Email Is Still Relevant! Are You Getting the Most from Your Email Marketing?

by Margot Carmichael Lester, Staples® Contributing Writer

In an era of mobile this and social media that, it’s easy to think that email — the original online marketing channel — is becoming ineffective. But giving the inbox short shrift is short sighted. After all, approximately 182 billion emails are sent every day, according to The Radicati Group. Clearly, your customers spend tons of time reading their email, so it only makes sense to put your message where their eyes already are.

That’s why, in a June 2014 poll by Internet Retailer, almost 40 percent of respondents said email marketing was their most important investment. Even more compelling: 90 percent indicated that email produces “a positive return” on investment.

Here are some key considerations to help you get the most from effective small business email marketing:

1.    Know Why You’re Emailing: Retention, engagement and revenue generation are the three most popular reasons business owners use email marketing. “Pick the one or two things you want to focus on first,” says Christopher Lester (no relation to the author), vice president of sales for email marketing company Emma in Nashville, TN. “Instead of a monthly newsletter, spend time creating an incredible three-piece welcome series. Do email marketing, but do it right.”

2.    Leverage Existing Relationships: Email marketing is most effective when you use it to stay engaged with customers and clients you already know who have opted in to receive emails, according to Robbin Block, creative marketing strategist with Block Media & Marketing in Seattle, WA. “That means they're interested in hearing from you, no matter what the delivery mechanism,” says Block. “Take the time to build a solid list. There are many ways to do that: sign-ups, purchases, registrations, networking, phone calls, trade shows, etc. Otherwise, it’s spam.”

3.    Make It Work on Mobile: Data from the Knotice Mobile Email Opens Report show that in 2013, 45 percent of emails were opened on a mobile device, usually a phone. “Marketers that aren’t making sure their email sends are optimized for mobile are really missing out,” says Carrie Hill, co-founder of Ignitor Digital in Glenwood Springs, CO. “One study suggested that mobile email will account for 15 to 70 percent of email opens, depending on your target audience, product and type of email. Email and mobile are a match made in heaven.”

4.    Personalize It: Use an email marketing service that enables you to add a person’s name to the message, because this kind of personalization makes it more effective. When recipients feel the message is targeted at them, “they’re more likely to engage with the message and click through,” Hill says. Take it a step further by gathering information like birthdays and anniversaries, so you can reach out on those days with a special message. “This is a great way to remind your customers you care about them in their day-to-day lives,” she adds. “I have local REALTOR® clients who watch home-sale transactions and try to gather email addresses of new homeowners via opt-in to market local home improvement products and services to them.”

5.    Make and Keep a Schedule: “The biggest mistakes small businesses make are not sticking to a consistent schedule and failing to measure the results of each campaign and apply those learnings to the next one,” says Abigail Stock, founder and chief digital strategist with New York City–based Little Digital Co. “An easy way to ensure you hit send on time — every time — is to create a content calendar and plan ahead for what you want to say to whom and when. A simple spreadsheet will do. If you have some extra time, get two or three emails done in advance and schedule them to go out ahead of time. That way, you don’t have the excuse of being too busy in the future.” Don’t forget to add time to review and analyze each email’s performance, too.

These small business email marketing tips apply whether you’re using email to send a newsletter, a welcome message or deals and surveys.

“Email marketing isn’t a silver bullet — no marketing channel is — but it is one of the best tools in your marketing toolbox,” Lester declares. “I think we’re past the point of convincing people to try email marketing. It’s not even an option anymore. Everyone is being marketed to via email.”

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