For a small business, email marketing offers an inexpensive but effective and efficient way to engage with your customers, and attract new ones – so long as the right planning has been put in place first.
It creates and maintains communication, helping to keep your brand front of mind and build customer loyalty. Campaigns can be designed around a specific purpose, e.g. to boost sales, or to increase website traffic, and they can be targeted – you decide who receives which email.
Most importantly, and unlike many other marketing options, its results are measurable – the best email marketing platforms will even provide you with reports outlining how successful your campaign has been, and what aspects worked best.
This makes it an excellent choice for small businesses with a limited marketing budget. As long as you take the time to really think about what you want to get out of it, it is also simple – follow these 6 steps for planning and implementing your campaign, and you won’t go wrong.
1. Decide what you want to achieve
Before you start, be clear about what you want to achieve – are you looking to increase sales, drive traffic to your website, collect data or simply engage with your customers to build brand awareness and loyalty?
Having a fixed goal will ensure that the key messages are consistent throughout, and will dictate the structure of your campaign. It will also influence the type of action you want people to take, and this should be clear in every email – if you want readers to recommend you to a friend, then include a button that enables them to forward a ready-written message to their contacts, offering an incentive for them to do so.
Establish targets that will help you measure the success of the campaign, but make sure that they are realistic, and to give yourself the best chance of achieving them, allow a period of trial and error while you work out what works best.
2. Master the email marketing basics
Ahead of creating your emails, consider the following:
Get up to speed with spam rules to ensure that your emails reach their intended inboxes. Only send your emails to those that have opted in to receive them and it’s also a good idea to make sure your ‘unsubscribe’ option is easy to use.
But, make it just as easy to sign up. The form should be simple, and quick to fill in – asking users to complete a page of personal details will just put them off, so stick to the basics, name and email. You can always ask for more information at a later date, which is useful for targeting your emails.
Email marketing is a great way to build the strength of your brand, but you can only do this with a consistent tone of voice. Your messages and imagery should not only be the same throughout the campaign, but it should match those of your website and your social media profiles.
3. Think about the type of email that will be most effective
There are lots of different types of email you can use, and the purpose of your campaign will affect which is right for you.
Promotional emails advocate a particular product or service, and encourage the reader to take action. It doesn’t have to be an offer or promotion – if someone is a subscriber then it is likely they are already engaged with your business, and will be interested to hear about any new product lines or events.
Survey emails allow you to compile valuable information about your customers. It can help you identify the types of people that your company is attracting, and it’s also a great way to get customer feedback.
Finding out exactly why customers think of your business is the best way to effectively improve your service, and asking the question demonstrates that you value their input. It’s also a helpful way to collect testimonials from your customers, that you can then use on your website to promote your business and build trust in your brand.
Newsletters offer a great way to develop a relationship with your customers, keeping your brand front-of-mind and keeping them up-to-date with industry news.
Sharing content that doesn’t directly push your product or service, but offers information that will be of interest to your customers, shows that you are an expert in your field, again helping to build trust in your business.
4. Establish your audience
Consider whom it is you want to target with your emails, and tailor your campaign to them.
Think about the kind of content they will be interested in reading, and keep this in mind when designing your emails – it may be that you want to deliver different campaigns to different audiences, to make sure that the content is relevant and suitable to them.
5. Timing, timing, timing
How often, and when, you send your emails will depend on the type of email you’re using. For example, whilst customers may expect to see a newsletter each week, or fortnightly, sending a promotional email that often could be seen as pushy, where a monthly email will be more effective.
Work out when the most effective time to send your email is by trying different options and recording which gets the best response. Most email marketing platforms will allow you to do a split test, where you can change just one aspect of your email and send each version to two different groups, allowing you to establish which works best.
Once you’ve found the optimal time, create a schedule that outlines when you will be sending your emails, and stick to it – not only will customers begin to expect it, but it will help you manage your budget, too.
6. Track and measure results
One of the best features of email marketing is that you can easily track the results. Good email marketing platforms will offer a variety of reporting tools, showing you how many actually reached the inbox of the intended recipients, how many people opened the email, and how many clicked on links.
You don’t have to wait until the end of the campaign to see this data – measuring the response as you go along will allow you to see what is and isn’t working, and tweak accordingly. The smallest of details, like the subject line, or the time you send your email, can make a big difference.
If you want even more insight into the success of your campaign tools such as Google Analytics shows you what people are doing once they reach your website, so you could see, for example, how many click-throughs lead to purchases. It’s great for assessing the strength of the messages you’re sending, which you can then use to plan future campaigns.
This guide has been written for Bytestart by Chris Brake, MD of Digital Kitbag, the digital marketing service from Johnston Press. With a range of simple and cost-effective services, Digital Kitbag helps small businesses get more from their website.
Last updated - 5th December, 2016