10 essential steps to improve your e-campaign
How to get the most from your email marketing activity
Entrepreneurs quickly cottoned on to the fact that email is a fast and effective way of marketing a business. But we’ve all become a little tired of endless spam interruptions, and businesses need to become more savvy before they hit send
Your inbox is full of ‘marketing’ of every description: promotions from companies you can barely remember subscribing to, offers from people you haven’t bought from in years, Viagra adverts, phishing scams and worse. Your hand might feel heavy as it bounces off the delete button – and who could blame you? But is your business just as guilty of adopting the carpet bombing approach to email marketing? Many companies need to sharpen up their act or their promotions will be heading straight for the deleted items folder, or even worse, caught by a spam filter. So here are 10 steps you can take towards launching more effective email marketing campaigns:
1. Be human
This might be the virtual world, but don’t distance yourself from your customers. People buy from people, and a good email campaign is based on the same principles as any other sales and marketing drive. Ben Hatton, founder and managing director of digital agency Rippleffect, advises entrepreneurs to think hard about their customers and avoid playing a numbers game. “The more you get to know your audience, the more effectively you can market to them, and this will increase your percentage [of opened emails],” he says. Consider your audience and what genuinely appeals to them. Focus on customer satisfaction and the results will follow.
2. Check your data
You need to have a close look at your customer relationship management (CRM) information, and any other relevant data. Make sure what you are saying is pertinent, timely and interesting to the market you are sending to. Crucially, make sure that the people you are contacting are really the ones you need to be targeting. Firing out messages to all and sundry can annoy people and also attract disapproval from internet service providers (ISPs), which may result in your emails being converted to spam and an increase in unsubscribing. From a legal point of view, you shouldn’t hold ‘excessive’ data on customers. Periodically weeding out old or inactive accounts is good practice.
3. Acquire new leads
You should be constantly refreshing your data organically through your website, social networks, CRM and other available channels. Segmenting your data into a variety of lists and making messages as personal as possible will also increase returns. New data can also be acquired, and it may be a shrewd investment. “There are a variety of lists for hire across the UK and we segment our data and target certain job titles, people who will be high-end users and who are probably using one of our competitors,” says Andrew Pearce, founder of PowWowNow, a £7.5m-turnover conference call company. But be warned, such lists aren’t always cheap. One supplier quoted 150,000 contacts for £10,000, which it would hire out once a month for a year. Data is a commodity in the information age, but if you can get a return on investment, it is worth it.
4. Make a call to action
Some companies get into the habit of firing out e-newsletters without ever reviewing why they are doing it. You must be clear on your reasons for messaging your clients and customers. “There are many different reasons to run a campaign: branding, sales, a news message or a combination of the three. But there has to be a call to action. How do you want your audience to respond?” says Hatton. If you know your target, then you can assess your accuracy, whereas if you aim for nothing, that’s what you’ll hit.
5. Quality, not quantity
The above adage applies to the frequency of your campaigns and to the information contained therein. A sharp, well-prepared, targeted and relevant message can work wonders. Ian Major, operations director of personal finance website Lovemoney.com, has tested what messages are most effective with both UK and US consumers. In one of the tests, two different versions (A and B) of the same promotion were sent out, so they could be compared. “In the US, the best way to sell a product is to use large amounts of text, which really explain the offer in detail,” he says. “We did AB testing on that here and found that UK consumers weren’t as receptive. Consequently, we tend to use three bold headlines with a teaser and images to the left, so that it is straight to the point.”
6. Beware of spam filters
Credible digital agencies will be able to guide you around spam filters, but if you are running your own email marketing campaign, avoid the use of certain phrases. Words such as ‘free’, ‘giveaway’ and ‘offer’ in the title can all trigger a spam filter, as can ‘£’ symbols and ‘%’ signs. Emails containing large images and attachments are also often prevented from reaching inboxes by firewalls and filters, so focus on ways to make text-based emails work for you. There are spam testers available online, but use your common sense and try softer methods of selling.
7. Think mobile
Research by Morgan Stanley predicts that by 2015 more people will access the internet via their phones than by desktops. The growth of smart phones, PDAs and tablets, such as the iPad, means the way people view the web is changing rapidly. In the developing world, due to the cost of desktops, mobile is already at the fore. Therefore, e-marketers need to think how their message will be viewed on a screen just a few inches wide. Again, large images, graphics and attachments are all out, while short snappy copy appears to be the best method.
8. Use hot incentives
Rippleffect ran a campaign for a Premiership football team, offering a free season ticket as an incentive. The activity took place a few weeks before season tickets went on sale and the response was overwhelming. “We doubled the database,” says Hatton. “The timing was right and so it was a very relevant campaign as we were emailing football fans, many of whom would be thinking of buying a season ticket.” Incentives don’t have to cost a lot of money, but they must appear valuable to the audience. Stay on the look-out for hot topics and trends, and try to use them to your advantage.
9. Don’t just rely on email
In 2009, more communications were conducted on social networks than via email, according to research conducted by Morgan Stanley. Pearce observes that in the few years since he founded his company, this change has been apparent. “I believe that in terms of cold-call emails, the responses are lower than they were four or five years ago, as customers are faced with a barrage of email marketing all the time,” he says. Your newsletter is just one tool in the box, along with social networks, blogs and a whole host of e-marketing tools.
10. Track results and monitor feedback
Any decent supplier of e-marketing software should offer the facility to track results. Information on deliverability, and the number of opens and bounce-backs should all inform you of your progress. Google Analytics and other software, such as Omniture, will give you an idea of the effectiveness of your campaign and this can then inform your next steps. Also, encourage feedback from your audience by creating an email address to which they can reply. Of course, this must be checked regularly, so a committed member of staff is required to respond to and take note of customer reactions. Again, remember your leads aren’t merely addresses, they are real people and they will want to be treated as such.