This is Part 1 of the "Do-it-Right Email Marketing" series, originally published on the Liquid Capital blog.
Do you have customers who might benefit from hearing from you more often? Inactive customers you’d love to try to re-engage? Prospects who ignore your phone calls? If so, it’s probably time to launch an email marketing program.
A properly-developed email program can do wonders for a business. It can enable you to:
- Increase awareness of your products/services/solutions
- Share ideas, stories and information your audience can’t get elsewhere
- Keep in touch with buyers and potential buyers
- Entice prospects to give you a chance
- Generate new business
The Email Statistics Report from The Radicati Group, Inc. indicated that in 2017 we sent and received 269 billion emails per day. By 2021, this figure is expected to rise to almost 320 billion. As much we love shiny new technologies, clearly, email is an integral part of our lives and isn’t going away.
To ensure your email program gets off to a solid start, follow these 4 guidelines:
- Get your lists together
It doesn’t matter how compelling your content is or if your template design is jaw dropping: if you aren’t reaching the right people, all of your behind-the-scenes effort will be for naught.
Your primary audience should be your customers, inactive customers and prospects. If you can break up these groups further, that’s ideal. Can you split your customer list into regular purchasers vs. those who haven’t purchased in 12 months? By dollar amount? Region? Segmenting your list will allow you to tailor your email campaigns.
Chances are you have access to association and networking group lists. Don’t automatically add those contacts to your database or you will be in violation of spam legislation (CASL in Canada or the CAN-SPAM Act in the United States). First seek the permission of your colleagues, explaining that your emails will be educational and informational. If you don’t, you may end up with a ton of spam reports, opt-outs and/or fines.
It is a good idea to add vendors and employees to your lists, too. The former may gain insights about your organization that ultimately benefit you; the latter will likely demonstrate more interest in your email marketing efforts if you include them in the process. Here are other ideas for growing your email database.
- Choose your Email Service Provider carefully
The next step is choosing the platform you will use to send your email campaigns – your Email Service Provider. There are many affordable providers that cater to do-it-yourselfers (e.g., Constant Contact, MailChimp, Emma) by offering pre-designed, customizable templates or the option of uploading HTML code for a custom design. Be sure to compare platforms and carefully consider factors like features, support and deliverability, not just price.
- Plan content for your audience
One of the biggest challenges for many small businesses is what to say to their audience. It’s natural to want to focus on what your organization offers, and heavily promote your products or services. Unless you’re a behemoth and much-loved brand, however, that’s the last thing your audience wants to read.
To capture – and keep – the interest of your customers and prospects, dedicate your messaging to their interests and needs. Your content should include anecdotes, how-to documentation, case studies, resources, industry news and trends, new product information, and, if appropriate, special offers. No more than 20 percent of your material should be promotional or you’ll turn off buyers.
- Design for email, not print
Email is a different animal than print. If you’re ever received an email with fuzzy images or text that was difficult to read, it means the designer didn’t understand the difference. A typical email template is 600 pixels wide; an 8.5” x 11” piece of paper is 2,550 pixels wide. That means you can’t take a layout created for print and drop a picture of it into an email template and expect it to look stellar. Either recreate it at 600 pixels wide or create a complementary design comprised of small images, body text, headings, subheads and multiple links.
Equally important? Your email campaigns need to look good on desktop and mobile devices. Even if you sell strictly to businesses, it’s likely that 25-35 percent of your audience will view your emails on a smartphone or tablet. If your campaigns aren’t easy to view, you will unintentionally encourage your contacts to delete your emails or unsubscribe.