E-mail marketing by Image Building MediaEmail marketing is similar to direct mail marketing. The difference is messages are sent electronically instead of through the postal service. Many people think email marketing is just a way to promote products and services with unsolicited emails (“spam”). However, when used correctly, it is a way to develop relationships with potential customers and clients.

Much of the unsolicited (spam) email we all receive is a good example of email marketing at its worst. A mindless barrage of email deals that all say something similar to “Get (my wonderful product/service) for only $ (amount).” You know what we mean, you get them every day. It annoys everyone and it gives email marketing a bad name.

Related: Basics of Email Marketing

In This Article:

Email Marketing Effectiveness

There are 3.8 billion email users worldwide, so if you’re looking for a way to reach your customers, email is the perfect way to find them. On average, email generates $38 for every dollar spent, which is a 3,800% return on investment, making email marketing one of the channels with the highest ROI.

Email marketing is focused on a targeted list of people who have a known or qualified interest in a product or service. Done correctly, email marketing allows a business to keep their customers informed, while delivering a personalized marketing experience.

What is Email Marketing?

Email as a marketing tool is a great way to promote a product or service. Email marketing can make customers aware of new products, discounts, and other services. It can also be a softer sell, a way to educate your audience on the value of your brand or keep customers engaged between purchases. The possibilities are practically endless in the ways email marketing can be used to communicate with both prospects and customers.

Email marketing works! Among the many obstacles small businesses face is finding a cost-efficient way to market their brand to a broader audience. That’s where email marketing comes in. Whether it’s a startup or an established company, a well-executed email marketing plan is key to promoting and growing a business, increasing revenue, and generating more sales.

The Birth of Marketing Email

The date was May 1, 1978, when Gary Thuerk, a marketing manager at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), sent the first mass marketing e-mail. The email was sent to 400 customers over the Arpanet (precursor to today’s internet), which was two decades before most Americans would have an e-mail address.

Thuerk wanted to create interest in DEC’s new VAX computer systems, considering his message as “e-marketing.” He said, “We wanted to reach as many people as possible to let them know about the new system.” At the time, receiving a marketing message via computer was a complete novelty.

The email worked! Thuerk’s marketing effort resulted in $13 million worth of sales for the new DEC systems. From the start, email proved to be an effective channel for direct marketing.

Granted, good email marketing today is very different from 1978. It’s even different from just twenty years ago. With the right data, email marketers can understand the context of how, where, and when customers open an email, while delivering personalized marketing campaigns.

Email Marketing Is Still Relevant

In an age of increasing usage of social media for advertising, email marketing still rules the roost, according to a HostPapa study:

  • 94% of Internet users use email (only 61% use social media).
  • 75% of adult online users say that email marketing is their preferred marketing method.
  • Email’s “opt-in” feature allows marketing by consent.
  • Email marketing campaigns can target subscribers by defined demographics (age, income, etc.).
  • Formatting of email messages has more possibilities than social media messages.
  • Email offers more options for reporting and analytics.

One advantage email marketing has over social media is that an email is more likely to be seen than a social media post. This is because the delivery of a social media post is totally out of a marketer’s hands and may not be delivered to anyone in their target audience. However, a good marketer consistently achieves an email delivery rate of 95% or higher.

Ideally, email marketing should go hand-in-hand with organic and PPC marketing campaigns, such as social media and search campaigns. And with today’s automated marketing platforms, email marketing campaigns and social media paid campaigns can be harmoniously managed with ease.

Advantages of Email Marketing

Two significant advantages of email marketing are price and ease. Based on 2018 data, email marketing is ranked as the most effective marketing channel. In fact, email does better than social media, SEO, and affiliate marketing.

With all the hype over new channels, why does a decades-old technology rank as one of the most effective marketing strategies? Simple. People use email more than other platforms.

Data from 2017 shows that:

  • 85% of adult internet users in the U.S. use email.
  • 22% use social media.
  • 15% use search engines.

Related: Build Lasting Customer Relationships Utilizing Email Marketing

What is an Email List?

Just as the name implies, an email list is a collection of personal and business email addresses gathered via different marketing channels such as a website, Facebook lead ads, search ads, display ads, and face-to-face networking.

