Rumours that email marketing is dead are everywhere but it just isn’t true. Most people spend a good portion of their day sending and receiving emails (I know I do) so there’s plenty of potential… the difficulty is managing to stand out from the crowd.
So how do you convince someone to open your email and click through to your latest content rather than just hit the delete or unsubscribe button?
Sending an email direct from your personal account is all very well, but if you do this you’ll either have to send each one individually (oh good grief) or do a mail merge (very unreliable). As for sending an email from your Hotmail account BCCing or CCing each customer, you should never do this as you’re inadvertently revealing personal data.
So find an email marketing platform that works for you. Most of the popular services, like MailChimp and Dotmailer, charge you based on the number of emails you send, which not only makes it easy to budget, but you won’t be wasting money if you only send a few hundred each month.
MailChimp and Dotmailer are particularly easy to use because you build the email using a simple template system and once you’ve created one you like, you can just copy it each time and change the text and images. You can also upload your customers’ information into the system from an Excel spreadsheet so it really is easy.
These online email marketing platforms also give you detailed insight into how many people opened your email, who clicked the links etc. You can even send optimised emails that arrive in each customer’s inbox at a time they’re most likely to open their email.
You know the flyers you get through your door for various restaurants, dry cleaners and mechanics? Do you pay them any attention? Probably not.
But why is this? Because everyone on your street has the same one and you just presume it’s rubbish. Yet if the leaflet was placed in an envelope that had your name and address on it, you’d probably open it and have a brief look at it. Because it was addressed directly to you, making it personal.
If you only do one thing before you send out a mass email to your customers, include their name. If you use an email marketing programme all you have to do is add @firstname@ and the clever system will replace this with the customer’s first name. It’s so simple, but it makes a huge difference.
If you can, make sure that the email is coming from a real email address – if an email from email@example.com lands in your email address people are more likely to open it than if it says firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have your customers’ email addresses, the chances are that you have other information as well – details that they have willingly given you. So don’t ignore this treasure trove of information – use it! It might seem a lot of work but if you organise your customer database into what we call segments, you’ll be able to send targeted emails that appeal to each type of customer.
So for example, if you own a pet shop and you’re running a promotion on dog food, you can segment your database so that only customers with canines get the email. You can even send special emails to customers on their birthdays!
Get a specialist subject
An email’s subject line is crucial. I received an email last week with the subject line “Think of a good subject line” which did make me laugh, but didn’t make me open it!
Depending on your company, an email’s subject line could be quirky, risqué, or just a clever fairly formal one. Innocent Drinks are excellent at email marketing, because their tone of voice is friendly, funny and a little bit eccentric. Outlandish statements will work for some businesses, but not others so consider your brand and your audience first and then play around with a few options to see what works.
Although certain words (like ‘free’, ‘urgent’, ‘last chance’ etc.) can trigger a reaction, use them with caution as they can be considered spam. Most email marketing providers offer a spam check facility and this will alert you to questionable subject lines. They also allow you to test two different subject lines with a small sample of your database so you can pick the best one and then use that when you send to the rest of your customers.
Keep the subject line short and snappy so it’s easy to read and doesn’t lose the customer’s attention. A subject line of about 50 words is spot on.
Timing is of the essence. Well, not literally but it does make a difference so think about who you’re sending it to and what their lifestyle is like.
Do you want people to get the email during the week or at the weekend? If you have customers in other countries, it’s also important to consider the time difference – very few people check their emails in the middle of the night!
If you’re emailing commuters then you might want to target them when they’re on their way to work and (like everyone else) glued to their phone but if you’re targeting parents then it might be best to wait until they’ve finished the school run and have time to check their emails.
The optimised function I mention above does makes this step easier, but it’s still worth considering the time you initially hit that send button as it can take up to 24 hours to send to everyone this way.
Perhaps the most important tip I can give you, but if your email is boring, irrelevant or pointless you risk losing engaged customers. This is where the business blog comes into its own. Summarise your latest blog post(s) and link back to your site so that your customers can read the full text.
If you have case studies or sales information, it’s fine to include a link to this in the email. The point of your email is to inform, entertain and communicate so make sure you’re providing your customers with a reason to read your email.
While it’s fine to talk about new products or services that you’re offering, try not to be too salesy and aggressive. Pick a tone of voice that matches your website, brand and other marketing channels and stick to it, making sure that you always talk directly to the customer so it’s friendly, even if the overall message is corporate and serious.
As with anything, email marketing can take a while to get absolutely right, but practice makes perfect. Don’t bombard your customers with emails – as I said only send them when you have something to say – but the more you send the more you’ll learn.