E-Marketing Strategy: E-mail Marketing: An Old Workhorse That Still Pulls Its Weight
When people think about Web marketing these days, they tend to focus on the potential of shiny, new platforms like Google+, Twitter, FourSquare and Tumblr. Too often, the old workhorse of e-mail marketing is passed up for the sexier tools of the moment. E-mail marketing has not yet gone the way of the modem. It can still be effective at driving sales—but it must be done correctly. So what are the best strategies for building an e-mail list, crafting an effective e-mail, determining when to send e-mails, and judging an e-mail's effectiveness?
Building an E-mail List
There are several ways to go about building a list of e-mail addresses—many of which are nefarious and should be strictly avoided. The absolute worst outcome of any e-mail marketing campaign is to be labeled—either officially by SpamCop, or unofficially in the minds of your target audience—as a spammer. Spam is only effective at collecting people in the village square with pitchforks and torches—not much else.
The best way to build an e-mail list is to sign up with an e-mail newsletter service such as Constant Contact, Bronto, or MailChimp. At Catalyst Webworks, we use, love, and recommend MailChimp—but the other services are stellar as well. Once you've signed up for an account, work your way through your account options to find the newsletter sign-up form code. Copy and paste the embed code into your site, and you'll instantly have an automated subscribe and unsubscribe box that enablees you to collect e-mail addresses.
Promote your new newsletter on your site, on your social media accounts, on your blog, in your e-mail signatures, and everywhere else—including in your print publications. A crafty use of a Quick Response (QR) code (En.wikipedia.org/wiki/QR_code) in print could make it easy for people to sign up for your newsletter while reading your books.
If you're asking folks to grant you access to their in-boxes, you should be perfectly clear in your promotions about what it is you'll be sending them. You must define the value they'll receive by signing up. Promoting your "Latest News Newsletter" is too vague and pretty boring—you'll have a hard time getting people to sign up. Instead, promote content that's more creative and exciting—the "Baking Tips Newsletter from Author Jelly Bean" or the "Deal of the Week E-mail" or the "Insider's Guide to Getting Published." Offer something of value, and people will have an easier time letting you into their day.
Crafting the E-mail
Each of the newsletter services I mentioned above have great point-and-click tools that will help you create an attractive newsletter. That's the easy part. The more difficult task is finding content to put into a regularly sent newsletter.
Before you begin crafting your e-mail, you should be clear about your goals. E-newsletters of old—like printed newsletters—were used primarily as content delivery devices. They were self-contained. The newsletter was read in full (or not) and discarded.
Your e-newsletter should, instead, be seen as a content-promotion device. You want your newsletter to drive traffic to your website. Remember, your website is your conversion tool. Your e-newsletter will not sell anything on its own.
Business owners and marketing teams already have their hands full producing content for books, their blog and various social media outlets. Adding a weekly, biweekly, or monthly newsletter can seem like the final stressful straw. So, instead of going to the trouble of creating more content, it's easier to use your newsletter as a "Best Of" list. Identify the best content you've produced in the last month from all of these outlets you already use—clip quick excerpts from each piece and plunk them into your newsletter. Add headlines, photos and links to where the reader can find the original content on your site.
Using this approach, the newsletter will take a fraction of the time to put together and will be more effective at driving sales.
Some quick tips for creating effective content:
1. Use attractive images with each article, and make the images "clickable" links to maximize the clickable area within the e-mail.
2. Your first article in the e-mail will always draw the most clicks, so carefully consider what you put there.
3. Make all textual links laughably obvious.
4. Include prominent links to your social media efforts in every newsletter you send. You want to use the e-mail to promote your other outlets, and vice versa.
When to Send It
Proper planning of your e-newsletter's schedule is important. Decide how often to send the e-mail and at what time of day. Unfortunately, there is no "golden rule" or "sweet spot." The most effective schedule for sending your e-newsletter will depend on your audience and your content.
Start by sending a "Best Of" style e-mail every two weeks. If people on your list complain, try every month. If you have more than one e-newsletter—one to promote discounts and one to promote content—for example, try sending one at the beginning of the month and the other two weeks later.
Gauging An E-mail's –Effectiveness
The most important indicator of success of an e-mail newsletter is sales. If your sales are increasing due to the newsletters, press on! If sales aren't immediately obvious, check your Google Analytics (remember those from this column in the January/February issue?) and your newsletter stats—in your newsletter management service—to see where the problem may lie. Retrace the path from e-mail delivery to sale, and find out where you're losing the most people:
● Are recipients opening the e-mail?
● Are they clicking links within the e-mail?
● If they are clicking links, do they continue to your store or sales channel?
Once you've identified the weak point in the stream, do some work to make the next step in the path more obvious or more compelling.
When judging the effectiveness of an e-mail, I like to "aim for the 40s." Aim for an open rate of 40 percent—which is much higher than the industry average of about 10 percent to 20 percent. Of the people who open it, aim for a click-rate—meaning the number of people who click on a link within the e-mail—of 40 percent or higher. If you are seeing percentages drastically lower than 40 percent, you can adjust your content, your links, and your e-mail subject line—which needs to be compelling if you expect people to open it. Remember, people are busy! Make sure you're offering something worth reading during an already-hectic workday.
Good luck! BB
J.S. McDougall is co-owner of Catalyst Webworks (CatalystWebworks.com), a Web design and marketing firm specializing in the book industry. He is the author of six books about conducting business online, including "Start Your Own Blogging –Business." Follow him on Twitter at @catalystwebwks.