One of the great things about email marketing is that you really can do it yourself, and for FREE! Over the past few months we have been working a lot with MailChimp – the great, free, online email marketing tool. As well as delivering workshops and masterclasses, we also offer services to individual clients who decide their in-house email marketing will benefit from a little bit of professional support. Two areas where clients find our help particularly useful are:
Getting started in the first place
Making sure their email marketing is sustained in the longer term
Longer term planning, support and implementation of a joined-up marketing approach is at the heart of BSA Marketing’s business but for some clients they are just looking for some assistance to get their email marketing ball rolling. A key stumbling block can be creating an email template to match their website, company colours, fonts, logos etc that doesn’t ‘fall to bits’ when they try and add varying message content. This balance between flexibility and consistency can sometimes cause projects to fail almost before they start. Ideally, you want to be able to easily change the content of your email for each issue, but be sure that you maintain structured branding and professionalism. If you are hiring someone (like us) to manage your marketing and email on a full-service basis, this is not too much of a concern, but if you are taking the DIY route, it can be a problem. A great solution can be bespoke email templates. We can design a completely bespoke template which ties down overall layout and style but allows content words and images to be edited easily. If you are using a system like MailChimp, which allows for highly structured templates with editable areas, we can develop a template that can be imported directly into your MailChimp account ready for you to easily adapt from issue to issue without the fear of upsetting the layout. Taking this approach does place restrictions on the format & length of your content, but the payoff is that putting your newsletters together month by month is much simplified. If you take our recommended approach of holding most of your marketing content on your website and then linking from an introduction on your email newsletter through to your website, having only limited space on your email isn’t a problem and ensure you keep your emails short which is definitely appreciated by readers! To find out more about bespoke email templates, give us a call.
The theme at the moment seems to be ensuring that your messages are targeted and relevant, and in order to achieve this you need to know as much about your market as possible. Historically conducting customer surveys has been expensive and time consuming, but do them on-line and the picture is very different. An online survey can be set up quickly, and because all the data is being submitted electronically by the respondents, data capture and analysis costs are either eliminated or reduced significantly. There are a number of free tools for carrying out online surveys including a great online tool – Survey Monkey, which allows you to conduct surveys either embedded in your website or as a stand alone questionnaire linked to an email. If your site is in WordPress things are even more straightforward, as surveys can be easily embedded into your site. An example of this can be found here in a survey we carried out earlier in the year. So whether you are just interested to know more about your market or need to gather customer feedback as part of ISO accreditations, online surveys are definitely the way to go. If you would like to discuss how on-line surveys may benefit your business, get in touch.
This may prove to be a bit contentious. Most professional B2B* email marketers (and certainly most businesses offering online email marketing tools) are fixated about the quality of contact lists and the qualification of targets you are, or are not, allowed to send your emails to. In principle, if you already have an active, current relationship with a contact who has specifically opted-in to you sending marketing messages by email then they will be happy. But isn’t marketing about ‘Spreading the word’, getting your message to a wider audience to inform and enlighten? Aren’t this paragraph and the last one at odds with one another? In fact, I would suggest that email marketing system providers set these somewhat draconian rules in order to address their real issue; They don’t want to be flagged as spammers, or even emailers with a less than professional standing. This is entirely understandable. If emails sent through their systems generate excessive unsubscribe rates or, even worse, actual complaints from recipients then clearly reputations are going to be tarnished and their whole business put in jeopardy. These outcomes must be avoided. But if you send a marketing message to someone who is going to be less than happy to receive it then it isn’t going to do your business reputation much good either. Sending an irrelevant message to someone even if they are opted-in isn’t terribly helpful! However, I would suggest that rather than concentrating on active opt-in as a priority focussing on only sending relevant messages to a well targeted audience is by far the best approach – and it works! Here is a case study demonstrating the point *Official Regulations (as opposed to the rules of individual email marketing services) are more flexible for B2B email marketing than for B2C. Much of what I say above has most application to B2B marketing. If you are targeting consumers then working with properly ‘opted-in’ target contact lists is the only practical way to proceed. However, the principles of Targeting and Relevance are universal. It is always important to ensure that you are not in breach of official regulations.
