Why should your company be doing email marketing?

First and foremost, because people are very engaged with their inboxes. According to Pew Research, 90% of Americans use the internet and email. People can check their work and personal email accounts multiple times a day via their phones. Email is easy to use, easy to understand, and can be highly engaging if done correctly. And, for marketers, email has a great ROI with a return of $42 for every $1 spent. Email marketing has better reach than social media marketing; there are 3x more accounts than Facebook and Twitter combined.

Who should you be sending emails to?

There are two fundamental distinctions regarding who to send your emails to:

  • Your own list of opted-in customers or prospects
  • Someone else’s list of opted-in customers or prospects

Let’s start with a discussion of the basic types of email marketing you can do to your own lists.

Sending emails to your own lists

E-commerce

E-commerce businesses stand to gain the most from email marketing because you can use emails to drive people directly to your site to make a purchase. This is much easier than driving foot traffic to a brick-and-mortar store. Here are two essential types of e-commerce email campaigns:

  • Abandoned cart emails – One of the most critical types of email campaigns for an e-commerce business is the abandoned cart email. When customers shop your site, they may get partway through the purchase process and not follow-through to provide payment information. Abandoned cart emails are easy to set up through almost any email service provider (ESP) and are fully automated based on rules you establish. These emails will remind people that they still have items in their cart, and with a few quick clicks they can finish their purchase. If you don’t have abandoned cart emails for your ecommerce business you are leaving a lot of revenue on the table. These emails are effective, with 87% of shoppers saying they would consider returning to their cart to complete a purchase.
  • Sales promotions and new product promotions – Additional emails that are essential for ecommerce businesses include sale promotions and new product promotions. These types of emails should communicate their message quickly and succinctly with a clear call to action (CTA) for purchase. Frequency for promotional emails varies by industry type, but overall you should pay attention to your open and click rates and your unsubscribe rates. As long as opens and clicks remain strong, and unsubscribes remain below 1%, you are not over-messaging your list.
Brand loyalty

Any type of business, whether ecommerce or not, should use email marketing to establish and maintain brand loyalty with customers and prospects. Email campaigns to support brand loyalty can take many forms:

  • User information – For parts and supply stores, emails can provide information on how to install a product or how to trouble-shoot an installation issue.
  • Complimentary tips – A gourmet food store can send recipe ideas or tutorials on how to use the latest kitchen tools.
  • Teasers – If your business is a performance space, emails can showcase past or upcoming performances by clicking through to a landing page with video clips.
  • Area interest – For hotels and resorts, emails can contain information on activities and sights in the surrounding area.
  • Benefits – Retail stores with a loyalty program can send emails with news about how to leverage the loyalty program for maximum savings.
  • Lifestyle – Luxury brands can incorporate high-end imagery to associate their products with the desired lifestyle of their customers.

The focus for all of these content ideas is to provide something that is of interest to the recipient. Too often, email marketers only think about their own businesses’ needs: “How can I sell this? How can I drive more people to my store? How can I generate leads?” The thought process needs to shift to: “What does my audience need? What are my audiences’ interests? What does my audience want to know?” by thinking like a customer, email marketers can make their campaigns more engaging.

Business to business

Thus far, we have talked about email marketing that is oriented toward consumers. Email marketing is also an excellent tool in the B2B space. For B2B emails, the focus still needs to be on the recipient, not on the sender. Education is a big component of B2B email marketing. Business is complex, and there are multiple products and services competing for every business persons’ time and attention. You can make your email marketing stand out by using your expertise in your industry to provide user-friendly content on topics such as:

  • Products – Pros and cons of different products used in your industry.
  • Trends – What are the critical industry trends that your audience should know about?
  • