Professional Email Marketing for your Small Business
There is a general misconception that email marketing is old, outdated and has lost much of its appeal as an effective marketing tool. This couldn't be further from the truth.
Email marketing remains one of the most effective and affordable communication tools in the marketer's arsenal.
Phone calls, SMSes and other forms of communication are considered intrusive which may result in a negative response from the recipient but people don't mind receiving emails. Emails do not demand immediate attention and can be read at a time that suits the recipient when they are more relaxed and receptive to your message. Email marketing is considered a highly acceptable mode of business communication, particularly within the B2B environment.
Email marketing is the most effective tool in keeping your prospective and current customers up to date with your products, services and news, but like all other aspects of digital marketing, it needs to be performed in accordance with recommended best practices and legal requirements.
What is Email Marketing?
As a user and fan of Mailchimp I couldn't define email marketing any better than they do:
"Email marketing is a powerful marketing channel, a form of direct marketing as well as digital marketing that uses emails to promote your businesses products or services. It can help make your customers aware of your latest items or offers by integrating it into your marketing automation efforts. It can also play a pivotal role in your marketing strategy with lead generation, brand awareness, building relationships or keeping your customers engaged between purchases with different types of marketing emails."
Just one small addendum to the above definition is the question of consent. We operate within the EU and must therefore abide by GDPR regulations requiring consent from email recipients. Your email lists must therefore be Opt-In. I do not recommend the purchase of generic email lists, rather take the time to build your own quality email list.
How Email Marketing Works.
As a very small company with just a few dozen prospective and existing clients you could possibly get away with running a manual email marketing campaign using your normal Gmail, Yahoo or Outlook systems, but be aware these platforms are developed for limited usage and are monitored by Internet Service Providers for abuse.
Each platform has limits to how many email addresses you can send an email to, how many emails you may send per hour and provide absolutely no feedback or analytics for further optimising of campaigns, you are working in the dark.
Sending a large number of manual emails may also result in your Inbox being clogged with Sending Failure or Bounced Email reports, abusing your normal email platform may further result in your account being marked as a spammer and blocked. I don't recommend the manual approach.
Larger companies have the budget and expertise to run fully automated Email Campaigns through their CRM's and other advanced integrated tools, but for the smaller business, the answer may be an affordable ESP (Email Service Provider) such as Mailchimp or numerous other platforms.
These platforms have the infrastructure and systems in place to handle sending emails in large quantities offering drag and drop editors to assist in the development of professional looking email templates.
Professional ESP's offer all the features you will require to assist in building and maintaining a high-quality email database including the ability for the customer to Opt-In and Unsubscribe as required by Law. The database also allows for Tagging and Segmentation that enables targeted emails to be sent to relevant subscribers in your database while not to others.
In-depth analytics enables you to track a multitude of factors including Delivery Rate, Open Rate, Clicks on Links, Unsubscribes, Spam Reports etc allowing you to experiment and optimise campaigns for improved performance. Modern ESP's are also starting to provide various levels of automation whereby a series of emails can be sent to a subscriber following a certain action, such as a new subscriber or after someone downloads your ebook, this feature is great for lead generation and improved conversions.
Who is Email Marketing For?
Professional Email Marketing is a tool that company's of all sizes can make use of to varying degrees. Small B2B companies with just a handful of potential clients can easily maintain a list of email addresses in a spreadsheet that they just copy and paste into a series of pre-prepared canned email templates they can personalise and send out manually. If you only have a few dozen potential and existing clients you wish to communicate with occasionally then this may be all you require.
Larger companies may require a fully automated system to handle hundreds or thousands of Emails at a time that automatically monitor interactions, or trigger events, and respond accordingly. Naturally, these systems do come at a price and require expert knowledge to set up and manage.
Others, like myself, can make use of a fairly simple Email platform such as Mailchimp which provides powerful functions at a very affordable price, including basic automation features, forms and landing pages. I recommend this option as the benefits far outweigh the costs especially when it comes to complying with GDPR regulations in terms of Subscriber Permissions and the ability to Unsubscribe, not to mention the advantage of being able to send out professional-looking emails and track the effectiveness of your email campaigns.
Features of a professional Email Marketing Campaign.
The features of an effective Email Campaign are numerous, but essentially you want to make sure your emails are given the best possible chance of being delivered, opened and engaged with by your recipients.
While sending emails manually is possible for very small campaigns we recommend the use of a professional email software such as Mailchimp as this will help you comply with GDPR requirements and offers many other benefits at an affordable price. Larger companies may have powerful email marketing functionality built into their CRM.
- Any Email campaign must be Opt-In, firstly this complies with GDPR regulations but more importantly it also greatly improves the quality of your Email list. Email campaigns are monitored by ISP's (Internet Service Providers) for indications of spamming such as high Unsubscribes and Spam reports. This can result in lower deliverability results or your account could even be blacklisted in extreme cases. Avoid buying generic email lists rather build your own list over time.
- Your emails should be mobile-friendly in design. According to a recent article by Hubspot 35% of business professionals check their email on a mobile device.
- Consistency, inform your clients how often you will communicate with them via email and follow through with your promise. Commitment and consistency are one of Robert Cialdini's factors of Influence. I highly recommend his book Influence Science and Practice for all business owners.
- Your Email campaigns should have a clear objective. It's best to have only one Call to Action per email be it a Download or generating traffic to a new Blog etc. I see too many companies sending out random emails of poor quality and no real purpose to everybody on their lists with the mistaken belief they are creating Brand Awareness, this will reduce the Quality Score of your list negatively impacting on Deliverability.
