Done the right way, email marketing is one of the fastest and least labor and capital-intensive ways to foster a passionate and engaged community around any given brand. Done the wrong way, email marketing is the quickest way to get relegated to the dark depths of the spam folder, never to be heard from again.
Okay, so I’m exaggerating…but only a little. Email marketing may, in many ways, be simpler to accomplish than traditional advertising and direct marketing campaigns, but, in order to produce real results that further your bottom line, it still requires a good dose of planning and creativity, not to mention a deep grasp of all that the medium has to offer.
If you’re really going to kill it in email marketing, I highly recommend starting with this email marketing guide, which covers just about every nook and cranny the subject has to offer. As you navigate the guide, here are a few important things to ask yourself.
Do you have a content strategy?
Let’s face it: most of us get pretty grumpy when we see a newsletter or even a sales offer in our inboxes. You can thank your competitors with poorly targeted, largely irrelevant content for all of those wary eyes. The real key to email marketing is to send unique and individually targeted missives that are so tempting and easy to read, customers won’t be able to help opening the email and reading more. Constructing those emails means doing one thing: developing a clear content strategy.
When doing this, you’ll want to consider:
1. Who your customers are. Whether you do some traditional demographic and psychographic research or you use Google’s Keyword Tool, it’s important to know just what makes your customer tick and what they’re searching for in companies like yours.
2. Strategies for keeping things persona. Once you’ve got a good sense of your audience, separate them further by creating segmented lists. This will help you target emails more closely to a follower’s interests, thereby increasing the likelihood your content will be relevant to them, and therefore be read. It also will enable you to create autoresponders that can move customers aptly through the appropriate sales tunnel.
3. An editorial calendar. Thought editorial calendars were only for your web content? Not necessarily. Creating a calendar to time your newsletters and promotions can help ensure you’re providing varied yet still relevant content while also pacing yourself so that your messages won’t be considered spam.
Do you know the outcome you’re trying to achieve?
While email is a very personal outlet, it’s also one of the most business-y advertising mediums available today. As such it’s okay to have an agenda, just as long as you’re also providing helpful resources along the way. A few admirable goals might include increasing the number of conversions on your site, selling a certain amount of products or services, increasing your social media following, or just generally increasing revenue. The more specific and targeted you can be in your goal setting, the more successful the outcome is likely to be.
Do you understand the email format?
That said, email is very different from most other mediums, and knowing a few format tricks can help you better engage customers and move them to action.
1. Create Scannable Content. Email readers, just like web users, aren’t so into deep, analytical reading like the kind they’d find in a textbook. Make it scannable by breaking chunks of text up with headers, bolding, numbered and bulleted lists, and the occasional photo (though make sure the email will still load even if the photo doesn’t).
2. Embed Social Media Links. One main goal in creating great content is to make customers want to connect with you further and share your work. Including links to all of your social media pages in the footer of your email will make sharing and connecting easy.
3. Have Clear and Compelling Calls to Action. By the end of every single email, you want readers to be motivated to act, whether that means buying a product or service, signing up for special deals, or paying for greater access beyond the snippet of information you’ve already provided. While calls to action are a definite must at the end of your email, you may also want them sprinkled throughout the email so that readers will have a way to act wherever they are, even if they don’t want to finish reading. Of course, don’t overdo it or you risk looking like spam. Use A/B testing to determine the most effective strategies.
Do you have a responsive mailing list?
Having a massive mailing list is nice, but not if only a small percentage of list members respond to your campaigns. One way to keep responses relatively high (and stay within the legal bounds) is to make the list opt-in so that (in theory) only people who are interested in your business are making it on to the list. To do this, however, you need to make the site design and marketing around your sign ups enticing, following web design best practices. Other ways to build a responsive list include offering an incentive, building trust by providing credible and useful content, and again testing different content and design styles out on different lists to find the most effective routes.
Do you have an email service provider?
Lastly, if you haven’t signed up for an email service provider, now is the time. In fact, there’s just no good way to do email marketing without one. Services like MailChimp allow you to create templates that match your company’s logo and design, build contact lists, and manage autoresponders, all from one dashboard. What’s more, you can easily measure the outcome of your efforts by looking at just who is opening your email, how far they’re reading, when they’re doing it, and what kinds of action they’re taking. This will help you further tailor content and determine the best times for sending mail.
Email marketing is a powerful and quick way to reach a mass of potential customers, stay fresh in customers’ minds and develop a passionate and engaged community around your brand. But to really kill it, you’ve got to think out your strategy in the same manner that you would any other form of traditional marketing. So, do your research, plan that editorial calendar, and get sending!
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