As a professional email marketer, I get a lot of really interesting questions and comments when I tell people what I do.
“So you’re the people who send me spam?” Um, no. But I do send you the stuff you sign up to get.
“Email? Does anyone still use email marketing?” Yes.
“… even with all this social media?” Yes! In fact, according to an Ipsos poll from 2012, 85 percent of adults use the Internet for email versus 62 percent using it for social.
With, on average, 30 percent of your subscribers reading each email (and only 15 percent of your followers reading each social post and less than 5 percent engaging with mailed pieces or phone campaigns), email still has the “read rate” and the attention. It’s also still the No. 1 way people share things with colleagues and family members.
Across all digital outreach, a small business’s bread and butter is email marketing. It’s immediate, it can be targeted by customer type or interest and, best of all, it’s extremely cost-effective. When every customer and every dollar still count, i.e. when you’re a growing business, email marketing can be one of your best tools, averaging $28 return on investment for every $1 spent, the Direct Marketing Association reports.
You’re not a big, faceless multicontinent organization. Build your customer relationships by extending your voice, brand and personality through your emails.
In particular, email newsletters can be a great way to stay in front of customers, and they don’t require a ton of maintenance. If you have the data, you can even send different articles, products and versions of your emails to segments of your email subscribers list, so it feels even more like you’re talking directly to them.
In order to put email marketing to work for you, though, you’ll have to follow a few basic best practices.
This means asking your customers, prospects and community members to join your list rather than just automatically adding them. People are more likely to share their email address with you than any other contact information. At events or sales, be sure they can sign up for information on future events before they leave. Try a sign-up sheet in store, or go high-tech and ask customers to text you their email address. Email is key to bringing them back to your business.
Most people have too much email in their inbox, and not all of it is wanted. Make your emails ones that people want to read. Set a precedent of including relevant, timely, valuable information for your email subscribers. Highlight up-
coming events, sales, new products or articles you’ve found interesting in the industry. Share great content, both from your own blog or website and others.
No matter how large your list of subscribers, start sending right away and send consistently, at least once a month. If you have enough relevant and timely content, you can send once a week or more. Not only does this keep you top of mind, there is a technical benefit that helps you get through to your subscribers’ inboxes instead of going to their junk folder.
Make It Easy to Maintain
If, heaven forbid, you’re using Gmail or Outlook to send your community newsletters, you’re not only making it more difficult on yourself, you’re also missing some legal basics (like an opt-out link for easy removal) and some automated management (for no longer sending to invalid addresses). Check out an email service provider. The bonus of using an email service provider is that you can monitor who opens the email and which content gets the most clicks. You can use these metrics to learn what your readers want most and, in turn, stay relevant and interesting.
An important caveat: Nothing you do for marketing should ever live in just one medium. Keep in mind that if you’re writing great content for email, post it on a blog and share it via social media and paid ads, too (unless it’s exclusive—another benefit to email). If you have a sale or an event, email is just one of the many ways you can share that with your fans, friends and customers. The biggest best practice for email marketing is to integrate it.