With so much emphasis these days on search engine marketing and social media, email marketing gets overlooked. But for millions of local businesses it represents a steady performer in the marketing mix. Using email marketing effectively, however, can be challenging. Here are 10 ways to make email marketing work harder for your business:
- Improve your appearance: Your “Subject” line is critical. This is what most recipients see first. They will use it to decide whether or not to open your email. Subject lines of 30-50 characters are best and should convey a sense of urgency. Avoid words or phrases associated with spam such as “Free,” “You may have already won” or “Don’t delete!” The “From” field is also important. It’s usually best to use your business name (or your name if that’s more recognizable) so recipients know who’s sending it.
- Hone your message: Craft your message so it appeals as specifically as possible to your intended audience. Be clear about which audience you are addressing. For example, are they current customers? Inactive customers? Prospects? Different audiences have different likes, expectations and levels of knowledge about what your business offers. Focus on one thing you want to accomplish.
- Respect recipients’ time: Email marketing involves a special relationship since recipients have given permission for you to send them emails (they’ve opted in somehow). So treat them with special care. Offer them something of value – special deals, important news, insider access or VIP treatment of some kind – and never waste their time.
- Make it interesting: If you’ve done the preliminaries right and recipients open your email, keep them engaged by making it interesting, as well as worth their while. Use a conversational style (avoid sounding like a commercial) and let your personality (or your brand’s personality) come through. Write like you are talking to a friend.
- Call to action: Just as with other marketing messages, emails need a strong call to action. A strong CTA makes it clear what action the customer is expected to take, and why.
- Tap into testing: One of the nice things about email marketing is that it’s so easy to test. For example, you can easily try different subject lines and see what works best. You might be surprised at your findings. Craft several different main messages and see which ones result in the most “clicks” to your website. Try different offers and calls to action.
- Segment your list: For many small businesses, segmenting spells success. If you customers include different demographic groups (older, younger, men, women, etc.), try creating customized offers and messaging to different groups. Segmenting will also reduce opt-outs since recipients get more targeted messages.
- Take it slow and steady: The best email lists are often build slowly and methodically over time. Purchased lists can be of dubious quality and value. Don’t worry if your list is small. Quality trumps quantity.
- Dial the right frequency: Because email marketing is relatively inexpensive it’s tempting to use frequently. But that can backfire. The best frequency and time of day to send your emails depend on the type of business you operate. Finding the right formula is a learning process, so try sending emails at different intervals and times. Also avoid large gaps in your frequency. If customers haven’t heard from you in months, they may forget they opted in and consider your message spam.
- Win the browser battle: Email recipients use many different email programs and web browsers, including Outlook, Yahoo, Entourage, AOL, Apple, Gmail, Hotmail and others. A common mistake is failing to test emails to make sure they work properly with as many email programs as possible. An easy way to do this is to use an email vendor for your marketing campaigns and take advantage of their testing tools. A few options include Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, iContact and Vertical Response.
Have a question about email marketing? Connect with a SCORE mentor online or in your community today!