Despite email's unfortunate reputation for spam and misdirection, email marketing remains an essential part of any business' toolkit. Sure, email marketing isn't easy, because the technique has been abused in the past. But the most successful entrepreneurs have risen to the challenge and used email to drive massive growth.
Content is important in email marketing, just as it is on a blog or website. Yet with email, the medium and the message have to be tightly bound. You're asking permission to post marketing messages directly into their mailbox. That level of responsibility demands some foresight and strategy.
Best Foot Forward
Any marketer can throw up a blog post, or hammer out a tweet with a hashtag. With email, you need to take a step back. Strategy and planning is essential if you don't want to end up on a blacklist.
Here's how to approach it, in 8 bite-size steps:
1. Create amazing content. Yep - you guessed it. Content is king. Your email marketing campaign will create a positive feedback loop that will hinge on the content of your site. Focus on building pillar posts that reinforce your USP, and evergreen posts that establish authority. These will add weight to your marketing messages.
2. Craft a valuable incentive for signing up. Marketers are used to thinking in terms of benefit. The people who sign up to your list are doing so voluntarily. Motivate them well, and your signups will go through the roof. Many businesses use ebooks, trials or free samples to entice their new subscribers.
3. Create a signup form. There are two very important principles involved in creating a great subscription form. One, have as few fields as possible; one (for the email address) is ideal. Two, be absolutely clear about what will happen once the subscriber is on the list. How frequently will you email them? Will you sell their details? What type of content will I receive, and will I benefit from it? Here's a great guide from ConversionXL.
4. Focus on your call to action. The CTA is the sentence that will convince your new subscriber to click Submit on the signup form. Use compelling words that promise value. Good words to use include free, now, exclusive and personal.
5. Craft, test and proofread that killer newsletter. Every time you compose a marketing message, you are getting one shot at impressing your subscribers. Get it wrong and they'll click Unsubscribe without a second thought. The newsletter is not a place for a hard-sell, but you can tie value into the newsletter content and build trust that way. Commission a brand new piece of (short) content, and link out to relevant blogs on your site to reinforce the message.
6. Focus your message. Keep it snappy and targeted. If you struggle to gain momentum, segment your email marketing list into a few different groups, and tailor the content appropriately. For example, a real estate company may want to send prospective purchasers new properties, while sending property investors details of your fire sale. At the same time, send a variation to people who haven't spent with you, encouraging an initial purchase.
7. Be sparing. Email marketing is not about hammering your list with messages. Stick to the frequency you promised at signup. Don't overdo it and abuse trust.
8. Track results and start over. There are three key variables to measure when assessing the success of an email marketing campaign. The first is the number of opens. Was your headline good enough to grab attention? Second, check the number of unsubscribes; did people hate the content so much that they bailed? Assuming you had some clicks, the third figure is click-through: analyse their location, or wording, or even the link color and size. If your mailing list provider appends UTM codes, you can track click-throughs in your Google Analytics account to find out what they did after the click.
Cycles of Continuous Improvement
In the right hands, email marketing is an insanely powerful technique. Used carefully and correctly, it can propel a business forward and make the connection between supplier and customer extremely personal. Companies like Groupon rely on the power of email as a foundation for their entire business model.
Providing you build trust, and focus on authenticity, your business can build a stellar email marketing list that ties into your wider marketing objectives. Keep it clean, honest and focused, and you're half way to building that killer list.