Editor’s Note: This post was written by guest blogger, Abby Crawford. Learn more about her in the bio below this post.
It is a Catch-22 situation most business owners contend with at one time or another; how to effectively use email as a marketing technique.
Email your customers too often, and you risk getting your messages deleted. Email too infrequently, and it’s possible your subscribers will forget you and take their business elsewhere.
What is a savvy business owner to do? Is it possible to find the elusive email marketing “sweet spot”? How can you achieve that perfect balance of efficiency and personalization in cyberspace?
In general, when it comes to effective email-marketing techniques, it is crucial to focus on what you should do, as well as what you should avoid like the plague.
Choosing Service & Target Audience
Right off the bat, one of the first things to consider when developing a marketing plan is which email client or services you should use to send messages to your customers. According to an article on Tech Hamlet, many free services are available that can do this — for example, Gmail is one of the most popular. Business owners can even use Outlook Express to send out bulk emails, but before doing so, it is important to be aware of how to use Gmail as a Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP).
When creating an effective email strategy, an article on Instant Shift advises that business owners need to do their homework and spend time researching their target markets and demographics. Company owners need to know who they are reaching out to before they sit down to write their first email. Learning more about the data associated with email marketing is also a useful strategy, the Instant Shift article noted. While it might make for a bit of dry reading, it’s important to understand the clear-cut statistics, analytics and metrics that show what does and what does not work with emails and the public.
Controlling the Message
Once you know who you your audience is and who you are trying to attract, it’s time to get busy on the content of the mail. Believe it or not, many business owners get so caught up in trying to get more subscribers that they sometimes forget to concentrate on the quality of their messages. As the article on Instant Shift pointed out, research has shown that 54 percent of people unsubscribe to emails due to repetitive and boring content. That is more than half of potential business. It’s perfectly OK to hire experienced writers who can compose interesting emails with wit and useful information people will want to read.
Because most people use the subject line of the email to determine if they will read the entire message, the Instant Shift article also strongly advises company owners to include a carefully composed sentence that will pique interest and not cause them to hit the delete button. The subject line should also be free of spam-worthy words and like “free,” and “money” that will banish the emails to spam folders.
Creating familiar-looking emails that contain the company’s logo can also be very helpful, as noted on a TopTenReviews.com article. People are creatures of habit, and they prefer to get emails that look and feel familiar and safe.
So, you’ve done your research, you’ve written a bunch of great and catchy emails, and you have an assortment of eye-catching subject lines to go with them. Now what?
Quality vs. Quantity
To find the email marketing sweet spot, it is imperative to not send out messages too frequently. As the Instant Shift article noted, excessive emails are likely to be thought of as spam, and people will unsubscribe. It may take some time and even trial and error to find the best email schedule to follow. Businesses that are selling products and services, weekly or biweekly emails seem to be the most effective way to go. As the TopTenReviews articles said, consistency is key; sending out emails at the same time each week, or whenever you decide, is OK.
An important notation people like to see in emails from businesses, TopTenReviews said, is the reassurance that the business will never share the person’s name or email address with other sources. Once this promise is made, keep it.
Another tip that will give business owners the most email marketing bang for the buck is to test their emails on more than one browser at multiple connection speeds. As the Instant Shift article noted, this will help make sure that the HTML codes are in place and that the emails are actually going to reach the intended recipients.
What to Do & Not to Do
First, remember that very few things in life are one-size-fits-all. As an article on Inc.com explained, avoid sending email promotions that are not remotely relevant for the reader. You want your emails to have a personal feel, and nothing can spoil that faster than sending out one message to everyone. As you conduct your research on who your audience is, keep tabs on things like gender, age and interests, then tweak your email accordingly and send out multiple versions.
Next, Inc.com cautions against skipping A/B testing. One reason email marketing is so popular is that companies can measure click-throughs to see what is effective and what is not. When you are ready to change something in your email — like maybe the font or the graphics — the article advises sending both the new and old version to random samples at the same time. A business owner may think he or she has crafted a good email with some great photographs of the products, but it might be hard to see by people who use their smart phones to check their mail. When it comes to emails, simpler can definitely be better, so be sure to test your audience before making any major changes.
Finally, do not become a pest. Respect your readers’ need for email space, and remember less can be more. Granted, if you launch a really successful email campaign, it can be tempting to send out more and more messages to further boost sales. But while an occasional extra email is okay, Inc.com cautions that too many messages will backfire and get people to stop reading them or unsubscribe all together.
Business owners considering adding extra emails to their lineup may want to try a test run with a random group first. Send one group of customers the usual amount of messages and another group the additional emails. Then compare the two group’s buying habits after a period of time, and see which email frequency had the most positive effect on sales.
Like many things in life that are worthwhile, finding the email marketing sweet spot will require hard work and diligence. But by following these suggestions and being patient, business owners should be able to find a successful email plan that will work for them and their clients.
About the Author: Abby Crawford is a marketing and communications specialist who specializes in event promotion, reputation management and branding. She loves EDM and probably should cut down on her caffeine.