E-mail Marketing 101: A Beginners Guide
Globally, businesses are recognizing e-mail marketing as a winning strategy in achieving business goals. With countless ways to sell your product online and directly to your customers, e-mail is leading the pack by furthering relationships with current and even potential customers. Out of all the marketing techniques possible, e-mail is the leader in creating messages that are relevant, that are sent out to the right person, at the right time, and without significant cost. In the realm of business, it has one of the highest ROIs!
Section 1: Advantages of email as a marketing tool
Wipe out any thoughts that e-mail marketing is for bigger companies only. We’re not saying it’s easy, it’ll require hard work and some time, but it’s achievable. There are Email service providers, or ESPs for short, (which we go into detail below) like MailChimp to help you manage and send out email marketing campaigns. All you have to do is select a pre-existing template or get a custom designed template, then you can create the content yourself or through experienced copywriters and artists.
Anyone. Anywhere. Anytime
Email marketing has no boundaries (except SPAMMING), it’ll reach whoever, whenever, wherever you want. Most ESPs allow you to select target audiences based on age, income, geography, products & services used and through many more segments. It has been proven that dividing a list up and delivering more relevant and targeted messages increase opening rates and conversions.
On top of selecting the proper audience, you can personalize each message sent to deepen your relationship. This will increase response times, even with e-mail response time at 1-3 days, compared to direct mailing response at 5-14 days. Another benefit is having immediate contact, especially when it’s essential to notify them of your latest news or promotions.
ESPs are advanced enough to track various aspects of e-mail marketing campaigns such as open and click through rates, conversion rates, even how and when a person arrived. The metrics recorded can even track survey responses and the campaign received more attention from Facebook instead of e-mail. In addition, all this data can be refined in numerous ways to show you things like who unsubscribed from your lists and see trends of when people open their emails. If that’s not enough for you, certain ESPs allows you to hook up your campaigns with Google Analytics.
E-mail marketing gives the best Return on Investment (ROI) among marketing methods. Direct mail marketing loses against the 50-75% cost savings. You’ll be able to invest that saved time and money into other important business activities like R&D, hiring new staff or giving everyone a raise!
Section 2: Evidence email marketing works
In business, you want your marketing to be targeted, personalized, reach the user at the right time, measure, and test. Only a handful of marketing techniques can check off each of these. Read some of the points below to see how e-mail marketing achieves these:
- Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Power of Direct economic impact study has shown that email brings in $40.56 for every $1 spent on email marketing campaigns. Focusing by targeting on a certain group of people, along with providing personalized messages allows e-mail to achieve such returns on minimal investments.
- The expert in connecting people with best local merchants, merchantcircle.com, found that 1/3 of the 8,000 companies they surveyed claimed that e-mail marketing is in the top 3 most effective marketing methods. The ability to provide promotions instantly helps generate immediate actions, especially in driving direct sales to brick & mortar locations.
- Focus.com, the go to source to help professionals make better decisions through the expertise of business and technology leaders, found that in 2011 survey of 172 companies that e-mail is in the top 2 tactics for B2B and B2C. The e-mail marketing paradigm is based on data, measuring how well your campaign does, who clicks it, what they click and conversions. These help improve understanding of the customer, which lead to better and more targeted messages.
These are some solid evidences that answer the question – Why e-mail marketing is important?
Section 3: Benefits of using an Email Service Provider (ESP)
ESPs are optimized for email marketing sending, making the benefits of using one outweigh any drawbacks, if there any even any! Most have an easy to use interface to control your account and send out emails; all from the comforts of the cloud. The ESP’s servers and internet connections do all the hard work, which if you tried to send through your e-mail servers and Internet Service Provider (ISP) you would get blocked quickly.
Eliminating the headaches of infrastructure is one of the benefits. ESPs comply with the CAN SPAM Act regulations. They automatically include an unsubscribe link in every email distributed through their service, while removing them from your list. Here are some more benefits of using ESP:
ESPs maintain their own anti-spam solutions, similar to what e-mail providers themselves use to judge spam e-mails. These solutions vary from powerful abuse-detections systems that look for patterns between trillions of past e-mails and yours to discover any emails that could be potentially flagged. Companies like Mailchimp maintain their own human review team in addition to catch abuse that their algorithms can’t.
Avoid having to maintain an infrastructure
All ESPs maintain large inventory of IP addresses and constantly monitor IP acceptance rates through services like ReturnPath. This saves you the cost of maintaining your own IPs. In addition to monitoring IP rates, most ESPs keep a relationship with ISPs to monitor when recipients report emails as junk or spam. Save yourself the trouble of having to manually request a report for each campaign or having to sign up for ISP whitelists.
Save time on keeping up with industry standards of deliverability
Deliverability is always an evolving strategy that requires you to be involved in the industry through organizations like AOTA (Authentication and Online Trust Alliance), EEC (Email Experience Council), ESPC (Email Sender and Provider Coalition), and MAAWG (Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group).
Using an ESP eliminates the headaches of e-mail marketing and let you focus on developing your email marketing strategy, design, content and inbox placement.
