e-Commerce

Master Email Marketing and Boost Sales

Email Marketing

Email marketing is very cost-effective in comparison to other strategies such as print or online advertising, or direct mail. You can get a really good setup in place for much less than the cost of a single newspaper or magazine advert. In fact, you can send targeted emails to prospects and customers once or twice a week for perhaps two years for the cost of a half-page magazine advert.

According to Vero.com:

  • 49% of customers said they would like to receive promotional emails from their favourite retails brands on a weekly basis (Statista).
  • Nearly 80% of retail professionals indicate that email marketing is one of the greatest drivers of customer acquisition and retention (eMarketer).
  • For every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $44 (WordStream).

The latter point is important to notice because with this in mind the cost is negligible compared to the returns.

There are a number of things a business can do to get started with email marketing that are both low cost and effective. Here are the basics…

Use an ESP (Email Service Provider)
Use an ESP to manage email lists and campaigns. A good solution, such as MailChimp or CampaignMonitor will identify who has looked at your email/newsletter, providing you with leads to follow up. You’ll be able to automate follow-up emails to your campaigns, and they’ll have opt-out links included.

Importantly, they’ll also have the ability to send from multiple IP addresses, sometimes hundreds of them. They will have introduced these IP addresses to Internet Service Providers slowly, sending a few emails at first, gradually building up over weeks or months, the trust with ISPs, so that the IP addresses they use are accepted and not blacklisted.

This is the biggest problem if you decide to host some software on your local PC and send out five thousand emails at once. As soon as Google, or BT, or Yahoo sees multiple emails going though their system from the same IP address, they’ll cut it off and blacklist it. You’ll then find it difficult to email anybody successfully.

ESPs usually also offer the ability to integrate email capture forms with websites. They simplify the email marketing process and for businesses that are starting off, the costs are minimal. Many ESPs also offer one of the most valuable marketing tools that a business can have–the ability to create electronic surveys that will allow you to find out exactly what is your customer demographic–what age they are, what is the gender breakdown, what newspapers do they read, and what are they interested in? You can put surveys on your website and offer an incentive to customers to fill them in, or you can send surveys to your existing customer lists. The results of such surveys will help you to grow your business with knowledge, and increase your sales.

Create & Grow Organic Email Lists
Focus on growing your email databases organically. People can opt-in through an email capture form on your website. Give them something in return, such as a discount voucher, and you will easily build a strong marketing list. The time this takes depends on when you start using this strategy, and how big your customer database is. Use social media to promote the fact that people can subscribe to your mailing list. You don’t want to rush this. You probably have to have been in business for at least a year before you start your first successful email marketing campaign.

Now a warning!
Never purchase or rent email lists or databases. This is a waste of time and money. There is no way to know if the email addresses on the lists are real and it is highly unlikely that the people on the list you buy have opted-in to receive marketing emails. And these lists are sold to many businesses. Using such a list is likely to get you banned, not only from your email service provider but possibly from your internet service provider.

Build a List!
Instead, build and use your own list. You will get high conversion rates from subscribers who have opted-in to your database themselves, or from those who have already bought from you. All you have to do is mention in your website T&Cs that customers who purchase from you may receive occasional email special offers, which they can opt-out of at any time. Okay, that’s not strictly true. Legally, they should have opted-in to get your emails, when, for example, they sign-up on your website, or they purchase a product and they can click a box that says, “Ádd me to your mailing list for occasional special offers”, or similar. However, having sent multiple thousand of emails to customers who had simply purchased a product through one of my websites, and not deliberately signed in to receive emails, I’ve never had a single objection or complaint.

When a customer has bought from you, and they are satisfied, they already like you, and they are prime candidates for your offers. But don’t send out a discount offer to a customer who has bought exactly the same thing at full price, unless you are selling a consumable item, like a health supplement! Good list filtering is required. More about that later.

A good email marketing solution will also allow you to split your growing database into separate groups based on what you know about your customers through your surveys or their previous buying habits. For example, you should be able to organise your lists by age, interests and location.

Sending Email Campaigns to Your Email Database
An email campaign can be anything from a single email to a single customer database, or a series of automated newsletters that you have set-up to go to particular individuals who have signed up for more information or to customers who have made an enquiry, but not followed up. Research shows that the best day to send emails is Tuesday, and the best time to send them is either 6am or 8pm, because people usually check out their email before work, and after dinner.

