While everyone jumps on the bandwagon that is social media, spare a thought for poor old email marketing. Once the shiny new thing every business was feeling pressured to get sorted, it seems the ease and low cost of tools like Facebook and Twitter have relegated email marketing to the bottom of the to do list, where it most definitely does not belong.
A new report from marketing research firm Custora studied lead generation between 2009 and 2013 from the 7 most popular digital marketing channels.
The research found that email marketing has quadrupled the rate of gaining new customers.
In the same 4 years, Facebook and Twitter barely register. The most effective customer acquisition channel? In a word: Google.
Organic search (off the chart, shown in green below) and CPC (charted in purple below) are the most effective customer acquisition channels.
CPC stands for Cost Per Click advertising, such as Google Adwords, also called PPC (Pay Per Click) or paid search.
Those are the ads you see in places such as the top and right-hand side in search results, in gmail and on websites that show Google ads.
Organic search are listings on search engine results pages that appear when the search engine decides they are relevant to a search term, as opposed to advertisements.
Click on this chart to view it larger
Don’t get me wrong. This is not to say social media doesn’t have a long list of other merits or that you should drop it all together.
However when it comes to the all important, highly measurable goal of gaining new customers, email marketing, paid search and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation to help your site rank better organically) are where it’s at.
Like email marketing, paid search and organic search all require investment, in both time and money.
However most marketers find email marketing easier, faster and far more cost effective, free in fact if you use a popular program like MailChimp that is not only the easiest of all the email marketing solutions I’ve used, but is also free while your database stays within 2,000 subscribers.
7 smart ways to use email marketing to get more sales & new customers
1 – Target non-buying customers
Firstly, you need to grow your email database.
Often companies only have current customers on their list, but it’s those people who check out your website but decide not to buy, or leave your store without purchasing, that far out-number your buying customers and offer an easy way to grow your email database.
Plus instead of potentially losing that prospect forever, at least by enticing them to join your email database, all that hard work getting them to your website or into your store doesn’t go to waste.
Quick ways to grow your email database
So to get you started, here are 4 quick, easy strategies that you can implement right away to grow your email list:
A – Offer an incentive for joining
If you have a ‘bricks and mortar’ store, pull together a bundle of popular products to display – or work with another store and offer their products in exchange for yours – and you’re away. This of course also works for your website by including a photograph of the prize by your sign-up form.
How you promote joining your database is key to persuading people to join. The sort of things your customers need to hear follow below, as well as why I recommend you mention each one:
Be in to win this gift pack worth $X just for joining our email database.
Why: This gives your prize a tangible value.
Receive the occasional email with our best offers, exclusive sales and more competitions.
Why: This puts their mind at ease that you won’t bombard them with a tonne of emails, and that the content is worth receiving.
No purchase required.
Why: It seems like a no-brainer to me and you might think it doesn’t need stating, but sadly consumers will be on the look-out for the fine print, so reassure them they’re under no obligation by signing up. I find this is more important to include in a physical store than online.
It’s entirely free.
Why: Free is still one of the most powerful words out there and if your customers are anything like me, they’ve probably grown accustomed to the saying: ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’ or thinking to themselves ‘What’s the catch?’.
You can unsubscribe at any time.
Why: Last, but by no way least, mentioning this is a smart move so consumers know they have an ‘easy out’ if you don’t meet your promise of sharing valuable content.
In-store, your staff should mention these things to your customers when asking them to join your database, and a sign near the products should also make people aware of the answers to their usually unspoken concerns.
B – Work with another retailer and share your database
Ok, so those who know me might be wondering why I’d suggest this. Yes, I’m a huge fan of permission marketing so no, I’m not suggesting you hide this in the fine print.
What am I suggesting is running a joint competition with another store so you both benefit from double the sign-ups, and making it obvious on the entry form, or just by telling them when they enter, that the customer is joining both store’s databases.
Again, remember to mention those benefits and answer your customer’s concerns listed above, the main one being ‘you can unsubscribe at any time’ which becomes even more important when customers are giving their details to more than 1 business.
