Email marketing involves sending messages about your business to a database of contacts via email.
Email messages could be sales messages, offers, advice, news, blogs or events. The objective of the emails could be to increase sales, improve engagement with your business or brand, or to convert prospects into customers.
The benefits of marketing via email
One of the main benefits of email marketing is that you hold your own database and can contact the people on it when you want, without having to pay or go through a third party, like a social media channel, where your messages can get lost or their appearance can depend on the site’s algorithm. If Facebook were to end tomorrow, you’d lose touch with the people that liked your page, but your email list will always exist (bar people opting-out or moving away from using email as a channel over time). Email marketing is one of the quickest and cheapest marketing channels to use, but it requires some effort if you’re to do it well and you want to get good results.
How to start email marketing
First, you’ll need to decide what tool you’ll use to securely store and manage your database, and to send and track emails.
MailChimp is one of the most popular free email service providers but many others exist like Drip, dotmailer and Constant Contact. You should take a look at the features and usability of each, have a trial, and decide which one best suits your requirements.
You’ll need a process in place to capture data – the easiest way to do this is by connecting your email provider directly to your website with a sign-up form and you can also capture data offline with a form. Just make sure that the way you gain and use any data is GDPR compliant. This includes storing it securely, knowing which of the ‘six lawful bases’ apply to your holding of the data, having written consent that the owner of the data has opted-in for you to have and use it, and having a clear opt-out process.
Don’t worry if your database starts very small. It’s better to have a clean database of people that really want to hear from you than a large one where nobody opens your emails. A smaller database also makes it easier for you to curate the best content for your emails for the audience.
What should you send in your email marketing?
It’s a good idea to let people know what sort of things you’ll be sending them before they sign up – as an incentive and so they know what to expect. People’s lives and inboxes are busy places so you need your emails to stand out. Firstly make sure the content of the email looks great and is of some value to the receiver, then make sure you also have an eye-catching subject line. The ‘value’ could be created by:
- offering them something that they want – a product, discount or invite
- making them laugh
- giving them something they want to share
- increasing their knowledge
What your email looks like and what goes in it will very much depend on your target market – who is on your database and what do they want to know about that relates to your business? Put yourself in their shoes, the more desirable your content is to them, the more positive the association with your business and the more likely they are to tell other people about you.
Create an email marketing calendar to plan and organise the content and the send dates of your emails. You might use national, seasonal or local events for inspiration. Decide how frequently you will send your emails which will depend on how often your target market wants to receive them and also what is realistic for you in terms of the time you need to put each one together. Tools like Canva (for design) and Unsplash (for stock free imagery) can really help make your emails look interesting and professional.
How to know if it’s working?
Your email service provider, e.g. MailChimp, will give you access to lots of stats for free. You can see what percentage of people opened your email, clicked on links within the email, and even exactly who did it and how many times.
You can also use functionality called ‘split testing’ (also known as ‘A/B testing’) which lets you trial changing one thing on your email (for example your subject line) and sending one variation to half of your database and the other to the other half to see which one gets better results. By spending some time studying the analytics you can optimise what you send, to who, and when you send it.
Sophie Cross is a freelance writer and marketer specialising in business and travel. She is the editor for London Revealed magazine and her clients include lastminute.com Group and Merlin Entertainments.