Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Confused about how to best use email to reach your customers? Get the most out of email marketing for your business with this back-to-basics guide.
It’s easy to get bogged down in the details. This especially holds true in the world of marketing. All of the changes, advice, and information out there can be overwhelming. But marketing doesn’t have to be so complicated. Take email marketing for example—it’s effective, affordable, and time efficient. Let’s take a step back to understand the fundamentals to achieve great results with your email marketing efforts.
People open email from people they know, and they delete or mark as spam email from people they don’t recognize. This is why it’s critical that you always ask for permission before adding a new contact to your email list. Permission-based email marketing is the best route to developing long-lasting customer relationships that drive repeat sales and valuable word-of-mouth for your business. These practices also keep you in compliance with legislation such the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-Spam) and the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL).
When someone signs up to receive your email communications, they do so with the expectation of receiving something of value. If you don’t communicate clearly what that value is, your audience might lose interest quickly. The best way to set expectations for your audience is to use your email sign-up page. Make sure your audience understands the value of signing up right from the start. What can they expect to receive? How often will they hear from you? What have other people enjoyed about receiving your emails? You can customize your sign-up form to demonstrate the value of joining your list.
When someone joins your email list, they are opting-in to learn more about your business. Some of these people will be completely new to your business and want to learn more about what you have to offer. Others may be repeat customers who joined your list to make sure they’re staying up-to-date with everything you have going on. Don’t miss the opportunity to build these relationships the right way. For new customers, you could send emails with additional information about your business and the different products and services you have to offer. For long-time customers, you can focus on generating repeat sales and reward them with a special offer.
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Remember that email marketing isn’t just about getting your information in front of current and potential customers. It’s also about listening to what your audience is interested in and providing an experience that’s relevant and valuable to them. When you provide content that’s helpful to your readers, you’ll have more people opening and acting on the content you send out. One of the easiest ways to tell what type of content your audience is interested in is to look at your email reports. Within your email reports, you can see how many people are opening your emails and which pieces of content are generating the most clicks. You can also use a tool like an online survey to collect feedback from your audience and see what they want to hear about.
Once you’ve figured out what your email contacts are looking for in your email marketing, you need to create content that they will find engaging. Creating great content can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to become a full-time job. Great content starts with having a well thought-out content plan, a list of reliable content sources, and a commitment to knowing your audience. When creating a plan, it’s helpful to look at the calendar and think about the different activities you have going on and the ways you can help your customers throughout the year. Your customers will be your best source for content ideas. Pay attention to what they are saying and the questions they are asking in-person and online.
There are steps you can take to maximize your email delivery and make sure your emails get to where they need to go. One of the best ways to tell if your emails are getting delivered is to look at your bounce reports. Emails can bounce for a number of reasons, including invalid email addresses, a full inbox, or out of office statuses. Keeping an eye on your bounces will help you to remove any addresses with ongoing issues and maintain high deliverability rates. In addition to bounces, you can also look at your spam reports. If an individual on your email list reports your email as unwanted or unsolicited, it will be marked as spam. If you consistently have a high number of spam reports it may be time to review the content you’re sending.
If you’re a business that respects the trust and privacy of your customers, you should never share your email list. Sharing your list could damage your reputation, hurt customer relationships, and ruin the trust you’ve worked hard to build. You should also avoid purchasing a list from a third-party vendor. These lists are full of people who don’t know your business, didn’t sign up to receive updates from you, and will likely ignore your emails or mark them as spam when they show up in their inbox. Rather than sharing or buying lists, look for ways to partner with other local businesses or organizations to extend your reach. You can ask a non-competitive business to help you promote an upcoming sale or event, and in exchange, you can feature them in a future email campaign. Look to partner with trusted businesses that can provide additional value to your customer base.
Your open and click-through rates will be the most effective metrics to determine how your emails are performing. These metrics can be influenced by the content you include, the frequency that you send, and whether or not people recognize your emails in their inbox.
Along with opens and clicks, you should also pay attention to metrics like bounces and unsubscribes. These metrics allow you to determine potential problem areas. If you’re consistently seeing a large number of people unsubscribe each time you send (it’s normal to see some unsubscribes as your subscribers’ interests change), you may need to revisit your email marketing strategy and look for ways to make improvements. Beyond your basic email metrics, you should also pay attention to other business results including traffic to your website, sales, foot traffic, event registrations, coupon redemptions, donations, and more.
You’re likely already using a number of other channels to market your small business. Email marketing works best when it’s integrated with these other communication channels. Use sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn to reach new customers and extend those relationships by encouraging them to join your email list. You can also use email to drive traffic to different social media platforms and generate engagement on these sites. It’s a great idea to add social media buttons in your emails so that people can connect with your social media pages.
Editor’s note: Not using email marketing yet? Or not happy with your provider? BusinessknowHow.com uses and recommends Constant Contact. Try it free today.
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Ellen Williams, Constant Contact Regional Development Director, New York and Southern Connecticut
Ellen has over 20 years of technology and marketing experience and has presented to over 4,000 small businesses, nonprofits, and associations. Her advice on best practices help organizations understand how to build great customer relationships that inevitable grow their businesses.