Ever since the late Ray Tomlinson sent the first across-network email using the @ symbol in 1971, email communication has continued to grow rapidly – The Radicati Group predicts there will be 2.9 billion email users by 2019.
For businesses the latest statistics show it has a Return On Investment (ROI) of 38-1 and the highest conversion rate beating search and social combined with 72% of consumers stating email as their preferred means of communication.
In 2016, email marketing is a key channel in most digital marketing campaigns, especially marketing automation and inbound marketing. However, it’s essential that marketers and managers mix strategy, best practice and latest technologies with a little psychology to achieve the highest ROI and audience engagement from their email campaigns.
The DIY approach
If your digital marketing budget doesn’t stretch to a professional email marketer, like The Nth Degree, you can always do it yourself. The DIY approach is not recommended for reasons I will go into later in this article. But, if needs must, here are twelve key points to bear in mind.
Navigate through the twelve tips using these quick links
Seven benefits of hiring an expert
1. Don’t buy lists
Before you start an email campaign you’ll obviously need a target list. Avoid the temptation to buy a cold list as this can seriously affect the reputation of your organisation – it won’t achieve the results you were hoping for anyway. It’s more ethical to gradually build your database of subscribers, who have a genuine interest in your product or service, using the following tactics.
On your blog articles you can add email opt-in forms like the one shown below.
2. List building with Facebook
If a prospect ‘likes’ your Facebook page they’re obviously interested in your organisation. Unfortunately, they will only return to your page rarely, if at all, as your updates will appear in their feed. Make the most of this rare visit by including an email sign-up tab on your Facebook profile, like the one below. Most email marketing platforms such as MadMimi allow you to add email opt-in forms to Facebook at the click of a button.
3. Using your LinkedIn contacts
If you have a LinkedIn profile you already have a database of contacts that know you and your organisation. A significant proportion will have a need for your product or service and will be interested in your news and updates. A regular email newsletter can help to keep your business on a prospect’s radar and act as one of the seven touches of marketing. This page explains how to export your connections into a .csv file for importing into your email platform.
4. Choosing an email marketing platform
Next you’ll need email marketing software. These days, email software can be accessed via your browser. Here at The Nth Degree we use Mad Mimi although Mail Chimp, Campaign Monitor and Dot Mailer are equally capable. Each of these email platforms offer a free trail or a demo, so you can test them out and decide which system you find the easiest to use and is the best match for your email marketing requirements.
5. Make sure your database is clean
Once your database is ready to go, it’s worthwhile checking that the contacts looks valid and correct. For example, names can inadvertently be all upper or lower case. Many opt-ins won’t include the company name so add this manually in your email system (e.g. Mad Mimi, Mail Chimp, etc.). The email address will usually be the company name. Tidying up your database at this stage will pay dividends.
6. Make sure your messages resonate
When it comes to creating your newsletter keep your copy short and snappy with messages that your audience will respond to. For example, buyers are interested in the benefits – what it can do for them rather than features. Resonating with emotions and responses that are hardwired into our brains, such as joy, fear and surprise is also very effective.
For example, many people fear the consequences of not signing up for that diet plan or are delighted to receive a special offer from their favourite shop on their birthday.
Good marketers know how to optimise the engagement and conversion rate using a dash of marketing psychology without going over the top, which is one of reasons why you should commission a marketing professional like The Nth Degree (see seven benefits below).
7. Unlock the power of the written word
Many corporate organisations and brands have tone of voice guidelines with in-house copy editors checking all output for consistency. Not that your copy needs to be very formal and stuffy. Innocent drinks fastidiously craft every line of copy of their packaging with humour and a friendly tone – even in their contact details (view examples).
As an aside, any business would do well to follow Innocent’s lead and avoid a dull and robotic tone to transactional copy such as confirmation emails, error messages and disclaimers.
Creating tone of voice guidelines might be a worthwhile investment to maintain consistency across your website, email marketing, social media, print, PR, etc and The Nth Degree can recommend copywriters such as Words Are Everywhere.
But to get your first email campaign out the door, here are a few copywriting tips:
- Avoid using hyperbolic claims that you can’t evidence such as: ‘world-leading technology solutions’.
- Focus on the needs of the reader and what they want to know and how your business can help them.
- Don’t add initial caps to common nouns such as: design, technology, gin, charity, etc. unless it’s a job title. Proper nouns such as: Pop Art, Jane, Edinburgh, Oxfam must use initial caps however.
- Avoid apostrophe catastrophes such as: Closed Monday’s or Womens’ Shoes.
- Don’t modify absolute terms (such as ‘unique’) and write ‘very unique’ – it’s either unique or it’s not.
- Resist using excessive exclamation marks! Unless you want to come across as an excitable teenager.
Writing persuasive well-written copy is an acquired skill and best left to professionals such as Words Are Everywhere. If your writing skills are good enough however, ask a colleague to read it before distribution. Better still, hire a professional proof reader on People Per Hour, eLance, Local Solo or ask for a recommendation on social media.
8. Timing is everything
There are no hard and fast rules about when to send an email campaign, but generally common sense dictates the optimum time along with some trial and error. For business 9.40am Tuesday to Friday is frequently stated in many blog articles and e-books as an ideal time but with a significant portion managing their work email account using mobile devices it might be worth experimenting with an earlier time as recipients often check their email first thing in the morning. This time slot can be effective for business to consumer (B2C) markets too as personal email accounts are managed largely on mobile devices.
