A Marketer’s Guide to Starting an E-mail Newsletter Campaign
An internet marketing director shares insider tips, best practices and what to avoid when starting an e-mail newsletter for your company or small business.
It’s no secret that companies large and small are tightening their belts nowadays. When it comes to marketing, executives are demanding immediate results and long-term benefits all while reducing staff and budgets. Quite frankly, the calling card of the next-generation marketer will be uber-efficiency.
Social Network Marketing
There is no shortage of private presence on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. True Goliath-sized corporate enterprises such as Bank of America, PepsiCo, Target, and Wal-Mart establish communications through more conversational social networking messaging. After all, these companies have loud voices, and often-times they’re able to market their products or services directly to customers on a medium that the customers are comfortable on.
Marketing through a social media website can have its drawbacks. For starters, your company better be ready to respond to criticism in complete transparency. If a customer is unsatisfied, they won’t hesitate to head to your Facebook page and post a complaint where thousands of other potential or past customers can see it. Secondly, with many users on Facebook having hundreds, if not thousands of friends, all while following maybe 300 profiles on Twitter, it’s easy for a message to get lost in the shuffle. That’s why within my first month as a marketing coordinator, I designed and maintained pages on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace and immediately synergized those communications with an opt-in e-mail program. This way, if my company’s customers were simply more comfortable browsing through a social networking forum, there were buttons right there in the message’s body that directed them to our Facebook, Twitter or our MySpace.
Return on Investment
As I mentioned, the next-generation marketer is uber-efficient and able to reign in the biggest return on investment. If you work in digital marketing, you know the ins-and-outs of search engine optimization, or SEO, including utilizing keywords, inward links, and paid text advertisements. Even with high organic search engine rankings, marketers are on average looking to bring in 80% of their company’s income through returning customers. Not only is e-mail marketing an effective tool to keep customers coming back by informing them of upcoming events, sales or promotions, e-mail marketing nearly doubles the ROI of text click advertising.
According to a 2009 study by the Direct Marketing Association, for every $1 spent, e-mail marketing brought in an ROI of $43.62 while every $1 spent on SEO produced $21.85.
Starting an E-Mail Marketing Campaign
Adding e-mail communications to your marketing plan is an easier undertaking than it may appear. Even for the internet and HTML novice, companies such as Constant Contact, and for the slightly-more advanced, Exact Target, enable marketers and small business owners to compose professional communications in a manner that is time-efficient. Before composing your first message, get an idea as to a customer’s expectations regarding the content and frequency of communications.
Opting-In and Segmenting Messages
Regardless of the method, you choose to send your messages to remember one thing: a customer voluntarily agrees to receive your communications, and you must cherish that opportunity and that relationship. There are practices that beginners or even ignorant marketers make that can cause a large amount of those customers to cease receiving e-mail communications.
First, only e-mail past or prospective customers that authorize receiving marketing e-mails. If your website has an e-store, enable customers upon checking out to receive your company’s e-newsletter and emphasize the happenings you will be conveying – be it sales, new arrivals or gift-giving guides during the holidays. In my experience, I’ve offered new subscribers to our e-mail program a 10% off coupon for their next order. There is an incentive right off the bat. Often times if a person receives an e-mail they don’t believe they signed up for they’ll be quick to mark it as spam, which hurts deliverability. Also, a high spam rate can cause you to be flagged by the service that sends your e-mails, in which case they may suspend your business’s account.
Secondly, segment your e-mails as much as possible. In my first marketing position, I worked for a company that sold sports memorabilia, and when I was composing a sale of our basketball items, I would always send those communications to customers who had previously purchased basketball items, or who listed they would like to receive promotions regarding basketball items when opting in. Sending uninteresting or unappealing messages to customers will cause them to opt-out and lead to low click-through rates. It was one of the first things I learned as a marketer and I keep it in mind to this day: always try to maintain a 1:1 relationship with your customer.
Note: the prototypical example of a company that does not segment its e-mail communications is Overstock.com. When I purchased a messenger bag for my laptop back in November of 2010, I opted into their e-mail program. Five to six times a week, one of Overstock’s marketing e-mails comes to my inbox proclaiming “HALF-OFF ALL BLINDS AND AREA RUGS”. Short of fabric, I can’t find any connection between a messenger bag and area rugs, which leads me to my next area.
Take It Easy With CAPS LOCK
I refer to subject lines that are typed in all capitals as ‘screamers’ because when I read something typed with the caps lock on, it’s the equivalent of listening to someone talk to me through a loudspeaker. Don’t do it. Not to mention, we’ve all had at least one boss or easily-flustered HR rep that would send out office-wide e-mails regarding a “MEETING IN THE CONFERENCE ROOM AT 3:30”. Don’t scream at your customers, and don’t conjure up bad memories. In addition to the tiny personal traumas these subject lines might cause, they reduce deliverability because often times servers automatically flag them as spam. As mentioned, having more than 8% of your messages being flagged as spam will get you in trouble with your messaging intermediary.
Provide those that receive your messages with good content that will make them want to keep reading, or learn more about a product or service. Remember, the name of the game here is click-throughs. What that means is we want a prospective customer to open the e-mail and eventually click-through the message to visit the website. But where do we want these customers clicking-through to?
Landing Pages and Consistency
If you’re highlighting a specific service, page or product through your marketing e-mail, make sure that when customers click-through these messages, they arrive on the page that is relevant to the message. An example would be if you owned a bakery and wanted to advertise a special on wedding cakes, when the customer clicks through to come to the website, have the link embedded in the e-mail direct them to the page dedicated to wedding cakes. If the customer reading your message wants to learn more about wedding cakes, so they click-through to the only land on the front or main page of your website, you’re adding unnecessary steps to conversion, or sale.
Also, ensure that the messaging on your website, the landing page, and the e-mail communication are all consistent. If your e-mail stated there was a 10% sell-off all wedding cakes, then the messaging disappears when the customer arrives at the landing page, there is a disconnect, and a disadvantage when trying to secure a conversion. The only exemption here would be when you advertise a sale strictly to your e-mail-receiving customers. For a case like this, include a coupon code in the body of the e-mail.
For example, “To redeem your exclusive 10% off coupon, enter the code BELLS at checkout”.
Note: This only works if your e-store supports coupon codes. Also, most do, if your website doesn’t, ask your HR manager to arrange a meeting using one of her screaming subject line e-mails.
Be Upfront and Respect Unsubscribe Requests Immediately
Do not spam your customers. Ensure that every e-mail communication has dialogue that allows customers to easily unsubscribe from receiving such e-mails. Complying with such requests is one of the provisions in the CAN-SPAM Act passed back in 2003, which mandates all opt-out requests be completed within 10 business days.
Complying with other regulations in the CAN-SPAM act also mandates that every advertisement is clearly labeled as such and that your business’s physical address is located somewhere inside the e-mail. Be upfront with your customers and don’t use misleading messages in your subject lines. Respecting the wishes and meeting the needs of your customer can lead to a long and valuable symbiotic relationship.