What is email marketing and how does it work?
Whether it’s Email Marketing South Africa or Email Marketing USA – the methods are all the same universally. Marketers globally are using the same “best practices” to grow their customer base using email as a channel.
I have been dreading writing about this topic for a long time now*. Why? There is so much to know – and there are so many articles that do a superb job on the subject already. So I decided to take the following approach:
The 101. A beginner’s Introduction – a.k.a the “Explain Email Marketing to your Grandma” approach.
(*Also, it’s been months since my last post “Always post fresh content”. Oh the irony.)
Email marketing is directly sending a commercial message, typically to a group of people, using email. In its broadest sense, every email sent to a potential or current customer could be considered email marketing. It usually involves using email to send ads, request business, or solicit sales or donations, and is meant to build loyalty, trust, or brand awareness. Email marketing can be done to either sold lists or a current customer database. Broadly, the term is usually used to refer to sending email messages with the purpose of enhancing the relationship of a merchant with its current or previous customers, to encourage customer loyalty and repeat business, acquiring new customers or convincing current customers to purchase something immediately, and adding advertisements to email messages sent by other companies to their customers.Wikipedia
The rise and rise of email (no it’s not dead or dying)
Email’s premature death has been hyped ad nauseum. This study puts it to rest once and for all, or at least until the Zombie Apocalypse. Right now, that’s about the only thing that can kill it. Ryan Phelan, VP of Marketing Insights, Adestra
With Facebook boasting over 1 billion active users and Twitter boasting 255 million, it’s tempting to believe that social media is the most effective way to reach the masses. These are impressive numbers, but what isn’t so frequently shared are the statistics on email usage. The total number of worldwide email accounts was 3.9 billion in 2013, and projected to reach 4.9 billion by 2017, according to Radicati.Campaign Monitor
What Did Consumers Say? Below are two highlights from our extensive survey. 1. Teens use email. A few years ago, it was widely speculated that email would die out because teens didn’t use it that’s not happening. Teens are active email users for specific kinds of messages … and not just because their parents set up their accounts for them. 2. Email is the preferred communication channel for communicating with brands and companies. All age groups see email as a part of everyday life. And these consumers are in their inboxes all day long, especially when they’re bored. 2016 Adestra Consumer Adoption & Usage Study
The psychology of the inbox
One of the most important things you need to understand about email is how personal it is. if one could measure the scale of “personal” communication, compared with other channels of communication, I think you’d agree that email is considered by most as their most personal channel. It’s one step away from a phone call and two steps away from a face-to-face.
Not everybody has just one email address, I have more than one: A business email, a personal email, and another I use for signing up to various newsletters – it’s a strategy I’ve been using for years and helps me to organise my inboxes into some semblance of order and importance. Some marketers are very privileged to have my personal email address on their marketing list (just sayin’).
This is why getting an email address, no matter if it’s a business email or a personal email, is so darned valuable to a marketer.
But there are levels of permissions you as a marketer have to consider. My focus in this article is primarily about being invited into a prospective customer’s inbox.
How to get permission to send email (aka “Opt In”)
Nobody gives away a business card to another person unless there’s relevance. Why give your business details to a person who has no use nor interest in what you’re offering? That’s just ludicrous and counter-productive.
There has to be some sort of interest involved. Some level of relevance. Only then would you hand over your contact details.
The same is true for email. For example, here at Fractal Marketing, we’ve just released some online training courses, one of which is “List Building Catapult” – a course that teaches the basics of how to build a list, how to set up landing pages and autoresponders.
We had no list to sell to. Our current clients are not prospects since they already have this set up as a “done-for-you” service.
Solution: Give Stuff Away for FREE! So we decided to offer a Free eBook – “Email Marketing Made Easy” in exchange for a prospect’s email address.
We took our offer to Facebook with a leads campaign, put some money behind the campaign and waited for the first leads to trickle in. And they did.
We now have an email list that people have self-subscribed to. These subscribers signed up using the lead offer as seen above and were led through a process known as “opt in”. In other words, they filled in their details, and the autoresponder (in our case Aweber) sent them a “permission” notification. Once they clicked on the link Aweber automation provided, they explicity gave their permission for Fractal Marketing to communicate with them directly via their inbox.
The Free eBook download link was then sent to their inbox.
Who joined? People who are interested in Email Marketing. Which List did I put them in? The Email Marketing List. Will I send them tons of email relating to photography? Nope. It’s not why they signed up and parted with their email address. Relevance.
How much is an email address worth?
Well that is always the million dollar question. Perhaps a case study will shed some light:
Over Christmas we ran an email campaign to an opted in list for one of our retail clients. It was a simple FREE GIFT with purchase (buy one get one free). The campaign had 9 different offers that ran consecutively over two weeks. 9 FLASH SALES by any other name.
Each offer had only one email communication to announce the offer and to emphasise that the window for purchase was only 2 days (the bundled product was pulled from the online store and no longer available).
Bear in mind that this client is still new to the world of online retail, and everything we do to get the marketing engine turning faster takes time – in our case we were working with an original cold-ish inherited list and a new lead list we are growing (more on that later).
Total list size: 1025
Online Sales for December: R30 000
Sure it’s a small list. Of course the turnover is miniscule compared with other retailers. But the point is clear. You don’t need a big list to create online sales. But imagine if the list was double the size? Triple?
Obviously, not all the email subscribers on the list bought items over the campaign period. It was a handful. Let’s say 5. For high ticket items that sounds about right.
So, to answer the question, if 5 buyers turned over R30k, from a list of a 1000 odd, then a name on the list is worth R6k.
The cost of acquiring an email subscriber
There are a few ways to get email subscribers. But really there are only two. The slow way, and the fast way.
