Think of this blog post as a guide for everything email marketing.
- learn why email marketing is an essential business tool,
- how you should be using email marketing,
- best practices in crafting email campaigns,
- the different types of email campaigns,
- the essential components of an email,
- how to get your emails opened and read and
- checking your metrics to see what’s working and what needs improvement.
WHAT IS EMAIL MARKETING?
Email marketing is a communications tool with a professional look that delivers relevant content to an interested audience. It is intended to elicit an action by the reader. This is known as a CTA (call to action). The CTA gets the reader to respond in the way of a visit to the sender’s website, or a link to a guide or white paper, a download, coupon redemption, etc.. to increase sales, production, or whatever your business goal is.
WHY USE EMAIL MARKETING? Email marketing has a high rate of ROI (return on investment) and when used properly is a very effective business tool. It will help you create and increase brand awareness, can drive new business, and trigger repeat business. Plus it has 3x the conversion rate of social media marketing. Email marketing used with social media will garner the best results for sales conversions.
Email campaigns consist of different types of messages. Newsletters, coupons, surveys, promotions, flyers, and events are all examples of email campaigns. Depending on the CTA, this will determine the type of campaign you’ll want to create.
- For example, a NEWSLETTER is a long-form email with lengthy content and could simply be informational. Many not for profits use a monthly newsletter. Because donors have a keen interest in their cause, they are more likely to read a longer message. They want to see how the organization’s mission is being carried out. Or how funds are being allocated. Their CTA might include a donation button to collect charitable funding.
- A FLYER on the other hand is usually a short and more creative type campaign where an event is taking place or a sale is being promoted. In this case, it would act like a “notice”. The CTA would most likely be a registration button or an RSVP link. It would also include the date, time, and location of the event.
- A PROMOTION email will usually include an offer or coupon code in the email body. This offer would be in the form of a button or link that might say “shop now” or “buy here” and can take the reader to a website or product purchase.
- An EVENT email will include a registration form that is created separately but accessed when the registration link is clicked. The form should include a longer description of the event, the date, time, location, map, and event fee (if applicable). The fee can be collected directly from the form using a credit or debit card through We Pay or PayPal. You have the option also to collect payment at the door on the day of the event.
Depending on the type of business one has will determine the type of campaign they will use and also the frequency that they send them. There are industry trends that dictate this as well. However, nothing in marketing is set in stone. Each business will need to use the tried and true method of testing in determining what works best for them and their audience.
In general, a not-for-profit with an informational email campaign typically includes a culmination of articles and sends as a monthly update. On the other hand, a small local business might send a bi-weekly or weekly email. Many larger retailers send out emails more than once per week. Restaurants can do well by sending weekly emails. They may have weekly specials, announce a menu change, or showcase live music and want to include special offers. With more offerings, the frequency of your message can follow suit.
Event emails are date-driven. Their frequency will differ from informational campaigns. Email calendar planning must be in place at least 6 weeks prior for successful attendance. Even further in advance if it’s an annual event with an expected attendance rate that is significantly higher.
To make sure your readers are keeping interested and not unsubscribing from your list, you may want to send out a periodical SURVEY to gather information and reports. Content could be about what they’d like to read more about, less about, and give feedback. This is also an opportunity to get the necessary information in order to SEGMENT your email list. When considering adding a new product or service to your line, here is where you can find out the level of interest before you actually roll it out.
Let’s get to the MAIN COMPONENTS of crafting an effective email campaign. At the least, you most certainly should include:
- Your logo
- A picture relating to your content
- A CTA (call to action)
- Signature or contact information
- Your website link
These are the 5 steps to master the power of the inbox:
- Growing a healthy email list
- Creating great content
- Using and customizing a mobile-friendly template
- Getting your emails opened
- Tracking your results
(source Constant Contact)
Let’s start with growing your email list. This is where most people get stopped in their tracks. They have no idea how to grow their email list. Here are some ideas:
OFFLINE– Keep a printable customized paper signup form and leave it at the checkout counter or check-in counter of your place of business. You can use the same form at any expo that you take part in or at an event that you organize. Another idea is to set up a fishbowl at your store. If you don’t have a storefront, collaborate with a local restaurant. Raffle a gift card from the restaurant and collect business cards in the fishbowl. You want to build a permission-based email list, so make sure you let the participants know in writing that when they enter the raffle they will also have opted in to your email list. These are some simple ideas. You can get creative with your ideas. Even without a list, you can still send out emails to most of your social media networks. Use the dedicated link that is attached to your email campaign.
ONLINE– Start with a sign-up form on your website. Write a blog and include your sign-up link in it. Use social media signup tools. Add a signup form on your Facebook page (Constant Contact.) Include the signup link in your social media posts. Try Constant Contact’s feature, Text to Join. You choose a keyword, and an autoresponder with a default message appears once they enter a predetermined number to text to. The subscriber is then prompted to enter their email address. After it’s entered, another autoresponder will thank them and let them know that they are now subscribed to your list. You can customize your message, notify the subscriber of your email frequency and the type of content you’ll be sharing with them. It’s important to know that people aren’t always open to being added to an email list. Unless there is a good reason for them to sign up (remember the acronym WIIFM).
