Marketing your business isn’t an event, it’s a series of related events. It’s a process. It’s relationship‐building. Connecting with people and building those relationships happens through engaging communication.Connecting with enough people who are ready and able to do business with you takes time, money, energy, and effort, and it can take anywhere from 5‐10 communications to generate a sale from a prospective new customer. Here’s why:• Either you have a totally new product or service few people have heard of, and your challenge is EDUCATION. What is it? Why is it useful? Why is it worth paying for?• Or you have a product or service everyone knows about, and your challenge is DIFFERENTIATION. Why are you better, faster, cheaper, more convenient, and so on?Even after you have educated your audience or differentiated your business, a single promotional message isn’t likely to get a profitable response because most people aren’t ready to buy immediately when they receive your message and some people need more time to research and try or they don’t trust you.
Did you know that email was one of the first forms of social media? It’s true. Over 15 years ago, email allowed people to send information to multiple people at once, to have group conversations, and to forward and share emails with groups of people. These days, email is even more engaging and social, because email allow you and your customers to:• Send and receive information about your business – directly to your customers’ inboxes where it will stay until opened or deleted;• Share pictures, videos, and even entire emails with friends and colleagues – easily with a few clicks or by showing the email on a mobile screen;• Stay up to date on events and announcements and invite friends and colleagues;• Collect information in the form of surveys, feedback, replies, and social comments.Email truly is a powerful tool for building trusting relationships with current customers, and their friends and colleagues.
There are 5 types of engagements with your business:1. Raving Fans: Customers with a high level of loyalty, trust, & engagement. They willingly refer others to you and your business.2. Customers: Those buying from you already. These are people who have engaged as a customer at some point in the past. May be willing to try alternatives if encountered.3. Prospects: Those that have a connection to you via a person, product, or service, but may not know of you yet. A connection exists for you either directly or indirectly through a Raving Fan or a Prospect. Is likely to need the services you provide in the future.4. Suspects: These folks are inclined to do business with you some day, but no connection exists. No direct or indirect connections exist. Is likely to want or need the services you provide in the future.5. Disinterested: Those who have no interest and who will never buy a product or service from you. It’s better to build credibility here and direct them to what they’re interested in. It makes sense to use your marketing resources wisely… with the people who count! Now you can resourcefully apply new tools to acquire, connect, engage, and grow new customer relationships. Social media marketing uses your Raving Fans to acquire and engage new customers, connect with prospects, and begin fostering deeper relationships.
Repeat business is more profitable because it costs 6‐7 times more to acquire a new customer. Why? Because it takes so many communications to get a sale from a new customer, and communication costs money. Repeat customers already know all about your business so you don’t have to educate anddifferentiate as much.When your business is part of someone’s life on a regular basis, that person will share his or her experiences in their everyday interactions. Anybody here have a steady stream of repeat business? Do those customers refer their friends and colleagues?
Email is familiar and engaging for sure, but another reason email is a great way to connect is because email is cost-effective. You shouldn’t rely on any marketing medium just because it’s cheap. Remember that being in business means getting more than a dollar back for every dollar you spend. If amarketing medium is cheap but it doesn’t work, you’re still wasting your money.
This is Constant Contact’s definition of email marketing, and I think it’s a good one.Email marketing isDelivering professional email communications… “Professional” means sending emails that represent the characteristics of your business visually (your brand), while delivering information that educates your audience and/or differentiates your business from the competition.To an interested audience… An “interested audience” is comprised of people who are familiar with you and your business and have asked to receive your communications.Containing information they find valuable. And, if your communications aren’t valuable and appreciated by your audience, no one will want to receive them.
Great relationships are built on trust. Email marketing is no different.By setting expectations, delivering on promises, abiding by the law and gaining permission from your customers, you’re building trust and you’re establishing your commitment to a great customer experience. This will lead to greater credibility, which leads to increased sales and referrals. Utilizing a professional email service provider will allow you to do this with ease.
Before we start talking about email marketing tactics, I need to point out that some of the tactics I’m going to mention won’t work in standard email programs that are designed for one-to-one email communications.Part of building a great customer experience is communicating professionally. Email programs that are designed for one‐to‐one communications – such as Outlook or Gmail – aren’t the best choice for building a memorable and engaging relationship. Does this email look engaging and professional?MailChimp (mailchimp.com)Campaigner by Protus (campaigner.com)Experian Cheetah Mail (experian.com/cheetahmail)Constant Contact (constantcontact.com)
A professional email personifies your business and looks inviting and engaging. In addition to looking good, a professional email should function in an inviting and engaging ways by providing links to help people take action.Email service providers such as Constant Contact, MailChimp, etc., have best practices built into them and allow you to easily create and manage your entire strategy, so if I say something in the following sections that doesn’t sound easy, or even possible, with the email program you’re using now,just remember that an ESP is the missing link.
