Email is not dead, actually it is still one of the best ways to find new customers, make more sales or create a tribe of loyal followers. Small businesses either operating online or offline have a lot to gain form email marketing but yet many of them ignore it losing many opportunities.
Whether you are running an online shop, blog or services website, email is a great way to stay in touch with your current customers and one of the most efficient ways to convert potential customers to customers.
Many people believe that the growing use of social media altered the role of email as a powerful marketing tool but this is far from truth. Recent email marketing statistics (July 2013) indicate that:
44% of email recipients made at least one purchase last year based on a promotional email.
7 in 10 people say they made use of a coupon or discount from a marketing email in the prior week.
56% of businesses say they plan to increase their use of email marketing in 2013
For every $1 spent, $44.25 is the average return on email marketing investment.
How to grow your email list
The core of every email marketing campaign is the email list and having a quality email list can make the difference when it comes to conversions and return from your campaign. Growing your email list takes time and effort and the following tips will help you do it correctly.
1. Give them different options – Make it easy to register
This is the first and perhaps one of the most important steps. You need to make it easy for people to register to your list. No need to ask for too much information (a name and email is enough) or to have long and cluttered registration forms.
Try to make it ‘single click’ i.e. people enter their name and email in the registration box and they click ‘Register’. Once they confirm their email, they are on your list.
If you want to take it a step further you can also allow people to register to your email list using their social media accounts. It’s easier for them and you also get to connect with them on social media as well.
2. Offer incentives – Why should someone register on your list?
Why should someone give you their email address, what is the benefit for them? Make sure that the benefit is shown clearly in the registration form/box. Are you going to help them with something, do they get free ebooks, discounts for their next purchase, coupons etc?
3. Position of the registration box does matter
Where you place the email registration box affects the number of people that will register on your list. Best practices include having the registration box:
Above the fold (i.e. in the part of the page that is visible without scrolling)
Top right sidebar – if are using sidebars then the top right is ideal for the email registration box
At the bottom of your articles – if someone reads your articles till the end then most probably they like what they are reading and are more likely to want to read more from you.
Footer – Another high converting place for email sign-ups is the footer. This is especially true for online shops and websites that have pages and not posts
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Homepage top – Many popular websites and marketers use this method to get more email subscribers. Having the sign up form on the top of your homepage will generate more signups.
4. Give them info about what to expect and when
Tell your subscribers what kind of information to expect from you (new posts, infographics, coupons, offers, etc) and when (every day, every week, whenever you have a new post etc.). Be honest and try not to promise something you cannot deliver otherwise your email marketing efforts will fail.
5. Make it personal – Customize your messages
When you use a software or vendor to send out the emails spend some time and customize the messages that go out with each email. Try to make the registration process easy and inform the users what is happening at each stage. For example once they enter their name and email the first time, let them know that they need to confirm their email address in order to finalize the registration.
6. Make the text easy to read and scan and use alt tags for images
Don’t expect that people will read your email every time or that they are willing to spend too much time on it. The best practice is to assume that you have a couple of seconds to grab their attention (from the time they see the email) so work on your titles and the formatting of your email to make it easy to read but also scan.
Use headings and small paragraphs and if you decide to use images make sure that you also set the ALT tag since most email clients do not show images by default.
7. Use social media as the medium to get more email subscribers
Your website is not the only medium to increase your email subscribers. You can use Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and any other social network you are using to get more emails. Don’t be afraid to ask your followers to register on your list but don’t forget to also explain the benefits from doing so.
8. Don’t overdo it and don’t break your promises
Sending our more emails than promised will not necessarily generate better results. If you promised to send one email per week then do not start sending more but create a weekly digest instead. You can give them options to change their subscription preferences and get more emails from you but don’t break your initial promises.
9. Send them the info they need to read in the email
Yes emails are a great way to get more visitors to your website but when running an email marketing campaign to increase sales, you primary target is to achieve more conversions and not more visits.
For example let’s assume that you are selling online courses and you run an email marketing campaign using the targeted list from your blog. In the email you send out make sure that the subscriber can read everything they need about the course within the email and they only need to go to the website to make a purchase or read more reviews or further details.
10. Most emails are read on mobile
It’s no surprise that:
43% of emails are read over mobile devices and this is expected to rise to more than 50% by the end of 2013!
39% of marketers have no strategy for mobile email
The above statistics show two important things, first is that your emails should be mobile friendly and second that you need to have a mobile strategy. So, before finalizing your next email campaign make sure that it is tested against all major mobile devices (you can use mobile emulators to see how the email looks on different devices).
11. Monitor results and take corrective actions
Whether you are running an SEO campaign, social media marketing or email marketing campaign it is important not to ‘set it and forget it’ but to run it, monitor the results (email open rate, click rate, unsubscribe rate, conversion rate etc.), take corrective actions and run it again.