And you may have various databases of customers or be able to split them (probably with the help of an IT guy) into particular customer types. You could, for example, categorise customers by how much they have previously spent with you. Obviously, a customer who has spent thousands is move valuable to you than a customer who has spent hundreds over, say, the past six months. You might want to consider how to treat such customers differently. A high-value customer deserves lower rates and is likely to be attracted more by special deals. A low-value customer may be tempted to spend more by special deals, but the tone of the newsletter should be different for each group. For example, you don’t want to offer $10 off to someone who owns a Bentley. You want to send that customer a special deal that gives them $200 off a high-value item. Get the point?

Campaign Objectives
Identify what your campaign objectives are first before you do anything else. What are the goals and objectives you are trying to achieve? Remember the old adage: if you give people too many choices, they won’t make any choice at all. So if your email/newsletter is about selling a product range, try instead, making a special offer on one particular item in the range. Rant about how good it is and the great feedback you’ve had from customers.

As for A/B tracking, you could try one product on A and one on B. That way you’ll see which is most popular. But be careful. If you’ve got two customers at the same address, don’t send both of them an offer. So that’s about filtering your mailing list carefully. And then, even if you are sending out to 10,000 customers/prospects/subscribers, go through the list with different filters, such as name, email address and physical address. Then de-duplicate and duplicate addresses. Also, be careful about the fact that some customers may have ordered from you using two different email addresses. Send only to the most recent one. And try not to send special offers to children!

I’d also suggest not sending to any customers over the age of 50 who have not been in contact with you for over a year. Some of those customers are, unfortunately, likely to be dead. According to Statista, about 60 people per 10,000 between the ages of 50 and 54, die every year. So, for example, if one of your strategies is to send out a Happy Birthday wish to customers on their birthday, along with a Special Offer just for You on Your Birthday, (and with a list of 10,000 you’ll have 27 customers having a birthday every day of the year). That’s 756 customers a month getting a personal birthday wish from you. If you get just one-in-ten buying as a result, and you could well do better than that, especially with repeat customers, you’ll make 75 of 76 extra orders every month.

If you are leasing cars, that could be worth a lot of money for you. But if you are sending out 60 of those emails to dead customers, and their spouse reads the email, you could make someone very unhappy. One way companies try to get around this is to send out a pre-campaign email saying, Do you still want to remain on our Special Offers list? If you get no reply after a few days, especially if you send out another email saying the same thing, you can wipe those people from your database. Personally, I’ve received some very sad emails from people left behind when the customer has passed on, and I’ve also received some furious ones.

Your Message and Template
What message are you trying to get across? Having a single focus will help your ‘open’ and ‘click’ rates. Concentrate on only one thing. This also lets your customer focus on that thing.

When choosing email templates; choose a simple design. You probably will not benefit from large animations that take time to load. Include your logo and relevant brand colours. A few years ago, not all browsers or even MS Outlook could render all HTML emails effectively, or many customers had HTML switched off in their email client meaning that you had to send in plain text. With the widespread adoption of broadband, that is no longer the case, and you can include CSS, images, formatting, and pleasing colours.

For email marketing, you want your message to look good, but you also need to get your message across. The recommended ratio of text to images is 80% text to 20% images. Keep to the template design consistent when sending email campaigns; this will strengthen brand awareness. So once you have formatted a template for, say, your electronic newsletter, all you have to change in future is the text and a few images. The layout should be the same.

Write Well!
Written content within your campaign should be high quality, compelling, persuasive, and psychologically targetted to appeal to your ideal customers.

If writing is not your thing, and, let’s face it, not everyone is especially good at it, or if you are writing in aa language that is not your native one, get someone to check all your spelling and grammar before sending. Write in a style that is suited to your target audience. And remember pre-suasion techniques. You can hint in your email about things to come: Look out for our next month’s special offer. You are REALLY going to love it! This will help stop your customers from unsubscribing from your list.

Or you can use pre-suasion like this: Are you interested in helping the environment?

The body of the email would include something like, All our packaging is fully-recyclable, saving tons of carbon dioxide every year, and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.”

Or: Help us help children in need! Every order, we’ll donate X% to homeless children/ X charity/X children’s hospital. (Or any good cause…)

Remember, you already know what they’ve bought before, you know what your customers are interested in, you’ve done surveys so that you know your customer demographics, and you can surmise a customers wealth from what you’ve found out about what newspapers they read and what type of motor vehicle they have, how up-to-date their mobile phone is, etc., so you should know how to appeal to your customers.