9. Subject lines must pique curiosity
The subject line plays a key role in maximising the open rate so mundane or common lines such as ‘April Newsletter’ are best avoided, likewise, hyperbolic claims or blatant sales messages will probably be ignored. The subject line should reflect the newsletter’s content and include language that chime with your audience’s emotional drivers and pique curiousity.
10. Find time for A and B testing
If you’re unsure which subject lines or headlines will achieve the highest open rates and conversions, A and B testing is super effective. Simply send two versions of your campaign to a sample of your database, analyse which is the most successful and then send it to the rest of the database.
Split A and B testing has only one variable. Multivariate testing involves sending newsletters with multiple variables such as the subject line, headline, image and design to reveal which version is the most effective.
11. The power of resend
Since writing and designing your newsletter can take a lot of time and effort, you should promote it as much as possible. Sometimes the open rate and click through percentages can be lower than expected.
However, all is not lost as you can create a new list of contacts who didn’t open it first time round (remember to exclude contacts who did open it) by sending it a second time with a different subject line a week later – perhaps at a different time.
You can repeat this process a third or fourth time so that your monthly newsletter is sent out every week for four weeks giving subscribers four opportunities to open it.
Email platforms such as MadMimi create short links for your newsletter at the click of button (see below) which can be shared on social media or emailed to prospects.
12. Analyse campaign results
All the email platforms mentioned here provide tools to check the results and metrics for your campaigns on a regular basis. If you need to go deeper, lead generation software such as Lead Forensics can send you triggered email alerts when a recipient visits a page on your website.
If I can do email marketing myself using these 12 tips why would I need professionals like The Nth Degree?
For starters, here are seven ways The Nth Degree can take your email marketing to another level.
With just a modest database and email software available at the click of a mouse, it’s very tempting to simply dive in and get on with blasting out newsletters, but after having a chat with us first, you will realise that you may not have the strategy, expertise and resources to implement consistent, engaging and sustainable output for the next twelve months and beyond.
If your business has invested in a marketing strategy, you’ll have a solid foundation for building a successful email campaign that delivers ROI and adds value. Without a marketing strategy you would have to take a different approach which may not meet your expectations – if you would like to know why, we’ll post an article explaining why shortly, but in the meantime please contact The Nth Degree.
A marketing strategy takes weeks or months to write since all the key insights into your vision, mission and values; competitive advantage; market segments and pricing should be evidence-based and carefully researched.
Your email campaign, like any other promotional channel, will be consistent with this strategy. This ensures optimum audience engagement and eliminates the risk of publishing content based on guess work or could have a negative impact on your company’s reputation.
Following the strategy comes the planning and tactics. At this stage The Nth Degree will work with you to develop a plan that addresses campaign features and answers to questions such as:
- Campaign frequency: weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly?
- A calendar of campaigns tied to international events (e.g. Olympics, Black Friday, Cyber Monday) national or local events (e.g. music festivals, public holidays, sports fixtures) together with the usual seasonal events such as Christmas, Easter and Halloween.
- Will the business have the resources to create real-time campaigns to tie in with announcements such as the new James Bond actor or winners of major sporting tournaments within hours?
- From the customer insights in the marketing strategy, are there any challenges your customers are facing that could be addressed in a newsletter? For example, garden centre customers might want to know the right type of compost to use for their plants.
- Do you have news stories, new product announcements or timely blog articles that you want to promote in the newsletters?
- Will your email marketing be integrated into your marketing automation platform?
- How will campaigns be monitored and evaluated?
The above are just some of the topics we would address as part your consultation with The Nth Degree.
There are also a myriad of tactics to consider such as delivery times, subject lines, opt-in forms, auto-responders and drip campaigns. Any unfamiliar terms would be explained in plain English at our first meeting.
3. Bespoke email templates
The email platforms discussed above come with templates or drag and drop builders which can be limiting and make your campaigns look formulaic and samey. A bespoke design allows for greater creative expression and more engagement and interaction from recipients – one of the key objectives of most campaigns. However, bespoke designs require the talents of an experienced designer and a technically skilled developer.
Here’s an example of a bespoke design to promote one of The Nth Degree’s business seminars in Edinburgh.
At The Nth Degree your email campaign will have the input from both a marketer and a designer who will draw from the knowledge or marketing and design psychology so that the newsletter resonates emotionally with your audience.
What’s possible with email marketing is constantly changing and here at The Nth Degree we work hard following the latest developments in technology, trends and best practice. For example, Litmus is essential for testing campaigns in a multitude of email clients; animated gifs are the nearest were are getting embedded video right now while emails written for your audience segments are becoming widely used.
6. Time and resources
If your marketing team don’t have the time or resources to develop and manage campaigns, then The Nth Degree can do the heavy lifting while you can come up with content ideas, feed into campaign creation and receive reports and analytics to show how your audience are responding.
7. Photography and illustration
The Nth Degree can create and commission bespoke photography and illustration to give your email marketing a unique look and ensure they stand out from the clichéd library images many marketers and designers use. The example below left features bespoke illustration to promote a business event at The Royal Society of Edinburgh while the example below right for chef and author, Christopher Trotter, includes commissioned photography.
To conclude, this article proves that there is more to email marketing than meets the eye, however, I hope the twelve DIY tips are helpful if you decide to create campaigns yourself or the seven benefits convince you that hiring an experienced and skilled email marketer, such as The Nth Degree, is the better option for your business.