Email marketing is a powerful tool in the marketing communications mix, but few campaigns perform to their full potential. Spammers and inexperienced marketers fill the inboxes of potential customers with hundreds of emails that neither reach the right buyer nor spur them to make a purchase.
With strong business management practices, however, you can create a killer email marketing program that is affordable and productive. Here are a few tips to get you started.
It’s All About the Customer
The underlying principle to guide all your decisions in setting up a campaign is “it’s all about the customer.” Promotions that are customer centric win every time because they follow human nature. At their core, people only really care about themselves and their world. Perhaps it’s about their family or their business, but essentially it’s all about them.
Customers really don’t care about you, your product or service, except in how these things can benefit them or fulfill their needs. So it is imperative that you consider how to tap into your customer’s viewpoint when setting up a theme or category for your email campaign.
Many companies create newsletters filled with news about products, staff information, or upcoming events that are emailed to customers. Although potential customers may have signed up for the newsletter, unless it has information pertinent to their issues and problems, they won’t continue to even open them.
New product stories must be tied back to interesting, informative case studies about real customers. Everyone wants to read about a business that solved a problem they have, rather than just reading a sales pitch. Quotes and testimonials from satisfied customers lend credibility and put a face to an abstract solution.
Photo Credit: BeauGiles
Along those lines, customers are hungry for help, so educational emails are sure to be opened. For example, 3D printing is a hot new topic area, and many companies are jumping on the bandwagon and purchasing printers.
What they don’t realize is that it’s not the Star Trek replicator — yet! — and a lot of computer-aided design work is required upfront. A company in this market could send a newsletter series of “Insider Tips” for successful design for 3D printing. Assuming the content is strong and actually helpful to end-users, you can be sure customers will be waiting for your next installment.
There are lots of creative ways to capture the customer’s imagination if you put yourself in their place and create email campaigns that are meaningful to them and their needs, wants, and desires.
Related to the customer-centric concept is the idea that people really like to be part of a group or tribe. They instinctively like to fulfill activities that have value to the group, and are usually happy to only be rewarded with peer recognition. Email marketing that integrates crowdsourcing is a great way to tap into a group and generate interactive participation.
This could take many forms, but some ideas include:
- Stating a problem, such as how to modify a product for handicapped use, then asking for ideas from the group in an email campaign. Replies can be tabulated and distributed in a follow-up email and then posted online.
- Asking how customers use your product in ways that are different from its intended purpose. Again, this would generate a follow-up email that keeps the interaction going.
- Requesting photos of cool applications of your product that can then be posted online. A follow-up email would direct readers who are anxious to see if their photo was chosen.
Sadly, many email marketing campaigns are spam — or close to it.
In response, as part of the Controlling the Assault of Non-solicited Pornography and Marketing Act, the United States Congress passed CAN SPAM into law in 2004, hoping to help stem the tide of spam. Given that we all hate spam, it’s imperative for you to be completely ethical when setting up your program. You’ll stay clear of the law and avoid fines, but more importantly, you’ll set yourself apart from the competition and improve your credibility in the marketplace.
Put yourself in a potential customer’s shoes and apply these guidelines:
- US law requires all emails to have an opt-out option. Be sure this is clearly stated in your email and that you adhere to all requests.
- Include the actual mailing address of your company. It can be at the bottom of the email, but it has to be somewhere in plain sight.
- Do not buy email lists. From a quality program standpoint, buying lists makes no sense anyway, so it’s not worth the risk.
- Header information must be accurate. Double-check that the originating domain name is correct.
- Do not use deceptive subject lines. Besides being illegal, it will also offend real potential customers.
It takes just three basic tips for your email promotions to stand out in overcrowded inboxes. If you are customer-centric, incorporate crowdsourcing ideas, and stay strictly ethical, you’ll have a killer program that is sure to drive sales.
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