The reports of the death of email marketing have been grossly exaggerated! Lately, I’ve heard people talk about email as old tech or low tech and, therefore, ineffective. This is a misconception, as you’ll see. In fact, it’s one of the last best effective marketing avenues, since people have tuned out ads—physically and mentally. If you’re one of the millions of internet users who use ad blockers, then you know how easy it is nix ads from your view. If not, then you’ve probably blocked the ads mentally.
The Shine Has Dulled on Ads
Try this experiment: Turn off your ad blocker for a few minutes. Visit a popular website and look at the ad-to-editorial ratio. If you’ve shielded yourself from ads for the past few years, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed. It’ll feel like an assault, or at a minimum, an onslaught.
The Atlantic wrote in 2014, “The Internet was supposed to tell us which ads work and which ads don’t. But instead it’s flooded consumers’ brains with reviews, comments, and other digital data that has diluted the power of advertising altogether.” It boils down to too much information, TMI to those who prefer acronyms.
The article further reported eBay and Facebook studies showed that people who are influenced by ads aren’t actually clicking them. Google ad users showed an increase in return on investment (ROI), but users said they were going to buy anyway. It seems they used Google ads as a shortcut to the site.
AdWeek admits that online display ads don’t work. It blames traffic bots for the fact that human eyes never see 54 percent of ad impressions—impressions paid for by businesses. That’s called fraud.
Building Trust With Customers
Repeat business is a key to growing your business. It’s easier and far less expensive to keep customers coming back than it is to attract new customers. The cost of acquiring a new customer is known as the customer acquisition cost (CAC).
Email marketing is inexpensive in terms of CAC and can be far more effective than internet advertising. However, email marketing is a two-way street. With a few clicks of a mouse, the email recipient can dissolve the relationship and stop you from sending any further emails. One of the keys to email marketing is to build trust with your audience.
I’ve harped on the trust issue in numerous articles on the CheckWorks blog, but even in faceless, e-commerce transactions, people want to do business with retailers they trust.
A Case Study in Trust
Consider Amazon. I use an ad blocker, so I don’t see their ubiquitous ads in my travels through cyberspace. I do, however, receive emails from them. Amazon keeps in constant touch with its customers. I receive an email confirming my orders. When an order ships, I receive an email with a tracking number. I receive daily emails with suggestions based on my purchase history, and I receive the “Deal of the Day.”
As a Prime member, I get weekly updates on TV shows, movies and music of interest. Do I resent these emails? No. If I’m busy, I delete them, but when I’m not busy, I look at them. I’ve found incredible new products through these emails and discovered shows such as Bloodlines through the emails. More important, Amazon is always on the tip of my keyboard when I need something—anything.
Amazon makes a fortune off me, but (thankfully) I haven’t seen the inside of a mall in over a quarter of a century! Would I buy from Amazon without their constant parade of emails? Of course, but I guarantee you, I wouldn’t spend nearly as much money with them. They have trained me to look to them first.
I trust them to deliver my purchases and to make good on purchases that don’t meet my expectations, and they always have. You can’t rely on email as your primary marketing method unless you go the extra mile to establish trust.
Thanks to brilliant email marketing campaigns, a few select companies have sold me, upsold me, cross-marketed me, and earned the loyalty of my friends. They have struck gold through their efforts.
Now that you understand the strength of email marketing, let’s look at some best practices to gain the best ROI from your email marketing.
10 Best Practices for Email Marketing
If you’re already using email marketing, look through the list below and make changes as needed. If you’re starting from scratch, do it right from the beginning and tweak as you go along. If you have an established email audience, keep tweaking until you hit on the perfect combination—the combination of factors that brings the greatest ROI from your emails.
- Make it easy for people to sign up for your email list: Include an “in your face” sign up form on your website. Ask only for the visitor’s name and email—this is not the time to run a demographic survey. Popup boxes are effective for gathering emails, but for best results, dangle an incentive—a free report, checklist or other goody available exclusively to those who sign up for the list. Some companies give away a five- or 10-part, email tutorial. Some sites “reel in” new signups by teasing them with a video, and then urging the visitor to sign up for the mail list to receive the rest of the tutorial.
- Branding: Conform to your company’s overall branding. Consistency of messaging is important, and email is part of your overall messaging. For the highest response rate, send emails composed in HTML instead of plain text. Test your email template on your smartphone. At the end of 2015, 54 percent of emails were viewed on smartphones, so make sure you emails are mobile friendly.
- Enough is enough: Avoid email fatigue. Less can be more, but consistency is important. Send your emails the same day(s) of the week at the same time of day once you establish the best time to send them.
- Timing: Everything about timing email blasts is counterintuitive. The highest percentage of emails sent occurs on Tuesday, and the lowest percentage of emails sent occurs on Saturday. But, Saturday is the day with the highest rate of opened emails. The highest percentage of emails is sent in the early morning, but many people don’t have time to open them, and by the time they do have time to open them, nonessential morning emails have scrolled off the screen and are buried beneath a pile of urgent emails. For the best response rate, plan your email blasts to hit between 8:00 p.m. and midnight. The best way to time your ads is to know your audience and to cater to their habits. If your audience is comprised of insomniacs, break the “normal” rules and send your email in the middle of the night for the best response. The needs of your audience come first.
- Split testing: Some call it A/B testing. This is the best way to tweak the effectiveness of email blasts. Divide your list and send half your list one email and the other half a different email. One group is your control group. Call that the A group. The B group receives the email with the change; it could be the color of a button, the placement of a photo, etc. The only way to measure accurately the impact of one email over another is to change only one small thing per test.
- Easy on the sales tactics: Have you been reaching out only to sell your products? Normally, this doesn’t provide the desired result; however, I belong to one list that only sends ad flyers once a month on a Thursday to advertise their sales. I anxiously await these emails because I can get my cat food at a substantial savings once every few months. The only way to learn about the sale is through the email list, and I saved more than $100 the last time I received one of these flyers. I usually unsubscribe from the lists that send emails only to push products—and I don’t buy from these companies.
- Content: The emails with the most value to me offer practical information that I can put to use. I will open those emails every time, and when I need a product that retailer sells, I get it from that company—even if it’s a bit more expensive—because they have sent me something of value. I’ll bet many of your customers are loyal because you’ve treated them well. Emails with pithy, descriptive subject lines get opened. As well as providing value, your emails should be short and scannable. Many commercial emails include a teaser with a link to the full article on a blog.
- Strictly adhere to CAN-SPAM rules: In 2003, CAN-SPAM, which enacted rules for commercial email, became law. The intent of the law was to tame the flow of spam. To ensure compliance CAN-SPAM, download a PDF with plain-English explanations of the rules.
- Bulk versus transactional emails: The Amazon daily-deal emails are bulk emails. They go to the entire “daily deal” list. The order and shipping confirmations are transactional emails, and they go to a customer when a transaction occurs. Transactional emails are not subject to CAN-SPAM rules. For example, you can email order confirmations or recall information to customers who are not on your email list. Be sure to thank your customers for their business when you send transactional emails.
- Create an editorial calendar: As you get ideas, jot them into your editorial calendar. Write the opening when you get the idea. You can fill in the blanks as the publication date approaches.
Email marketing is effective over time. That’s how to gain the best ROI from your email marketing—take a long-term approach—and follow the best practices outlined above. Email marketing is not a quick fix, and it’s something that requires work. If you understand your customer’s needs, you should be able to build more trust through your email marketing and remind your customers of the valuable goods and/or service you provide them every time you hit their inbox. Do it right, and you can strike gold!