There is a website on the internet that sells bulk emailing lists. One of their offerings is a list of Architects email addresses – 21000 unique addresses for less than £500! By way of comparison another site will rent you a list of 12000 architects email addresses for £3000. Just goes to show how wide open the email marketing lists sector is! An established BSA client approached us with the £500 list of 21000 records wanting to run a campaign. Our initial response was sceptical. We all know about bought-in email lists (particularly big lists with relatively small prices). They should be avoided! or should they? We thought we’d investigate further. Using our experience, it was clear that parts of the list were wholly inappropriate for properly targeted email marketing and we quickly excluded these but we were left with a list of around 10,000 – still a substantial list – that, on the face of it, looked reasonable – but still we weren’t satisfied. We undertook some further research to a sample of the data to check it out and the results were positive. We were happy that we now had a well targeted list of architects with suitably up to date data. Our client wished to make a specific, and highly relevant service offering to architects so it seemed we had a targeted audience and a relevant message.
Note: We recommend that an email marketing programme should focus on building your reputation rather than overt selling. This said, including suitable offers or promotions from time to time is both acceptable and sensible.
Still wanting to keep things under control, we ran the email marketing campaign in batches to our refined list. I think the results speak for themselves:
Over 2100 opened emails
Bounce Rate: Less than 8%
Unsubscribe Rate: Less than 1%
NO negative feedback
And 18 solid business enquiries. If you make sure your email marketing is well targeted and relevant – it works.
On the back of our post on the Nudge Effect, we thought it would be worth taking a brief look at subject lines, as these are arguably one of the most important elements of an email. We have therefore come up with 5 tips for killer subject lines: 1. Find out who’s opening your emails on what devices The rule of thumb we have tended to use is, subject lines should get the message across in the first 60 characters. However as the diversity of devices increases, optimum length for subject lines becomes more complex. You could have more than 60 characters if your readers are using big widescreen monitors, or significantly less if people are opening them on smartphones. To be sure that your subjects are the right length you need to know your readers. If you can get this data from your email system then great. But if you can’t, analysis of your website visitors will give you some good pointers, especially if you focus on visits coming from email click throughs (Google Analytics will give you this data). 2. Use a spell checker It might sound obvious but so many marketers fail to check this most basic requirement. It is so easy to thoroughly proof read the content only to miss the glaring typo in the subject line. And remember, email system spellcheckers often don’t include the subject line by default! 3. Make sure it is spam free To ensure your subject line is spam filter friendly, make sure you avoid the use of capital letters and exclamation marks. There’s no one word that will get your message filtered out, but the most important thing is to just make sure your email doesn’t look like spam, and be sure to test it through the main spam filters before sending. 4. Think like your readers Put yourself in the position of one of your readers. When you write your subject line think to yourself “if I were to see this subject line would it make me want to open it and find out more?” 5. Seek inspiration from the emails you receive If you are like me you will receive quite a few marketing emails in your inbox. Also, why not sign up to a few of your competitors’ email newsletters and those of other organisations relevant to what you do (especially those who you think are good at marketing). See what they do and take inspiration from the best! Lastly, remember the nudge effect. The effort you put into your subject lines will not be wasted.
In most people’s eyes, email is a direct response medium. But in our view it is much more than that! Yes the open and click statistics are an essential measure of whether or not your message is getting through and is seen as relevant by your market, but if you only consider these results, I believe that you are not considering the whole picture. We have always advocated that email is most effective when used as part of a joined-up marketing approach. In this context even the unopened emails can have a valuable marketing impact, ‘The Nudge Effect’. This is the indirect impact that the email will have even on those who do not realise it. Even if it is not opened the mere fact that they are receiving emails from you on a regular basis, and seeing your company name and subject line in their inbox, will remind them that you exist. And hopefully (if your subject lines are effective) keep your offer in mind should they need you. You can read more about the Nudge effect here. We will be looking in more detail at the branding impact of marketing emails (over and above the direct responses) in future posts.