Today, email is one of the most popular methods of marketing. More and more businesses, small to large, are taking advantage of this convenient, cost effective communication tool to reach their markets. The lack of printing and mailing costs associated with traditional mailouts, plus the ease and speed at which email can be sent and responded to, makes it a great way to reach many customers cheaply and efficiently. But like other forms of marketing email campaigns needs to be well planned and effectively measured.
So what makes email marketing effective?
There are five factors that have a significant impact on the success of email marketing campaigns:
- Database – marketers should clean, segment and continually profile their databases;
- Relevancy – marketers should ensure their emails are relevant to the recipient, carefully prepare subject lines, email bodies and calls to action;
- Consent – marketers should make certain that their emails comply with the Spam Act;
- Segmentation – marketers should profile and segment their lists to target specific groups; and
- Measurement – marketers should measure and modify their email campaigns for better results.
And how is effectiveness measured?
The success of email marketing is generally measured by:
- Open rates – marketers should track how many emails are opened by recipients;
- Click-though rate – marketers should keep stats on clicks to specific links from emails; and
- Conversion rate – marketers should know what they ultimately want the recipient to do and be able to measure how many times their email produces the desired result.
Manage Your Database
A good customer database is one of your businesses most valuable assets. Developing your database also builds lists of contacts that can be used for other marketing programs.
Maintaining a clean and up-to-date database is essential. Current email addresses ensure your emails are sent to and received by the right person.
If you have sufficient information, customers can be segmented into groups based on demographics, psychographics or specific actions or behaviours, such as who clicked on which links. Groups can then be targeted with specific messages that appeal to them.
A properly managed database is more efficient and effective at producing results from email marketing.
The Spam Act 2003 set up a scheme for regulating commercial electronic messages. It applies to emails originating in Australia and messages originating overseas that are sent to Australia. Since the introduction of The Spam Act it is an offense to send emails to recipients without their consent.
The Australian Direct Marketing Association has created a Code of Practice to complement the Act.
There are three key steps a business should follow to comply:
- Only send commercial electronic messages with addressees’ consent;
- Include clear and accurate information about the person or business sending the message; and
- Include a functional unsubscribe facility in all messages.
The requirement of consent means that the onus is on businesses to collect subscriptions to email programs, which generally means giving potential customers a reason to subscribe. Incentives for new subscribers are common. Prizes, competitions and discounts can provide a hook, but make these offerings highly relevant to the intended audience. Businesses should also take every opportunity to encourage sign-ups by promoting their programs and directing customers to where they can subscribe, such as a website, telephone number or through their sales rep.
The most positive thing about marketing to subscribers is that it’s efficient and more effective. Customers tend to only subscribe to lists when the information is relevant and interesting to them and relevant emails get higher open, click-through and conversion rates.
Email can be used for just about any communication – newsletters, invitations, promotions, reminders and renewal notices. But, like all marketing, emails should always be tailored to the recipient. This means having content of value and an appealing style, after all different groups will have different interests and tastes, and using all the traditional elements of good marketing, such as good design, effective headings and images, to appropriately suit your audience. And don’t forget that a simple spelling mistake can create a very bad impression.
To increase relevancy, profile your customers, segment your database and select the most appropriate list accordingly. In some cases you may wish to design a single campaign with a variety of emails that appeal to different demographics but essentially communicate the same message.
Remember that the greater the rate of relevancy the higher the open rate and lower the unsubscribe rate.
Maximise Open Rate
A well designed subject line is critical to an email. It must capture recipients’ interest immediately. The first action people tend to take when they receive new emails is to glance over the subject line. If they deem it irrelevant or low priority they will either hit the delete button or move on, usually with the good intention of coming back later and by then its old news. Test different subject lines to compare results.
The best way to maximise open rates is by personalising the email, including recipients’ name in both the subject line and the message itself. A personalised subject line is attention grabbing, automatically increasing their perception of relevancy and inciting the curiosity required to open the email.
Timing your email is another important step. Research tells us that open rates tend to be highest on Tuesday and Wednesday for B2B and Weekends for B2C. Sending emails to business customers on Monday or early morning when inboxes are full and executives are highly focused on core responsibilities is setting your email campaign up for failure. Likewise, sending marketing emails to consumers early in the week when they are in professional mode isn’t smart either. Profile the behaviour of your target market and send emails when they are most likely to be in the right frame of mind for your message.
Increase Click-Through Rate
Click-through rate is another key performance indicator in email marketing. Emails should contain a number of links that keep the recipient engaged in the subject of the email or take them a step closer to the marketing objective. A click-through may call on the reader to visit a web page, download a document, reply to the email, forward the email, fill out a survey, submit an enquiry, or provide feedback.
Research has proven that the more links contained in an email, the better. E-mails with over 20 links tend to receive approximately double the clicks as those with less than 20. But placement and style of these links is also crucial. Links should be placed strategically throughout the email body, relevant to the topic in discussion, and use a strong and compelling call-to-action, such as a question, statement or instruction. Emphasise them by giving them their own line or spacing, or a different font style, size or colour.
Including links and contact details allows customers to go beyond reading your email and take actions that lead to conversions.
Boost Conversion Rate
Every marketing campaign has a clear objective, and the same should go for email. But because of the convenience, simplicity and cost-effectiveness of email, businesses can make the mistake of sending emails for the sake of sending emails.
Designing email campaigns involves having an intended outcome that benefits the business in some way. What do you want your customer to do and how will you get them to do it? Is the intention of the email to increase brand awareness, promote a product or service, get an order, stimulate a sales enquiry, update information, or provide after-sales service? Producing the desired result isn’t going to happen without guiding your customer to take that step. Stimulate their interest, make clear recommendations and include simple and easy call-to-actions. Then track the results and measure the conversion rate.
Email marketing can be used to enhance relationships with existing customers. Regular emails keep your business top of mind and can help build customer loyalty.
Email marketing can also be used to build your network, strengthen your market presence, position your business as the industry authority, or acquire new customers. A good campaign will attract subscribers and create a viral or ‘word of mouth’ effect.
The performance of your email marketing should be assessed to help you improve future campaigns. At its simplest this means tracking and recording the number of responses and the type of customer responding.
Beyond open rates, click-throughs and conversions, you could capture more detailed information, such as bounces, unsubscribe rates and emails forwarded. Individual campaigns can be compared against your averages as well as industry figures.
To determine why an email may have failed or succeeded, look at customer feedback, changes to style and content that may have affected performance, whether personalisation of emails was successful, and even compare your emails with those of your competitors.
Once the effectiveness of email marketing is analysed, a business is a big step closer to harnessing the real power of email.
For information regarding Exa’s email marketing solution, go to: http://www.exa.com.au/services/email-marketing