We often underestimate email as a marketing tool. But in surveys of businesses across the world, email marketing is consistently ranked among the most cost-effective communication tools.
Email marketing has an image problem. Here are three reasons why:
A. It’s been around forever so surely it can’t still be working?
B. Relentless spam has given it a bad name.
C. In any case everyone is on social media. Isn’t email dying?
That is why if you look at digital awards anywhere, email marketing generally attracts fewer entries than other categories. Know why? It is just not ‘sexy’ enough. To some, email marketing may even sound a touch anachronistic in a WhatsApp era.
The reality is that email traffic is huge - and growing. According to German Data specialist Statista, this year about 320 billion mails will be either sent or received – daily! This traffic continues to grow about 4 per cent annually.
Contrary to popular perception, most teenagers and young adults have an email account which they check at least once daily. While they use other means to connect with their friends, they are comfortable with receiving brand messages on email, say surveys.
In fact, just as the mobile phone has spurred the rise of social media, so too has it given email a fresh lease of life. For many, email is the first thing they check on waking up – and the last one before they go to sleep.
How can brands not want to catch their customers in bed?!
Let’s get down to specifics – the 19 tips promised in the headline that will help you get more out of email marketing. Follow the tips and you will see a marked improvement in your performance.
Point to remember: Not everyone is a Swiggy or a Zomato, a Flipkart or an Amazon with a mailing list of millions. (They don’t need 19 Tips anyway!) This article is for everyone else, especially the small and medium businesses, which have a database of only thousands of names.
What do you expect to get out of email marketing? Attract new customers? Keep in touch with existing customers? Make special offers? A well-defined purpose allows you to measure the efficacy of your exercise.
Building a List
Every business has a list of customers, whether short or long. How can one grow it?
1. Opt-in form: Every page of a business website must have a form that allows visitors to opt-in to its mailing list. After showing it the first time, it needn’t be in-your-face. But it must be available within sight on each page.
2. Social media: Use whatever social media presence your business has to encourage opt-ins. Do this regularly on a set frequency and on special occasions (like a festival or a sale).
3. Contests: Creating a contest to build a database is like the oldest trick in the book. But it still works. As the saying goes, ‘It may be trite (boring) but it is still right.’ People invariably respond to the promise of a freebie.
4. Special information: Is there anything about your business or industry that people want to know? Eg a company selling baby formula food may put in a weight-calculator to hook visitors. Next, it could ask for an email address if parents want to know what makes a healthy diet for babies. This approach works well to build a list.
There are three measures by which email marketing either thrives - or dies: open up rate, click through rate, unsubscribe rate.
Getting the Basics Right
5. Reason why: What do you expect to get out of email marketing? Though the answer may seem obvious, it is best to revisit the purpose of the exercise. Is it to draw in new customers? Keep in touch with existing customers? Make special offers? A well-defined purpose allows you to measure the efficacy of your exercise.
6. Frequency: While each business has its own imperative, a weekly emailer is generally considered safe. Anything more often could lead to an ‘unsubscribe’. Anything less frequent and the recipient may no longer remember your name.
7. Segmentation: Assuming that the database is reasonably large and the customers have widely varying interests, you may want to segment the list so that each person receives only that content which is of interest to them.
8. Planning: Once the purpose and audience are clear, it is good to create a plan for mailing – how often and to whom. There is a clear danger of losing the early momentum if a follow-up plan is not in place.
9. Engagement: The content should obviously be useful and engaging. It would be good to draw a picture of the typical recipient and imagine why he/she would want to receive the mail – and why the person may not. Follow the principle of stating the most important stuff upfront – you may have only a few seconds to make your point.
10. Sender’s name: Research has shown that if the sender is a person rather than an organisation, the receiver is more likely to open the mail. If that is possible, do it.
11. Subject line: This is the most important bit of writing you can do. If the subject line doesn’t interest the reader – well, end of story. One international survey found that a subject line of 6-10 words was most likely to result in an open-up. So, general rule? Keep it short and to the point.
12. Staying out of spam: Request recipients to add your email id to their list of contacts. That prevents your mailer from landing in the spam folder.
13. Measure, measure, measure: There are three measures by which email marketing either thrives - or dies.
a. Open up rate: This is the percentage of people who have actually opened your mailer. Many factors – including subject line, frequency or time of day/week – determine this. This is the first and most critical hurdle.
b. Click through rate (CTR): Having opened the mailer, this is the percentage of recipients who found the contents/offer interesting enough to click through and visit the site.
c. Unsubscribe rate: Consider this as a measure of success – or failure. It is hard to add willing subscribers – and to lose them is a terrible thing. There will always be unsubscribes. But this rate is an indication of how relevant the mailers are. Watch it closely. If it starts rising, it spells danger.
14. Double Opt-in: Used by most reputed websites, this is the process of asking subscribers to reconfirm via their email box that they do want to be on a mailing list. People taken through double opt-in are less likely to forget that they had subscribed to a mailing list.
15. A/B testing: You have probably heard this term. Basically, it is the trying out of two or more different design options to discover what the target audience responds most positively to. This is a convenient and inexpensive way of testing mailer design for greater effectiveness.
Email marketing continues to work cost-effectively for most businesses. But because it is the oldest form of communication, it is underrated.
16. Optimisation for mobile: Is the emailer optimised for the mobile phone? Check. Worldwide, in 2011, only 27 per cent of all emails were estimated to have been opened on the mobile phone; the rest on desktops. By 2020, the share of mobile was estimated at 81 per cent. A dismayingly large percentage of mailers are still not optimised for the mobile phone. That makes them hard to read. Make sure yours isn’t among them.
17. Landing page dissonance: Getting a click through is sometimes not enough. In a sale announcement, directing the visitor to, say, the home page is fine. But on other occasions there could be disconnect between the message in the mailer and what the visitor sees on the landing page. When that happens, the visitor leaves immediately and you get a ‘landing page bounce’. Lesson: the communication must be consistent, from mailer or website.
18. Call to action: If the recipient wants to act on your message, make sure there is a clear call to action – they shouldn’t have to hunt for that critical ‘action’ button.
19. Hidden bonus in ‘transaction emails’: Transaction emails are system-generated messages about subscriptions, order confirmation and the like. Boring though these seem, they are of high interest to consumers and are invariably opened and read. Relook your automated emails and see whether you can’t use it as a great branding opportunity.
In summing up, email marketing continues to work cost-effectively for most businesses. But because it is the oldest form of communication, it is underrated. Relook your mailing list and approach the issue with a fresh mind – and you may find hidden treasure there for the taking!
This is the first in a series of articles that revisit basic issues of marketing communications. They have been enabled by afaqs! Marketplace.