If you know email marketing should be a part of your marketing efforts, but have no idea what exactly that is, you’re in luck; today, our Easy Guide series will focus on what is email marketing and how to use it.
Email marketing is a very popular marketing approach that involves promoting your brand through emails. Its most popular use revolves around releasing company news, launching new promotions and distributing content, often in terms of blog articles.
Companies have been using email marketing for years, although it definitely changed through the years.
About ten years ago it was quite acceptable to buy a list of emails and just send them whatever offer you had in mind. Because people still weren’t that sick of unsolicited email (and possibly, because many regulations didn’t exist) they didn’t react as negatively, as today’s users do.
In fact, there was even some moderate success to randomly spamming people - similar to many other approaches which address cold audience (that is, people who don’t know who you are - more on the topic here)
Today, the unwanted email will rarely produce any kind of results; most people will either disregard it, unsubscribe or in the worse case, be left with a bad taste in their mouth when they think of your brand.
That being said, a good marketing strategy, even for small companies and businesses should include indeed emails, as they can produce excellent results, if properly used.
Email usage keeps growing, and according to Statista, around 293 billion emails will be send in 2019. This figure is expected to grow to 333 billion in 2022; this is a communication channel that can't and shouldn't be ignored.
Benefits of the Email Marketing
So, how can you use email marketing to your benefit? We’ll get to that, but first, let’s quickly go over some of the benefits that this marketing channel offers.
- Low acquisition and distribution cost - as we’ll discuss later in the article, acquisition of potential customers (called “leads”) and their email is pretty low-cost, considering it mostly happens on your own site. Distribution cost are also reasonable, and they are usually related to the email software you might be using (like MailChimp)
- Instant and guaranteed delivery of your message - not only will your marketing message be delivered right away, but it's 100% guaranteed that it will be delivered to the intended target (unless, of course, you got an invalid email address). This is very different from paid ads or organic traffic, where your delivery depends on many factors and because of the competition, it might not happen at all.
- Flexibility when it comes to its purpose - as mentioned at the beginning, you can make a direct offer (say, mention a Christmas sale promotion) but you can also distribute content from your blog or ask for feedback on specific product/service
- 100% control - the entire process is completely under your control. With most of the other marketing channels, like paid ads in Facebook, organic search results in Google, blog posts in other sites etc often there are things you can’t control. Whether it’s how much the other companies will spend in ads (and therefore, outbid you) or how long you will be on the Home Page of a given site, something will not be in your hands. With email marketing, you can control the entire process from beginning to the end - you choose how to send your message, how to shape it, what subject to place an so on.
- Good reach - email is still the one media almost every internet user checks every day. In 2018 the total number of email users were 3.7 billion and it’s expected to grow up to 4.1 in 2021
- Highly measurable efficacy (how many people opened your email, how many clicked on the link etc)
How to start with email marketing
Kick-starting your email marketing efforts is easier than you might think. The main tactic used for this purpose is something we've all received at some point - a newsletter.
The newsletter is exactly what it sounds - an email send to a specific group of users on a regular basis (weekly, motnhly etc) aiming to inform them about current events.
At the beginning, newsletters were mainly used to release company news and promos, however, marketers saw an opportunity and started purposly incentivizing people to provide their email addresses. This way, they started growing the email subscriber list much faster and had bigger promotional opportunities.
RELATED ARTICLE: Why You Need a Custom Email Address for Your Business
Therefore, our logical first step would be to start collecting emails.
Most of the sites you'll see online have a subscribe option featured somewhere, usually in the sidebar or near the footer (bottom side). They are very plain though and not extremely succesful in motivating people to leave their email.
Thus, many website are now offering something to their visitors in exchange of their email. In marketing language, this is called “Lead magnet” - in other words, you have something that acts like a “magnet” and attracts people to provide you the information you require.
Typically, lead magnets are e-books on a specific theme. Say, you have a site selling blenders, you can craft an e-book with smoothie recipes summer or cream soups. You then set it up on your site - usually in a pop-up, but it might be static as well - and ask your visitor to enter his email address in order to download it.
Let’s break up this into steps:
1) Create something valuable for your customers. Think of some information related to your business, that you can summarize for them - manuals, guides, how to’s. If you have any kind of food/drink related site, recipes are a great way to go (this is valid for sites that sell kitchen appliances as well)
For project related to gardening a small encyclopedia can be great, for traveling sites - places to visit, for sites selling tools, appliances etc how-to books are incredibly effective.
Tools you can use here - Answer the public. This is a site where you can enter a specific topic and see what kind of questions people ask, then get an idea in which direction to go with your e-book. Another great tip is to look through topical Facebook groups; usually, they have pretty detailed information of what interests your respective community.
2) Once you’ve written something useful, your next step is to style it. You don’t have to make a masterpiece, but you still need to make it attractive.
image credit: https://www.adazing.com
This is especially true for the image you’re going to use in order to show your e-book; you need to grab your users attention! If you have good graphic skills, this is where you should invest some time and make it great. Also, it’s good to style your file itself - don’t just drop a long,text-only PDF file to your poor users. Take the time to make it visual with nicely looking photos and/or images, or your poor quality file will likely leave a long-lasting negative impression,
Tools you can use here - Canva. I’ve talked about Canva in other occasions as well; if you are not a designer, this is a tool that can help you do really amazing things. Canva has some readily available templates for e-books that you can also modify to your pleasing, even if you don’t have much designer skills. If the entire idea is 100% foreign to you, there is still a valuable option - visit fiverr.com and you may hire a designer starting as low as $5 per project.
