Saturday, December 20, 2014

Email Marketing: Alive and Well

When it comes to marketing, email often takes a back seat to social media. Yet, according to Lorraine Ball, owner of Indianapolis-based digital marketing agency Roundpeg, this tool is more powerful than you might imagine. “None of the social media platforms will deliver the same results for a small business as will a well-structured, timely, relevant email campaign—directed at an audience that has given you permission to contact them. Typically, we see two-to-four-times the engagement with email that we do with social media.”

But there’s a knack to conducting an effective email campaign. The first step? Find a third-party provider to handle the job—there are plenty of affordable options. The cost for these services is minimal, but well worth the investment. “Conducting an email campaign on your own will be too time-consuming,” noted Ball. “And most email providers won’t allow you to send out this much email at once, thinking that you’re spamming.”

You’ll also need to develop a mailing list, which takes time. (Ball strongly advises against purchasing a list.) “Reputable service providers will ask you when you upload your email list if you have permission. If you don’t, they won’t allow you to upload the list. Plus, a lot of the lists you can buy aren’t any good.”

How do you start to build your list? Get out and meet people or capture addresses on your website using incentives. The next challenge is getting people to actually open your email—not always easy to do since we’re all drowning in them. “We mentally sort email into three buckets; now, later or never. Your objective is to get them to open it now.”

Tips for email success:
  • Keep subject lines short. Many email services truncate your message, so be brief and lead with the most attention-grabbing content.
  • Set a schedule. Be habitual with all email outreach to set expectations. Regular, rather than random, will improve your open rate.
  • Preview before you send. Look for punctuation and spelling errors, and how the copy looks on the page. The service providers will send you a preview, so take time to review it. (If you have time, send to an additional editor; a second pair of eyes is invaluable.)
  • Know your audience. Not everyone on your list wants to receive the same information. Divide your list into different subsets based on interests or other appropriate segmentation, and target the content accordingly.
  • Time it right. Send your email when recipients are most likely to read it. (This will take some testing.) Divide your list into equal parts sent at different days/times, then comparing open rates.

Finally, clean up your list after each email, weeding out bad addresses, undeliverable errors, blocked emails, and those who aren’t interested and don’t open your email. Smaller, cleaner lists are less expensive, since most service providers charge based on the list’s size. This will not only save you money, suggests Ball, but it will also reduce spam complaints. “This is important. If you receive too many complaints, your email may be blocked by certain ISPs, preventing you from reaching even interested readers.”

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