Unsolicited commercial email, also known as spam, is cluttering up consumer inboxes. Consumers get to decide which emails are spam and which emails are not. We could talk about what’s ethical or legal all day long, but at the end of the day spam is in the eye of the receiver. Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) give their customers spam buttons so they can report unsolicited emails.When someone clicks the spam button on your email, the ISP keeps track of the number of complaints against your server and domain name, and if you get too many complaints the ISP will filter or block your future emails.As little as 2 complaints in 1,000 emails can effect your ability to deliver email, and it doesn’t matter what your own personal definition of spam is because consumers get to decide which emails are spam and which are not.
If you email total strangers, you’re likely to get a high number of spam complaints, potentially limiting your ability to deliver email to your audience.The solution to avoiding spam is to build a quality permission‐based email list. An email list is an asset and it’s worth spending the time to build it right. Acquire email contacts at all your customer touch points – including through all your active social networks.• Put a signup link on your website, on your social networking page, on your blog – wherever you are present online.• If you have a physical store, place a guest book on your counter and ask people to sign it. A fishbowl works too.• Ask people to join your email list at events and meetings. When you exchange business cards, ask them if the email address on the card is the address where they would like to receive your emails.• Every time someone calls your business, ask them if they are on the email list related to the reason for their call.• Ask people to send you a text message to subscribe to your list.It helps to give people an incentive to add their name to your email list. Try a discount, contest, or VIP program.
Whether you use an online signup form like the one shownor whether you ask for an email address in person, make sure you getpermission to send, and that the person understands how often you’ll be sending emails and what kinds of content you provide. It’s best to let them choose the types of information they will receive. When asking for information, make it as easy as possible: First name and email address could suffice if you intend to personalize your communications. You can also consider asking for additional information, such as: “What is your preferred social network?” or “What is your Twitter handle?”If you already have people on your list and wonder if you need their permission to email them, consider these two questions:Will they recognize you (or whatever the “from” line says)?Will they reasonably expect to get email from you?If the answer to both questions is yes, then you can be confident you have permission.
Your prospects and customers want to communicate their way. So, your email strategy has to offer people the ability to subscribe via email and social media. You can easily integrate your email marketing efforts with your social media marketing efforts in order to capture contacts for every audience preference.Make sure you include a “Join My Mailing List” box or signup link on all your social media sites and websites. Also include social media icons in a consistent and prominent place in your emails, so people can connect with your business on your social presences, too.
Make sure you are sharing your emails on your social sites too.Some ESPs like Constant Contact provide you the ability to tweet a link to your email automatically, making it a simple and efficient way to get your email read by people who follow you on Twitter instead of your email list.
In summary, your list building success depends on:• Your ability to collect contact information and permission everywhere you connect with customers• Your ability to maintain permission and current contact information. Keep in mind that around 1/3 of your email list will change to a new email address every year!Try to offer something in exchange for a person’s giving you his/her email address (coupon, etc.). Tie the offer to the next sale/transaction, though, to help you collect valid addresses.Now that you have a plan for building and maintaining a quality email list, let’s move on.
Not all consumers respond to discounts, coupons and other types of financial savings. A lot of consumers care more about quality or making aninformed decision.Figure out what motivates your audience and then trade value for attention:If your audience is more interested in savings and knowledge: • Send promotional emails that include content pertaining to a valuable offer.If your audience is more interested in knowledge and quality: • Send informative emails that include inherently valuable quality.If your audience is more interested in savings and quality: • Send relational emails that include content that makes readers feel special.
