Email Marketing 101
Perhaps you’ve heard the news on email marketing…affordable rates, sophisticated templates, fast results.
A pro email marketing campaign can bring you significant web traffic, push sales and special offers, increase brand impressions, and bump up the overall image of your small business.
It can put customers from the past in your present, while peaking the interest of future prospects…all for a relatively minor financial investment. So, what do you need to do to get started?
Step 1 Choose An Email Service
Constant Contact has the biggest name out of all the email marketing services in the US, though that does not necessarily make it the best. iContact is known for its flexibility and ease of use, MailChimp is known as the cheapest, and My Emma is known to be the most stylish (and most expensive) email solution. NamasteLight is the greenest email marketing service (they will remain under the radar until their official launch in early 2010.) Then there’s Campaigner, Vertical Response, Streamsend, and the list goes on and on…and on.
The important questions to ask your top 2-3 choices for email service:
- How much does it cost for the number of contacts I have now? Six months from now?
- How many mailings can I send a month?
- How many unique lists can I have?
- How many images can I host for free?
- What kind of complimentary tech support is available to me and when? (Via phone, email, live chat, etc.)
After doing my research, I personally chose to go with NamasteLight. The customer service is unbeatable, the backend is intuitive, they’re the same price as Constant Contact, and they plant a tree for every mailing. Righteous. I can also host as many images, segment as many lists, and send as many emails as I need to per month, without getting charged extra. Even though NamasteLight is still in pre-launch mode, it makes perfect sense for my needs. Pick the service that answers the 5 questions above in a way that works best for you.
Step 2 Upload Contacts
Now, the contacts. This is your holy grail for email marketing. Reach out to older contacts that will find your email useful. Collect new contacts through offline networking and by creating a newsletter sign-up area on your homepage. Due to the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, “harvested” emails through purchase or list sharing are not legal, and could get your email address flagged for spamming. Here are the steps for creating your email database.
- Export your Outlook, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, or Mac Address Book contacts to a .csv file
If “exporting your contact list to a .csv file” is incomprehensible geek speak to you, then google “how to export whatever your email program is contacts to a .csv” and then follow those instructions.
- If you have multiple employees, have them forward you their work-related email contacts in a .csv file
- Make sure all those pesky business cards piled up on everyone’s desks go into a spreadsheet to be converted to a .csv
- Upload all the .csv files into the backend of your new email marketing service
- Organize unique email contact lists for each different type of group you may send emails to. For example, if you are a boutique, you may want to have unique lists for “Clients,” “Vendors,” and “Press.” These different list types are called “list segments.” I recommend creating a “Pooled Contacts” list for when you want to send a blast to all of your contacts at once.
Trust me, you can do this. If the thought of all this causes mental paralysis or acid reflux, you can always hire an email marketing wiz to do it for you. (Ahem. Cough. Snort. Grunt. Throat clear.)
Step 3 Create Quality Content
This is where the rubber hits the road folks. Make it interesting. Make it useful. Your newsletter must offer loyal customers a fresh look at your product or services, while offering potential customers a compelling introduction to your brand. Make sure your calls to action are clear, without making any hard sales pitches. Treat your readers as you would want to be treated. Here are some basic guidelines to keep in mind.
- Don’t waste their time. Keep it short and sweet. Put your content to the quintessential marketing litmus test. Ask and answer the question,”Why should anybody care?”
- Give them worthwhile information to walk away with. Keep your readers coming back for more, rather than unsubscribing after a useless experience.
- Make them an enticing offer, such as a discount on your service if they act before the end of the month or a free ________ with the purchase of a _______.
- Link the images, banners, and relevant phrases back to your website as often as it makes sense. A well-executed e-newsletter should translate to a sizable spike in web traffic.
Step 4 Slam Dunk The Subject Line
A good subject line is key to achieving a good open rate during your campaign. For an open rate upwards of 25%, here are some pointers.
- DON’T PUT EVERYTHING IN CAPS. IT MAKES IT SOUND LIKE YOU’RE YELLING.
- Don’t overuse exclamation points!!!!! This also makes you seem like you’re yelling!!! If you must have an exclamation point, one is plenty! Zero is even better.
- Don’t use the words Free, Now, Nothing, or Discount. This can trigger spam filters big time.
- Make it compelling. Example 1: Shiso Social December Newsletter
Example 2: Time For That Web Marketing Strategy
Step 5 Test Test Test
Send the email to yourself. Check the formatting, grammar, and overall feel. Make your corrections and then bounce it off one or two key colleagues. Repeat this process until you have an email newsletter you feel great about (unless you have a self-deprecating nature, in which case you should launch the thing as soon as your friends tell you it’s ready.) Though you may roll your eyes, this has to be said, spellcheck your document. You’d be surprised how often this essential gets missssed…See what I’m talking about.
Step 6 Send On Time
Relationships, baking, golf, email newsletters- they are all about the timing. Schedule your email to go out when the most people will be available to read it. Monday and Friday are hectic, along with afternoons in general, and the weekend is slow for internet use. This means the best time to send it out your newsletter or announcement is generally Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday between 9:30 and 11:30am. If you happen to know your readership runs on a completely different schedule than Monday-Friday 9-5, you may have to tweak the above rules to meet your demographic. Make sure to take into account what time zone the majority of your readers are in.
Step 7 Analyze & Revise
The email marketing solution you have chosen most likely has the ability to report Open, Click, Bounce, and Unsubscribe rates for your campaign. The greater the Open and Click rates, the more interesting your content was to your targeted audience. If your Bounce rate was high, the email addresses no longer exist or the emails were perceived as spam by the email program of the recipient. If your Unsubscribe rate was high, this means you need to go back to the drawing board regarding the quality of content, or whether your specific contacts are interested in this type of content. If your existing contacts aren’t the people you want to reach out to for business, then it’s time to do some serious offline networking in your field. Collect a bevy of business cards, find out what kind of information your potential customers are in need of, then create the ideal newsletter for your market.
Step 8 Repeat Regularly
You don’t have to send out email newsletters constantly, but do send them regularly. If you’re going to send out one email monthly, make sure it goes out at the same time each month. (Ex. Every 2nd Tuesday) If it’s weekly, make sure it’s on the same day each week. You get it. This way readers can get into the rhythm of hearing from you at certain intervals.
For those daily email newsletter publishers, make sure your readers can choose from a variety of schedules, such as daily, specific days only, or a weekly digest. With a choice of frequency, you can ensure prolonged and loyal subscriptions.
Good luck out there! Let me know how it goes for you in the Comments section of this post.