Customers and Demographics
What you will find with your customers is that they are not all in the same demographic. If you are selling shoes, you will probably have male and female customers. Split your email lists accordingly. You don’t want to send an advert for a new glittery pair of high-heels to a man. Nor, probably, do you want to send that email to women over, say, 45… Nor do you want to send an invitation to a special event to someone who has only bought a spanner from you.

So you may have to carefully consider how to split your lists, and send appropriate emails to the appropriate recipients.

Subject Lines
The subject line is very important and will be the first thing subscribers see. Avoid words such as ‘Free’ or ‘Buy Now’ as this will get picked up by spam filters. Make it eye-catching and actionable to get readers to open your email. According to OptInMonster, 47% of email recipients open an email based on the subject line alone. At the same time, 69% of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line. And it’s worth noting that upwards of 75% of emails are not opened at all. So let’s break this down: According to that study, if you send out 10,000 emails, less than 2,500 will be opened. Of those opened emails, only around 2.6% will click through to your website. 2.6% of 2,500 is 65. So you get 65 people visiting your site as a result of sending out 10,000 emails, and that only happens if your subject line is good.

Campaign Monitor shows an even more pessimistic result. Studying billions of email over 2019, they found that only 17.6% of emails were opened. However, you can do better by following the advice of when to send and what to say, which will be addressed later in this article.

Writing quality
If writing is not your thing, and, let’s face it, not everyone is especially good at it, or if you are writing in a language that is not your native one, get someone to check all your spelling and grammar before sending. Write in a style that is suited to your target audience.

Also, getting a good subject line helps ensure you don’t get blacklisted. Email marketing is a very profitable but dangerous business. If you choose a spammy email title, your entire online business could be ruined, rendering you unable to successfully send any email again that mentions your business name.

Here are some great subject lines, tried and tested to be most opened:

  • Subject line: 20% Off your Favourites (Assuming you are making much more than 20% profit, it can be very worthwhile to give customers a discount to get orders).
  • Subject line: Meet your New Suit (Fashion is a young person email. It can have great results).
  • Subject line: Office Essentials (Everyone in business wants to cut the expenses for their printers, chairs, and desks).
  • Subject line: You will want this product, guaranteed! (This appeals to customers’ psychology. They’ll want to know how you know that about them, so are very likely to open the email and then, if you have truly given them an unbeatable offer, they’ll go for it).
  • Subject line: Send a Gift, Gift-Wrapped! (We all send presents. Birthdays, X’Mas, Thanksgiving, etc. And we all want the receiver to get the present without knowing what we paid for it…)
  • Subject line: Get Priority Access. (This appeals to our individual sense of importance. We all want to get-one-up on everyone else. Have secret knowledge. Be the first…).
  • Subject line: Flash Sale Alert. (This appeals to FOMO, fear of missing out. A very powerful motivator).
  • Subject line: Prepare for Winter/Summer. (This is an acknowledged highly opened email header. But you have to customise this for your own business. Like you have to customise the others. For example, you could say, Prepare for Winter. Our Snuggy Winter Boots at Lowest Price.
  • Subject line: New things you’ve never seen. (This is a great email title, with high opening levels and few complaints, but it has to be genuine. You can’t sell a MacBook with this email title. But you could sell a New Rechargeable Hand-Warmer).

Note, not all subject lines have to have great grammar. It’s more important to keep them short.

And of course, if you are selling, say, business insurance, you could use

In fact, the Five Ways idea works well for almost anything.

  • Subject line: Five Ways to Cut Costs Immediately. (You would include your offer as one way…)
  • Subject line: Five Ways to Improve Your Profit Flow. (You could sell a discounted product… Pay out less and profit improves.)
  • So pick your niche and create the subject line accordingly.

The Only open if email header can be great, depending on what you are selling.

  • Only open if you want a better car insurance deal
  • Only open if you want a free book about (whatever)
  • Only open if you’re want to earn money today
  • %%title%% %%s_name%% caking contact… (This is the sort of field that’ll automatically personalise emails to your customer. The lower case of the letters is an informal approach that often works. Your email should be short in this case., and plain text, such as, “Dear Mrs Walburton, my details are below. I believe you might be interested in a Special Offer we have. Just click here to see our latest offer.”)

Almost anything can be promoted through email to customers and opted-in subscribers. However, there are some things you should definitely include in each email.

Call to Action
If you don’t include a Call to Action
within the body of your email, such as Click Here to Save Money Every Week, or Click Here to Check if This Item is Still in Stock, customers won’t click through to you, and you won’t get sales. Remember, you are fighting for that 2.6% who would click through on a Call to Action…

It has to be clear, flow well with the content and with the design of the email/newsletter template. With any good ESP, tracking will allow you to see who has interacted, replied, visited any link in the email, and more.

