Email marketing lessons from an email marketer
Don’t listen to the naysayers: Email is more effective today than ever
Marketing your business via email is a privilege and should be managed as such. When your content is good, people stay with you for the long haul and many eventually buy or refer business. Some will even buy right away.
I have about seven years of continuous email marketing experience — for myself and multiple clients. I believe I have enough experience having seen repeated cause-effect outcomes that I can add a bit of science to the study of email marketing.
First, email is more effective today than ever. When I read about email becoming passé, I smile at the prognosticators who state something they think is bold and controversial (usually because they want it to be true). While no one can predict the future, I can tell you that email marketing is at an apex right now, and it may keep growing. Perhaps its waning days are soon, but I don't see that. Why do you think every single "inbound marketing" call-to-action captures email addresses as tactic number one?
The first obstacle I hear businessmen — always men, for some reason — put up against email marketing is, "Everyone deletes it. I receive so much junk I never read through all the spam."
I say no way José! These same businessmen always read my eblasts and compliment me on them! In most cases, I'm talking with these guys because they responded to my eblast (or read my article in NHBR) and called me for an appointment. Is there a disconnection here?
We'll begin our practical tips with subject lines – straight out of Email 101.
• The subject line: It appears in previews and notifications on devices. It pops up and you make a quick decision to delete, save for later, or open right away. Work hard on subject lines before you send. Put yourself in your audience's shoes and imagine a simple message that might make their day or solve a problem. Be concise! Being "salesy" won't work. Being provocative can be a double-edged sword. Being relevant is the goal.
• The list: Unsolicited email is annoying, like my businessmen friends will attest. I'll admit I'm not one of those who uses only strict opt-in and verification procedures. I have built my list organically through networking and association memberships. I add people to my list without their written verification all the time because I'm confident they will appreciate the content I send them. I have their tacit permission with a business card or some previous correspondence — we have some kind of relationship and that is my personal standard for list-building.
My list is in extremely good standing, having virtually no spam reports and a relatively low opt-out rate. There are numerous ways to legitimately capture email addresses, including marketing automation – a topic for another article.
• The content: You may want answers about content creation, but instead you're going to get questions. Does your audience have the appetite for your content? Would you eat it up? Are you trying to inform, promote, sell, educate, enrich, educate or bloviate? Are you building a brand or offering daily-weekly discount specials? Determine the purpose of your email program, then learn what your audience wants and deliver those messages to them.
• The frequency: Here are a few easy-to-remember rules of thumb: Don't do daily (unless you do daily deals). Monthly is minimum. Weekly works! Out of sight, out of mind. (If you are out of sight, you're out of your mind!)
• Time of day: While an important consideration, there's more flexibility in time of day with email than social media posting. Email has a longer shelf life. The recipient chooses when to open instead of a message getting lost in the news feed or timeline. Generally speaking, for most B2B businesses, I recommend early morning Tuesday-Thursday.
Retail and consumer businesses need to consider the times their customers are most likely to be thinking about the product category. If your audience expects your eblasts on a regular time schedule, stay consistent.
• The tools: Almost anyone with a computer can easily create attractive, professionally branded email campaigns. If your list size is under 2,000, you can do email marketing absolutely free of dollar cost. Your time is the only investment. If your list is over 2,000, the starting costs range from $30 to $50 per month for most services. A few companies offer free accounts up to a volume limit.
Constant Contact starts at $15 per month. Mailchimp, Emma, iContact and VerticalResponse are a few other options. Costs are based on list size, monthly volume of emails sent, or a combination of those factors. Mailchimp allows up to 12,000 sent emails per month free as long as the total list size doesn't exceed 2,000 — an amazing value.
• The bottom line: Email marketing works when you approach it as a privilege and build your strategy from that standpoint. Deliver relevant, value-driven content and a healthy ROI will be a slam dunk!
Chuck Sink, a marketing consultant and writer, can be reached at email@example.com.