Guest Post by Brad Shorr
If you’re looking for a great way to connect with customers, build engagement and generate new business, email is an option worth considering.
On the plus side, everybody uses email, so you don’t miss big chunks of your target audience as you might with social media or even SEO.
On the negative side, because email is universally used, marketers overuse it — drowning recipients in overflowing inboxes. It’s hard to get noticed.
To succeed with email, here are five key ingredients.
1. Stay With It
Many email campaigns don’t fail, they end too quickly. If you’re not getting a lot of opens and conversions over the first several emails, stay with it. Many subscribers need a lot of convincing before they take a serious look at an email. A sustained effort signals your dedication, and eventually subscribers will take a look.
2. Have Something Useful to Say
Having a useful, relevant message naturally inspires subscribers to open and read your emails. What is it your customers really want to know? This is the question that should drive all email content. The best answers come from your customers. What questions do they commonly ask when investigating your products or services? What search terms are popular when people are looking for your products and services online? An online keyword checker tool is an easy way for email marketers to get topic ideas.
3. Stimulate Engagement
The purpose of an email is not simply to bombard recipients with information. Every email should have a conversion goal. Your desired conversion will vary depending on what you are trying to accomplish — which sounds simple enough, but is an area a lot of businesses approach haphazardly. To sharpen engagement, think along the following lines:
- To generate an order, sales lead or an appointment booking, include a strong incentive, such as 25 percent off.
- To obtain feedback, include a link to an online questionnaire. Even better, offer a small incentive to anyone who completes it.
- To transfer knowledge, include a “learn more” response form so recipients can easily ask follow-up questions.
4. Test, Test and Test
Email marketing can be measured precisely. Smart companies take advantage of the data by conducting systematic tests to gradually — or sometimes rapidly — improve results. Among the most important items to test:
- Subject lines
- Timing (day of week and time of day)
Testing takes time, since you should test only one variable at a time. If you test multiple variables simultaneously, you won’t know which variable led to the different result.
5. Nurture the List
Effective testing and reaching a critical mass of conversions requires a large, qualified and accurate mailing list. Nurturing your list is an important job that needs ongoing attention. To build a better list, you should …
- Keep all contact information up to date. People change jobs all the time, and business email addresses sometimes change — for instance, when a company is acquired.
- Add contacts to the list systematically. Leads that come in from other sources — sales, customer service inquiries, other marketing campaigns, referrals, etc. — must be qualified, and added to the list when appropriate.
- Promote your email online and offline. Put a “subscribe” button on your website, talk up your email at networking events or when making sales calls. Promote it on your social media accounts. Always give people good reasons for signing up. Thinking back to issue #2, having something useful to say, think now: What is the value proposition of my email?
Brad Shorr is Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, an Internet marketing agency serving small and midsized companies.