The Email Marketing Issue
How to Gather Email Addresses for Your Customers
Most savvy retailers want to increase of number of customer email addresses in their marketing data base. However, collecting email addresses is challenging – as for every email address added, it seems like one is lost due to unsubscribes and undeliverable email addresses. Fortunately, there are some fairly straightforward tactics you can employ to overcome these obstacles. Here are seven ways that you can grow your email data base.
- Capture Email Addresses at the Register. Your in-store staff should be trained to collect email address at the point of sale – in a friendly, non-intrusive way, of course! One way is to confirm the email address when you are asking for any sort of customer data around the transaction, such as shipping instructions or for warranties. Some POS systems (such as MicroBiz Cloud) offer the ability to email receipts. This is a very convenient way to obtain a customer’s email address. The customer gets the receipt sent to them via email (saving time and trees), and you get an email address for marketing purposes.
- Capture Email When Customers Call. Don’t forget about people calling your store. Your customer may call in for customer service or to complete a transaction via telephone. Train your employees with a short set of talking points on the benefits of having their email address on record (its often the easiest way to contact people) and have your employees capture it right there on the spot.
- Refer-a-friend. Do you have a referral program? Referral programs not only grow your email marketing database, but also lead to immediate revenue and customer acquisition. Acquiring new subscribers through the social networks of your best customers is one of the best ways to build your list with quality prospects with similar interests.
- Leverage Your Facebook Page. Do you have a Facebook page for your store? If so, make sure there is an email registration form prominently on your fan page. While many people will sign up out of the goodness of their hearts, you can increase your sign-up rates by offering some sort of return for their information, such as: “Register to receive our emails and receive a coupon for 10% your next purchase!”
- Use Your Website. If you have a website, do not forget to provide for ways to collect email addresses throughout your website. Some suggested spots would be an email field in the shopping cart, or a sign-up form for special promotions or a newsletter. Remember that most visitors are on your site to browse and learn more about your company and products. They found you, so try not to let them leave your site without providing an email address.
- Loyalty Programs. Loyalty programs are one of the most effective ways to gather customer data, including email addresses. Customer are much more likely to provide personal information if they believe they are getting value in return. Providing special benefits to loyal customers provides this incentive.
- Consider email append. If you have a large “offline” customer base, you may want to consider appending their email address (i.e. hiring a company to match the name/address with an email address) and communicating with them “online.” If interested, proceed slowly with a well-thought-out plan. If you are too aggressive, your customers may turn you off.
10 Tips to Increase the Effectiveness of Your Email Marketing Campaigns
In marketing via email, there are a few rules, tricks, and best practices that improve the effectiveness of email campaigns. Here are 10 tips that will help make your email marketing activities successful.
- Clean up Your Email Database. If you have been in business for a while, it is possible that you have developed an extensive contact list through your sales and marketing efforts. When gathering contact information, make sure that you get enough relevant information in addition to the email address to be able to communicate effectively (such as first and last names, gender and age). As emails change continually, it’s important to periodically go through this list and clean it up by removing the outdated contacts from your database, such as:
- Contacts who have chosen to manually opt-out (definitely need to do this!);
- Contact(s) whose emails have bounced back;
- Contact(s) who did not open your last 5-10 campaigns; and
- Contact(s) whose mail box is full or they were “out of the office” for more than five campaigns.
- Offer Ways For Visitors to Opt-In. Sending an unsolicited email is not the most effective way to communicate your message. Worse yet, you may be reported as a ‘spammer’ resulting in your URL being blacklisted. It’s far more effective to market to people that ‘opt-in’ to your email list. There is no easy way to develop a large base of ‘opt-in’ email addresses – so you should give people as many opportunities as possible to sign-up for your newsletters and offerings. Effective opt-in techniques include:
- An opt-in button on relevant pages of your site;
- An opt-in button on forms on your site;
- A link to opt-in on your outbound emails;
- An opt-in link on confirmations and receipts that you send out; and
- A giveaway on your website requiring an opt-in.
- Use Customer Segmentation. It is likely that your customers have a wide range of interests and backgrounds, unless you sell a single item to a single demographic. Segmentation of contacts into distinct groups will allow you to target specific email messages to people who will be most interested in the content. There are dozens and dozens of ways to segment customers, so hopefully you will have some good ideas on how best to do this. But here are some high level suggestions:
- Store locations;
- Channel (store vs. mail order vs. web);
- Source of contact (Facebook vs. customer vs. newsletter);
- Historical purchases;
- Loyalty program status;
- Gender; and
- Deliver Targeted Content. Once the contact list is segmented, take the time to tailor content or an offering that will appeal to the target segment. Generic emails that list a variety of information and offers are usually not even read by the recipients. Instead, it is better to send one or two specific bits of information that are targeted towards a particular customer’s interests or needs. For example, a new line of cat toys will likely be interesting to customers that have previously purchased cats or cat supplies, but not be as interesting to dog owners. If it’s easy for the recipients to see that time was spent tailoring an offer specifically for them, you are more likely to get a positive response.
- Keep It Simple Stupid. It can be very tempting to go crazy on the design of the email template in an attempt to catch the attention of the recipient. However in marketing, simple is often the best strategy – as too much flash and glitz can distract from the message. Many people check email on different sized displays – such as tablets and smart phones. So when possible, use an email marketing program that offers ‘responsive design’ – or email messages that re-format automatically to adapt to the size of the screen used to view the message. Avoid using too many images that will not display without extra action (pictures and graphics may require a manual confirmation to download and view on computer and mobile devices). In general, it’s a good idea to have more text than images. If you want the user to see more details, include a link to your website for more information rather than trying to cram it all into the marketing email.
