At its core, email marketing is no different from sending a personalized email message. The differences are, of course, in the intention; where one aims to speak with friends and colleagues, perhaps share personal details of life, the other is almost always in service of a commercial goal. As the Wikipedia page for Email Marketing states, it “usually involves using email to send ads, request business, or solicit sales or donations, and is meant to build loyalty, trust, or brand awareness.” There are now whole companies, called Email Service Providers (Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor, AWeber, etc.) that make it their business to send, track and utilize information like open rate, click through rate and un-subscription numbers, all of which is collected from these commercial emails.
Nathan Hangen, co-founder of Virtuous Giant and creator of IgnitionDeck, said of email marketing:
“Getting into someone’s inbox is like being invited to their home for dinner. If they ask you to take your shoes off, you respectfully do so. It’s the same with email marketing.… I’d simply like to remind you to be on your best behavior at all times and remember…you’re in their house.”
What Nathan’s quote highlights is the essential need for trust and permission when it comes to email marketing. People do not like to be bothered, especially by brands, and establishing a healthy dialogue with consumers is imperative for individuals and companies who want to turn those recipients into repeat users and subscribers. As Hangen tells us, developing your “call-to-action” for your email marketing plan to answer the following questions is a great way to have responses that assure people you will use their emails in good faith:
- What do I get when I give you my email address?
- Are you going to spam me?
- How often will you email me?
- Will I get discounts?
- Will I get early access to your beta?
- Will you send me relevant offers or more junk?
There are two types of email precedents that you can use to ensure that your message will not fall on deaf ears and closed inboxes. The first is a transactional situation, in which you are sending emails after a prior transaction between yourself and the customer has occurred. If you have ever received an email after purchasing an item or leaving an online shopping cart neglected, you have experienced transactional email marketing. Transactional emails are highly beneficial because they have a tremendously high open rate and they should concern information in which the customer has already displayed interest.
The second of these email precedents is opt-in email marketing or permission marketing. Aptly named, opt-in email marketing is a situation in which the people who are receiving the emails have given their permission and, in a sense, are expecting to receive some type of promotional message. As opposed to unsolicited email marketing, permission marketing ensures that there is at least some personal interest in the message that is being shared.
Once you have established a dialogue with your recipients, there are a number of things you’ll want to do to ensure that you’re providing them with the necessary information, how they want it and when they want it. Below, we have included a list of some of the best practices to keep your email recipients abreast of your movements, in the most tasteful ways possible:
- Structure emails to help improve chances of “whitelisting” by recipients.
- Start with a welcome email that thanks that new contact for opting-in to your subscription.
- Draft follow-up emails that give valuable information about your company. These emails may also request information about your new client to help you put the person in the correct categories for future marketing efforts.
- Create a detailed autoresponder sequence, which moves customers along a chosen path of emails based on their actions in response to your emails. Be sure to mix non-promotional material in with the commercial in order to vary the conversation.
- Segment your email list into targeted groups based on their interests and needs (i.e., have a customer list, a newsletter list, a product updates list, etc.)
Take into account that nearly four out of every ten internet users in this country say the emails they receive from companies and brands serve no use at all, and you’ll have discovered one of the chief issues with email marketing. Without establishing a relationship with your email list, your marketing campaign will be regarded as a direct, or interruption, email. This means your promotional messages will be going to a list of prospective customers and email addresses that have never expressed explicit interest in your message or product.
If you think of a person’s email as their home, this is essentially barging in the front door and screaming that you have Japanese-chef grade knives for sale. Suffice it to say, this kind of activity will almost always be met with un-subscription or a blocking filter being applied to your campaign and your first impression with that prospective user will have been botched beyond repair.
In addition, you may also be in danger of running afoul of spamming laws, such as CAN-SPAM, or the United States’ Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act, which outlines strict guidelines for compliance with un-subscription, sending and content practices. For example, sending emails to harvested addresses is now outlawed, according to CAN-SPAM. So, besides ruining your standing with your recipients, your email campaign could have you facing up to five years in prison and hefty fines if you’re not using honest methods to obtain and disseminate your marketing materials.
As we circle back around to the importance of email marketing in today’s digital climate, we return to another quote from Mr. Hangen:
“These days, we’ve replaced that message with Tweets, likes, and status updates, but that doesn’t mean that our affinity for email is any less. In fact, because of the noise that is social media, one could argue that the inbox has become our virtual dojo, our place of solitude amongst the chaos. This is why, as an entrepreneur, I believe that building successful email marketing campaigns has never been more important than it is now.”
When Gary Thuerk sent the first mass email in 1978 to 400 potential clients for his company, Digital Equipment Corporation, no one could have foreseen the value that email marketing would have in the modern day, nor could they have seen the $13 million in sales that DEC enjoyed as a direct result of the initiative. With the ability to measure return on investment exactly, as well as the fact that email marketing is significantly cheaper than most marketing mediums and second only to search marketing in its effectiveness, there has never been a more advantageous time to dive into this marketing method.