So you know your competitors are using email marketing. And you know you get emails from companies trying to get you to buy, register for, or try their products. You know there is a reason all these companies are investing in email marketing, but you’re not sure it is right for you – maybe it’s too expensive, too complicated, or it requires too much time. Here is how even a small company can begin to effectively use email marketing to acquire new customers and service their current customers.
But before you get started…
- Lower Costs: Email marketing provides an inexpensive way of communicating with your target audience.
- Higher ROI: Emails are an effective way to increase sales to new customers as well as cross-sell and upsell to your current customers, especially if you use a permission-based campaign. The Direct Marketing Association estimates email ROI in 2008 at $45.65 for every dollar spent.
- Time Saver: Quick to create and deliver.
- Relationship Builder: Allows you to send ongoing communications and updates, reminders, alerts or just wish them a “Happy Birthday.” It also provides the opportunity to raise brand awareness by reaching out to more prospective customers with minimal effort.
- Message Multiplier: Emails are easy to forward to others to expand your reach beyond your current contact list.
- Measurable Results: Due to the digital nature of email, it is easy and almost instantaneously measurable. So refining your email strategy becomes simple.
- Environmentally Friendly: Not only do you not pay for paper, but email marketing happens to be green.
How to Get Started
- Build a Business Case:This sounds more complicated than it is. You simply need to identify and document:
- What you think your opportunity is over the next year (3 years, 5 years)
- What your measurable objectives are
- Any specific requirements you have (Mac compatibility, ability to handle large volumes, etc.)
- Any critical milestones or deadlines (must be ready for back-to-school sales), and
- A realistic budget
- Select Your Tool: It is critical that you evaluate vendors based on your business requirements. So review and prioritize these requirements you identified in Step 1. Before you identify potential vendors make sure you know what is most important to you – lowest cost, easiest to use, most templates, extent of customer support, add-on features, etc. Ask friends and colleague for recommendations. Do your research. Update your list of requirements and preferences. If you are a spreadsheet person, like me, put your potential vendors in your first column and your evaluation criteria across the top. Then begin to score your options. And, if the vendor offers a free trial, by all means give it a real world try before making your final selection.
- Design Your Campaign: Think about what you want to say, to whom, and how you are going to get the message across – with a single message or a series of messages, graphics or plain text. Be as specific as possible.
- Build Your Lists: Assess what contacts you currently have in your database and if you want to communicate with the entire group or a more homogeneous subset of this group for this particular campaign. You should also identify which contacts have given you permission to communicate with them. Your response rate will be better when your audience has chosen to communicate with you or your company.
- Create the Content: You will want to select content that is interesting and relevant to your audience and that will help achieve your objectives. If your recipients do not see the value and meaning in your communications, they will likely “opt-out” from your future emails.
- Validate: Test your messages prior to sending a campaign. Send your email to different browsers to ensure it is being displayed correctly. Make sure your links and images are all working as intended.
- Test Different Versions of Your Campaign: Split testing is very important during your first campaigns. By sending two different emails to the same list (or different lists) at the same time, you can determine: which headline is more effective, if longer emails produce more click-throughs than shorter ones, whether a single link works better than multiple links, etc.
- Monitor and Review: Evaluate your program following every batch of email that is sent. Pay close attention to trends (i.e., best day of the week to send). Report on improvements to key metrics and invest further in programs that are providing quantifiable returns on you investment.
Like any activity, the more you practice email marketing, the better you will get and the more effective your emails will become. Don’t wait until you have the perfect plan or the optimal design to get started. Start communicating with your customers by email today. They are the ones who will help you learn and improve as you reap the rewards of email marketing.
To learn more, read our other articles on email marketing.