With all the shiny objects flying around the digital marketing space, email marketing tends to lose its luster. Consequently, small business marketers that choose to leave it out of their media mix lose sales opportunities.
You don't want that.
If you're new to email marketing, struggling to get traction with it, or failing to justify the ROI needed to keep at it, this post (and the subsequent posts in our forthcoming series) is for you.
Getting started with email marketing
This is the first in a 5-part series in which we'll examine the power of email marketing and step through a process for achieving "SPEED" email.
Is email marketing worth your time?
The question, of course, is valid. And the answer-provided you execute email with SPEED-is an unequivocal yes.
Companies achieve an average ROI of $28.5 for every $1 spent on email marketing.
Source: Direct Marketing Association, 2013
If you aim to increase conversion and sales, it's time to master the medium, which delivers the potential to realize remarkably high ROI.
Email marketing is:
- Permission-based-Ethical practitioners of email marketing send communications strictly to those who grant permission. In other words, subscribers ask you to market to them.
- Personal-One of the most powerful advantages of email marketing is its ability to be personalized by the sender specifically for the recipient. More so than any other medium, with email you're capable of sending the right offer or helpful information to the right person at the right time.
- Trust-building-Consider the all-important "know/like/trust" trifecta of successful sales and marketing and understand trust is the hardest and most important to accomplish. Email offers a trusted touch point to communicate regularly with interested prospects and nurture the relationship.
- Actionable-Email marketing is a form of direct marketing. It's all about inspiring action. From the subject line to the call-to-action button within the email message, email aims to move the recipient forward in the buying process.
- Accessible-Email marketing is inherently measurable. It's easy to establish key performance metrics, gather insights about them from the reports and take action to perpetually improve your results.
How to choose your email service provider (ESP)
Succeeding with email marketing requires contracting the services of an email service provider or ESP. Your ESP will make it easy to:
- Get started with email marketing without messing with hardware and software concerns
- Ensure the highest possible deliverability rate
- Manage subscriber lists
- Build email campaigns
- Review campaign reports
Don't flirt with the idea of creating your own infrastructure. You'll encounter endless headaches.
ESP services aren't expensive. You have a ton of choices though, so let's look at which questions to ask and features to consider so you make a smart choice the first time.
- Website integration-The new subscriber process should be entirely automatic. Make sure your website is compatible with your ESP so it's easy for people to subscribe and get instantly added to your email list without taxing your time.
- Segmentation-To send targeted campaigns you'll need to segment subscribers by the variables you choose.
- Mobile-ready-The majority of email is opened and read on mobile devices. This means your email must be responsive, that is, it's automatically formatted to, and looks great on, the device being used by the reader. Most ESPs now offer responsive templates. Make sure yours does.
- Design ease-Want to learn how to code email? No, you don't. The ESP you select should feature a robust set of templates and a drag-and-drop creation tool requiring zero HTML knowledge (so any dummy can do it).
- Scheduling-Be sure you're offered advanced scheduling capabilities. You'll want to create much of your email in advance, especially for messages that are automatically triggered by user behavior.
- Reporting-You should have instant and easy access to reports which reveal high-level metrics, subscriber information, and detailed performance data regarding user engagement.
- Testing-A/B testing can help you dramatically improve results. The process allows you to send two different versions of an email to a portion of your list and complete the campaign by executing the better performing email. A/B tests are commonly performed with different subject lines, "from" names, and/or content. Determine in advance the testing features you'll want to try and what your ESP can offer.
- Support-You're bound to have questions. Providers approach support differently offering various combinations of phone, chat and email service. You should make a choice you're comfortable with and also consider the provider's reputation for support.
- Fees-ESP plans are usually billed monthly based on the size of your email list and volume of email you send. Try to anticipate your needs and look into the pricing plans and fees. Most providers offer free trials. For low-volume needs, some even offer free services.
The beauty of templates
A big part of the email SPEED equation is ease. Predesigned email templates make it easy to deliver beautiful email without the need to pay for design and development.
All the popular ESPs offer email templates making it ultra-efficient for you to layout, format and populate your email with content for display on any device.
In addition to offering a flexible array of templates for various uses, the process of selecting and using templates itself tends to be highly flexible. With most ESPs, you can:
- Choose a provided template and get started immediately
- Design your own template(s) with intuitive tools
- Import a template you've used in the past or purchased through a marketplace such as ThemeForest or 99Designs
- Customize premade templates to match your needs
As is the case with most email service providers, MailChimp offers an extensive gallery of predesigned templates to help you get and crank out emails quickly without the need to hire an HTML code specialist.
That's not all folks
Email marketing isn't hard to do and it need not be painful, but effective practitioners have a strong handle on an array of things it takes to make it work.
You now know:
- Why email marketing is worth your time
- How to choose an email service provider (ESP)
- How to use templates to get started fast
Stay tuned. Next up in the series: smart strategies for building your email list.
NOTE: This post, and all posts in the series, appear on the Scoop.It blog. Scoop.It is not only a leading content curation tool, but offers Content Director, a powerful publishing tool for small businesses. Among its capabilities, the platform makes it fast and easy to produce enewsletters.