Split Tests
You’ll also be able to do “split tests” which is another degree of fine-tuning after splitting your subscribers (or customers) into the correct demographics, by testing out the results from differently worded emails to the same demographic, split into two. If one gets a better result than the other, that’s the one to use. Or you can send the same email with different subject lines.

Send email campaigns regularly once someone has signed up for them, but not so often that it will annoy your subscribers. If you frequently put on sales or new offers, once a week is not too often. If you start to irritate people, you will soon know, as they will unsubscribe from your marketing campaigns. This is a good way to clean and better understand your lists, as well as (because you will be left with a list of people who actually want your emails) increasing conversions.

Create an email marketing plan and schedule. This will allow you to keep on top of your email marketing efforts.

Review Email Campaign Reports
Any good email service provider should allow you to analyse the result of your marketing efforts. Do make use of the tools available. Start to review your campaign reports a few hours after you have started sending. Analyse who has opened and clicked on links within your campaign, as these are people who have shown an interest and are good leads to follow up with.

If you want to understand how you can know which emails have been opened and which haven’t,  it’s simple. Most ESPs have a line of code in the template of emails, usually embedded in a 1×1 pixel image, that’s basically invisible to the naked eye. When a recipient opens the email, the provider recognises that pixel has been downloaded, and on what device.

In addition, to those who have interacted with your email campaigns, you’ll be able to identify those who have not opened them. It’s a good idea to send a reminder campaign to those subscribers who haven’t opened your email a few days afterwards. With any good ESP, you should be able to set and forget that aspect of your campaign, automatically.

Review Your Success and Adapt
After every email campaign, it is important to review what has worked well and what hasn’t. Tweak future email campaigns to improve results. Take note of the fact that Business Customers have different habits than Private Customers. Tuesdays at 6am and 8pm is great for private customers, as is almost any time at the weekend, but for Business to Business, 10am on Tuesday is probably better. You are then catching them after they’ve read their overnight emails, but usually before their first meeting of the day. And they are then not overwhelmed by Monday’s backlog of emails that came in over the weekend. Sending email campaigns at different times of day may be an option that you have to pay for. It’s worth it for the rewards you get for successful campaigns.

You can try-out what works for you and your industry because different industries get different results. For example, government, non-profit and education-related emails get most openings. Campaign Monitor says that emails related to Real Estate, Design and Construction, Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting have the highest opening rates. Other industries that do well are Financial Services, Real Estate, Architecture and Healthcare. Remember, these are based on averages. Individuals and companies can do far better than average by optimising everything about the email they send.

You Pay for What You Get
Basically, the different ESPs have different levels you can choose to pay for. It’s not a lot compared to any other marketing campaign you could do, and it always has far better results.

For greater deliverability, schedule your email campaigns to be sent over a period of time, with a pause between each batch. If you have an email list with 100,000 subscribers, you probably don’t want to send them all out consecutively on a Tuesday. This would result in ISPs seeing a flood of your emails coming in and classing them as SPAM. Unfortunately, if you try to save money by using a cheap ESP (reminder, Email Service Provider), they could easily let that happen. Bigger and more reliable ESPs won’t. And again, good ESPs will do scheduling automatically, although depending upon what you want, it could be a slightly more expensive option. Note that ESPs give priority to those who pay more, for obvious reasons.

Email marketing is worth the effort, is inexpensive to implement, and in the last couple of years has become much cheaper than it previously was because of competition in the marketplace. And it has more measurable, and importantly honest, results than almost any other marketing method, and brings a very high ROI. It beats the hell out of advertising in a newspaper or magazine!

Also, as it stands in early 2020, email marketing drives more sales and conversions than advertising in social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, or Google Adwords, and can slash your costs by bringing you business without you having to pay for clicks on search engines.

I can only say so much without writing a book on the subject but bear in mind that nothing is written in stone for email marketing. Your own particular industry may only have a dozen major contacts, in which case, ignore almost everything I’ve said. You need to seriously individualise and personalise. You need to make phone calls and book meetings. But if you are a small to medium-sized business, or an individual competing with them, battling with competition for your share of the market, you can %%personalise%% in different ways and email marketing needs to be part of your strategy because it is almost certainly part of your competitors’ strategy.

(Source, John Bremner on Intelliblog.net)