The Best Approach to Email Marketing

A new survey finds that marketing messages received via email are the most likely to make us shop. (Exact Target via Business Insider).

This internet cafe helps your marketing messages get out there.
Email. From Flickr user Matt Wi1s0n.
In fact, the Exact Target data tells us something really interesting. While many blogs and news outlets have trumpeted the death of email, this is largely for personal communications. That's right - if I want to talk to my college roommate, I'm reaching out to her on Facebook, not email, and if I want to say hi to my husband during the workday, it's best to send him a text.


Sorry for the shouty caps, but this is really important. Consumers want to receive marketing messages on email, where they can easily save them for when it's convenient, and email goes where they do - on their mobile devices, tablets, laptops, and desktops. 77% of consumers in the survey said they preferred their permission-based marketing to come through email.

At the same time, marketers are picking up this message and online consumers have received 21% more email marketing messages in the first quarter of 2012, compared with the same time last year. (Responsys via Internet Retailer)

What's your takeaway here?

Let's talk for a minute about how you can make email marketing work for you. What's the best way to approach email marketing now that your customers are so distracted by games, Twitter, and Facebook?

If you've been ignoring your own email list, it's time to get it out and dust it off again. After all, the people on your email list have either purchased your products at some point, or otherwise opted in to get your messages. These are people who already like your brand.

So put yourself in their shoes for a minute. If you were getting email from a retailer you liked, what would you want to see?

  1. Free shipping. This is the #1 strategy and has been for a while now. If you can make this work financially, do it. You can try it for a limited time, for purchases over a certain amount - whatever doesn't kill your profits.
  2. What's New? People will get bored if you send them messages about the same thing every week. Change it up - tell them about your new items, new trends, and new uses for your products. How does your product make your customers' lives easier?
  3. Be timely. What's going on right now? April is Earth Day and I've already seen some green messaging in my email inbox. Look at holidays - both those in the mainstream, like Easter and Passover, and the more quirky, like No Housework Day (it was on April 7), or Dance Like a Chicken Day (May 14).

Can your business adopt one of these crazy holidays and do a social campaign around it? You could gain a lot of new fans by asking folks to send videos of themselves dancing like chickens. Post the best ones to your Facebook page, and then let fans vote for the winners, who get a prize. Fight Procrastination Day isn't until September 6 this year, so think about this now instead of later.

How can you solve common problems with your email marketing?

  1. Bad addresses? Ask your customers to update you every time they buy. If people can set up accounts on your web site, send a request for account updates at least once a year.
  2. Low open rates? Work on your headlines, even test two against each other to a small portion of your list, and deploy the winner to your entire group. Also, look at your email results over the past year and see which messages had the best open rates. Try a similar approach and see how that works for you.
  3. Low click through rates? Writing the world's best headline won't help you any if the message and the headline don't seem congruent. The message should be in a brand and tone that matches your headline. Make sure the call to action is clear, and that there are multiple opportunities for customers to click. Ask for the sale. Use engaging visuals.
  4. Low action rates? What happens to customers once they click through. Do they get to a page with the content they expected, or do you dump them on your home page without any guidance? Consider investing the time to develop a special landing page for your emails, which helps customers understand what to do next.
  5. Small list? Since we know now that consumers are most likely to want marketing messages on email, consider directing advertising and social efforts towards getting them to sign up. Also, make email sign up prominent on your home page, and part of your checkout process.

Questions, comments, concerns? I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences on email marketing. Please share in the comments or drop me a line.

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