At the start of any new year we are often tempted to make a fresh start. Businesses frequently do the same thing — giving their websites a bit of a refresh, changing their policies, targeting new audiences and even updating how they get in touch with their customers.
So what’s in store for email marketing? It has been a key business tool for some time and it should continue to grow, but by how much? And what are the key trends for 2014?
The amount of money being spent on email marketing has been increasing for some time and 2013 saw a significant rise — 20% in fact. That’s a pretty hefty figure but current predictions suggest that email marketing spending will keep growing. Budgets are likely to increase by about 10% this year.
But what will that money actually go on? With more and more people using mobile devices, there will be an increase in spending on mobile optimisation for websites. Having a site that is mobile-optimised is likely to bring in more customers and the same can be said for emails. If businesses want to increase their open rates, they need to make their messages as mobile-friendly as possible.
This means that businesses are going to have to look closely at where the rest of their finances are going. And the likelihood is that companies are going to scale back on printed marketing material because everything is going digital.
Even if customers purchase items in-store, rather than online, there is an increasing chance that the transaction will be completed online. Digital receipts could be given out, so customers don’t have to worry about losing a little piece of paper.
Companies are increasingly encouraging people to buy online by offering them offline deals that push them towards the internet. In-store promotions, for instance, can ask customers to go online to receive a prize or more information. As retailers encourage more customers to shop online, the number of people signing up for email marketing is likely to increase.
Email marketers are constantly sending us all kinds of content. The problem is, for the most part, it's not useful to most of us. Yes, we will get the odd gem and an amazing deal that is perfectly suited to our preferences but a lot of companies just create a general email, hit send to all and hope for the best.
This year, customers are not going to stand for that and marketers are going to have to up their game as a result. Statistics have shown that 43% of emails are opened on mobile devices so it's simply unacceptable for businesses not to get on board with this. Emails need to be optimised for mobile use but the messaging must also undergo a makeover.
Rather than the generic, one-size-fits-all model, businesses will increasingly use data to drill down to specific interests and requirements of their subscribers. More carefully targeted campaigns should result in more sales.
So, there’s no doubt that change is on the way — the question is, how much impact will it have on conversion rates?
This is a guest blog from Lauren Sutton
If, like me and many other startups, you don’t have a dedicated sales person then it will be you and you alone who has to find clients, win the work, do the work, and invoice for it. That’s not one, not two but three hats for you to wear.
If that’s the case, you need cost effective, quick and easy ways to reach out to possible clients and right now, the quickest and easiest option is almost certainly email.
Why? Because you can send an email right now without needing any other input from anyone. There’s no receptionist to halt it at the gate, no engaged tone, it can’t be diverted to voicemail, there’s no door to shut in its face, and it won’t be dismissed as an ad unless you make it sound like one. In short, it gets through. It will go to an inbox and be opened by someone and read — and that’s your opening to make your pitch.
What need can you meet? What problem can you solve? How can you say that as a tweet — in under 140 characters? You won’t send it as a tweet but if you start with that in mind you’ll cut out the waffle. You can use that faux tweet as part of your subject line because when someone is scanning down their list of emails, seeing a solution to their problem will jump out.
Then, in your email proper, tell them a very short story: start by describing the situation your customer is in and the problem they face. Then describe the consequences of their not solving the problem followed by a solution. Start your story with “If…”.
Starting with “if” leads to an automatic question in the reader’s mind: am I in this situation? Yes or no? If they say yes then they’re a potential customer and they are likely to read on.
Do not, whatever you do, start your email by saying things like: “I just wanted to tell you…” or “I’d like to introduce our services…”.
The best time to send a prospective email is at a time when you think the other person will be most likely to open it. If you use a programme like Mailchimp you will see when people opened your emails so you’ll be able to adapt your send out time to get better results.