- Make Your Message Clear and Concise. Since marketing is the purpose of the email, realize that the message text (or as it’s called in the marketing world ‘copy’) needs to grab attention quickly and draw in the reader. This is one place to invest some time and money to make sure that you get it. If you are having trouble creating a clear and concise copy, there are a number of how-to blogs and copywriting services available to help. In addition to well-written content, you need to include a clear and concise ‘call to action’. Do not leave readers wondering what to do next. Tell them exactly what you want them to do, and make it easy for them to do it.
- Create a Powerful Subject Line. Closely related to good copy is an attention grabbing subject line. A weak or obscure subject line may be viewed as spam, either by the email spam filter or the recipient. If sorted as spam, the message may end up in the junk mail folder or even deleted. With the rise in spam and computer viruses, we have been trained not to open emails from senders who we don’t recognize or with subject lines that sound sketchy. Make sure that you give a clear indication of the purpose of the email in the subject line so that the reader will want to read further, and then be sure to follow it up with great copy (see Tip 6).
- Pick a Reputable Email Marketing Provider. In addition to efficiently sending emails in bulk, good email marketing providers also supply the tools and support to help you efficiently set up and track the effectiveness of your campaigns. The tools can help you develop segments and targeted marketing, and even make recommendations to improve copy. They will also make sure that you abide by the CAN-SPAM Act and follow other best practices. Many offer other features, such as A/B testing that can help you improve the reach and effectiveness of your efforts. Take the time to shop and compare to find the best provider for your needs – and remember that you often get what you pay for.
- Measure Your Success. Make sure to use the tools available to measure the success and ROI of your email marketing campaign. While it is tough to measure the success of print campaigns and general brand building activities, many email marketing providers offer a dashboard or reporting to measure such things as:
- How many messages were delivered (and which were undeliverable);
- What percentage were opened;
- The click through rate (CTR);
- The conversion rate.
- Refine Your Efforts. After measuring your results (see Tip 9), take these statistics and use them to improve your results. There is no single effective way to run an email marketing campaign that will work for all customers of every business. The only way to see what works best for your needs is to constantly measure and refine your campaign. If you are accurately measuring, you should be able to identify area for improvements. For example, if messages aren’t being opened, maybe the subject lines need to be re-worked to be more impactful. If your click-through rate is lower than expected, it could be a result of weak copy or an unclear call to action. Each of these metrics provides a clue as to what improvements can be made. You can also experiment with different combinations of elements sent to subsets of your data base to see what works the best. For example, is there a particular call to action and landing page combination that leads to more conversions?
Six Free or Low Cost Email Marketing Platforms
Just starting out in email marketing? You may not have to fork over a penny. There are a number of email applications that are completely free up to a few hundred subscribers, providing the perfect opportunity for you to get started, build your subscriber list and figure out what email marketing tactics resonate with your audience before you go large. Here are 6 of the best email marketing web applications available for smaller businesses. While there are many other email marketing platforms available, these six provide a good stating point.
Mail Chimp – MailChimp is one of the most popular email applications, with customized signup forms you can integrate into your website or your Facebook page, social sharing integration, dozens of customizable templates and a full-featured API to sync existing customer databases, shopping carts and more. MailChimp is ideal for beginners, since it’s free for up to 2,000 subscribers—and you can send up to 12,000 emails per month. However, you are limited on a few features under the Free plan. Paid plans are full-featured and very affordable, ranging from $10 to $240 per month, depending on the number of subscribers—all with the ability to send unlimited emails.
Constant Contact – Constant Contact is also a very well known email marketing platform. It’s also one of the most comprehensive email marketing applications on the web, with a variety of ancillary tools, such as surveys and event marketing, that you can add-on for a fee. Constant Contact’s built-in analytics are pretty impressive, as are its customizable template database and social sharing features. You can get started with Constant Contact for as little as $15 per month, after a 60-day free trial.
iContact – iContact offers hundreds of email marketing templates to choose from, an easy drag-and-drop interface for users without advanced design skills, and integrated social sharing features so you can share your messages with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Its contact history offers you an in-depth view of your previous interactions with each subscriber, so you can manage your relationships more effectively. Pricing ranges from $14 for 500 subscribers to $47 for 5,000 subscribers per month.
Vertical Response – Vertical Response offers email marketing as one component of its host of marketing products, which also includes social media marketing, event marketing, online surveys and other applications. It has more than 700 email templates to choose from, real-time analytics and easy sharing functions. Vertical Response offers a pay-as-you-go, per-email price structure—so you only pay for the services actually used.
Elite Email – Elite Email offers more than 400 ready-to-use templates, allowing you to share your emails on popular social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Users can take advantage of Elite Email’s fully-branded subscription center where your customers can set up their preferences, enter their info and even edit their profiles – and view a live ticker that delivers stats as they’re happening. It’s free for up to 500 email address, with paid plans starting at $15 per month.
dotMailer – dotMailer is an easy-to-use, super-fast platform that’s scalable for your email, social, mobile, design, management and reporting needs. Pricing structures are offered for small-to-medium businesses as well as large enterprises. You can start out with a simple, free account with 500 free sends, and then move to a pay-as-you-go plan starting at $9.99 per month.