Coming up with valuable content on an ongoing basis can be challenging, but it’s easier when you keep the needs of your audience in mind. Here are some ideas for creating valuable content for your emails. Ask yourself, Which of these are the most valuable to your audience? Which are most likely to be shared?• Share your expertise – You are an expert. Your customers think of you that way. Share your expertise by writing articles, tips, or by answering customer questions. If you are in a food-related business, offer recipes and cooking tips, for instance.• Use facts and testimonials – facts about your products or your industry, quotes from customers, stories about their experiences, and even advice from your customers can be effective. (Especially effective for non-profits)• Give guidance and directions – Guiding your customers through steps in a purchase process or giving directions on how to order or how to use your products and services. Another option would be to suggest “DIY” (do it yourself) projects to do with your product and provide instructions.• Offer discounts and coupons. Discounts, coupons, contests, and giveaways work for some audiences.• Exclusivity and VIP status. Special privileges, VIP status, or exclusivity works for others.• Acknowledge your audience. A thank you note or holiday greeting helps to deepen your relationships.A good rule of thumb to remember is that about 75% of your content should be things you know that readers don’t (but wish they did), and only 25% should be sales pitch.Pay attention to the content around you. It’s everywhere! If you see something your audience is likely to respond to, borrow the idea and apply it to your business.
Today’s electronic communications need to be concise and to‐the‐point, because people demand bite‐sized information. Twitter’s model is, “if you can’t say it in fewer than 140 characters, it’s not even worth saying!”Email content has to be easy to scan so your audience can quickly understand your message and decide whether the information is valuable. Instead of emailing large bodies of content, use your emails to generate interest and drive traffic to your content.There are two reasons to keep your content concise and host larger bodies of information outside your emails:1. Consumers are very time‐sensitive. Concise emails are more likely to be scanned or read immediately.2. Every email link can be tracked back to the clicker. If your reader clicks to get more information, it’s a sign of interest.Use short‐and‐concise posts on your social media sites to call attention to your emails. Then, use your emails to draw people in to even more content when they show interest.Also, always be mindful of your punctuation and grammar. Have someone at your office proofread your emails prior to sending. Too many errors will hinder your credibility.
If you’ll be using multiple formats in your strategy, make sure you brand each email consistently. Your emails should look similar so they are recognized by your audience, and just different enough so that your audience can easily determine the theme of your message.Your emails should also match your web presence and your social media presence. Use the same logos and colors on your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn profiles so your prospects and customers can easily identify your business at all touch points.
Valuable content and a strong brand identity aren’t enough to make your email content effective. You also need a strong call to action in every email you send. You have to tell your audience what you want them to do with your email. Otherwise they will probably just scan your email and delete it. For example, you aren’t likely to get phone calls just because your phone number appears in the email. You have to say ‘call before 10am for an extra 10% off’ or ‘call now to get first choice.’You might need a call to action just to get your audience to read your email all the way through. For example, in your opening paragraph you might say “Scroll down for coupon” or “Read this then use the link to order.” Make sure you also describe the immediate benefits of action. “Order your tickets now” is not as strong as “Order now so you won’t have to wait in line at the show.”Use only one or two calls to action per email. Too many choices lead to no action. (Mother’s Day bouquet example)
As you develop content for your emails, make sure your plan isn’t going to deliver too much content too frequently. Over communication can cause your audience to ignore your emails or unsubscribe from your list.Less content buys more frequency tolerance and vice versa. Your content also relates to frequency. For example, weather is a daily event and can be delivered daily. If your customers make a purchase every 30 days you can send more frequently than if your customers average 2 years between purchases.Create a master schedule. Use your judgment to estimate your audience’s reaction to your plan. When you repurpose email content on social channels, be sure to also plan time for engaging and responding in real‐time.Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. are better on average because people usually prioritize their inboxes on Mondays and first thing in the morning. You should test to determine the best time for your audience. To test, divide your list into equal parts. Send at different times and compare – send list part 1 on Monday, list part 2 on Tuesday and so on.Repost and/or retweet information in order to get your message heard, encourage your customers, friends, family to engage.
You need to be sure your email has a good chance of gaining the attention of your audience after you send it out. Most consumers look at the From line in your email to determine whether to open it, which makes the From line the most important part of your email. It’s important to make your From line familiar. Ask yourself how your audience is most likely to recognize your business and put that information in your From line. Is it your name? The company name? Both, as in “John Doe at XYZ, Inc.”?
You need to also use a familiar email address. Some Internet Service Providersstrip the “From” information that normally appears before the email address. Many mobile devices do the same thing. Since so many consumers look at the From line to determine whether they are going to open the email, send your email from a familiar email address. You might want to use your business domain name or create an email address with familiar characteristics. For example:email@example.com_companynews@company.comDon’t use your personal email address such as “firstname.lastname@example.org” to send your business emails.
