How to Begin An Email Marketing Campaign

Image How to Begin An Email Marketing Campaign
By Vanessa Salvia
Email marketing is inexpensive, can help you reach your target audience almost instantly, and allows for a quick response time. Customers can visit your website within seconds of receiving an email in their inbox. Email builds a relationship between your customers and your company, and drives online sales like no other marketing tool.
Return on investment is high with email marketing. According to a report by Eroi.com, email marketers reaped $48.29 for every dollar spent on an email campaign. A timely, well-crafted email drives customers to return again and again to see what you have to offer, but YOU control when and how the customers receive communication from you. And when they’re ready to shop, your email will be in their inbox waiting to show them the way.

Companies that provide email services like Constant Contact, provide excellent tracking capabilities. These statistics allow you to learn a lot about your customers, and fine-tune the type of marketing that works for your customer base. And not to overlook another obvious benefit that email marketing is paperless, and better for the environment than direct mailers that end up in the trash.

This all sounds great, but how do you actually prepare to launch an email campaign? How do you gather contacts if you don’t have any, and what do you say to them once you’ve got some? The first thing to remember is that legislation requires your email marketing campaign to be permission-based, meaning that your contacts have chosen to receive emails from you. The only way for them to get on your list is to request to be added, so start by making it easy for them to make that request.

Step 1: Gather contacts

Begin gathering your customer’s full first and last name, and email address by adding a sign-up box to your website. Customers and visitors to your site can sign up to be informed of sales and special events, or receive email-only coupons, or other perks that may come along with receiving communication from you. If you have a brick-and-mortar store, place a sign-up sheet on the counter and take it with you to any events you attend.

It will take time to build your list organically, so have patience, and offer subscribers something of value to entice them. Perhaps your website has some exclusive features that only a subscriber can access. If you have more than one benefit, let them choose when they are signing up what they wish to receive from you. Encourage people to sign up by offering a prize drawing. Website incentives are not the only way to gather contacts; consider partnering with other websites that offer related goods or services. Just make it clear that your contacts are opting-in to receive further communication.

Buying a list is one way to speed up the process, but most email lists are poorly targeted and significantly add to the cost involved. Most bulk emails sent to lists end up in Spam folders, or deleted. The tried-and-true but slow approach to building your email campaign will pay off handsomely in the end, as your customers grow to trust you and become comfortable with the ongoing relationship.

Step 2: Pick a platform

Managing large volumes of email does require certain technology. There are many email service providers that help you create, send, track, and manage your email campaigns. Some of the leaders in email marketing solutions are Constant Contact, Vertical Response, and MailChimp. The costs and services vary, as some even support surveys and polls, so spend the time researching the services and support they offer and the tracking they provide. Unless you can design your own newsletter, choose a platform that offers you a choice of templates that can be easily modified to create the look you want.

Some important features to look for are:
• Option to deliver in HTML or text
• Ability to personalize messages by name or other element
• Ability to send auto-respond emails based on the action of the subscriber
• Track and automatically manage sends, bounces, unsubscribes, opens, clicks, forwards, and website registrations
• Track conversion data once they are on your website
• List segmentation based on individual attributes that you define
• WYSIWYG editing (allows you to use HTML coding without knowing HTML coding)

Step 3: Set your goal

Most likely, your goal is to strengthen your relationships with current or future customers. The best way to do that is to give your customers what they want. Most often, customers want to hear about money-saving promotions or product updates. If you’re unsure of what your customers want, try sending a couple of different emails and track the responses.

But first, determine, what your message is and how frequently you want that message delivered. How to craft an email, from the subject line to the final word of content, is an art form in itself. However, the more thought you put into how you want to represent your company and message, the better off you will be. When planning your ongoing campaign, think ahead. Plan out what you would say in at least four future newsletters, as that will help you keep up your momentum. The visual design of the newsletter is important, too. It should look professional and include some graphics, including your own company logo and colors, but be simple and uncluttered.

Step 4: Define your message

The basis for an effective email campaign is crafting an effective email. There are numerous resources available for tips on composing each element of an email, but the most important pieces are: the From name, the Subject, the Content, and the Close.

Aside from the subject of the email, the first thing a recipient is likely to look for is who the email is from. It should clearly be identifiable as coming from your company. Unless your personal name is well known, use your company name. Once you decide on the ‘From’ name, keep it consistent with each email.

Craft a relevant and short subject line, avoiding the use of punctuation that can often flag spam filters. You have a limited number of characters in which to be compelling, and it does take some creativity and practice to create  solid subject lines.

The content should have a call-to-action, encouraging the recipients to do something, such as click through to the website, sign up for an event, download a free trial, or print a coupon. Even with an informative newsletter, there should be an impetus to visit your website. The purpose is to persuade them, so presenting your message professionally (proper spelling, grammar, etc.) and without a hard-sell approach makes the difference.

The close contains your contact info and unsubscribe options. This is important to maintain the trust of your recipients and the legality of your campaign.

Step 5: Tracking

Once you send out the email, you can track it, meaning you can see how many people viewed it, how many clicked through to your site, and how many unsubscribed. Service providers like Constant Contact allow you to fine-tune your campaign, by developing a systematic, intelligent approach to what works in your marketing campaign. One of the great perks of online business today is that there are so many tools available to measure your success - no decision you make needs to be guesswork or left to chance.

Step 6: Enjoy growing your business as customers open your emails!

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