Are you making the most of email marketing for your business?

Even with the continuing rise of social media, email is still the most effective way to reach audiences – and not by a small margin.

There are more than three times as many email accounts as Facebook and Twitter accounts combined. The chance of converting through email is also higher, and email marketing has greater ROI than any other marketing channel, making it a cost-effective promotional strategy.

For these reasons and more, you're probably already using email to keep customers or clients informed of your latest offers and to generate repeat business. What many companies struggle with is building a strong email list to reach more of their target audience and turn them into loyal customers.

What is email marketing? Email marketing is one of the oldest forms of online advertising, but one that's never lost relevance. Most businesses use email in some form to connect with potential customers or clients, turn them into leads and maintain the relationship. Email can be used to:

  • keep people informed about your brand
  • advertise new promotions, products and services
  • offer discounts to entice customers to return
  • share other valuable information your audience will be interested in

Effective email marketing is not spam. Indiscriminate advertising to random email addresses or a third-party list will get you a low conversion rate and a lot of negative feedback for your brand. Good email advertising uses personalized messages targeted at the people who are most likely to be interested.

Why use email marketing?

Email is more widely used than social media or other communication channels. To get an idea of email's value as a marketing tool, here are a few statistics:

  • 3.7 billion people use email in 2019, expected to reach 4.1 billion by 2021 (Statista)
  • 95% of people think email newsletters from recognized brands are useful (Salesforce)
  • 91% of consumers say they want to receive emails from their preferred brands (Sleeknote)
  • 86% of professionals prefer to use email for business over other channels (HubSpot)
  • The average ROI for email marketing is $44 for every $1 spent (Campaign Monitor)

With an email list, you can communicate directly with more people than in any other marketing channel. With the right messages, your emails will be received positively and lead to sales, enquiries and other actions.

The comparatively low cost of email marketing and easily-tracked ROI also make it an appealing addition to any brand's marketing mix. The tricky part is building a subscriber list from scratch.

Getting started with email advertising

If you're starting out with email marketing for the first time, it's recommended that you put the infrastructure in place before you set about building your list. This way, you'll have something to send to your subscribers, a website for them to visit and a platform where you can manage your mail efficiently.

1. Think about your marketing goals

Like any business activity, you should have clear objectives in mind from email advertising before you begin. Depending on your business, this could be:

  • more subscribers following your brand
  • increased sales
  • new clients
  • more patients through the door
  • more attendees at your event

Setting clear goals in line with your larger business goals will make it easier to plan relevant campaigns, know who these should be targeting and measure their success.

2. Know who you're targeting

If you haven't already done market research, this is essential to know who your target audience/s are. Knowing how many different types of buyers or clients you're targeting will help you to create more personalized emails that are more likely to be opened and interacted with.

Most companies have more than one type of customer. Creating personas to represent each of these demographics can make it easier to write copy and design templates that will convert. Depending on your business, some of the important information to include could be:

  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Relationship status
  • Income
  • Job title
  • Education
  • Consumer habits
  • Hobbies/interests
  • Motivations
  • Pain points
  • Social networks

3. Choose an email marketing platform

If you're aiming for a large email list, handling all of those emails manually can be time-consuming and take a lot of organization. That's why most companies sign up with an email service with built-in tools that make it easier to compose, automate and track emails.

Some of the major platforms include:

  • MailChimp
  • GetResponse
  • SparkPost
  • Infusionsoft

Compare features and price plans to find an email service that fits your business.

Building your email list

When you know who your audience/s are and what you want them to do, it's time to start compiling your contact list. There are lots of different ways to gather email addresses, some of which will be more relevant to your business than others. The five most common methods are outlined below.

1. Existing contacts

If you already have a list of customers, clients, patients or other contacts from previous transactions, consider whether you want to include these people in your email marketing campaign on a case by case basis.

It might not be appropriate to include everyone you've emailed in your new email list, and you might not have permission to do so. Some older addresses might also no longer be in use.

Your email management tool should give you the option to upload a contact list from a file or to sync with your CRM software, saving time over manually entering contact details.

2. Website form

Add sign-up buttons or pop-ups to your website to encourage people visiting your pages to subscribe to your newsletter. These should take them to a form where they can fill in the details you need and sign up.

Make sure you give them a good reason to do so, whether it's to stay informed about new releases or the prospect of receiving discounts and other offers. (More about incentives later).