To start with though, you won’t know when a good time is, so you have to take a best guess. For many of us the first email of the day we read is the one at the top of our inbox, which means it was probably sent after midnight. Avoid Monday and Friday because people are often busy catching up on tasks before or after the weekend so they won’t be paying much attention to emails from strangers.
If you didn’t get a reply, send a follow up asking if they got your first email and if they’ve had a chance to consider it — but always state you appreciate they are busy and may not have seen it.
The quality of the lead is important. You need to find out exactly who you should be emailing, look them up on their website, on LinkedIn or on industry news websites. You could even call the company and ask the receptionist: say that you need their help because you’d like to make sure your email gets to the right person.
Whatever strategy you use, you always need to make sure your email service is safe and secure. Your email system and the emails themselves are part of your sales pipeline so you need to make sure your emails aren’t being blocked because your recipient’s firewall thinks they look like spam or contain a virus or a phishing attack.
Making sure your email system is secure is part of keeping your wider IT system and your business healthy. The last thing you need is your email system going down or the content of your emails stopping you from using it to make contact with potential customers.
Lee Carnihan is a digital entrepreneur writing about small business IT security
You can read more about email best practice in our extensive resources.
No matter what the size or aims of your business, direct email marketing remains one of the most effective means of reaching out to consumers.
Fast, low-cost and consistently effective; the versatility and simple to track response rates of email marketing make it a hugely attractive option to businesses of all varieties.
Yet in a world in which consumers are growing increasingly unreceptive to poor advertising and marketing campaigns, the pressure to get your campaigns right has never been greater. In the same way marketing messages instantly arrive in customers’ inboxes, they can just as easily be deleted.
But the real key to successful email marketing is in the unique, unprecedented variation (based on relevance to the target audience) that it allows you to bring to your campaigns. By embracing that versatility, you can help increase your response rates and in turn, ultimately boost your ROI.
Try not to look to email campaigns as a device to squeeze as much product information into one space as you possibly can. Consumers view noisy marketing no less tediously in the digital domain than they would do elsewhere.
Look to build an affinity with the consumer and strive to make them feel engaged. Whether it’s in the form of a monthly newsletter or a personalised product announcement, adding an element of subtle customisation to your marketing campaigns can help the consumer feel valued and more likely to directly engage with your business.
Good, quality mailing lists are the lifeblood of any successful email marketing campaign. You can be in possession of the most visually stunning email in the business, but if the right people aren’t receiving your message, it all counts for very little.
Well-sourced, high-quality mailing lists can help you add a level of real precision to your campaigns and ensure that your message is being sent to the people you want to read it most.
For those with slightly deeper resources, powerful data insight tools can also mine your existing database and use previous interactions with your customer base to add even more accuracy to your campaigns.
Subject lines may be one of the last things you think about when devising your emails, but they can make or break the success of your marketing campaign.
A strong and relevant subject line will go a long way to ensuring your audience takes the time to engage with the email when it lands in their inbox. A weak or irrelevant one is likely to go straight into the spam box.
Make sure that your subject lines are contextually relevant and if possible, try testing two or three out on a small audience — say around 10% of your total — before you send your campaign to your main list. Use metrics such as open rate to determine the most successful subject lines.
Offering promotional discounts might seem gimmicky, but if done in the right way, the lure can often prove a great way of expanding your customer base.
Whether you’re offering discounts to new customers or existing subscribers, promotions remain a great method of building and maintaining relationships across your client base.
Whether you’re choosing to include a promotion within your email campaigns or informing your customer base about a brand new product, less is always more.
Don’t try to flood the audience with too much information or fire them over a barrage of information. Consumers want to be told about products quickly and do not want to read reams of content.
Keep your copy short, sharp and to the point and try to stick to one main theme. You’ll be linking your audience back to your website or to a landing page with more information, so don’t worry too much about supplying them with everything at this early stage of engagement.
