Email marketing is still very much alive in the business world. Considering how inexpensive it is, compared to the cost of sending printed marketing pieces, it’s still an effective marketing tool for solo entrepreneurs and marketing departments alike.
A good email marketing strategy, such as using an opt-in e-newsletter, offers you the chance to build your brand and credibility with existing and potential customers; it also allows you to reach a whole new audience that you might not otherwise have had access to. It’s quite simple: Once you hook potential customers with valuable content, you can begin a more direct sales approach.
There’s no doubt that starting an email marketing campaign from scratch is extra work, and it can be a time-consuming process that doesn’t garner immediate results. However, sticking with it can take your business to a whole new level.
Here are 5 steps to help you build and grow your email marketing strategy:
1. Find an Email Marketing Service Provider That Works for You
An email marketing service provider will automate and facilitate your email marketing campaigns. They help create and set up marketing and newsletter templates. They can automate your email sends, allowing you to set up a schedule for weeks or months in advance to send out on your most effective times and days. And many will also provide in-depth analytics to help pinpoint the best schedules and identify your most effective content. There are many options on the market, including popular choices like MailChimp, iContact and Constant Contact; these services can range in price from free to more than $100 per month, depending on the number of people you plan on targeting for your campaigns.
Just don’t get sucked in by sales pitches and bells and whistles. What’s most important is how easy the service is for you to use. You won’t have a ton of time to train yourself and to troubleshoot issues, so take advantage of trial offers and demos to test different providers before you commit to one. Practice setting up a list, using the editing software and navigating the platform. Also, reach out to each provider’s customer service department or technical staff to see if you will have the level of service you need to resolve issues quickly and efficiently. You need to work with a provider that is ready and willing to help you when you need it. Lastly, ask colleagues in your network for any recommendations. Few resources are as effective as advice from someone who already has experience.
For a list of the 10 best email marketing tools, click here.
2. Establish a Way to Capture Email Addresses
As a business owner in a tech-driven world, chances are you communicate with current customers via email, so you already have their email addresses. If not, when you speak with customers on the phone, ask for their email addresses, and get their permission to add them to your newsletter list or to share upcoming promotions with them.
Make sure you include highly visible opt-in buttons on your website to encourage browsing customers to sign up for your email campaigns. For example, include a standing button in the side bar of every page, or have your designer integrate an opt-in area into the navigation bar or next to your logo. If you don’t work with a designer, and you have a WordPress-based website, you can use plugins such OptinMonster or OptinSkin to create your opt-in button.
Additionally, create a squeeze page for each of your free offers. A squeeze page is a specialized landing page used to collect opt-in email addresses. You can entice customers at your squeeze page by offering freebies like a special report download or your weekly e-newsletter. Include a short, simple description that tells customers how your offers will benefit them. Again, if you don’t work with a designer, services like LeadPages and StudioPress make it easy to create a squeeze page yourself.
One additional note: Make it easy for customers to register for the offer. Limit the amount of steps they need to take in order to sign up. While it’s beneficial for market research, asking for more than a name and an email address may discourage a few potential customers from signing up.
3. Build a Targeted List
This step is likely the trickiest, as it is highly possible that you are starting from square one when it comes to building your email list. While you can purchase lists, many experts advise against this practice because the data is often inaccurate and you run the risk of being blacklisted.
Your best bet is to begin carefully building a targeted list of potential customers using these strategies:
- Beef up your website with optimized free content. To drive search engine traffic to your website, optimize it with keywords relevant to your business. To capture email addresses of people who find your website through search engines, give them something that they feel is valuable enough to offer up their contact information. Special reports, free webinars, podcasts and tip sheets are a great way to capture email addresses. Just be sure you are offering something of value.
- Arrange list swaps. Seek out people in your industry who are open to a list swap where you exchange a specific number of email addresses. Having an email marketing service provider is pretty crucial for list swaps because you will need to remove duplicate names and check the deliverability of the email addresses you receive.
- Reach out to your network. Ben Settle at CopyBlogger.com suggests bartering your skills in exchange for promotion. For example, if you are a writer, offer to contribute free content to a contact. In return, the contact promotes your free newsletter in his or her marketing pieces or to his or her own network.
- Promote your freebies everywhere. Once you have set up a way to capture email addresses through free offers, promote them everywhere. This includes promoting on your social media accounts, within your e-newsletters and promotions, in your printed marketing materials and even on your email signature and business cards.
4. Keep Customers Engaged
If you want to turn potential customers into buying customers, you need to engage them quickly and then keep them engaged. You can do this by:
- Creating the perfect welcome letter. Most email marketing service providers will allow you to configure accounts to send a confirmation email automatically after a customer signs up for one of your offers. Use the opportunity to introduce customers to your brand and to sell the benefit of the free offer. You might also consider offering a discount in the welcome letter to encourage customers to immediately check out your products or services.
- Provide something valuable. If you send out nothing but promotions every day, you will quickly see more “Unsubscribes” than you do “Subscribes.” You must provide valuable content to keep potential customers interested in receiving emails from you. Provide quick tips, how-to advice, industry news, quotes and other bits of interesting information so that they see you as a trusted source of expertise. Once you build that credibility, they’ll be more likely to do business with you.
- Create a schedule. You don’t want to inundate customers with daily promotions, but you also don’t want to let too much time elapse before they hear from you again. At a minimum, send out your content-focused email monthly or weekly if you can swing it. Make your life easier by creating monthly marketing calendars that highlight your content promotions, straight promotions, special offers, discounts and more, and then use one of the service providers highlighted above to automate their sends.
- Make it easy for people to share your free materials. Include social media buttons on all of your outgoing content. If possible, include an email forwarding option within the message so that readers can easily forward your emails to any interested parties. Your email marketing service may have options that can make this easier while allowing you to retain the original email’s look and format.
5. Monitor the Success of Email Campaigns
If you aren’t tracking the success of your emails, you won’t know if it is worth your time. Each month, review your analytics, including your deliverability, open and click-through rates, and monitor how much sales each of your emails generate. Check to see if the email marketing service provider you choose has these tracking and analytics features. MailChimp, for example, has a reports feature that allows you to track opens, click-throughs, engagement and more.
You can then use that information to tailor future promotions so that they are more successful. Over time, you’ll learn what information your readers are most interested in, what time of day they are most likely to open your messages, and which subject lines and calls to action resonate with them the most.