This is a continuous process until you get the desired results. As you get more experienced you can also do market segmentations and pre-pilot and pilot phases but in the majority of the cases what is important is to perform some basic monitoring and control.
12. Keep an eye on your competitors
Register on your competitors email list and see what techniques they are using, what kind of emails they send out, how often, what kind of products they promote etc. Your intention is not to copy or mimic your competitor’s practices but to make sure that you are ahead of them.
13. Make it easy to unsubscribe
Don’t try to hide the unsubscribe button believing that this will keep someone on your list. It’s better to have them unsubscribed rather than have you on their spam list.
14. Create a content marketing strategy for your email marketing campaigns
You should clear out some basic concepts about marketing strategies. Content marketing is not the same as social media marketing and certainly not the same as an email marketing. On the contrary your email marketing campaign needs to have a content marketing strategy i.e. what type of content to deliver by email and when to deliver it.
In simple words make a plan on what type content you will send out in the next few months and ensure that it has a purpose and meaning, you can also use some of the content marketing tips to make your content more interesting for your subscribers.
15. Use email to make cross selling and up selling
If you haven’t already registered with Amazon.com, make sure that you do so and watch what they are doing with their email marketing strategies. When you view a product on amazon you will receive an email in a few days with similar suggestions and when you buy a product you will receive an email with more products to buy.
Maybe you don’t have the means to do this kind of analysis but if you get to know your list better, you will also understand your customers and niche.
16. Include your social media profiles in the email as well
I already mentioned that you should use social media to grow your email list, but you should also use your newsletters as a way to grow your social media profiles as well. The simplest and most effective way is to add the social media buttons in your newsletter so that your subscribers can share the content but also connect with you in the various social networks.
Most common email marketing mistakes made by small business owners
Besides that above tips that will help you increase your subscriber count, you can also learn from the mistakes of others and get better results by avoiding these common mistakes made by small business owners.
17. Not having an email list in the first place
This is silly to even say it but the first email marketing mistake is not having a list in the first place! There is absolutely no excuse for not maintaining an email list for your online business or website.
If you are reading this and have no email subscriber list yet, you now know the first thing you should do after you read this article.
18. Having a list but not sending out newsletters
Second mistake, it to keep a list and gather customer emails but never send them a newsletter or email. This is perhaps the most common mistake I’ve seen all these years and the excuse is always the same: “We were planning to send out a newsletter but never made it”.
There are no excuses, you have many benefits to gain from communicating with your customers or readers and if you can’t do it hire someone to do it for you.
19. Not offering incentives for signups
If you have a content driven website the incentive to signup is the content itself but if you are selling goods or services then you may need to give some incentives (i.e. discounts, special deals) for someone to sign-up.
Not taking the time to think about incentives and others ways to increase your email list is a major reason for not getting a good return from your investment.
20. Buying emails from other sources
Shortcuts do not bring results – this is true for almost all online activities. If you think that you can have success by purchasing emails from some site on the Internet then you are wrong. Try to grow your email list naturally and using white hat techniques and don’t get into troubles by buying email lists or false hopes.
21. Not asking for email verification
It’s an extra step but what is important for email marketing success is the quality of your email list and not the quantity. Better ask for email verification and get less subscribers rather than not using verification and be loaded with inactive email accounts.
22. Not following best practices for sending out the emails
When you want to send bulk emails you need to follow best standards and practices otherwise you will be considered a spammer.
For example you need to have your address in the email together with an unsubscribe button, you need to remind subscribers where you got their email address and you need to send both an HTML and text only version. These are just some examples, your email vendor should be able to guide you through the process.
23. Don’t use a vendor for sending bulk emails
It’s a mistake to try and send emails without using a vendor. Many people think that they can use outlook or Gmail to send bulk emails but this is far from recommended. As explained above there are many risks involved and it’s better to use a pro service that will protect you from making mistakes. Most email marketing companies have free packages for small businesses so cost is not an issue.
24. Not doing A/B testing
An email marketing campaign is far from static. Besides monitoring the performance you should also make several tests and find out which of them produce better results. A few examples of tests you can perform:
Time to send emails – What time/date converts better
Position of the signup box – What position of the sign-up box brings in more subscribers
Type of emails – Do plain emails perform better than emails with more text, headings, images etc.
Subject titles – Which titles have the bigger open rates (long titles vs short titles etc)
Use of images – When you use images in the email does it produce more clicks?
25. Not asking users to add you to their contact list
Last but not least, it is not bad to ask from your subscribers to add you to their contact list. This will ensure that your emails will not be considered as spam and you increase the number of people that receive your emails.
According to a statistic there are over 3.6 billion email accounts in 2013. Almost everyone online has an email address and it is still one of the most effective ways to contact and engage with your customers. Small businesses MUST have an email marketing strategy and take advantage of the many benefits a successful campaign has to offer.