Email marketing might seem like a tough nut to crack, but the truth is that successful marketing campaigns tend to be a lot less complex than you might think. Ensure that your focus is always on quality instead of quantity and the chances are that you’ll already be half way towards a successful campaign.
Tim Holt is managing director of Data HQ Ltd.
It’s not surprising that many small firms send regular email newsletters — they are a powerful and cost-effective way to connect with customers and prospects.
But, according to Email Monks, 75% of firms are not sending mobile-friendly emails — in spite of the fact that a staggering 43% of emails are read on mobile devices. And this is expected to rise to 50% by the end of this year.
The answer is simple — your email newsletters need to de designed responsively so they look good and function well on any device. Check out this infographic from Email Monks explaining why responsive email is essential:
It’s easy to make assumptions about consumer behaviour — many marketers believe that sending emails first thing in the morning benefits their open rates as they will be at the top of people’s inboxes when they arrive in the office.
In fact, our research shows that they really need to get to know their sector audience and be aware of unexpected trends — such as the habit people have for opening emails that they receive as the time pressures of the work day ease off on the commute home.
In fact, the best time to send an email is now as people are finishing up at work and heading home: over a quarter (26%) of emails are read if they are sent between 5pm and 6pm — 9% above average.
Our research also shows that autumn is the best time of year to launch an email campaign. Over a fifth (21%) of marketing messages sent between September and November are opened, compared to a 17% average.
We regularly see high volumes of email campaigns being sent around key holidays but this research confirms that they’re not having the biggest impact. It’s worth marketers looking for times when inboxes aren't so competitive and recipients aren't distracted by holidays and festivities.
Based on the research, Pure360 has identified the peaks and troughs throughout the day of when consumers are most receptive to being sent emails. These include the “Hike of Hope” when sending leisure emails is particularly successful, and the “Practical Pinnacle”, the point at which sending finance emails is most effective.
Abi Jacks is head of marketing at Pure360.
Owning an email inbox can, at times, feel like a game of guard the castle, where you have to defend it from unsolicited – and sometimes solicited – emails you have no interest in reading.
According to research conducted by Smarter Tools, an average email account receives about 65 emails a day. Common sense tells us that we can safely assume that a lot of those emails are moved to the trash can without getting so much as even a glance.
So how do you ensure that your emails are not the ones that are being thrown away unread? Or to put it in other words: how do you make sure your emails get the open rate they deserve? By being relevant, that’s how.
The first thing you need in order to send relevant emails is a database where you store information about your clients, prospects or recipients. What products are they interested in? Which kind of emails have worked best for them in the past?
Assuming you only recruit opt-ins that have interest in the product you’re selling, or at least have some affinity with the industry you operate in, this shouldn’t be too hard.
Using the information in your database, you can start sending your recipients relevant information. Centuries ago the Romans built an empire by adopting the “divide and conquer” strategy, and now it’s your turn to conquer your customers’ attention using the same technique.
By segmenting your database you are able to approach recipients personally, providing them with relevant content. And one of the best ways to do so is by sending event-driven emails.
An event-driven email, as the name suggests, is an email that is sent after an event takes place. For instance, when you email someone a user manual for the product they purchased in your webshop yesterday. Because of their relevancy, event-driven emails not only help you increase your open rate, they also give your conversion rates a boost.
Take the abandoned shopping cart email for example, reminding your customers of a purchase they didn’t finish. Research suggests that up 75% of online shoppers abandon their shopping cart during the purchase process. However, up to 20% of these shoppers can be won back if you use abandoned shopping carts.
The last thing your recipients want is for you to contribute to the endless stream of useless emails they are swamped with every day.
Don’t send your customers an email with an iPhone5 offer a week after they already bought a new mobile phone in your webshop. Not only will it annoy them, it’s also a waste of your time and effort.
Your energy can be spent better on creating relevant emails your recipients are interested in.
Michael Linthorst is an internet entrepreneur and CEO of Copernica Marketing Software.