An email list is important not only because it is the best way to connect with prospects and customers versus social media, but an email list also:

  • Has a click-through rate 6 times higher than tweets.
  • Is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter.

How to Build an Email List

Be gracious, polite, and well mannered. Although you may think your email is unique, there’s a high probability the average reader will think it is just like all other unsolicited emails. It is important to remember everyone is inundated with interruptions, pitches, and advertisements everywhere they look. Therefore, it’s important to remember to use good manners. Think of getting into someone’s email inbox like being invited to their home for dinner. Consider yourself a guest in their inbox.

Offer value. People opt into email lists because they believe they’ll receive something of value, whether it be valuable content, education, or notification about sales.

Make it easy to subscribe. It’s important that prospects and visitors have an easy way of subscribing to your email list, such as a form on your website that asks for minimal information. Facebook lead ads also make it easy for people to sign up, because they do it right from Facebook.

Define Your Audience

It is important to have a clear idea of your primary audience to effectively communicate with them. After all, one of your most important jobs as a business owner is understanding your brand’s demographic.

Use your signup form to collect data that will be useful in your marketing. Depending on your product or service, you can ask subscribers when they sign up for information about their interests, buying behaviors, age, and subscription preferences. Maybe you have customers who are only interested in receiving emails when there’s a sale on a specific group of products, or subscribers who would prefer biweekly updates to weekly ones.

However, be aware that the more information you request on a form, the less chance people will fill it out. So, testing your forms is important, especially if they ask for more than three of four items of information.

Some of the most valuable data your signup form can provide is how and where subscribers sign up for your list. By knowing where customers joined your list, you’ll have insight into how to communicate with them and where you might focus your marketing efforts.

For example, if most of the signups are from social media, you may want to focus on connecting with current and potential customers through social media. If you get signups after offering a free PDF (or eBook) for download, you can focus your marketing based on the topic of your download.

By identifying smaller collections of people within your broader audience, you can create groups and segments to send more relevant campaigns to your subscribers. The more relevant the email, the better your results will be.

Get Permission

To build a good email list, it’s important to have their permission to send them email. Of course, the fact that they opt-in by signed up using your website form gives you permission to email them. However, if you use a double opt-in method, the connection with them is even stronger.

Getting someone to signup to receive email from you is often accomplished by offering them something of value, such as:

  • Newsletter.
  • Email series.
  • Free download.
  • Free white paper or eBook.
  • Updates such as new releases or product updates.
  • Announcements on sales.

Whatever you do, have a clear purpose when asking someone for their email address. Furthermore, including a specific call-to-action (CTA) or specific benefit will help you get more subscribers.

Follow Up Consistently Incorporating Great Content

Email marketing is all about expectations, and it’s up to you to set them. If your call to action is strong, and your follow-up is consistent with the expected content, then you can expect a positive outcome from your email campaigns. However, if you over promise and under deliver, or if you spam your subscribers, you will certainly fail.

All of this would be overwhelming if it were not for automated marketing platforms like ActiveCampaign, Drip, HubSpot and others, which make it relatively easy. Simply set up the campaigns and the automations, and let technology do the heavy lifting.

Creating an Email

Take a moment to consider which emails you open and which you delete immediately. Ask yourself what makes you want to open an email. It is most likely a piece of information you don’t already have (i.e., something you find useful).

Even more important than the email content is the subject line, which should make it clear that your email is worth your subscribers’ time to read.

  • Use the recipient’s first name in the subject line, which typically results in a higher open rate.
  • Use important words and phrase at the beginning of the subject line, which gives the reader a good idea of the topic.
  • Subject lines should emphasize value, and not sound spammy.

Related: Email Open Statistics

Show Some Personality

No one wants to read an email that drones on and on. Break it up by injecting some personality! Consider writing the way you would speak to a prospect or customer in person. Also, keep in mind the personality of the people who will read your email.

Keep it Short

Most people are bombarded with emails every day, so keep them to the point so they’re easy to scan for important information. As a matter of fact, emails that look like someone manually typed them have a higher open rate, compared to “fancy” newsletter-type emails with lots of images and formatting.

