So when it comes to lead generation and conversion, is email marketing really the “A-player’s” strategy? Your total online presence doesn’t end with having a website. It needs to be integrated and complimented by other efforts. This includes content creation, online advertising, local SEO, social media, reputation management and email marketing for lead generation. Email marketing, when done right, can nurture leads and keep current contacts and customers involved with your brand.
Marketers consistently ranked email as the single most effective tactic for awareness, acquisition, conversion and retention. In fact, email emerged as the most effective digital marketing tool for meeting all objectives. However, the practice of email marketing itself has changed; the most specific changes have occurred in how you get people to sign up in the first place. People are more sophisticated than they have ever been in the past about being marketed to online and what that means when they give up an email address.
WHAT IS EMAIL MARKETING?
Email marketing can mean lots of things to lots of people. To some it involves renting lists from 3rd parties. For others, it means cultivating relationships with your existing contacts to drive sales as well as customer retention. For the purposes of this article, we define email marketing as the latter. Whether you are new to email marketing or are a seasoned professional, a strategy and a road-map prove critical for email marketing just like they do for other tactics such as social media, public relations, and advertising.
Below are some of the first steps you should take when determining the best email marketing campaign for your business:
DETERMINE YOUR GOALS
Before you implement an email marketing campaign, you first need to know your goals for the campaign and what you hope to accomplish. This will help you determine what you need to do to implement your campaign, and it can help you determine if the emails were successful. Email campaigns should be part of your holistic marketing approach to educate your customers.
Email cannot be truly fruitful just by itself, but can strengthen your other initiatives. (Just like you cannot use social media in vacuum, or only rely on blogging, or trust that search engines optimization is enough to meet your goals.) The real power comes from achieving a strong marketing mix.
To help determine your goals, ask yourself why you are sending the emails. Think of what you hope the outcome will be. For instance, if you plan to send emails in the hopes of getting new business from your existing customers, use that to determine the rest of the campaign. Send emails targeting new business and create content that will appeal to these people. If your plan is to strengthen or deepen relationships with existing contacts and customers, your tone needs to be different. Your emails need to reflect your existing relationship with them, and the content needs to be catered toward them. Setting clear and defined goals early on can help you easily determine the rest of your campaign and can make it more effective.
CHOOSE AN EMAIL MARKETING SOFTWARE
Once you determine the goal of your campaign, you will need to choose an email marketing software. You should select a service that will be easy and simple to understand. The less time it takes for you to learn a new application, the more time you can spend connecting with clients and customers. You need a special email marketing tool because bad things can happen if you start sending lots of emails without one.
Let’s look at an example. You are a growing real estate business, and right now you have 50 email addresses on your list. You want to send an email to those contacts. Why can’t you just open up an email in Outlook, put all 50 email addresses in the “BCC” field, and start typing your message? Sending bulk emails manually (from like Outlook or Apple Mail) can cause problems:
• Your recipient’s email client (like Gmail) might label your message as spam and send it directly into a spam or junk filter.
• Your hosting company or Internet Service Provider could notice that you are sending bulk emails and refuse to provide services for you. To avoid delivery issues and service interruptions, smart businesses use an email service provider (ESP) to send emails to their prospects. An email service provider (ESP) is simply a company that offers email marketing or bulk email services.
Examples include Constant Contact, MailChimp, AWeber, FeedBlitz, Infusionsoft, and iContact. These companies allow users to send bulk emails, create and manage an email database, utilize a campaign management service and create customizable email templates. A majority of reputable email service providers offer free trials where users can determine if the program is right for them. This could be a cost-effective way to determine which one is best for your business.
BUILD AN EXTENSIVE CONTACT LIST
After selecting the proper software, you should begin thinking of who you want to contact. You should be committed to building and managing an extensive contact list. This could include current clients or customers, as well as people who worked with your business in the past. Who you add to your list is determined by the goal you want to accomplish. Even if you only have a handful of email addresses, you should add those to your database. Once you start to add more people and their contact information, you can categorize the data and create an email list within your master list. For instance, you can have categories for former clients, current clients, and potential clients. This could make the emailing process more targeted, less confusing and more time effective.
To grow their email database, businesses sometimes purchase lists. This practice will surely get you into trouble. It might add invalid addresses to your list and thus pollute your entire database. Even if the addresses you acquired are valid, the new recipients will most likely not be interested in your content and either unsubscribe or not engage with your emails altogether. Both of these alternatives are undesirable.
Additionally, you should begin to determine how often you plan to email your contacts. Generally, you do not want to email a person too often for fear of becoming spammy. However, you do want to keep your business on the forefront of that person’s mind. Depending on your business, about one or two emails per month could be a good way to start the campaign.
DEVELOP A CONCISE MESSAGE
Next comes the content of the message you want to send. Again, you need to determine the goal you wish to achieve. If you want to attract new clients and customers, your content should reflect that. If you are looking for a better connection with your current clienteles, be sure to keep that in mind when writing the email. No matter who the email is targeted to, you should be sure your content is original and fits within your brand. You want it to be concise and informative, but also relevant to your readers. Adding humor or something unique to the content can help you stand out among dozens of other emails. A compelling subject line can have a significant impact on whether or not a person even opens the email.
The content of emails is unique because they can be highly personalized. Unlike social media and blogs, emails allow you to speak directly to a person. Because of this, you can’t simply use your email communication to promote something. You need to use it as an avenue to communicate with people on a different level and to establish relationships.
ACHIEVING MEASURABLE ROI
Achieving measurable ROI (return on investment) is another challenge that businesses face with email marketing. In other words, it is difficult for them to connect between the email they send and the customers they get. Interestingly, this challenge is closely connected to the holistic approach mentioned earlier. When your marketing channels are not speaking to one another, it is hard to identify how they affect conversions. For instance, can you see if that communication contributed to generating new leads? What is more, do you see if it resulted in any new customers? It is therefore essential to identify your most powerful marketing channels and assign clear value to each of them. In this way, you will be able to measure the ROI not only of your emails, but also of your other efforts, which might include social media and blogging.
To conclude, the way people communicate through email has changed, ultimately giving entrepreneurs and business owners a new market to grow and expand their businesses. The steps above can help you determine what you need to implement an effective campaign and how you can best use it to your advantage.