Email marketing is a type of direct marketing that aims to reach potential or current customers through the use of electronic mail. Unlike mass media marketing, email marketing sends promotional messages directly to targeted users. Email marketing, when used correctly, can encourage brand loyalty, increase overall customer satisfaction and, most importantly, increase sales.
There are many advantages to using email marketing over other marketing and advertising methods, most of which have to do with the nature of email and how people tend to use their email accounts. One such advantage is the fact that sending an email message costs nothing; the relatively small cost of email marketing is incurred by using websites that help manage your contact lists, provide message templates, and send the messages for you.
Another advantage is that emails are sent almost instantly, so getting a timely message out is never an issue. Email messages can also be tracked in various ways and feedback can then be analyzed to determine what content gets the best response. People who have an email account also tend to check their account at least once per day. Additionally, if the content of your message is valuable enough, your emails may be forwarded to a recipient’s friends and family, further widening your audience.
The greatest disadvantage with email marketing is the fact that customers may mistake your targeted email message for spam (unsolicited bulk emails). It is for this reason that the most effective email marketing campaigns use opt-in email lists, rather than opt-out.
Opt-in Versus Opt-out
Opt-in email marketing (also called permission marketing) means that you have the express permission to contact the user because they have opted-in to the email list in some way, i.e., the recipient actively wants to receive your messages. Opt-out email marketing refers to the recipient having their name added to an email list without their consent and a user must actively remove their address from the list (usually by following a link) in order to stop the emails from coming.
For obvious reasons, it is better to have an opt-in email list at your disposal. Though it’s more difficult to build a large opt-in list, opt-in users will be more receptive to your sales pitch and thus provide a better return on your marketing investment. Opt-in users are your most valuable asset when it comes to email marketing.
How To Build An Opt-In List
- Display a sign-up form on your website/blog. Coupling quality web content with a call to action (“Subscribe to our email newsletter!”) can be an effective way of building an email list.
- Post on a forum that caters to your target market. By taking part in an online forum, you can tap into a community of people who are interested in your products or services. Most forums allow a link back to the member’s website; instead consider linking directly to your email subscription sign-up form.
- Post a link on your social media profile. If you’re not already using social media to promote your business, you should be. Users who have associated themselves with your company’s social media accounts are already expressing an interest in your business; invite them to take the next step to becoming a customer.
- Run a promotional contest. There is nothing quite as exciting as the opportunity to win something for free. Requiring contestants to subscribe to your email list in exchange for the opportunity to win a prize can be well worth the out-of-pocket expense.
- Offer special email subscriber-only coupons.
- Gather email addresses at the point of sale. After the sale has been made, inform the customer about your email newsletter and invite them to join. The same principle that makes the “up-sell” so successful can also help grow your email list.
- Post a link to your subscription page in your email signature.
Types of Email Marketing
A key element in any email marketing campaign is the content that will be delivered to the existing or potential customers. Market research indicates that information that informs and entertains the reader is more effective in the long run than a hard-sell approach. Email marketing can take many forms, but these are the major types on which to focus.
- Press Release: Designed to inform the customer about new products or services, new developments happening within the company, or charitable acts performed by the company (donations, charity events, food drives, etc.).
- Coupons: A special, limited-time, exclusive offer aimed at boosting immediate sales.
- Promotional: A contest, drawing, or raffle notice designed to encourage subscribers to sign up friends and family and renew interest among existing subscribers.
- Invitation: An invitation to a special event (industry expo, company-sponsored dinner/auction, special appearance, etc.).
- Survey: A questionnaire that allows the sender to gather market data.
- Newsletter: A general-purpose update that is sent out at regular intervals.
On a related note, the format in which the content is presented can be very important as well. For this reason, many email marketing websites offer templates that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but are also proven to encourage users to read the entire message and click through to the sender’s website.
Content Is King
In the end, creating valuable content is the responsibility of the sender. An interesting subject line encourages the recipient to read the message and well-written content encourages them to click through to the website. A balance must be struck between graphics and text and steps should be taken to ensure that the tone of the writing is professional without being uninteresting; no one wants to read a newsletter that is all advertising copy. Good content is what will keep existing customers and potential buyers from opting-out of your opt-in email list.
Be sure to check out the next installment in the email marketing series, where I’ll be reviewing some of the more popular email marketing websites and offering some more helpful tips on how to get the most out of your email marketing campaigns.