Small Business Services

Email Marketing Still a Powerful Sales Tool

It’s hard to believe that email has only been a part of our lives for a couple of decades. We can’t imagine going back to phone tag and fax machines and a great deal of money spent on overnight document delivery.

As a businessperson, you probably recognized its potential as a marketing tool early on. Then social media came along and stole its thunder.

Email marketing, though, is a more critical component of your marketing strategy than ever. Pair it with the ongoing rise in smartphone usage, and you have a combination that’s hard to beat in any other fashion.

Compelling Numbers

Consider what Salesforce reported in its 2015 State of Marketing survey. 73 percent of the 5,000+ global marketers included in the annual survey said that, “…email marketing is core to their business.” 59 percent planned to increase their email marketing budgets in 2015. Newsletters were cited as the most frequently-used vehicles, but they ranked fairly low in effectiveness.

Those marketing emails are being read on mobile devices more frequently in 2015 (50 percent of the time) than even 2014 (24 percent).

The growth reported in those statistics is probably not news to you. People are staring at their smartphones at the expense of their personal safety these days. But they should remind you of two related elements of your email strategy that a majority of respondents to Salesforce’s study said were, “absolutely critical” or “very important:” email content and design, and the use ofresponsive design (a development approach that can vastly improve the mobile experience).

Necessary Tools

You can do some of your marketing planning and execution without using specialized tools. But email marketing screams for a web-based application that can:

  • Import your contact list and help you manage it,
  • Provide easy-to-use drag-and-drop templates for designing emails that will look great on mobile devices as well as desktop computers,
  • Store images and files,
  • Guide you through sharing your content with your social networks, and,
  • Track and analyze the results of your efforts by, for example, reporting on the number of opens, clicks, and forwards.

There are a number of companies that offer this customized experience. Constant Contact is one of the best. Its Email Plus service goes beyond the basics, offering tools that let you create and manage events and Facebook fan promotions, send and track coupons and surveys, and collect donations. Pricing starts at $20/month for up to 500 contacts, and Email Plus starts at $45/month. Expert services are available for a fee.

MailChimp is another. It offers a free level for businesses with fewer than 2,000 contacts; up to 12,000 emails per month can be dispatched. Paid versions start at $10/month for up to 500 contacts. MailChimp’s innovative services include automated, personalized emails and comprehensive, cross-platform subscriber profiles. You can set up custom workflows and learn from sophisticated analytics. You’ll also get help targeting the right contacts at the right times.

Making Your Emails Effective

Some experts will tell you to send your marketing emails on Thursday afternoon or on the weekends or whenever. But everyone’s message and target audience are different, and there’s no magic formula. The best way to find out is to try different times and analyze your results with the help of an email marketing service.

Here are a few other tips:

  • You simply must design specifically for mobile. It’s not an option anymore. An email that looks bad or can’t be read easily reflects on your brand.
  • Your subject line is the most important collection of words in your entire email. Give it the time it deserves and make it intriguing or inviting or humorous or compelling (depending on what you’re going for).
  • Write emails as if you’re speaking directly to your prospects. Think old direct marketing pieces, only about one-tenth as long and without the hard sell.
  • Do everything humanly possible to make it easy to opt in – and out – of your mailing list.
  • If you’re trying to gin up interest in a new product in an email, talk about benefits. Tell your prospects how what you’re selling will help them. Direct them to your website for the feature spiel.
  • Send event-driven emails (abandoned carts, it’s-been-a-year-since-you-joined us, etc.) and consider offering an incentive.

Finally, time your emails carefully – not in terms of what time and day you send them, but how frequently they appear in your prospects’ inboxes. Don’t rush them at the start and then dribble off. There’s some science and psychology involved in email marketing, but your instincts and your experience as a recipient are worth something, too.

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