With this in mind, you should be willing to have an enticing incentive for your subscribers to sign up. Take some time to think about the reason someone would sign up for your emails. What one-time offer are you willing to give away? It could be a 20% discount on a first-time order or an exclusive offer that only email subscribers would be privy to. What about a download of an informational guide that only they can get access to? Make it something special. Don’t forget to let subscribers know what types of content they’ll receive and how often they should expect to hear from you.
CONTENT– What makes good content? It should be entertaining, educational, visual, informational, or promotional. Keep this ratio in mind as you create your content calendar: 50% of your content should be entertaining and informational, 30% educational, and 20% promotional. It’s the 50, 30, 20 rule. Let’s move deeper into what this means.
- Entertaining and informational-use your sense of humor. Don’t go too far. Add in an informational component.
- Educational- “Did you know?” moments. What information do you have or possess that they don’t have access to?
- Promotional- This is all about you- why people should use your services or buy your product…etc.
Now, for the amount of content. Keep in mind that people are time-starved and most are now reading emails on their smartphones. Less is more, shorter is better. About 20 lines of text is enough. If you must include more, then you should include a link or button to “read more”.
TEMPLATES– You’ll need to make sure you choose and use mobile-friendly templates because more than 50% of all emails are opened on a smartphone. A template that is not mobile-friendly won’t show up properly on a smaller device as it would on a desktop or laptop. The page may be cut off, the formatting could be lost, and it would be harder for the reader to understand the message.
GETTING YOUR EMAIL OPENED– There are specific rules to follow when it comes to the sender of the email. How does the subscriber know you? Is it the product you sell, your nickname, or your company name that they recognize? The best practice is to have both your first and last name and your company name. This way you are pretty much covered and people will recognize the sender. This is a major consideration because you definitely don’t want someone deleting your email before they even get the chance to see what’s in it!
THE SUBJECT LINE– Here is the second most important item when trying to get your email opened. How do you create an open-worthy email? The first thing to know is to create the subject line after you have created your email message. The main message of your email will dictate the core idea of your campaign. Once you’ve completed the content, you’ll find it easier to craft a simple, yet catchy subject line. A rule of thumb is for the subject line to be 6-11 words. That has shown to get the best open rates. The more generic or vague a subject line, the less interesting it is for the reader. An example of a vague subject line is ”Summer Newsletter Happenings”.As opposed to a more creative and enticing one, such as “ 3 Fun Events in July”.
Make sure to avoid SPAMMY words or phrases like, “Act Now”, “You’ve Won” or ”Make Money” and refrain from ALL CAPS and excessive punctuation!!!! These are all no-nos in email marketing. A good way to double-check you’re not using spam-like words is to look in your own spam inbox. See what kinds of inappropriate subject lines are there and then avoid them at all costs.
ANALYTICS– Many people overlook this most important task. Checking email campaign reports. The reason this task is so important and should not be skipped as part of your overall strategy is that it’s what will guide you going forward. It will tell you what is and what is not working. Use this important information as a guide to making better decisions about better subject lines, better content, and better send times.
Which reporting should you focus on? The opens of course and even more importantly the clicks. The click is the call to action. Figure out what’s most important to you, your opens or your clicks. Make sure that you also check your bounces and remove them to make room for quality people who do want to hear from you. Adjust your strategy based on your reporting.
SOCIAL MEDIA SHARE-Any email marketing service you choose or use should include a social share button. The social share buttons allow you to send your email to a whole new audience. Everyone who is not on your email list but who you are connected to on popular social media platforms. Most notably Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. If your email service provider doesn’t offer social share, then you should include an email link that you can cut and paste into your posts. Except for Instagram, as you can only add the link in the bio section of your account). As you’re building an email list, you can still use email marketing with success by sending the campaigns to your followers and connections.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER– A tried and true approach to the design of your campaigns is to:
- Create a non-spammy subject line with 6-11 words
- Craft the subject line AFTER you have entered the content
- Make sure your subscriber knows immediately who it is from
- Keep content short, under 20 lines of text
- Use a “read more” button if you need to expand on your content
- Apply your brand colors
- Include your logo, a CTA, website, and contact info
- Keep your CTA above the scroll line
- Include a clickable, clear picture that relates to your content
- Limit the number of pictures to three
- The more links you insert, the fewer clicks you’ll get
- Consistently grow your email list with opt-in features and never buy a list.
- Create a content calendar – use either a holiday calendar as your guide or decide on your mailing frequency. Then create the topics in advance so you have everything ready and planned in advance. This will keep you on schedule.
So, there are a lot of things to consider when creating email marketing campaigns. But as long as you start with these tips, you will get better and better at crafting and designing. And new ideas will spur. Before you know it, you’ll be a real pro!
Want more ideas?
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