Email proves an extremely efficient marketing channel when done well. It's very affordable and I believe that anyone can create successful campaigns when equipped with the right advice, which is why it's ideal for small business owners or solo-preuneurs.
Email gives you a chance to really engage with your audience, nurture your leads and ultimately turn them into customers. You can also automate all your campaigns, which means you won't need to spend hours each day working on them, giving you more time to devote to other areas of your business.
With over ten years' marketing experience under my belt, I've put together a simple step-by-step guide to setting up your first campaign.
Step 1. Build your list
Of course email is no good unless you have a group of people who have given their permission for you to contact them. So you'll need to start thinking about building a list.
By permission, I mean, they've willingly given you their email address. Just asking customers to enter their email address is often not enough to convince them to do so – they want to know 'what's in it for me?' so you need to provide what's called a value exchange (sometimes referred to as a lead magnet) such as a discount code, free pdf download, eBook or email series.
Also, tell them the kind of things that you will send them – for example, that as subscribers they'll be the first to hear about our new offers / ranges / releases.
In addition, emailing people who have not asked to be contacted are much less likely to turn into customers.
Step 2. Choose an email service provider (ESP)
Put simply, an ESP enables you to send out email marketing campaigns to a list of prospects. Most ESPs also provide a broad range of related services including the ability for you to create and build your subscriber list, customize your email templates, add personalization and dynamic content (content that's tailored to a particular audience), reporting and analysis.
To get you started, here are a small selection of ESPs that you might want to consider:
When choosing what provider is right for you, we recommend you start by thinking about how you plan to use email in your business, and what features you think that you will need to fulfil this.
If you're just starting out you don't need to overcomplicate things, so we've put together a handy check-list of the main things you should look for:
- Does the provider have a range of eye-catching templates to choose from? Plus, these days most people open emails on a mobile device so check that their templates are mobile friendly, ensuring that your emails will look awesome no matter what device they are viewed on.
- The ability to schedule your campaigns.
- Easy to understand tracking and reporting – you'll want to monitor how your emails are performing so make sure that your ESP offers an easy to navigate reporting dashboard so that you can quickly check your opens, clicks, bounces and unsubscribes.
- Support – There will be times when, no matter how easy their platform is to use, you will need a little help. Check that your ESP has a support team that you can contact day or night.
- Budget – Once you've shortlisted a few ESPs based on the points above, you'll now want to dig into their fees as you will need to ensure that the service fits into your budget. A lot of the providers will offer monthly plans based on the number of customers on your list.
- Delivery – It's no good spending precious time creating your campaigns only to find that they don't end up in the customer's inbox! Check that your chosen ESP has delivery rates of above 98%.
3. Create your email!
This is the exciting part where you get to be creative. And if you're not creative – don't worry, it's not an essential prerequisite for creating effective campaigns!
Here are a few best-practice tips that will help ensure your email doesn't end up in the trash!
- What's the objective? You firstly need to consider the objective (s) of the campaign – what is the email trying to achieve? And be specific. Also, think carefully about who you are talking to. Be sure to keep your customer front of mind when putting your email together and make sure that the content is benefits driven – the reader will want to know within seconds what is in it for them.
- Copy : Try and keep the copy concise and make use of bullet points to break it up a little. Think about what you want the recipient to do – what action you want them to take. Tip: Make it really obvious! Which leads on to …
- Call to action : Make the call to action stand out so it's impossible to miss. A colored button with text on that tells them exactly what to do (ie: Get a quote / Register here / Get your free eBook) should do the trick here. Remember, you can use more than one, in fact two to three buttons is recommended. But you can always test this in future.
- Subject line : Don't neglect the subject line! A lot of people treat the subject line as an after-thought, but it is a vital consideration as it is the thing that gets your email opened in the first place! Make it benefits lead and not too long. It should make your recipient feel like they're going to miss out if they don't open the email to see what's inside – they just can't help themselves, they need to open your email!
- Images : Can really bring your email to life and give it a polished and professional feel – but don't overuse them! Why? Although the email will look fantastic when images are enabled, a lot of email clients won't automatically enable images, or they won't load if there is a poor internet connection, so the customer could just see lots of blank boxes and your message will be lost. A pro tip is to append “alt tag” descriptions to your images so that even if the images are not displayed a text alternative will be shown to fill in the blank. For example, if you're showing an image of a product, pop the product name in as the alt tag.
- Logo : Make sure that your logo is at the top of the email, so that the customer instantly recognises who it's from, which means they are more likely to want to know what you've got to say.
- Personalization : At the very least you should be including the person's name in the email. You can also try including it in the subject line too (to find out the impact on your open rates you can always test this – ie send 50% out with no name in the subject line and 50% with the name and see which one performs better).
- Footer : You should always add a valid contact address at the end of your emails, usually in a 'footer' area, not in the main body of the email.
- Unsubscribe : You must give customers a chance to opt out of receiving further communications from you in every communication you send – and you need to act on it too. It's always worth familiarizing yourself with the data protection laws that apply in your country. In the UK, you need to comply with the Data Protection Act and in addition, for electronic communications including email, the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. For more information on PECR visit: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-pecr/what-are-pecr/
- Proof read : Or, the boring bit! Once you've written your email, go through it a few times and check for spelling mistakes, typos and grammatical errors. It can be helpful to show it to someone else too, as they'll often spot things that you missed.
- SEND ! Once you're happy with it, you can select who you want to send it to (or hit up your entire list) and press send!
Step 4. Measure success
After all that hard work, did anyone actually read your email?
When analizing your campaign, re-visit the original objectives of the campaign in order to determine what metrics you are going to use to gauge performance. Typically you'll always be interested in open rates and click throughs (how many people clicked the call to action), but you may also want to establish what the customer did once they'd clicked through – the onward journey. For example, if you were offering a free download of an eBook – how many clicks turned into successful downloads, if you were trying to get them to buy something – how many sales did you get off the back of that particular email campaign? You get the picture.
And finally …
Step 5: Test and Learn
As you get more confident and experienced in email as a marketing tool, you can then start to think about testing various elements such as subject lines, time of day, day of week, offer types (ie a percentage off vs a £ discount), length of email (short v long copy), images … The list goes on! Even a small increase in your open rates can have a powerful knock on impact on the success of your campaigns.
I hope you've found this guide useful and I wish you the best of luck with your first campaign!