When to Pitch a Service or Product with Email

There is no definitive answer as to “when” to deliver an email sales pitch. It should be delivered when the time is right, and in the manner that is right for the subscriber, which is best determined with segmentation and by using an automated scoring system via an online marketing platform.

To accomplish this, it’s important to have an overall email marketing sales funnel strategy to identity:

  • Subscribers who should receive pitches.
  • The frequency and timing of pitches.
  • The tone of the pitches.

The timing and manner of pitching products and services in email depends in large part with what a subscriber desires (i.e., what they signed up for), and their position in a sales funnel. Therefore, segmentation of subscribers is essential to delivering the desired content with the appropriate sales pitches.

For example:

  • If subscribers signed up for a newsletter and they receive regular, salesy product pitches, it’s likely they will unsubscribe. However, they would probably embrace subtle product updates as a small percentage of the overall content delivered to them via email.
  • In contrast, if subscribers signed up for a newsletter, and later signed up for notification of extremely hot sales promotions, it’s likely they’ll be glad to receive well-designed product pitches with some salesy language.

Delivering email sales pitches is all about knowing your subscribers, knowing what information they are open to receiving, and knowing when they are ready to receive specific types of messages. This can only be accomplished by scoring and testing.

Email Marketing Automation

Years ago, when the PC first became available, businesses migrated from typewriters and manual accounting systems to computers. Companies that were late to adopt computers were eventually left behind, because they could no longer compete.

Today, online marketing automation is the newest technology giving companies an advantage over their competitors. Companies that delay in adopting marketing automation are already being left behind and are less able to compete compared to their competitors.

In its simplest form, email marketing in its most simple form is merely an autoresponder that automatically sends an email reply when an email is received. Take this one step further, and an email can be automatically sent when someone subscribes to a newsletter or registers for a website. These simple forms of email automation have been around for years and have an appropriate function.

However, email marketing automation goes much further to segregate people into important categories so that the appropriate marketing messages are sent.

Today, we score contacts based on their actions, such as when they did or did not open an email, click on a link in an email, visit a website page, etc. And through scoring, we send the appropriate personalized email messages as they travel down the sales pipeline, while also using automation to update their status in a CRM. Furthermore, we use automation to integrate social media advertising campaigns as contacts are added and switched between the campaigns relative to their position in the pipeline.

Related: Marketing Automation

Email Marketing Analytics

It should come as no surprise that marketers measure everything. By being meticulous about key metrics, you can start refining your email marketing efforts and generate better results.

There are several different analytics you can track with email marketing, such as sent, delivered, deliverability rate, hard bounces, soft bounces, open rate, clicks, click-through rate, click to open rate, unsubscribed, and unsubscribe rate.

Four basic metrics you’ll want to follow are:

  • Open rate. This tells you how many people open your email, indicating how well you’ve built a relationship with prospects and customers. Ideally, people should be excited to read your emails and open them quickly. If your open rate is low, it usually means you have a lot of unengaged recipients and have work to do to provide value to these subscribers. The average open rate varies by industry, ranging from 25-47%.
  • Click-through rate (CTR). The click-through rate shows how many people clicked on a link (if any) in your email. CTR is a cornerstone of email marketing because it is a good indicator of whether the message was relevant and the offer compelling enough to act. A low CTR could indicate your message is either not well targeted or not getting through, or your content needs improving. Newsletters generally have a higher CTR than promotional and transactional messages. Across all industries, the average click-through rate is about 7-8%.
  • Unsubscribe. This is the number of people who clicked the “unsubscribe” link in your email.
  • Bounce Rate. This is a percentage of total emails sent that could not be delivered. Ideally, this should be zero. However, sometimes an email will bounce simply because a subscriber’s email box is full.

The key to studying analytics is to discover what is happening with your email subscribers and find what is working and not working.

Take Away

Email marketing performance continues to increase, and we expect the trend to continue. With email marketing automation and the addition of personalization, email marketing is one of the best ways to build lasting customer relationships, while yielding one of the highest ROIs among all methods.

To learn how you may be able to improve your email marketing, please schedule a free consultation or contact us.

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Allan McNabb, COO, Internet marketing by Image Building Media

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