A client came to me this week in search of developing an email campaign. He wanted to know the basics about how to buy an email list, what type of email software to use and what a ‘campaign’ might look like. After giving this some thought and considering his business model and the type of clients he wanted to attract, we gave him our recommendations. The process may seem like a bit of a mystery to many small business owners, but even the smallest mom-and-pop business can benefit from email campaigns, if they are used correctly.
We’ll use my client as today’s case study lesson in email marketing. A little background before we begin. Steve owns an electronic service company that makes on-site repairs, establishes maintenance programs, and installs new hardware and software for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Until now he has had several small businesses and individual customers as clients, but the company recently landed a large contract with a national non-profit to service and maintain their electronic systems in three states. This flush of business growth was exactly was Steve was hoping for when he rebranded his business a little over a year ago. Now that business is increasing, he wants to put additional marketing efforts into place to ensure continued clients in the sales pipeline.
Lesson #1 – Find the right program to manage your email campaign.
Steve needs to make sure that whatever software he uses for his email campaigns will integrate well into his existing systems. He also wants the data that he gathers to be easily manipulated into other programs. There are numerous companies online offering services for email campaigns, the top four are:
InfusionSoft offers the added features of a full customer relationship management system (CRM) that includes sales management, lead generation, client follow-ups, and even electronic shopping cart systems. The other systems mentioned above offer more basic features but usually include free training and support to help start you off in the right direction. As this is Steve’s first effort into email, selecting one of the later three companies should give him the depth of services that he needs without the expense or additional infrastructure that a full-blown CRM program would entail.
Lesson #2 - What goals are you trying to achieve?
Having an email system is great, but if clients receive countless emails from your business each month without seeing any set purpose or direct benefits, you’ll quickly see a string of ‘unsubscribe’ requests in your inbox. Once you’ve lost permission to email it is very difficult to regain that customer’s trust again. Remember that having an email address is not an invitation to spam your customers. Develop a strong plan of action about how often and why you’re emailing. Consumers like to receive discounts, coupons and special offers. For Steve’s company, we recommended that he reach out twice a month to his email list. The first email would be a newsletter style email focusing more on information and the second email would provide email-only discounts and special offers. If a timely issue or opportunity arose, such as a global computer virus attack, Steve could always send another email to warn clients and further promote his services.
Lesson #3 – Design an email template that matches your brand image and message.
Having brand continuity is essential when working in electronic and social media platforms. Make sure that your corporate colors, brand image and language reinforce your overall marketing strategy and further support those efforts. Will you use the emails for exclusive ‘member only’ offers, weekly sales or new product announcements? Another way to utilize email campaigns is in support of social media efforts such as contests. Begin the contest in an email blast and then continue the conversation in social media circles such as Facebook and Twitter to gain momentum and grow your email list. As an exciting way to launch his new email program, Steve developed a special Twitter/facebook contest that awarded iPods to the first five responders on each social media platform.
Lesson #4 - Buy an Email list.
Starting an email campaign on the small address list you’ve collected is one approach, but if you want more impact, consider purchasing an email list from a list agent. Similar to buying a direct mail list for traditional mailing efforts, buying an email list can be broken into sub categories of age, median income, hobbies, educator or a myriad other background and personal data. There are several reputable agents from which you can purchase a list. For more information visit the Direct Marketing Association at www.DMA.com.
Lesson #5 – Use engaging content.
Now that Steve had established an email service provider, created a striking template, and purchased a targeted email list, he was ready to implement some engaging (and possibly interactive) content. Here’s some suggestions for email content and use based on Steve’s campaign:
Collecting and understanding data (or customer insight) gathered from email campaigns can help your business better meet customer needs and increase sales in the process. With today’s simplified online email marketing tools, it’s easy and inexpensive to start reaching consumers in a timely and far more personal manner.
- Use email to push customers toward additional incentives and promotions on your web site. The web site must be well-designed and equally as engaging as the email campaign in order to successfully ‘sell’ your product or services.
- Provide information that is relevant to your client’s likes/dislikes.
- Use direct response text (SMS) at special events (like trade shows, charity events or other large gatherings) to attract new subscribers to your website. Enhance your client communications by promoting social media tools like FourSquare via email that encourage consumers to ‘check in’ and receive incentives via their handheld devices.
- Create a subscriber ‘preference center’ where members can sign up for the news, information and topics that are of interest to them. This will help you design more targeted content.
- Send a welcome email and thank your subscriber for enrolling in the program.
- Use email to enhance a customer’s buying experience. By capturing buying data Steve could make future recommendations on how an item can be enhanced with future purchases. For example, when one of his customers purchased a digital camera, he sent an email with additional offers for lenses, camera bags, memory cards and other ancillary pieces to further improve his customer’s buying and product use experience.
- Be timely with content and schedule up to six ‘auto-responder’ emails that can be sent on the dates and times you choose.
- Establish triggers in the email. Triggers are a tactic used by emailing gurus like Amazon.com. When one of Steve’s clients buys a new printer or clicks on a desktop 4-in-one color printer, other printers and printer-related items like ink will be triggered via email ‘recommended for you’ specifically for that client.