Section 4: Choosing an Email Service Provider
Budgetary constraints will play a large factor as Free Plans will help you test the email marketing waters before you move on to more advance packages. After that it depends on the level of support through ESP has been provided. In addition, you should know what types of templates are available if you’re trying to minimize cost. Most ESPs will have these common features:
- CAN-Spam compliance
- List segmenting
- Multiple IP addresses to send from
- Customer support & training
- Simple reporting
- A/B Testing
- Multiple pricing plan, including a free option
- No contract terms
- E-mail templates
The more advance users will look for CAN-Spam compliance, these can be better with certain ESPs. Certain services maintain better machine learning and data mining algorithms, and better internal policies. Some services provide more in-depth monitoring and measuring, such as Google Analytics integration, which leads to more advance reporting. Items like image storing, past email newsletter archiving, survey integration, WYSIWYG editors, mailing list segmentations and support community will all vary from each provider.
Section 5: Steps to Get Started with E-mail Marketing Today!
- Create lean email marketing strategy with concrete goals.
- Sign-up for MailChimp, a Email Service Provider.
- Use provided MailChimp templates, or have a custom designed Mailchimp template by a MailChimp Expert.
- Develop some insightful content that grabs attention.
- Send Out. Measure and Test.
- Segment List where possible. Send out new email campaign.
Section 6: Measuring Email Marketing Success
In all marketing endeavors you must gauge the Return On Investment (ROI), which will require you to constantly observe performance indicators. Here are some metrics to observe:
Bounce Rate – Percentage of unsuccessfully delivered emails to inboxes. Distinguish the two types of bounces:
- Hard Bounces – Non-existent, misspelled or incorrect email addresses that won’t be delivered. This is used to gauge a senders reputation, so the best way to approach these is to remove them immediately from your list.
- Soft Bounces – These are emails that encounter full inboxes or issues with recipient’s server. Some email servers hold these emails for delivery for a short period; it’s good to retry these later.
Delivery Rate – Percentage of emails that reached the recipients’ inboxes. This rate is reached by following equation: (Gross # of Emails Sent) – (Bounce Rate) / (Gross # of Emails Sent). The general rule of thumb is to reach 95% or higher delivery rates to be considered average. Low delivery rate may indicate a problem in your subject or body that is setting of spam flags.
List Growth Rate – As the name implies, it’s derived by the following formula: (New email subscribers) – (Subtracting opt-outs and Bounces) / (Original List Size). This rate indicates a successful email marketing because all email marketing lists need to be refreshed to replace ones that have gone bad. Annually you’ll lose around 25% of your emails, so a list growth strategy should always be utilized.
Click-Through Rate (CTR) – Percentage of the audience who click on one or more links within the email. This rate can be calculated by either unique clicks by delivered emails or by dividing total clicks (includes multiple clicks by the same user). This serves to provide a relevant offering that compelled the reader to perform a certain action.
Social Engagement Rate – Percentage of readers that either forwarded this e-mail or clicked the “Share This” button to post the content on Facebook, Twitter, or other social networks. This is very indicative of the value your e-mail has for people, highly shared e-mails help you discover new insights on your customers.
Conversion Rate – Percentage of people that clicked or performed an action, such as visiting an “About Us” page, filling out a form, or purchased a product or service. This is one of the best indicators of effectiveness of an e-mail marketing campaign. Although, the email itself won’t assure a sale, you have to have a properly optimized landing page.
Return On Investment – As we made clear earlier, ROI is necessary for every marketing campaign. Using all the metrics above see how they translated into revenue then divide that by the cost to send out all the e-mails. The cost will be equated by strategy development, design, programming, ESP’s fee, time spent and content creation cost.
Section 7: Email Marketing Agency Services
Businesses whether small or large scale realize that they often don’t have the time or experience to manage an e-mail marketing campaign. This is where email marketing agencies come in to manage all aspects from strategy, design, message, tone, promotions, segmentation, and pretty much everything else to achieve businesses desired goals. A company’s delegation process is usually to enlist the most skilled person for the job, and so the question becomes why not hire a team instead of a single person managing everything. Here are different abilities of e-mail marketing agencies:
E-mail Content & Design– Show agency’s previous marketing material you’ve created, examples of work you like, and as much other information you can provide them and they’ll create you an remarkable content and designs. Remember! More details = More like you expected.
Campaign Optimizations – With ESPs there are so many data points recorded and reports potentially generated; thus, you need someone to decipher them for you. There are agencies specialized for each ESP, so you can utilize them to go through your campaigns then optimize them to reach your goals. They’ll ensure proper deliverability is achieved.
Creative Marketing – The eye catching e-mails with engaging content tend to take time and a good level of experience to develop is requires. This takes skilled individuals to know how to talk to the reader and determine what grabs their attention.
List Development – Agencies generally have entire books of best practices to grow relevant e-mail lists, which they’ll be able to easily use for your list to grow.
Marketing Campaign Management – Email marketing has so many data points to analyze- testing each campaign, building and segmenting customer lists, and building content.
Strategic Consultation – In situations where you still want to manage everything in-house, you can bring in outside help to train, guide and build a plan of action by integrating business goals.