Getting Started with Email Marketing: The Most Powerful Tool in Your Relationship-Building Toolbox
by Caron_Beesley, Community Moderator
- Created: January 18, 2010, 10:14 pm
- Updated: May 5, 2011, 4:24 pm
According to research conducted by the Direct Marketing Association, commercial e-mail returned a staggering $43.62 for every dollar spent on it in 2009, outperforming all other direct marketing channels examined, such as print catalogs and direct mail (Source: DirectMag.com*).
And while the rumor that email marketing is about to be replaced by social media continues to float around, all evidence points to the contrary. As Gail Goodman points out in this excellent article 'Email Marketing Still Works*', email marketing isn't just still relevant it actually remains 'the most powerful tool in your relationship-building toolbox'. Why? Goodman points to these three reasons:
1. Permission-Based Marketing is a 'Vote of Confidence' - Permission-based marketing (defined by renowned marketing expert Seth Godin here* as 'the privilege --not the right-- of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them') has re-defined how users manage their Inbox. So what gets delivered is what they actually want and value.
2. Email Reaches Across Demographic Boundaries - Email is the primary form of communication in the office and, as such, remains a powerful tool for connecting with executives and the 'Generation Y' workforce alike.
3. Social Media Complements Email - Rather than compete with email, social media complements email marketing. Not only is email the primary vehicle for delivering countless numbers of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn personal messages, social networks actually drive permission-based marketing relationships - since followers and fans have already expressed their 'vote of confidence'.
Last but not least, email marketing is a cost effective way for generating ROI.
At a typical cost of only a few cents per message, email is a bargain compared to traditional direct mail at $1 or more per piece. In addition, response rates on email marketing are strong, ranging from 5 to 35% depending on the industry and format. Response rates for traditional mail averages in the 1 to 3% range.
So whether you are a freelancer wishing to engage with prospects and clients through an e-newsletter, or an established small business looking to execute a full blown marketing campaign, email still remains one of the most affordable, scalable, and most effective ways for small businesses to connect with their target market, drive sales, build relationships and support alternate sales channels.
Here are a few pointers for leveraging email marketing to engage and build relationships with your customers.
- Start with a Plan - Start with a basic outline of your goals and objectives for email marketing, (why you are doing it and what you expect to achieve) together with your budget. Assess what it is you want to communicate and determine whether you genuinely have enough to say or have a relevant offer.
- Research Email Marketing Software - There are many Web-based email marketing software tools that specialize in helping small businesses with all aspects of their email marketing strategy and execution - including assistance with email template design, list management, email broadcast and tracking services. Pricing models vary, but most structure their fees based on the amount of subscribers you have (the size of your list) and the number of emails you plan on sending each month (in today's competitive market this number is increasingly unlimited). Some even offer free services for lists under a certain size limit, but cap the amount of emails you can send in a given month. Email Marketing Options* is a Web site that offers a quick comparison of the top providers of email marketing software.
- Build your Email Marketing List - There are many ways to build a list. You can buy or rent lists from a third party email list broker, I, however, am a firm believer in permission marketing and creating your own list. There are many ways of doing this - adding a 'sign up for updates' button on your Website, email signatures, and so on. Read this '60-Second Guide to Developing a Permission Marketing Strategy*' from SCORE which walks you through what it takes to leverage email marketing as the basis of a sound permission-based relationship with your prospects and customers.
- Understand Online Marketing Laws -From the CAN-SPAM Act to unsubscribe responsibilities, there are several laws that you need to be aware of. Email marketing software can help you comply, but if you are new to email marketing take the time to familiarize yourself with these laws. Business.gov offers some practical guidance in this Online Advertising Law Guide. My earlier post, 'The CAN-SPAM Act and Beyond: Improving Email Compliance, Deliverability, and Readability', also outlines a few simple steps that you can take to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
- Write your Content - A good starting point is to create a template, something simple on paper that forces you to think about what you have to say and how you want to present it. For e-newsletters quickly readable content is key - such as special offers, tips and tools from in-house experts, links to your Website and blog, and so on. For more information read these tips for creating an email newsletter from the Small Business Administration.
- Track and Monitor - Email marketing software can provide invaluable data about open rates, unsubscribes, etc. The trick is to use this data to your advantage by tweaking your message or mailing schedule to see what types of content, subject lines, or times of day generate the best response rates. Another way to gauge feedback is to add a quick survey or poll to your email body copy, again something that most email marketing software can help you easily integrate.
Good luck! Email marketing can be a very rewarding marketing tool for many businesses. As Gail Goodman so eloquently puts it: 'When someone clicks on your e-mail, they are in your world, even if for a moment. In internet time, that moment is golden'.
- Small Business Marketing Guide - From Business.gov, this online portal contains marketing planning and market research tips, tools, and advice for small business owners.
- Starting an Online Business - This Business.gov guide provides resources to help you plan, create, and start an online business.
*Note: Hyperlink directs reader to non-government Web site.
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