Effective email marketing

Email marketing, what do you reckon? It may not be the latest marketing tool on the block and we’ve all no doubt experienced poor examples of it, but I am a fan. A targeted email received by a customer who has opted into your communication can be one of the most effective and cost efficient marketing tools for a wide range of small businesses.

Below are a few tips that small business owners should consider when undertaking email marketing:

Building a recipient database

Without a recipient list you cannot undertake email marketing. It should be your first consideration.

  • Build, don’t buy. For the majority of small businesses, I recommend against buying a list. You will either pay through the nose for a decent list or you will waste your money on a list that is filled with old email addresses. Creating your own list is by far and away the most effective route. Incentivise subscriptions by offering discounts or offers and by creating informative and valuable content people want to sign up for.
  • Make it easy to unsubscribe. It is law in Australia  and in New Zealand that all email marketing has an unsubscribe button allowing people to opt out of your communication. Promptly action all unsubscribe requests. Where possible get feedback from your unsubscribers. Why are they leaving? Adjust your approach accordingly.
  • Segment your database. The more segmented your database is the more effective your communication will be. Ask subscribers what they are interested in and segment accordingly. The more customised your communication, the better.

Creating worthwhile content

Once you have a recipient list you need to send them something. However, in order for your email marketing to be effective, it needs to be something compelling and interesting. The good thing is that we’ve all been the victims of poor email marketing, so we know what doesn’t work.

  • Think from the mindset of the recipient. It is obvious what you want out of the communication, but what is in it for the recipient? Will they be smarter, better informed or receive a discount/offer because of your email? If not, you may need to reconsider the purpose of your mail.
  • First impressions count. Your headline will likely dictate whether your email is opened or not. Keep it short. Focus on the benefit for the recipient and avoid SPAMMY words like ‘win’, ‘offer’ or ‘buy now’.
  • Make your call to action prominent. What do you want customers to do after reading your mail? Ensure the call to action is right at the top. Don’t assume people will read to the bottom of your email.
  • Use a hosted solution. Hosted platforms like Mailchimp prepare and send your emails for you. A hosted solution will guide you through templates and evaluation and are the perfect place for beginners as they are cost efficient and widely used.

Constantly evaluate your efforts

Email marketing is an exercise in constant evolution. Tweaking and adjusting your efforts are a mandatory if you want to be effective.

  • Test before you send. Send your email communications internally first. Does your staff have suggestions or additions? Be open to their feedback – it is likely to be invaluable. Listen and adjust accordingly.
  • Trial different delivery days and time. Open rates can vary widely from day to day and from hour to hour. Trial a range of different delivery times. Evaluate what works best and tailor accordingly.
  • Watch your competitors. Subscribe to your competitors’ email communication. Learn from what they are doing or not doing.
  • Remove bouncebacks. A dead email address can skew your open rate stats. Remove them immediately.
  • Gamify your efforts. Involve your staff in the creation of your email marketing. Build a leaderboard around open rates and effective uptake of the call to action. It can be a great staff morale builder.

Effective email marketing takes effort, there is no doubt about it. Like all good marketing it benefits from focus, passion and repetition.

What do you think of the above points? Do you have any other suggestions?