- Whenever possible collect as much data about your subscribers to enable more accurately segmenting and targeting specific demographics within your overall list with emails that are relevant to them. Not everyone will be interested in every email you have to send out, it's unlikely that many males will be interested in your latest ladies fashions or makeup.
- Personalisation of your emails is vital in encouraging engagement and conversions. If you only collect email addresses with no names or other details your emails will come across as generic mass marketing. The more details and preferences you can collect the more personalised you can make your emails using advanced segmentation and content creation. As a small business you may not have access to the more advanced email tools required, but at least try to use the recipient's name in the email content and subject line.
- Ensure that your content is accurate and error-free. I'm not just referring to spelling and grammar but make sure the content is accurate in terms of what you are offering, make sure all the links work and everything is where it should be. mistakes are not only embarrassing but can harm your brand and sometimes cost you money.
- Email marketing is not only about selling. The majority of your emails should be educational or informative in nature designed to build trust and loyalty. This will in turn increase conversions when you do try to sell your recipients something. Your emails should offer some Value to the recipient if it doesn't pass the What's In It For Me? test then it's unlikely the recipient will even read it.
- Don't forget to make use of Social Share functions. Email platforms such as Mailchimp offer Share Buttons that can be included in your emails enabling your recipients to quickly and easily share your content with their friends or colleagues.
- Test your emails before you send them. Make sure your emails look as intended on different devices and mail servers if your email platform offers this function, if not, send a test email to yourself and check it manually.
- Many email servers check for spammy emails and block them from getting delivered to the recipient. A good email follows best practices for deliverability. Avoid certain terms in the subject line such as FREE and numerous other trigger terms, don't make excessive use of Upper Case.
- Design your emails to improve Open Rates. Use the recipient's name in the subject line. Research has shown that 8 words are optimal for subject line length, the subject line must be relevant and compelling, but not spammy. Use a personal email address as opposed to a generic info@ when sending out emails this makes it more personal. Send emails during work hours especially for B2B industries.
- We touched on timing in the previous point, but testing for the most effective timing and frequency of your emails will improve the performance of your campaigns. Test for the most effective day of the week, Tuesday is the best day on average, but your specific industry could be different. After lunch is the best time on average, but again your industry could be different so test your emails for the best day and time for you. Some industries may send daily emails whereas others may only send out one email per week or month. It depends on the nature of your industry and the resources available once a month, maybe all you have time for. It's better to send out fewer better quality emails than to blast your clients with spam.
- Analyse. If you are sending out manual emails on a small scale you won't have access to analytics, but most email platforms will provide you with in-depth analytics of your email campaigns i.e. what percentage is delivered, what percentage are opened, who clicked on what links etc. Monitor your data and make improvements to achieve specific KPI's. Benchmark yourself against industry averages, you might mistakenly think a 15% open rate is good while the industry average is 25%.
The Benefits of Professional Email Marketing.
A well designed professional Email Campaign offers numerous benefits to your company.
- You are communicating to a captive audience, these people have given you permission to contact them, they want to know more about your products and services. These are what we call Hot Leads.
- Email marketing is cheap, costing a fraction of a cent per email and thus offers one of the highest ROI's of all marketing tools. It is estimated that every Euro spent on Email Marketing generates €44 in revenue.
- Emails can be highly personalised improving open rates and conversions. Just using the recipient's name in the subject line will increase open rates. If you collect the correct data on your subscribers you can go so far as to personalise the content of the email around specific products or services they have expressed interest in greatly increasing conversions.
- Segmentation allows for highly targeted emails to be sent to specific segments within your email list, certain events have relevance to a certain demographic whereas other demographics would find it totally irrelevant, such as a special on Power Tools is unlikely to be of interest to young girls.
- Emails can be designed to encourage and make sharing across a multitude of platforms easy. Social Sharing icons are easy to add to an email template and improve the reach of the campaign by allowing subscribers to quickly share it with their friends or colleagues.
- Emails can be used to improve conversions. A prime example of this is the Abandoned Cart Email that is automatically triggered when a subscriber abandons their cart without completing the purchase, sending a timely email can remind this person to complete the purchase.
- Email campaigns are measurable. Being able to measure multiple metrics enables campaigns to be improved on.
- Email campaigns can be benchmarked across industries. If you don't know how you are performing against the average you won't know if you can still improve.
- You can test Emails before they get sent. Protect your valuable Brand by eliminating embarrassing errors.
- Emails are less intrusive. Emails are the prefered means of business communication.
- Time-saving. Automation enables tedious procedures to be performed automatically.
- Real-Time, emails can be triggered instantly depending on actions taken by visitors on your website thus improving conversions if a potential customer has to wait for someone to respond to them they may move on to your competitor.
- Emails marketing offers flexible design. From the basic text-only email right through to mobile-friendly HTML emails with enhanced layout, images and video.
- Emails campaigns are scalable. Send as many or as few emails as you require. As your needs increase you simply upgrade to the next package on offer from your ESP.
- Email marketing is easy to start. I strongly advise all companies to start building an email list from day 1.
What Email Marketing Services I Offer.
I have many years experience designing, developing and optimising professional Email Campaigns on various platforms for Brand Awareness, Lead Generation and to improve conversions.
I give all my projects personal attention and aspire to achieve maximum Return on Investment on a consistent basis for all my clients, within your budget. Your Success is my Business.