Email marketing is still the most effective and widely used type of online advertising. Not only is it inexpensive to implement, it is also very well-received by consumers when done in a thoughtful way. What I mean by that is that you have to be able to think from the perspective of the people you are marketing to. You make them an offer that is appealing to them, and you deliver on that offer without becoming an annoyance. If you follow these seven simple steps, you will have no trouble taking advantage of this increasingly important marketing avenue.
1. Don't skimp on market research
Email marketing is just like any other type of marketing. You have to know who you are marketing to and develop an understanding of what motivates them to take action. Then you will be able to design messages that appeal directly to the people most important to your success.
How can you offer a good value if you don't know anything about your audience's values? How could you ever counter their objectives if you didn't know what makes them feel uneasy? Taking the time to analyze your market prior to launching your campaign will definitely pay off.
2. Plan your email campaign
Once you understand your market, you are ready to make decisions about what kind of email campaign you will mount. Take the time to do this in advance so that you can use the medium strategically and effectively based on what you already know about your audience. What sort of thing will they be happy to see in their inbox?
Many new email marketers imagine they'll just toss out a newsletter every time they have a sale. And in some industries that will work. But you have to make sure you are providing a solid value to your recipient. In most cases, you'll see better results if you use your newsletter as a venue to offer insider tips specific to your industry and your audience. By providing real value to your readers, you'll not only retain them as readers but also earn their trust. And trust leads to better sales.
3. Build your mailing list with confidence
You've researched your target market and developed a plan to provide them with real value, so by this point you should feel very confident asking clients and contacts to subscribe to your newsletter. Every contact is an opportunity to promote your email list, both online and offline.
Your web site is a great place to start building up your mailing list. Begin by placing a large, attractive signup form in a prominent location on every page of your web site. Be sure to describe the benefits of joining, the frequency of your mailings, and an assurance that you won't sell their email address. But remember, there is no reason to limit your promotion to the web. The people you interact with face to face are great candidates for your mailing list, whether they are customers standing at a cash register, clients sitting at a board table, or audience members at a speaking engagement.
Also, a word of caution: Don't buy mailing lists.
When people think about starting an email marketing campaign, the next question tends to be "Where do I buy a list of email addresses." This is entirely the wrong question, for a number of reasons. First of all, purchased email lists are not cheap. Second, you can kiss that money goodbye. The conversion rate that you'll see on mailings to lists you didn't build yourself are usually going to approach 0%.
If that isn't bad enough, consider this: spam filtration is distributed. There are just a few main sources for the blacklists that prevent billions of spam messages from being delivered every day. That means that every person who marks one of your messages as spam makes it much less likely that all your other messages will be delivered. And that threatens the long-term viability of your email marketing efforts. So it behooves you to make sure that you never send a mailing to anyone who doesn't specifically want to receive what you're sending them.
4. Segment your mailing lists for laser-targeted campaigns
One of the biggest benefits of email marketing is the incredible degree of personalization that it makes possible. You can break your mailing lists apart by demographic, location, or even the types of actions they've taken in response to prior mailings.
It can be a little more work writing separate mailings for every little market segment, but the more work you put in the more benefit you'll see. Plus, over time you'll gain a better sense of which groups respond to which messages, and be able to combine and target them with an unmatched level of expertise. The more your messages approach the level of a one-to-one, personal appeal, the more effective they will tend to be.
5. Make it easy to unsubscribe from your list
Naturally, everyone would prefer that their subscribers continue to receive their email messages. But if they ever do decide they've had enough, it will be much better for you if they have an easy and highly visible unsubscribe link to click on.
Think about what you do when you can't figure out how to unsubscribe from a mailing list. I know that, personally, if unsubscribing feels like a hassle I'll just flag the message as spam. After doing that once or twice, Gmail never shows me messages from that mailing list again. As a list owner, this is something that you do not want to have happen to your messages, because every message that gets flagged as spam reduces the overall deliverability of your mailings.
6. For a great response, write great copy
The principles of great copywriting are all pretty much the same for email marketing as for every other medium. Your content should meet the expectations that you built up for your list. If your subscribers signed up just to hear about your sales and special offers, then just write great sales copy. But they are expecting to receive information about news in their industry, weave your promotional content into that framework.
7. Split-test your messages
Email marketing software gives you the ability to test multiple versions of a message against one another so that you can see which one performs the best. This is something you should take advantage with every mailing: test the effectiveness of different headlines, layouts, images, and calls to action. Over time you can accumulate some incredibly powerful knowledge about what your market does and does not respond to.