Despite the current buzz around social media ads and mobile apps, email is still one of the most popular and profitable marketing channels.
In fact, in the right hands, email marketing is probably the single most powerful, trackable, and insightful tool out there. In its old age, it has become increasingly sophisticated.
With a well executed email marketing campaign, you not only get your message out to your customers, but you also learn plenty about them through open counts and link tracking (see step 7).
Follow the steps below to create an email marketing campaign and start communicating with your customers today.
1. Choose an email service provider (ESP)
There are hundreds out there, so shop around. Pick the one that suits your needs. Most offer a free trial so try before you buy. MailChimp, NewZapp, VerticalResponse and ConstantContact all come highly recommended.
2. Get an HTML template
You could design your own, but lots of ESP’s will have a bank of templates you can choose from. If you’re not experienced in HTML/CSS, you may find it much easier to work with a customisable template.
Whichever option you choose, make sure to test your design in all major email clients (Outlook, Gmail, Hotmail, Ymail). Emails display differently in each one. While you’re at it, set up email addresses in these major clients. This will allow you to test your campaigns. If you’ve got the funds, consider purchasing a testing suite.
3. Upload your images to a server
If you’ve ever tried sending an email with all of your holiday snaps, you’ll know why you need to upload your images to a server.
Think of the emails coming out of your ESP like fighter jets – they need to be as light and agile as possible. They need to get to your customers at maximum speed.
To get around this, upload all images to a hosting site and hotlink to them from your email. There are plenty of free image hosting sites around. Check the terms and conditions first as you may have to set up a premium account for non-personal use.
4. Plan your content
Writing for email is an art form and is not covered fully here. Read this blog post for some practical tips on better copywriting.
Broadly speaking, avoid sending image-only email campaigns. Spam filters will block them. Text on images also doesn’t count. You will have add text copy onto the template, no way around it I’m afraid.
General rule of thumb: Keep it short and to the point. Make sure important information (like an offer or competition) is as close to the top as possible.
5. Grow your database
Include an email sign-up form on your website or blog. Shout about your newsletter on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and any other networks you may have.
Customers will be more likely to sign up if you incentivise them. Consider running regular competitions and offer email-only discounts if you can. Allow your database customers the chance to purchase new products earlier than regular folk.
The more special you make your customers feel, the more likely they’ll stay signed up.
Word of caution here: Don’t spam them with boring pointless emails containing the same content.
A newsletter should contain news and not just adverts for the same old stock that isn’t selling!
6. Keep your data clean
Ever looked in your email spam folder? Chances are, you rarely do, and when you do it’s so ugly you get out, sharpish. If you’re not rigorous about keeping your database clean, this is where your marketing emails will end up.
The key to a clean database is providing your customers with a clear, easy and functional way to unsubscribe. This should be clearly stated on every single email you send them.
If customers start marking your emails as spam because they can’t unsubscribe, the reputation of your domain (the bit after the @ in your email address) will be damaged. This will increase the likelihood that your marketing messages will end up in spam filters.
Encourage your customers to add your address to their ‘safe senders’ list. This will help. Finally, make sure your ESP removes email addresses that ‘hard bounce’ your emails.
7. Track every link and open
Your ESP will probably provide a built-in link tracking system. If they don’t, you could use Google Analytics, Omniture or similar analytics tools.
Which ever way you track, keep a close eye on your open and click rates. Use A/B tests to improve these rates. Play around with subject lines to see what works best with your customers. Competitions and offers tend to induce better open rates.
If you see a big drop in opens for a particular campaign you may have sent an email that looks like spam. Certain words will trigger spam filters so check the content of your email, and talk to your ESP for more advice.
In a Nutshell
Email marketing is still one of the most effective marketing tools out there. Follow the steps outlined above and you’re sure to profit from your campaign and build up a loyal customer base.
More Email Marketing Resources
- 7 Steps to Better Email Marketing by @mselissen
- 9 Email Marketing Best Practices to Generate More Leads
- and a whole bunch of email marketing gold from ClickZ
- More detailed email marketing guide from E-consultancy (requires payment)