The slow way: Organic Traffic from your website. The mechanics are simple enough. Hope that visitors are blown away by your offering, your services, your product that they will sign up to your email list. Sure this does work. And is all you need if you’re not selling stuff. But let’s face facts, if you have a website you’re probably selling services or products.
The fast way: Spend money. Find a reason for new subscribers to opt in to your list. It may be a discount voucher, a FREE eBook, whitepaper, report… make it valuable to the potential customer. Then take that offer to Facebook. We spent about R1000 on facebook ads for our client using a R300 discount voucher offer. The campaign resulted in 258 new leads. Cost to acquire a new lead = R3,87. Chump change.
To keep it simple, I have not included the overhead in creating the offer such as the discount amount or any other cost relating to time and effort.
How to set up an evergreen email marketing Campaign
This is a glossary – for in-depth training visit the List Building Online Course
An “evergreen” campaign is a base that lives in perpetuity for as long as your site is live.
1. Choose your email automation vendor. The two I highly recommend, especially for retail and marketers are Aweber or GetResponse. The other is Mailchimp (but for various technical reasons relating to marketing needs I don’t recommend this channel).
2. Set up a subscriber optin form on your website. Connect the form to a list you create on Aweber or GetResponse. This form can be placed anywhere – but the most common place is the footer at the bottom of your site.
3. Link the form to the list (which you assign on the vendor site – you can have as many lists as you like).
4. Write an autoresponse series of emails – a welcome email that introduces your company and how it can help them. You can break this process into two or more emails if you want and send the emails automatically over a period of days.
5. Wait for subscribers to be blown away by your content on the site and then self-subscribe to your list. File under “The Slow Way”.
For faster results to growing your list:
1. Create an offer. Free download. Discount voucher. Whatever it is, it must be valuable enough to your potential customer for them to want to barter their email address.
2. Create another list on Aweber (not always necessary – but if your offer is specific to only one of your many services, then it’s reason enough to create a new list).
3. Create a special page on your site outlining the offer and place the optin form on that page.
4. Link the form to your list on Aweber.
5. Write the email and provide the download link for the item you’re giving away or providing the information the subscriber wants in response to subscribing.
6. Create a facebook ad advertising your offer and link that post to your special page.
7. Press the go button.
8. Watch your subscriber base grow.
9. Rinse and repeat.
Buying email lists or using someone else’s list
Here’s why this will not work for you in most cases. Unless you’re joint venturing with another brand or personality that has commonality with your brand, this tactic almost always ends in pain.
1. Permission to communicate. This is the biggie. Let’s say you have been offered a list. You have no way of knowing how that list was acquired or even if those addresses are valid. But even if you have knowledge that the list is “clean”, and you send emails to that list, they will probably be flagged as spam by the recipient’s inbox. All your effort (and cost) down the drain.
2. You are a stranger and a buttinsky. Even if by some miracle your “unsolicited” email finds its way into the all-important inbox, you will be an unwelcome stranger. A foot-in-the-door salesman selling stuff they probably aren’t looking for. That’s not who you are. But that’s how you’ll be perceived – perhaps for ever. Brand damaged. Prospect gone. And that’s a lot more expensive to fix than acquiring your leads the right way.
3. Don’t do it. Just don’t.
4. BUT, as is sometimes the case, you partner, or joint venture with an affiliate, and they promote your product or service to their list, this is entirely a different matter. The point is, it’s their list, not yours. You want and need your own list.
How often to communicate with your list
This is a difficult one for clients. I find they always err on the side of sending less emails rather than more. From a marketing perspective, we refer to a list as either hot or cold. It’s the difference between a close friend and a distant cousin that only sends christmas cards.
I understand that you don’t want to only send emails when you want somebody to buy stuff. That strategy is bound to backfire. I’m sure you’ll agree.
The analogy of a close friend is apt. A close friend is privy to all kinds of conversations, from silly banter to in-depth conversations – they know almost every detail of your life. Sometimes you talk business, other times you gossip… the point is there is a variety of conversation.
The same is true of your subscribers. Send them news. Send them cuteness. Send them sales pitches. But whatever you do, send them regularly. Keep your list warm and close.
Selling to a cold list is hard and unrewarding.
If you have a blog, post regularly and send them email to tell them about your latest post.
If you’re happy to share your personal life, a short note of something good that’s happened is also welcome and encouraged.
Stories are incredibly powerful. Use story-telling regularly. Stories about production, stories about customer satisfaction… keep it light. But tell stories when there’s nothing else to tell. You’ll be surprised at how receptive people are to story-telling.
Focus on them. Keep them in mind. Say thank you a lot – for their support, for their just being there.
Keep the ratio in balance – say “hi” more than you say “buy”.
There’s more than enough reason to pick up the phone to your best friend and say “hi” more than once every six months. The same is true of your list.
Email Marketing can be very powerful when you treat it as your “friend list”. When used purely to broadcast every now and then with a sales pitch, well, then it’s going to be tough down the road. It’s what I call the transactional communication – “gimme your email address and I’ll sell stuff to you”.
Very unrewarding for both you and them in the long run.
Email Marketing when used with proper focus, can be a marketer’s biggest ally. Compared with other channels – Social, Website – email should be considered the “inner circle”. These are people closest to you. They should always get the best news first. The warmest email list responds the quickest to messages (and converts to sales much faster). The coldest list will ignore you flat.
An Email Autoresponder : Aweber or GetResponse
Zapier : You’ll need this app service if you’re running a Facebook Leads campaign (it connects your Aweber account to Facebook).
Need Help with setting it all up?
Call me. Or send me a mail. I’d be happy to help. (for a fee of course).