We do a lot of things for clients and I’m very good at several; message realignment, paid search, online conversion, and yes, email marketing. Publications only seem to ask me about email marketing, though.
Like INC. Magazine did last week in an article that focuses on the subject line.
Or like BusinessWeek did a while back.
Here’s the thing, email marketing (good email marketing that is) follows good marketing principles. Plain and simple. It has its nuances, which I’ll also talk about here. But good email marketing is good marketing, which is the main point I want to leave you with.
Why Email Marketing?
Everybody should use email on a regular basis to stay in touch with customers and prospects. Regardless of the size of your list. Because it is inexpensive (no printing, no postage) you can afford to reach out to people more often. And because you can, small groups of people become viable targets (smaller than you cared about 10 years ago when doing a snail-mail mailing to 100 or 300 people seemed silly). I have clients who mail to 225 people and who mail to 25,000; and I would argue that both groups are equally important to both clients.
Plus, it is the communication vehicle of choice for the majority of the planet over 25 years old (you’ll have to text them. . .but that’s another topic for another time).
1. Start building your list, regardless of how small.
Good email lists are built one address, or a handful of addresses, at a time. Start with your customers. Use an Excel spreadsheet: first name; last name; email address; company name. The reason: you’ll want to personalize your messages, or perhaps send only to those people who bought a specific product.
Start another list for prospects from the free downloads on your site, blog commenters, inquiries, trade show passers-by, vendors.
Collect email addresses as you would dollar bills on the ground: every time you stumble upon one, regardless of where or when, pick it up. Sitting down to add addresses once a week or month assures you’ll miss at least 20% of them. And by the way, do you know what a good email address costs to buy (if you can find the good ones)? About a buck.
2. Use a service to send, manage and report.
Google “email marketing” and you’ll find a million to choose from. An email service sends the email for you, manages lists you upload, provides design templates, handles opt outs and bounces and, most importantly, gives you reports on response. Most start at around $15-20 per month. Over a thousand emails a month, plan to spend about four cents per email sent. We use and recommend myemma.com.
3. Write the Subject Line last, and give it its due.
This single topic is the subject of the INC. Magazine article I was quoted in. Don’t assume that because they are your customers people automatically read what you send. You have to earn their attention every time and the subject line is where you do that. Think newspaper article headline: punchy, but descriptive. It’s fine to be excited about things, but leave the “Our Biggest Sale Ever” to the spammers. Don’t exaggerate or over-promise. You’re an adult. Your customers are adults. Act accordingly.
4. Send as often as you can create something you’d appreciate receiving yourself.
I get asked a lot how often can you send email without wearing out your welcome. The headline to this section is really the best answer. It’s about quality. When you have something important or interesting to say, say it. I receive emails from Seth Godin practically every day. They’re terrific. As long as you worry more about keeping them terrific, how often you send will take care of itself.
5. Build value in your emails, don’t sell. . .or, more to the point, sell by building value.
The more value you deliver, the stronger the selling results. I tell people to imagine being a paid coach of the people receiving your emails. How can you best educate this group in bite-size pieces? That’s your email campaign. What questions are you getting from your customers lately? Answer those. What’s going on in their world you can help them understand, give advice around or link to an article about? If you still aren’t sure about content, subscribe to some email updates by competitors and from companies you admire, regardless of industry. It would be a great use of time to spend a month receiving emails before you start yours.
If you are having a sale, promote it. If you’ve lowered a price, announce it. If you have a new product, let people know. But keep those types of emails to about 20-30% of the total.
6. Present the entire story in the email.
I get asked this a lot too: How long should my email be? My answer: it should have a beginning, middle and end. Most people think shorter is better. Short is good, but not necessarily better than long. On a good day, 12% of the people who you send to will click through to your website. On a great day you might double that. If you want more than 20% of your recipients (at best!) to get the whole story, and you do, don’t make them click to get it.
7. Include images.
People like pictures. Very simply, more people will read your email with pictures than without. I use istockphoto.com, a great site that sells low-cost stock photos and illustrations.
8. . . (bonus!) Personalize your emails.
Dear Hamilton is better than Dear Friend. All the email services allow you to do this, so do it. With one client we also mention the customer’s salesperson in their emails, which doubled their click-through rate.
That’s it. Until I get a number nine. Happy hunting.
And remember, you can hire me to do your email marketing for you, train you how or evaluate your current campaign. Email me.