An Introduction to Email Marketing
Email marketing as we know it today started in the 1970s and has expanded to include 4.6 billion email addresses and 2.6 billion active accounts. Since its early beginnings it has become our number one method for communicating in both our personal and professional lives. It is both a blessing and a curse.
On the one hand, the database of contact information is an asset that you own unlike the followers on social media platforms where the algorithms can change at the drop of a hat. In other words, Facebook could shut down business pages without notice, therefore wiping out all your followers or potentially charge users for the ability to send messages on Messenger. Social media platforms are constantly changing whereas email is a constant. Almost everyone checks their emails at least once a day and with the almost universal use of smartphones even more frequently on mobile. HubSpot compares social media marketing with email marketing in this blog post
This has led to our inboxes overflowing with communications as more brands collect our data for marketing purposes. If you are to use email marketing as part of your marketing strategy, you are in competition for your subscribers’ attention which means that the content needs to be of high quality and relevance.
Example of an Email Capture Form
A form can ask for a name and email address or may capture multiple pieces of information. The more information you request the more resistance there will be to its completion.
Email service providers allow the s
egmentation of email subscribers into groups, which means you are able to send specific communications to different audiences. For example, if someone has purchased an engagement ring from a website, they might be sent a follow up email about wedding bands to match.
Another example is where someone has completed an online form on a website requesting a report which, for example, compares the best-selling cloud accounting software systems. A few days later a further email might be sent following up with information on the benefits of outsourced bookkeeping services. The aim is to build trust with a potential client by demonstrating expertise.
In this last example, a wind
ow replacement company might run special seasonal offers at quiet times of the year on categories of products such as windows, roof lights and patio doors. By segmenting their audience into people interested in these different categories the company can promote a specific offer to a highly targeted audience.
Main email marketing service providers
There are literally hundreds of different email service providers – here is a list of the main providers for homepreneurs (in alphabetical order).
- Active Campaign
- Constant Contact
- Leap (formally Infusionsoft)
Most email service providers offer free trials or free accounts for small lists. It is worthwhile reading reviews and taking advantage of trial periods in order that you enjoy using the software as well as having all the functions you need.
In simple terms email marketing provides the facility to send broadcast emails such as newsletters and autoresponder series which are sequences of emails which nurture the subscriber over a period of time.
Emails can be simple, plain text in style or highly designed using a template which includes your branding and photos. Unless your business is very visual, such as a photographer or cake decorator, I would recommend using plain text as they are quicker to compose and easier to read. If you have too many images the email may be slow to load, less likely to be delivered and some recipients will have images turned off anyway.
Sign up for a few email communications on websites in your sector to see how your competitors handle email marketing. Be super-critical about their style, content, length and tone of voice. Ensure that you write your emails for your audience in simple language which is easy to digest on mobile.
Email marketing should always have a purpose – what are you trying to achieve? Are you providing valuable information? The purpose of email communications is to educate, inform and entertain.
Set out below are the essential elements you should concentrate on:
- Catchy subject line
Your email will first come to your subscriber’s attention in the inbox. The headline needs to grab the reader’s attention without being spammy.
- Enticing strapline
Most inboxes will also show a sub-heading which clarifies the subject-matter. This should hook the reader in.
The forms which you use to collect email addresses should (at a minimum) ask for the subscriber’s first name. This then allows you to personalise your content; for example ‘Dear [first_name]’.
However, I would avoid peppering the content with personalisation, as it can appear fake, especially when you are emailing people you have never met.
- Well-written, highly-valuable content
Although many people bemoan an overflowing inbox, if someone has granted you access it’s important that the information you provide is concise, actionable and inspirational. Your subscribers are busy people so keep content focused and add links to additional resources for those people who need more detail.
- Call to action or simple choice between two alternatives
I find emails with dozens of links confusing – do not give people too many choices. If you write regularly, stick to the same format for your emails and divide the content into sections; that way readers will get used to the layout and the different calls to action.
For example a business coach might include a summary of their latest blog post, followed by a section on upcoming events and finally, a review of a useful tool or app.
A graphic designer might have a section on latest case studies, one on design trends, and finally a resource on different font pairings.
The aim of email marketing is to get a response or an action which moves the reader along the customer journey.
In order to measure the effectiveness of your email marketing it is important to become familiar with some of the statistics your email service provider gathers once you have sent your campaign. At a minimum review these figures 24 hours after sending the newsletter:
- total number of emails sent
- total number of emails delivered
- total number of emails opened
- the open rate (emails opened divided by emails sent as a percentage)
- the total number of clicks
- click through rate (number of link clicks divided by the number of emails sent as a percentage)
- leads generated – the number of sales or enquiries that lead to a sale.
Where you have multiple links within an email you will analyse the last three measures for each link.
Read about metrics from GetResponse:
How to gather email addresses
Many articles on the internet will stress the size of an email list. While it is important to have a large list of contacts it is equally important that your subscribers are relevant to your business. If your target audience is males over 50, it’s no good having a list full of female twenty-somethings!
Aim for quality over quantity focusing on your ideal customer demographics.
Here are a few ways you can grow your email list:
- display a sign-up form on your website in return for a download of a valuable lead magnet
- use pop up which appear after a visitor has been on your website for a certain number of seconds, when they have scrolled down a particular percentage of a page or as they are about to leave (known as an exit intent pop up)
- install a chat bot
- offer a content upgrade for in-depth resources
- install a subscription bar across the top or bottom of every page of your website
- remind email subscribers to share or forward your email newsletter to a contact
- use Facebook, Twitter or other social media paid advertising to gather email addresses
- Create a signup button on your Facebook business page
- Run contests including sweepstakes where more chances to win are given for social sharing
- Use end cards on YouTube videos
- Ask people you meet at networking (but always get their permission)
- Host webinars or online training
- Attend trade shows
- Place sign up cards in-store
- Form partnerships with other experts in your field
Always follow your country’s regulations and if you are interacting with anyone from the European Union abide by the General Data Protection Regulations.
In conclusion, email marketing is an inexpensive online marketing tactic which remains the most effective form of communicating with existing and potential clients. Reach out to your contacts using your everyday Gmail or Outlook email and deepen your relationship with your list by sending regular emails to your list.