structure your marketing emails
What does a marketing email look like?
- The first part is the envelope i.e. what the recipients will see as they scroll up and down the inbox. Included here are the from-name, from-address and subject line. It is imperative that the subject line be most enticing thus prompting the recipient to open the email but not dismiss and/or delete it. Your email’s first text, i.e. the preheader, may be displayed after the subject line and you must therefore ensure that this stimulates the recipient’s curiosity even further.
- Upon opening the email the reader will first see its top part i.e. the header. Your logo and business color scheme should be instantly recognizable. Next, use an index in case the message is a long one e.g. a newsletter. This will help the reader to quickly get to points of interest as well as get an overview of the entire message.
- The message’s body is where you want readers to concentrate most such that they will head straight for the offer (in case of a sales email) or desired action (say completing a survey, questionnaire, etc). Find creative ways of making the offer enticing e.g. discounts and deals. Images usually accompany offers in order to visually stimulate readers.
- Next is the call to action where the reader is prompted to take the desired action. Links/buttons with simple messages like ‘buy now’ and ‘click here’ are typically used but sometimes you may need to provide more details.
- At the bottom of the message is the footer which typically contains a disclaimer and unsubscribe link. Below this you provide links to your social media pages typically in the form of icons or buttons.
4. How to make your subject lines more effective
First, ensure that the message doesn’t sound like spam. Excessive punctuation marks and dollar signs, using all caps, overly incredible claims, grammatical errors, and so on, will swiftly condemn your email to the trash bin.
Start your lines with words familiar and recognizable to the recipients and try to keep the lines just long enough; fifty characters (spaces and punctuation included) is a good compromise.
A good guide to compelling subject lines is to ensure that they merge the five elements of importance, intrigue (sparking curiosity), interest (appealing topics), involvement (appeal to the emotions) and investment (personal or financial).
To spark these five elements your subject lines can be based on news (interesting happenings readers will want to find out about), tips, offers, and questions (which readers will answer ‘yes’ to) or mystery/puzzle-like propositions that will compel them to find out more.
Mix and match these approaches to create the most appeal for the readers.
5. Choose appropriate times to send emails
Ensuring that you inbox the recipients at suitable times also vastly furthers the likelihood that your emails will be read and acted upon. Identify the times of the day when your audience is most likely going through their inboxes and send your email then.
Generally you can expect good results between 8 a.m. – 10 a.m., 3 p.m. – 4 p.m., and after 8 p.m.
Tuesday and Wednesday have been identified as the best days to send marketing emails; on Mondays many people are still nursing the effects of a hectic weekend and on Thursdays and Fridays they are busy planning for the upcoming one. Surprisingly, Saturday has the highest email open rate.
6. Hire an email marketing service
With the help of an email marketing service the task of dispatching mail to everyone in your audience becomes so much simpler. The market is awash with providers of this service which makes choosing one quite a challenge. As a beginner, though, all you want is a basic service.
To choose which provider to go with you should first consider the following:
- Budget. The price you’ll pay is primarily determined by the number of contacts you will upload and the price of the platform (the features offered). Based on these criteria you can begin with a free service or one that charges several hundred dollars monthly.
- Integration. Consider the technologies your business employs, mostly in relation to sales and marketing (e.g. social media and your website). The service you choose will work more effectively if its technologies can integrate with what your business uses.
- Complexity. What is your audience’s composition? If it comprises of less than 10K people and they are all homogenous (e.g. same preferences, job descriptions, etc) then a basic service should suffice. You may need to think about introducing marketing automation software once the list grows much bigger and the audience’s description becomes more varied.
- Performance monitoring. This concerns the data and insights you wish to monitor so as to gauge the effectiveness of your marketing campaign. With a basic service you will be notified of open, click through and bounce rates, and the number of unsubscribed members. Such data will be instrumental in helping you to identify what aspects of your campaign must be improved on as well as to better understand your audience. Marketing automation software will analyze much more of your campaign’s data and in a deeper way.
7. Keep your game up
Learning from the competition is a good idea.
Begin by signing up for emails and once you get a good enough variety proceed to make a thorough comparison of specific pointers. Find out what type/s of mail they are, what sort of contents are carried, who the recipients are, and when they are sent.
A few months of receiving these emails will likely give you a good idea of your competitors’ marketing campaigns:
- How well or poorly are the contents designed and written?
- Are the contents recipient-specific or are they generic?
- What aims do the contents seek to accomplish?
These pointers can help you to conduct a SWOT analysis of your competitors’ marketing campaigns and consequently help you to come up with a winning approach.