5 Ways to Build a Strong Email Marketing Foundation
In an e-book compiled by my firm, Campaigner, titled "The Small Business Guide to Email Marketing," readers are provided tips to help them create, launch and continually enhance their email marketing campaigns. Here are five tips taken from the book:
1. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Small business owners and entrepreneurs like to jump right in and get started, which is crucial to success. But it’s also important to prepare, plan and set objectives, especially when it comes to email marketing. When you’re getting started, step back and think through what you’re trying to accomplish. The best way to do this is to try and see things through your customers’ eyes.
Specifically, ask yourself what type of information would attract attention and get people to open, read and act on your email campaigns. Do they want coupons, special offers or promotions? Would they respond better to valuable information and practical tips they can use often? The best e-newsletters include a mix of sales with expert opinions and advice.
2. Construct a yearly email marketing plan. Once you’ve established your email marketing objectives, build an email marketing plan for the year ahead. Look at the calendar — again from your customers’ perspective — and map out promotions, topics and campaigns that will help you reach out to customers and prospects at the right time with the right information.
While this may sound like a challenging task, you know your customers better than anyone else, so roughing out a flexible plan for the year shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours. Use major holidays as good milestones to work with. Investing planning time up front will dramatically improve the performance of your email marketing campaigns. Your customers will appreciate getting relevant emails right when they want them.
3. Start building your email list. Now that you’ve put yourself firmly in your customers’ shoes, you’re ready to start building your opt-in email list. Opt-in means your customers understand that by signing up they're giving you permission to send them emails. In addition to name and email address, think about other information that could help you better target your email campaigns, such as the following:
- If your business is a restaurant, retail store (online or brick-and-mortar) or florist, gather birthday information.
- If you're a consultant or run a business services firm, include a check box for consumers to indicate that they'd like to learn more about your products and services as well as the topics, issues and challenges that interest your customers.
- Ask your customers how often they'd like to receive emails from you.
- Take every opportunity to gather customers’ email addresses and profile information by using all of the tools at your disposal, including quick-and-easy sign-up on your homepage, paper form sign-ups at retail store cash registers or a jar for customers to drop business cards in.
- Actively seek out people you want to reach by attending relevant trade shows and conferences, gathering business cards, asking for permission, and adding them to your list.
4. Create an email template that reflects your brand image. Email marketing service providers offer templates that are great for getting started. Choose a look and feel that reflects your business and brand image. If you have the time and resources, you can have a custom template created that matches your website and marketing collateral. You’ll also want to decide on the formatting and how content will be displayed. Leave plenty of room for images and graphics, and try to make the text concise, to the point and easy to scan.
5. Begin the conversation with your inaugural campaign. Now you’re ready to launch your first email campaign! Kick things off by introducing yourself and setting expectations. Let your audience know the type of information they’ll be receiving and how frequently they can expect to hear from you. Don’t just sell in your first campaign; offer valuable information or tips your audience can use. Also, encourage feedback so you can begin an ongoing dialogue with your customers, allowing you to continually gather more detailed profile information to improve the targeting of future campaigns.
Mélanie Attia is the product marketing manager for email marketing service provider Campaigner. Reach Mélanie at firstname.lastname@example.org.