Beyond Promotions: 7 Email Marketing Tips & Techniques That Build Business

by Margot Carmichael Lester, Staples® Contributing Writer

Email is a reliable marketing channel, but your communications can get stale very quickly if you’re only sending the same kinds of promotional messages over and over. Customers will become trained to overlook your emails if they know they’re just going to contain another 20 percent off or buy-one-get-one-free offer, and not much else.

On the other hand, if you send an email newsletter that includes engaging content, your customers will be more likely to open and click — and buy. And the good news is that creating a unique email marketing message doesn’t have to be a time-consuming process. Here are seven ideas for different types of email marketing techniques.

1. Make Them Feel Welcome: When customers opt in to receive your emails, send a thank-you/welcome note. This helps customers feel acknowledged and part of the club. If you’re using an email marketing service, you can set this up to go out automatically, saving you valuable time. “About 58 percent of companies greet new subscribers with an automated welcome email,” says Christopher Lester (no relation to the author), vice president of sales for Nashville-based email marketing company Emma. “They’re really easy to set up and have been shown to increase long-term brand engagement by 33 percent.”

Pro Tip: Write a welcome email that provides additional details on the products/services you offer and includes a useful tip or two. Extend the good feelings by sending a second “thanks for opting in” message that includes a coupon or discount offer.

2. Answer Customers’ Most Common Questions: Break through the clutter with information your customers need, suggests Abigail Stock, founder and chief digital strategist for Little Digital Co. in New York City. Collect frequently asked questions from customer emails, comment cards, online posts, in-person interactions and phone calls. Then craft a concise answer (experts suggest fewer than 300 words) to share via email and online.

Pro Tip: “Enable comments on the appropriate pages of your Web site, encourage questions on social media, and encourage the people in your office who answer the phone to note any substantial or common questions that clients and prospects ask during their discussion,” Stock says.

3. Provide Helpful Reminders: Reach out “at the moment at which a customer is most likely to buy,” says marketing strategist Robbin Block of Block Media & Marketing in Seattle, WA. For instance, when you know they need to replenish the products they buy from you, when it’s time for scheduled maintenance, or at seasonal points like tax time or holidays.

Pro Tip: Use your POS system or CRM software to track this information for each customer/client. Then create a stock email with the pertinent information so you can quickly send manually or automatically through your email service.

4. Showcase Your Company’s Latest Work, News and Awards: Sending occasional announcements of good news from your business reinforces customer confidence and drives valuable referrals. This is a great way to show prospective clients — and possible repeat customers — the quality of your work,” Stock explains. “It keeps your subscribers in the loop and helps keep you and your work top of mind.

Pro Tip: Avoid seeming self-congratulatory by limiting these emails to a small percentage of your overall total. Use quotes or article excerpts that tell the story so you don’t have to.

5. Observe a Special Occasion: Make your clients and customers feel special by taking note of the special occasions in their lives, such as birthdays or their first purchase from you. Of course, this requires you to gather and track this data, but it’s a low-effort way to create a big impact, according to Carrie Hill, co-founder of Ignitor Digital in Glenwood Springs, CO.

Pro Tip: Use a fun template for the occasions you decide to recognize so all you have to do is drop the name into the form, add the address and hit send. Most email service providers offer templates that allow you to add your logo, or you can engage a professional designer to create a custom look just for you.

6. Offer a discount or promotion. “Even if you’re not in retail, a special offer can go a long way in drumming up business,” Stock notes. “Use offers to encourage social sharing and referrals, provide a percentage off your regularly priced services, or offer a new client promotion for first-time customers.”

Pro Tip: Develop a list or calendar of “hooks” or timely triggers relevant to your business and that give you a reason to launch a promotion. “For example, a car wash might offer a discount for every customer who gets their car cleaned during National Car Care Month,” Stock says. The offer doesn’t even have to be a round number like 20 percent or 25 percent; consider offering 22 percent off on the 22nd of the month, for example. And make the offer in your email “exclusive” to subscribers, so people perceive an added value of being a part of your inner circle.

7. Meet the Team: Who are the people your customers and clients will come in contact with? Introduce customers to service associates, consultants, craftspeople or whoever else you’d like by asking them three quick questions and sharing the answers in an email. Be sure to include a photo so customers know who to look for when they come in to your store or establishment.

Pro Tip: Create a list of stock questions you can rotate through and pick a few to ask each person on staff. For example: Why does this person like working for the business? What is his/her favorite piece of advice for customers? What does this person like to do in his/her spare time?

Regardless of the form your email marketing takes, aim for engagement with different types of emails. “With technology and social channels, every member of your audience has an audience that has an audience, and so on,” Lester says. “Think about how you can create emails that people want to share. The number one reason that people share things in social spheres is they want to be a thought leader. It gives them credibility. So start by producing content or information that people will want to share with their audience. They’ll help you grow.”

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