19 November 2009

Five ways to get the most out of email marketing

Submitted by Carla
{pp}Email marketing is one of the oldest yet most effective ways of marketing directly online. Direct marketing has always held its place in the marketing mix, but prohibitively high costs posed a barrier for entry to many advertisers. Email has provided a far more cost-effective way to reach customers at their most common point of contact with the Internet: their inbox.
Besides the benefit of lower costs, email marketing is also a lot more effective than traditional direct marketing mailers. You’re able to segment your customers, easily personalise emails, measure key metrics and, of course, use email as a tool for effective customer relationship management.

Emails as a communication tool between yourself and your potential customers can take several forms. First, you can use emails for promotional purposes to bring attention to specific a sale, event or product. Secondly, you can use newsletters to keep in touch with your customers, and ensure that they are in contact with the brand. Finally, emails can also be used to keep customers informed about the progress of an order or their transaction process.

What follows are five tips to get the most out of your email marketing initiatives.

Get permission
Permission-based emails are by far the most effective way of communicating with your current and potential customers. Whether you are adding subscribers yourself, or they are adding themselves, make sure that it is clear to them that they are giving you permission to email them.

If you do not gain permission, or make it clear that someone is subscribing to an email list, you are probably spamming. Some countries have laws prohibiting the transmission of unsolicited mail.

If you gain permission, you know that the person you are emailing probably wants to hear about your product or service and you will be able to maintain a much “cleaner” and well-structured email database.

Segment your subscribers
To effectively implement customer relationship management and increase conversions, it’s important to segment your readership. You can segment along many lines – gender, location, language, interests, age and so forth, depending on what data you have been able to capture about your readers.

Segmentation allows you to communicate on a more personal level with your subscribers about topics or products that may interest them specifically. People regard emails which are frequently of no interest to them as spam, and if you don’t appeal to individual readers, you may find that more and more of them drag your mailer to the trash before they even open it.

Make sure it’s relevant
Part of the role of segmentation can be to ensure that your email is as relevant to the individual reader as possible. This means targeting things like specific interests and activities and a person’s location. Always aim to meet subscriber’s expectations of your email campaign. One way to give an impression of relevance is by personalising emails, because if they are addressed by their first name, subscribers already feel like they have a relationship with you.

Consider the local context
Part of engaging with your readers is to speak to them using language that they understand. Whether you are trying to drive sales, encourage sign-ups or just update your customers about what’s going on with your company or brand, it’s very important to consider the recipients’ local context.

This includes things like content (images and text), language or dialects, currency and even things like seasons. Subtle nuances like this may go unnoticed if they are correct, but will certainly put a big gap between you and your customer if there are inconsistencies or inaccuracies. Emails in which the local context has been taken into account will immediately seem more credible to the recipient.

Timing and frequency
Finally, it’s important to consider both the timing and the frequency of your emails. When it comes to timing – it’s generally a best practice to send the email at the same time of the day, and on the same day of the week with regularity, so that your recipients know when to expect email from you. Also, logic dictates that it’s best not to send emails first thing on a Monday or on a Friday afternoon as these are times when “peripheral” emails are most likely to be ignored.

When it comes to frequency – think carefully about how often you need to be contacting your customers. Too little communication and they may lose interest, too much and you might find yourself being categorised as a spammer.
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