Most businesses or individual entrepreneurs will have a website, but apart from direct conversions or affiliate sales many don’t know a great deal about the type of customer that visits the site apart from the raw web statistics that they get through google analytics and other tracking packages.
This is one area where the value of the old marketing warhorse – email- comes into its own. It’s relatively easy to encourage users to part with an email address, even if it’s just a throwaway account that they won’t be checking very often. Simply seed your site with a great piece of content or free service, and leverage an email sign-up with further updates, expanded content or exclusive access based on membership to your email list.
Opt-in or Opt-out?
For best practice this should be a “double opt in”, i.e. the subscriber then gets sent a confirmation email on which they click a link to confirm their interest. This does result in a lowered conversion rate, but in the long run ensures that your email list is legal and actually interested in the content of your website. If you are mailing to your list regularly, it will also cut down the amount of bounces you receive from each send, compared to a list that is run through standard screening procedures. Too many bounces on your email campaigns may get your mail domain banned or blocked for spamming.
Opt-in confirmations can be configured to be aesthetically pleasing and contain action-driven messages: such as encouraging users to check a section of the website to which they now have access; download exclusive content; interact with the value sections of your site on which they will hopefully convert to an action, or recommend to their network of friends as being useful. Ideally it should also give a user access to a preference centre where they can manage the contact frequency of their emails: if users feel in control of the level of mail that they get, they are less likely to unsubscribe.
Delving into customer detail
Once you have the email address, you now have the task of appending some useful data values to that address in order to make it a driving factor for your business. Knowing more about your users will help you target appropriate site content to increase conversions, pre-emptively alert users to content that will be of interest, and cross market other things to them that are likely to be of interest. Note that what users will think is interesting and what you assume will be of interest are not always identical! Again, you may need to leverage additional pieces of exclusive content in order to get the information you need, but you can incentivise surveys, forums and even focus groups if you have a detailed selection of information you need to profile.
Designing your website to acquire feedback will also help this process. Make sure enquiry forms use a reference ID or number, so if a subscriber has a customer ID you can ascribe that feedback to their profile either directly in your email system or in an offline CRM database. If you have e-commerce on the site, is there a feedback or review module that a user can leave responses? Randomly choosing positive feedback or good reviews on third party sites to reward quickly creates a buzz around your brand.
Can you pull in web sales figures to your customer list? If so, concentrate the bulk of your email marketing efforts on the big, frequent spenders. People who have only just signed up to get the initial incentive need a different type of email or subsequent incentive to get them to a level where they are contributing to your business. Far too many companies send out a “one size fits all” template for email campaigns that rarely suits anyone.
Planning a campaign
Once your email is sent, don’t leave it until the next month to revisit your target list. Who clicked on your email? Who went on to buy or interact with your site? Out of the ones that didn’t, do they need a different creative, or subject line, or entirely different approach in order to get them interacting with your communication? Each email push should aim at getting each stratum of respondents to the next level: non openers to openers, openers to clickers, clickers to conversions.
Cleaning the list
Lastly, make sure that you are scrupulous with data hygiene and scrub the list with each and every unsubscribe request and bounce report you get. Not only is sending unsolicited mail an offense, email service providers will suspend services if it appears you are targeting unsubscribed or irrelevant addresses. Keep a list of each address that has been removed and compare any new acquisitions against it; this way you can ensure that every new email sign up is genuine and not harvested off a black list.
Written by Trevor Munday
Trevor Munday works as a freelance internet marketer, and has conducted email campaigns for publishing, entertainment and credit card companies.