By the way, this can be a fantastic trade to-off to use to get a fantastic prize to give away for free.
Recently my local business association ran a competition where you could enter to win a tropical holiday worth thousands. Sounds great right? Even better, the business association got the prize absolutely free from a local travel agent. For what? In return for simply giving them the database of everyone’s details who entered.
Even smarter, to resolve the major headache of how to data enter the thousands of entries, they got the data entry for free by a team of staff employed by someone else, by giving that company a copy of the database as well.
Talk about win-win-win! Plus the transparent copy on the entry form made it clear to customers they were joining all 3 databases.
With a luxury tropical holiday on offer, the value of the prize outweighed the privacy concerns consumers had about their details going to 3 companies, so always bear your prize selection in mind.
The more you require customers to do or disclose to enter, the more important the value of the prize becomes.
C – Always incentivise joining your email database on your website
Many sites have a call to action to sign up to their email database online, however I’m constantly surprised how few offer any real, tangible incentive to do so.
Remember the second-best thing you can get from a visitor to your site other than a sale, is joining your email database. So be generous!
Here’s one example of a site that knows the value of an email sign-up from one of my favourite eCommerce sites:
Just click the image above to view it larger
As well as the simple discount idea featured above, here are some other ideas you could put to use:
Free white-paper or report: This is a great one for growing a B2B email database (B2B means Business to Business, for those who sell to other businesses rather than direct to the consumer).
Free gift: You could email customers a voucher to print and bring in to collect their gift next time they’re in-store, or a code to enter when they check-out online to have the gift added to their next order.
D – Convert your Facebook fans into customers
Getting Facebook fans is far easier than building your email database, so now that Facebook’s newly relaxed rules allow for page promotions, a clever way to convert your fans to customers is a simple competition on Facebook.
Simply link to your email sign-up page in your update copy, and ask fans to like the update then sign up for free to your email database to be in to win (don’t forget the all important image of the prize in your update as well).
2 – Pay attention to your email subject line
An email’s subject line is so powerful for increasing sales that this really deserves its own article, but for now, here are 4 email subject line tips that can vastly increase your open rates:
Tell it like it is: Your email subject line isn’t the place to be coy or tease. State the main benefit readers will get if they open your email.
Running a competition to be in to win a great prize? Say so! ‘How to be in to win $1,000 of perfume’ is a recent winning email subject line I’ve used. Promoting an event? Start the invitation in the subject line, eg: ‘Your invitation to (event name)…’. Stay away from generic subject lines. Using the event as an example, a generic subject line like ‘What’s happening this week at (company name)’ would be a great example of what not to say.
Don’t ask for help: In MailChimp’s email subject line study, which analysed over 200 million emails, they found the words help, percent off and reminder were the 3 worst culprits responsible for lowering open rates.
Two examples from the study include ‘Help spread the news’ and ‘Help us create a better customer experience’ both which make it obvious the sender’s focused on how their subscribers can help the company, not how they can help their customers.
Mix it up: Using the same headline formula for each email probably isn’t doing you any favours. Just because it’s your regular newsletter doesn’t mean ‘September news from (company name)’ will cut it. I’m sure there’s something far more exciting from your content that you can feature in the subject line.
Who it’s from matters: Who your email says it comes from is actually hugely important. In programs like MailChimp you can define both the email reply address and sender name. It’s simple: these should match your company name, the same company people signed up to hear from.
As MailChimp wisely sums up when it comes to email subject lines:
“Put yourself in your recipients’ shoes. People are flooded with spam and increasingly pressed for time. Vague teasers, constant reminders, and pleas for money are not going to cut through the inbox clutter… When it comes to subject lines, don’t sell what’s inside. Tell what’s inside.”
3 – Keep it short
It’s tempting to treat your email newsletters like your old paper editions, but there’s this thing you may have heard of called your website…
So instead of including all the content in the email, simply provide eye-catching headlines and a short description with a link to the full content on your website.
