Email: Turning Emails Into Customers
Most companies have embraced email—and they spend a lot of time and money to grow their email lists. This is good, but it’s not enough. The most successful email marketers not only work on growing their email lists, they work to turn email addresses on their lists into fully engaged customers. Here are a few ways to leverage editorial and service email messages to drive sales.
Editorial and service messages have much higher open and clickthrough rates than marketing messages (see chart at right). They offer a key opportunity to drive sales, because there’s much higher engagement than with marketing-only messages. But, for most companies, they’re still a very small part of the email marketing mix; less than 8 percent of the volume sent, according to the “Q4 2011 Email Trends and Benchmark Report” published by Epsilon and the Email Experience Council.
Service and editorial messages engage readers, because they provide value without requiring a purchase. But that doesn’t mean they can’t include marketing content with a call to action to drive sales.
One of my clients has an email newsletter that publishes weekly, along with a standalone marketing email that is sent on a monthly basis. Each issue of the newsletter has a higher conversion rate and drives more revenue than the “strictly marketing” email.
The key here is the e-newsletter content. It’s focused on helping readers solve a problem. It provides practical advice for success, showcasing the company’s expertise in this area. At least 60 percent of the content of each e-newsletter is editorial. The readers get the benefit, tips for solving their problem, without a purchase. Up to 40 percent is promotional—marketing the service the company provides, which helps readers solve the same problem.
Many companies send e-newsletters—the key to success is the quality of the content. Good content, which provides benefit without a purchase, builds relationships and drives sales. Content that is a thinly veiled sales pitch, or that’s “all about
Daunted by the idea of developing quality content for your e-newsletter? Don’t be. There are many inexpensive ways to do it. Here are some ideas:
- Survey your newsletter readers on an issue of interest and then write an article reporting on the responses, with tips for addressing the issue. This has the additional benefit of providing readers with the opportunity to interact with your newsletter and keeps the content focused on their needs.
- Write brief synopses of third-party articles of interest, including your own thoughts, then link to the full text. Readers will see that you are engaged with their interests and keeping up with current news. This is also a benefit-oriented way to showcase your expertise.
- Interview industry or internal-to-your-company experts on key topics. Email interviews, where the questions are asked and answered via email, are especially easy to turn into newsletter articles.
The revenue generated by an e-newsletter with quality editorial content and appropriate marketing calls to action will more than cover the cost of creating it.
Service messages are another overlooked opportunity to build relationships and sales. A common service message is your welcome email, triggered when people sign up for your email program. The key here is to use it to start turning new subscribers into fans (and, now or later, customers) of your brand. While the primary message here should be service-oriented, it’s legal under CAN-SPAM to include a secondary message that is marketing-oriented.
When you welcome members to your email list, give them something that helps them right now. Make it something that provides value, but also showcases your company’s expertise. Then give them a way to take advantage of your company’s prowess in this area by clicking through to make a purchase.
Execution makes all the difference between success and failure here. A recent client thought the company’s welcome message was hitting all these notes (the client told me so when it hired me), but it wasn’t driving any sales.
When I reviewed it, the email was sparse, offering only a link to view some tips online and no marketing copy or link to buy. By upping the editorial value of the tips, including them in the email itself and adding a bit of marketing copy with a link to purchase, the conversion rate went from 0.0 percent to 1.5 percent (based on the number of welcome emails sent, not on the clickthroughs). That’s without any type of discount offer or additional testing and optimization, which would likely drive conversions even higher.
Revenue per welcome email sent for that client went from nothing to $0.97. If you could generate almost a dollar more in revenue for every welcome email you send, how would that impact your bottom line?
Are you already sending an e-newsletter and welcome message? Try implementing these ideas to see if you can boost sales performance. Not sending an email newsletter or welcome message? Now’s the time to start. A large email list is good, but leveraging that list to boost your bottom line is the key to success with email.
Jeanne Jennings is a consultant with more than 20 years of experience in email marketing strategy and product development, and publisher of “The Jennings Report,” a free newsletter for email marketing professionals. Reach her at email@example.com.