It’s much more difficult to come up with good Subject lines than good From lines. When you write a Subject line, focus on getting the email opened. For example, try highlighting the main theme of your email or an important article in your email instead of using generic titles such as “July Newsletter.” You may want to write the Subject line last, just before sending.“2-2-2” is a good rule to follow. “2-2-2” stands for “2 seconds, 2 words, 2-day (today)” and means this:Generally, people decide within three seconds whether to open an email. They look at the From line in the first second. In the next two seconds, they see the first two words of the Subject line. You need to get across why your email matters to them today in those two words.(Factoid: Many smart phones only see 14 characters of the Subject line.)
Here are some examples of poor Subject line tactics. These tactics are often present in spam emails, so take a look at the Subject lines in your spam or junk folder once in a while to see what the spammers are up to. Any tactics used by spammers should be omitted from your emails.(Instead of free, say “no cost.”)
Email service providers can help you track lots of positive and negative results even if your audience doesn’t directly respond, and you can track direct responses back to specific individuals. Here how it works.When you send an email, your email service provider automatically adds special code that enables the tracking of certain responses. It’s possible to track:• Which emails bounced and why they bounced• Which emails received spam complaints• Who opted out of receiving future emails• Who enabled the images to display in their email• Who clicked the links in your email• Who forwarded your email to someone else• Who shared and liked your emailLet’s look at those shares and likes first, because they represent your extended reach – your ability to reach more people with your messages.
An email tracking report also shows the number of emails that were opened and who opened them. “Open” can be a confusing term. An email is only considered “open” when the recipient can see the images in the email and/or when the recipient clicks on a link in the email.Most email programs automatically disable images so the recipient can decide whether the email is trustworthy before viewing the images. Since consumers often scan emails without viewing the images, most emails are received and scanned without being technically “opened.”The average open rate according to Constant Contact is 29%.
The links in your email give your audience an opportunity to interact with your message. Links can be pointed to• Any page on your website, blog, or social media page• Any file hosted on your website server, such as a PDF document or an audio or video file• An online survey or a poll• An email address – you can direct your audience to a specific email addresses instead of replying to the emailaddress that sent the message.If you don’t know enough HTML to create your own tracking links, an email service provider can automatically insert them in every link in your email. “Click here” is a very powerful term, but because it’s so powerful it has been overused by spammers and others. Using “click here” more than three times is spam-like behavior, so use it sparingly. As an alternative to saying “click here,” try descriptive, concrete terms for your links:• “Register now”• “Continue reading”• “View our catalog”Clicks tell you what topics your audience found interesting. No clicks tells you what was not interesting. That’s valuable information, too!Make sure every link moves the clicker closer to making an immediate purchase (or other decision) instead of distracting them from your ultimate goal.If your email resulted in a lot of clicks and a low number of completed purchases, or “conversions,” your email was effective in driving traffic toward conversion, but your website, store, or sales process isn’t working.You can increase the number of clicks on your email links when you have a strong call-to-action, good copy (text), and a compelling offer. Make sure your email describes the benefits and rewards for immediate action.
When someone wants to be removed from your email list, the best practice is to remove them immediately and permanently. If you use an email service provider, your ESP can automatically handle unsubscribe requests by placing an unsubscribe link in every email.
Consumers unsubscribe when they• Feel that they are receiving too much information. Either too many emails or too much content in each email can increase unsubscribe requests. Include only essential information in your emails and use a spreadsheet or calendar to plan your email campaigns so you leave reasonable time in between emails.• Feel that your content is irrelevant. Watch your click reports and use surveys to keep track of your audience’s interests. Remember that your audience isn’t always interested in the same things that you are.• Feel that your content isn’t intended for them. For example, sending discounts and coupons to your audience when they are really interested in higher quality and they are willing to pay for it.To help you keep track of trends and determine the most common reasons for unsubscribe requests, offer your unsubscribing customers and prospects a comments form so they can tell you why they want to opt out of your communications. (Sometimes people will unsubscribe when they know they are changing email addresses. If you have a comment form, they can give you their new address.)Take action on comments or feedback that is within your control. A word of caution, though: while it may be tempting to pick up the phone and call an unsubscriber to ask why he/she is unsubscribing, remember: your goal is to create an excellent customer experience..not to be “big brother.”
If you’re just getting started, the first step for you is to start building your list. Remember to collect addresses everywhere you connect with customers.Constant Contact’s free trial is 60 days. Their pricing schedule is based on the number of addresses and starts at $15/mo. for up to 500 addresses.Log on to constantcontact.com and explore learning center, other features