3) Place your lead magnet to your site. If you have a WordPress site, this will be rather easy for you - several plugins have been developed in order to provide subscription options. Whether you want to create a pop-up or you feel that’s annoying and will just ask for their email in a more discreet manner, you’ll find plenty of options. For example, a sidebar is a classic option as well as a pop-up with a delayed entry.
In case you don’t use WordPress, however, and you aren’t a developer, it would be best to indeed call your developer and ask them to do this for you.
You have two options - you can either lead them to a page on your site where they can get the download or you can send it to your users via email. In both cases I would recommend double opt-in; this means they’ll have to confirm this is their email address by receiving a confirmation email and clicking on the provided link.
Tools you can use here - for WordPress you can use different plugins, but the most popular ones seems to be the Mailchimp one, Optin Monster, Ninja pop-ups, WP Subscribe, and ConvertPro. If you want a more detail list, where you can compare, visit this link.
Now, you have completed the first step of your email marketing strategy.
An important note is to be made here; in case your users come from Europe, you must get familiar with the GDPR regulation - an abbreviation that stands for General Data Protection Regulation. This is highly relevant not only for the cookies on your site but for the emails you collect as well since they are considered personal information. Make sure you’re in compliance with these regulations. You can get more information on this matter here, and also, see some examples of email disclaimers here
How to use the collected emails
Now it’s time for phase two - actually start using the email addresses you have in your possession.
Ideally, your database is directly going to the email marketing software you’ll be using (in other words, email addresses get sent directly to the email service you decided to use). If that’s not the case, you can always grab your emails and upload them directly.
If you have an existing customer database, it will be tempting to get it and use that as well; nevertheless, considering the regulations we mentioned above, unless you have explicit permission to send them emails do not use that database.
If you haven’t decided yet what company should you choose for email marketing, here are a couple of options you can start with:
Sendinblue is one of the most well-known companies, alongside with MailChimp. Their main selling point and advantage is that the service is built specifically for users with little experience in the field. Even someone who never used a mail software in their life will find the service easy to use and can start creating email marketing campaigns.
Another particular thing is that they have SMS marketing as well if that is your thing.
They start with a free plan, where you can send up to 300 emails a day to an unlimited number of contacts, which is a plan that most SMB owners would fiend convenient. Should your needs grow (or you want to remove some of the limitations, such as their logo in your mails) you can always upgrade to a more expensive plan.
MailChimp is probably the most popular email marketing service platform, and that is mainly due to the fact that it offers a complete service. Its features and capabilities are quite powerful and you will get a great deal of flexibility with it; however, due to its more complex nature, MailChimp requites greater investment in terms of time and effort.
Other than that you will find almost anything you can think of related to emails - from pre-built email templates to landing pages, segmentation possibilities (if you want to make different email list) filters, integrations with other software etc. WordPress users will be happy to know that the integration of MailChimp with WordPress will require merely a couple of minutes as they have specially designed WordPress plugin.
GetResponse is another highly popular software that will allow you to level up your email game. They are famous for having beautifully designed templates and forms that bring a lot of customers to the endpoint. Another particlar thing of the platform is the possibility to create webinars directly through it, so if you’ve ever considered this format, now it might be the chance to actually try it.
They have a slick, modern interface and detailed analytics, and a nicely filled library of landing pages. Overall, like MailChimp, the platform is extremely flexible and useful, however, it’s not suitable for people who look for simplicity of use.
They don’t offer a free plan (which isn’t really a surprise, given the wide range of options), however, you can still sign up for a trial and see if the product is something you may like.
What should you send
What are you looking to get from your email marketing? Perhaps you immediately thought - “Well, purchases, of course!” and you’re right, eventually this is what 95% of email marketing is aiming to, however, you don’t need to always bombard your subscribers with offers in order to do that.
Building a connection with your subscribers is just as important as sending them an offer. They need to find some value in your emails, otherwise, they’ll just stop opening them - so unless you plan on sending 80% discounts every time, you need to give them that added value in another manner.
Most people achieve that by providing useful information to their users, even if it’s not directly on their own website.
So, say you have a website selling some kind of healthy foods, you can send your latest new blog articles, a promo (if you have any) and also an article from another website talking about the benefits of eating (x) type of ingredient. Don't be afraid to send them somewhere else, beside on your site - even if you don't get a direct visit, you still get to build a relationship of trust with your customer, as they found something useful and trust your judgement more.
Of course, company news and promotions are also welcome, as long as this is not all you send all the time. There is a rule in the marketing industry called content posting 80/20 (not to be confused with the famous Pareto principle) - 80% of your content should educate and entertain people, while 20% should be direct promotion. You can adjust the percentage to your own pace, but never forget your customers expect more from you than a simple sale.
Overall, people think that email isn't effective anymore, but this communication channel is in fact growing - all you need to do in order to profit from that fact is to build correctly your email marketing strategy.