This not only puts the power in your readers hands to find out more about what they are most interested in, it also shortens your email, showing readers more content at a glance without endless scrolling, making it more likely they will find something of interest.
Less copy also reduces your reliance on including images to catch the eye, increasing deliverability and saving you time (and often money) finding and resizing images to suit your email template.
4 – Stop talking about yourself
Luckily for many companies who send me emails, I’m a reluctant un-subscriber and I do have the patience and quick reading speed to scan emails to find the content I’m most interested in.
Maybe it’s my reluctance to miss out on anything, but whatever the reason, I can tell you I’m not the norm.
A healthy balance is about 50/50 of self-promotional versus value-added content if you want to keep those hard-won subscribers. Clever marketers can get to 100% and still get sales by adding value to their products in a different way.
If you sell clothing for example, instead of telling me there’s ‘20% off maxi skirts’ how about turning that on its head with: ‘How to wear a maxi skirt with your existing wardrobe, plus get 20% off all maxi skirts this month’.
You’re still letting me know about the sale, but you’re also adding the style advice I need to make this often hard-to-wear but very stylish item work for me, without having to buy an entire new wardrobe (a common consideration women take into account when buying clothing).
Maybe I don’t end up buying a skirt, but you got me onto your site with the style advice and once I’m there, I’m far more likely to look around and end up finding something I do like.
Plus that sort of content is a digital marketers dream for increasing your website’s ranking in organic search results.
5 – Use fewer images
Even better, use no images at all.
Pick a template (MailChimp has lots available for free) that means your text is visible even when images are turned off.
It’s still the default in most email programs to display emails with images turned off, so make sure you don’t fall into the trap of just sending emails where the text is only visible if images are turned on.
If you’re like me and subscribe to a lot of companies email lists, I’m sure you’ll find plenty of examples in your inbox right now which appear blank when you first open them.
Here’s one from one of my favourite shoe shops called Overland. I find clothing and accessory sellers are the biggest culprits of this mistake by the way. Even worse, many (like this example) fail to use ‘alt text’ to explain what the images show.
Not that there’s much to see, but just click the image above to view it larger
So if you’re going to continue to make this mistake, at least add alt text that describes what could be seen if your subscriber decide to display images for your email. When you upload the image there should be an area in the upload box where you can add optional alt text.
6 – Personalise your subject lines and content
By personalise I don’t mean ‘Hi (first-name)’ which has in fact been found not to have much impact on open and click-through rates, I mean segment your list and change your message to make your email more relevant to your subscribers.
ASOS is a great example of this. They are a very popular eCommerce clothing retailer that sells to the world.A recent email I received from them had the subject line: ‘Free shipping to New Zealand’.
Obviously highly irrelevant unless you’re in New Zealand, but with the cost of shipping being a major barrier to conversion, especially since New Zealand is one of the costlier destinations when buying from overseas sites, it definitely got my attention.
Just to really seal the deal, when I clicked from the email to their website, their top banners also had the offer, and the site was already converted into NZ dollars for me. Nice job ASOS.
7 – Use A/B testing
This has to be one of my favourite free features with MailChimp. When you set up a new email campaign, you can select the option to split or A/B test your email subject line.
Simply type 2 different subject lines in, select how long you want to test them, and to how much of your database you want to send the test to before your winning subject line goes out to the rest of your subscribers.
I tend to pick 20% of my database – so a random segment of 10% get subject line A and the other 10% get subject line B. What you choose depends on the size of your database of course. The smaller the database the larger your test segment needs to be to get statistically significant results.
Given most clicks happen so soon after sending out an email, I only test over a couple of hours. MailChimp does the rest.
Once your set time period is up, it automatically sends the winning subject line to the rest of your database. In a recent split test, my winning subject line increased my open rate by just over 2%.
Resurrecting email marketing from the dead is not only cost-effective, it’s also a very fast way to get more sales and customers. So get off Facebook for an hour and pick just a couple of those 7 ideas to implement today.
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