Email marketing has made a resurgence in the past year, as some demographics are becoming exhausted, maybe even suspicious, of social media and social ads, especially considering recent headlines in the news. However, recent statistics show that email marketing campaigns from trusted brands can increase engagement, repeat sales and brand loyalty. And it can do all of this with a rather low cost and high return.
“In fact, email generates $38 for every $1 spent, which is an astounding 3,800% ROI, making it one of the most effective options available.” – Hubspot
Consider the following questions whether or not you’ve used email marketing to promote your brand. If you’re a small business owner, how can you implement email marketing into your marketing plan and what are the benefits to your brand? How can you make your email stand out from the crowd and thus increase open rate? How do you follow current email protocols as well as comply with regulations of the CAN-SPAM act? And how can you increase and monitor ROI from your emails?
Why is email still effective after all of these years?
Even though it may seem passé, emails are still a main channel of communication for consumers, entrepreneurs, business leaders, employers and employees. Since email is easier to track, easier to record, to print, to file away, to reply or forward, it’s still the preferred way to send information. Millennials and Generation Z may have initially only used texting and social media platforms to exchange abbreviated acronym-filled messages to their friends, yet when they enter the academia or business world, they will be forced to have an email address. Why?
“86 percent of professionals prefer email when communicating for business.” – Hubspot
Social media is a poor form of communication for several reasons. First, messaging through an app is no longer a trusted form of communication, due to recent hacks and unauthorized sharing of personal information by social media giants to third-party sources. Even with Snapchat, your message is really never deleted but saved on a database on a server somewhere. Second, social media audiences are too segmented meaning not everyone has a Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn or Snapchat account, and it will become a logistical nightmare to have to keep records of your rolodex contacts and which platform to reach them on. So even for those just entering the workforce, email is a necessary and trusted outlet.
“73 percent of millennials prefer communications from businesses to come via email.” – Hubspot
Millennials may recoil at seeing commercials on their beloved Instagram or Snapchat, thus they are much more willing to digest the brand message when opening an email. And the most important reason that email is still effective is that our audience of consumers are using it daily and checking it up to 10 times per day on average.
“More than 50 percent of U.S. respondents check their personal email account more than 10 times a day, and it is by far their preferred way to receive updates from brands. 99% of consumers check their email every day” – Hubspot
How to make your email stand out?
When planning an email marketing campaign, you are structuring layout, writing and truncating content, setting up links, images and email graphics, etc. – all to the purpose of increasing open rate. Why? Open rate demonstrates engagement, it means you captured the attention of a member of your audience to open and at the very least browse the content. The other significant factor is encouraging click through rate, which measures those who clicked on an embedded link in your email, which demonstrates an even deeper form of engagement.
So how do you encourage opens and clicks?
“Marketers who use segmented campaigns note as much as a 760% increase in revenue.” (Hubspot)
First, segment your audience into multiple lists, so you can tailor your message to their interest. Understand each segment’s main interest in signing up for your emails, possibly even using a checkbox during the sign-up process to determine what topics are of interest to them. Each segment will get a specific email that is suited to their tastes, demographic, or purchasing history. When the consumer see the message is specific to their wants, they are more inclined to ‘listen’ (click and/or convert).
“56% of brands using an emoji in their email subject line had a higher open rate than those that did not.” (Hubspot)
“Using the words ‘thank you’ in a subject line will net higher-than-average open rates.”
Second, subject lines of your email are often the tagline or teaser that leads to an open, so you should take time to formulate it. When writing a subject line, consider the purpose of the email before you write your tagline. I typically write out and finalize the entire email before I take the time to create the subject line, as the goal is to take those roughly 100-200 characters to embody the purpose of your email, summarize it’s content and engage your audience. Easy? No, but vital. Here are some ways to improve your subject line:
- Urgency: If you’re announcing a sale, clearance or promotion, use a tagline that expresses urgency with a clear expiration so they know time is of the essence.
- Benefit: If you’re writing an informative email that teaches or informs your audience, ensure the subject line expresses the benefit of reading. You could possible use a question format to engage your audience, such as “How can you …”, “Why you need to …” or “What is …”.
- Reward: The third and most effective subject line is one that offers a reward, for example a coupon, exclusive promo code, giveaway or free gift.
Third, like any other form of content marketing, be engaging, be original and think like your customer. Write content that has value and is of interest to your target audience. (READ blog about Content Marketing) As in all forms of digital media, add visuals to your email will increase engagement and conversion, so add graphics, photos, and videos. Also spend time on layout, so the email looks clean and professional, it compliments your existing brand, it’s easy to read, and the content is scannable with headings and sections so the user can easily find what they are looking for.
“A personalized email message will increase transaction rates up to six times compared to a generic message.” – Omnicore
Fourth, use their name in the email to further personalize the message. So when formulating your list, make sure the spreadsheet or CSV file includes first name, last name, company name, and of course, email address. That way you can customize your email to include their name or company name in the email, reminding them that you know them personally and your email is not SPAM, and also that you care enough to include their name or affiliation in the email.
“Mobile opens accounted for 46 percent of all email opens.” – Hubspot
It should go without saying in 2019, but make sure your emails are mobile-friendly and look as good when opened on a smartphone as they do on a desktop. So make sure to send a test version to yourself and open on various browsers, devices, and even email servers (Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, etc).