3. Social media

Social media marketing can drive email marketing. If you already have established accounts for your business on Facebook, Instagram and other social networks, share the link to your website form so people can follow you in their inboxes too.

You can expand beyond your existing followers by using relevant hashtags to attract audiences on platforms such as Twitter and posting links in relevant groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. Since these audiences may be new to your business, you might need to offer more of an incentive for signing up.

4. Content marketing

If you're already creating blog posts and other content to guide audiences to your website, content marketing can also be employed to grow your email list. At the end of an article covering a relevant topic, include a link or button inviting readers to sign up to your newsletter so they can receive more updates and offers.

Following good SEO will get your content picked up by search engines, and quality content is more likely to be shared.

5. Paid ads

A more expensive but often faster way to grow your email list is to buy ads on platforms such as Google AdWords, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. PPC ads are highly targeted and will be shown to people in your specific demographics.

Should I buy an email list?

If you've seen email lists for sale or rent, with thousands of addresses ready to go, you might be tempted to purchase one to jumpstart your email marketing. There are many reasons why this is a bad idea, some of them readily obvious.

Third-party lists are not necessarily relevant for your business, even if they target similar demographics. The people on those lists did not opt in to receive emails from you, and may be justifiably annoyed if they do. This can harm your reputation.

What's more, if you're using an email management platform such as MailChimp, these can usually identify bought lists and penalize companies that use them. The more reliable option is to build and maintain your own list of subscribers by using the right messaging.

How to send emails that convert

Some people may sign up to your newsletter because they already know and like you, but most are going to take some persuading – both to sign up in the first place and to click through to your offers.

To achieve success with email marketing, your emails and your sign-up pages should be:

  • Attractive
  • Personal
  • Compelling
  • Easy to use

Attractive design

First impressions count in digital marketing, and this can be intimidating if you've never designed emails before. Inspect some of the newsletters you receive for inspiration, or sign up to see what your competitors are doing. Your email marketing program should include customizable templates to help you get started.

Like all online content, marketing emails are more successful when they contain images. The more information you can include within an image, the better – according to HubSpot, 65% of users prefer the emails they receive to be mostly images. Embedding a video in your email can increase click through rates by up to 300%, according to Forrester.

As well as thinking about style, you also need to make sure that your emails will display correctly on mobiles. According to Campaign Monitor:

  • At least 50% of emails are opened on mobile devices
  • Mobile users check their email 3 times more often than non-mobile users
  • Emails that aren't optimized for mobile are deleted within 3 seconds

Templates on email management platforms should be responsive by default, displaying clearly on all devices.

Personalized messages

If you know the recipient's first name, personalizing the email subject line can increase open rates by 41% (MarketingSherpa) and transactions by up to 6 times (Experian).

Even if you don't know people's names, keep your buyer personas in mind when creating graphics and content tailored to your different audience demographics.

You can also ask your subscribers how often they want to receive emails from you, to make sure you're not being annoying and are less likely to end up unsubscribed or in the spam folder. If you're sending emails once a week, people may be more likely to open emails on a Tuesday, according to Wordstream.

Compelling incentives

People don't share their email addresses unless there's a good reason to. Think about what email lists you've signed up for, any why you did it. These are just some of the reasons people join email lists:

  • Following a company
  • Links to high quality content, such as your latest blog posts or videos
  • Special offers, such as first order discounts
  • Exclusive freebies, such as free shipping, a free trial or free ebook

Different target audiences may be attracted by different incentives. If you're not sure which incentive to go with, A/B testing should show which messaging is most effective.

Make it easy to subscribe

Even if someone's tempted by your offer, this enthusiasm will wane if they can't see how to opt in to your email list or how to follow offers from emails to your website. You should make this as easy as possible by using calls to action that are big and obvious.

On your website, sign-in links can be included in the page header or sidebar, at the end of a blog post, or in pop-ups such as a slider or lightbox. These can be timed to appear when someone is about to leave your site or has reached a certain point on the page.

Create a matching landing page

For one final tip, you can give customers a smoother journey from your emails to your website by creating a dedicated landing page, or several versions of the page if you're targeting different audiences.

Use similar design and messaging to your email so they know they've landed in the right place, with links to other pages on your site where you want them to go next. This can avoid the disorientation that sometimes happens when subscribers click through to a website and are sent right to the homepage, where they may not see the specific item they were interested in.

Read more email marketing tips to boost subscriptions and get your campaigns off the ground. For more marketing tips and insights into growing your business online, follow the Limecube blog.