In the beginning, it was all about email. Email was the pre-eminent form of written communication. These days we have instant messages via social media channels as well as social updates whose purpose ranges from communicating serious stuff like a corporate event to mundane issues like your feelings at any particular time of the day.
However, the fact that we are now into tweets, likes and updates does not mean that we use email any less. In fact, all the stats point to a steady increase in the use of email. Research shows that we prefer to use email to receive commercial messages and tend to prefer social media to socialize and do fun stuff. This is why as an entrepreneur, you should never have an online marketing strategy that doesn’t include email.
But, the problem is that most people have no clue where to begin. This article attempts to give your the short version of building your first email marketing campaign.
Phase 1: Asking for Permission
It goes without saying that you must get permission to send anyone an email otherwise you will be spamming and in many jurisdictions, sending unsolicited commercial email is now a crime. Also, buying an email list is almost always a bad idea. Commercially traded email lists are likely to contain fatigued subscribers from constant bombardment with marketing messages. The best thing is to build your own list.
So, how do you get people to give you their email address?
The easiest way is to give people something of value free of charge. This could be an ebook, whitepaper, research document, a free sample…just about anything of value that will entice them to sign up.
You also need to be upfront on the sign-up form. Let them know the implications of giving you their email address.
Once the subscriber signs up, you need to ensure they whitelist you. To ensure they do this, include instructions on how to achieve this in the welcome email. Most email marketing tools come with this feature.
Phase II: Managing Expectations, Pitching and Using Autoresponders
Do what you promise. If you said you would email once a week, then make it once a week not twice or never. The initial welcome email sets up an expectation and it important to live up to the expectation in order to succeed.
How often should you pitch? To answer this question, ask yourself how you would feel it was you? Would you appreciate constant pitching if your weren’t expecting it? Of course not. So, this again goes back to the expectations you have set in the welcome email. This is why you really have to think critically about the email campaign before you send the first email. As a general rule, try to use newsletters to build relationships than to pitch customers. The pitch should only come in when you are making product announcements, updates or special offers.
Autoresponders are a must have in any email marketing campaign. They help automate your newsletter series and ensure that it goes out at the right time. You can create content in advance and have an autoresponder schedule planned for several months.
Phase III: Segment and Analyze
Market segmentation is the process of dividing a market into nearly homogeneous groups of customers using various criteria. To better personalize the content that goes out, you should segment your email list to come up with more targeted groups. How you do this is entirely depends on you. You could use age, interest, geographic location, behavior or whatever criteria that suits you to segment your email list. A proper segmentation strategy can be the difference between success and failure.
Also, you need to use the analytics tools provided by your email marketing provider. The most important metric is the open rate, the number of people that open your email. If this number is low, you have reason to worry because it means subscribers are not reading your emails; you need to go back to the drawing board.
The next most important metric is the click through rate (CTR). This tells you how many people have clicked links within the email. A low number means your copy isn’t good enough and you need to improve it.
The third metric that should concern you immediately is the unsubscribe rate. A high rate relative to the opt-in rate is a indication that subscribers don’t like your copy. It could also mean that you are not living up to the expectations you established in the welcome email.
Like any marketing method, email isn’t a silver bullet. It should be used in conjunction with other techniques such as social, SEO and others which actually get a boost when bounced off an email list. Also, as the title states, this article is a primer. There is much more to email marketing including advanced techniques such as behavioral email targeting, responsive email design and lead scoring. But for now, know that when you build a size-able email list, it will be a gold mine. Also, know that email marketing has the best return on investment (ROI) of all other content marketing strategies. It isn’t money wasted.