“46% of subscribers mark emails as spam because the brand emailed them too often. And when asked how marketers could improve in their emails, 44% wanted less frequent emails.” -Campaign Monitor
Do not overwhelm your email lists with emails every week or worse yet, every day, especially if it’s not warranted. If your product inventory is changing frequently, with ever-changing promotions and offers, then it’s recommended not to send more than twice per week. For service-based or B2B industries, I would recommend no more than once or twice per month. Remember email your audience when you have content that is valuable, beneficial and/or offers cost-savings to the customer.
“59% of respondents say marketing emails influence their purchase decisions. So it’s no wonder that more than 59% of marketers say email is their biggest source of ROI.” – Hubspot
You’ve spent all the time formulating your email list, writing great content and designing a beautiful template with original, engaging visuals, so it would be futile if you forget the most important element of your email campaign – your call-to-action (CTA). Whether your email’s purpose is to encourage new leads, test out a new product, increase sales, or track promotions, include a clear, bold CTA in the body of email with a button that links to your landing page, blog post, online catalog or website.
How to create an Email Marketing Campaign that is CAN-SPAM Compliant?
“The CAN-SPAM Act, a law that sets the rules for commercial email, establishes requirements for commercial messages, gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and spells out tough penalties for violations. Despite its name, the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t apply just to bulk email. It covers all commercial messages, which the law defines as ‘any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,’ including email that promotes content on commercial websites. The law makes no exception for business-to-business email. That means all email – for example, a message to former customers announcing a new product line – must comply with the law.” – Federal Trade Commission
According to the FTC, “Each separate email in violation of the law is subject to penalties of up to $42,530, so non-compliance can be costly.” So to run down a list of email marketing no-no’s, here’s a list of obvious violations but I would encourage all business owners to read the full law at the above link.
- Don’t be deceptive about your email subject lines or content; and make sure your audience understands the message is for advertising purposes from a brand or company.
- Always give your users a way to opt-out of future emails and ensure these requests are honored.
- Include your company name, address, email and URL, so the customer can identify, contact you with questions or complaints, and report any violations.
- Never sell, share or buy email lists*. And never email anyone unless you have their permission and you have an ongoing relationship or previous contact with (customer, partner, lead, vendor, employee, contractor, etc) or they have voluntarily opted-in to your email list via your website or social media channel.
*Over the years, I’ve received emails from uninformed or honestly clueless folks that send out emails to promote their event, product, non-profit, etc, with their full list of email recipients in the “To:” or “CC:” field of an email. This is a big “no-no” because the sender has inadvertently shared their entire email list with each recipient, which is a CAN-SPAM violation. And it doesn’t matter if the recipient is a small business, non-profit or individual, if the email message is promoting their service, product, event or cause they are liable to the rules set out in the CAN-SPAM act.
Use Email Software for Best Practices and Increased Success
Some recommended Email Marketing Services:
- Constant Contact
There are several very good reasons to use an Email Marketing Service for your small business or non-profit. You want to ensure that all that your messages are (1) compliant with all regulations; (2) easily viewed and read on multiple devices; (3) more likely to be received in your audience’s inbox; and (4) able to be tracked, analyzed and reviewed.
First of all, the companies who provide these services are going to keep abreast of laws and regulations changes required by the CAN-SPAM act, browser updates or mobile device protocols, and make changes to their system accordingly. For example, recently the email services have done away with any templates that were not responsive or mobile-friendly, forcing their users to revise their campaigns to ensure compatibility. These email services also include automatic opt-out links on all emails, and automatically remove theses subscribers from all your lists. If the subscriber wants to be added back later to your list, only they can do so.
Second, the email marketing software offer a large library of pre-designed email templates to choose from that can be viewed on various devices and browsers and work on all email clients (Outlook, Gmail, Mail, Yahoo, etc.). Not only do they look great, there are usually various templates that can easily be customized to fit your message, your brand, your event or seasonal message. You can also start from scratch and develop your own template, saving it to reuse for future emails.
Third, email clients are consistently working to block or junk emails that are suspected to be from spammers by implementing filters. When trying to send bulk emails from your personal email, you are more likely to get filtered out as spam or junk email, or your own email service provider may block you from sending it out in the first place. If you attempty this repeatedly, your email may become suspect and thus permanently blocked from sending any emails to their clients. Similar to Google ranking your website as a trusted website or source of information, email service providers usually see emails coming in via Constant Contact, MailChimp or other email marketing services as trusted and verified. So by using these services, you emails will more than likely go directly into the recipients inbox with a greater chance of being opened, which is the goal.
Fourth, these email marketing services provide a wealth of statistical information, including open rate, click rate, and conversion. You can even create segmented lists specific to the recipient’s actions, for example, which links the user clicked. These action-based lists will further define these users’ interest and engagement. With this data, you can experiment with various subject links, content messages, promotions and segmented lists. In time, after reviewing your analytics, you will determine what works with your target audience and how to increase conversions via this marketing channel. If you were to use your personal email address to send bulk emails, you will have no data to review, plain and simple.
“It’s estimated that the U.S. will spend over 350 million dollars on email advertising in 2019.” – Statista
Regardless of the service you use, the industry you represent or the demographics of your target audience, email marketing is definitely not dead but alive and well, and thus should be considered as part of your internet marketing strategy. Need help? Call or email Startup Production for email marketing management or training.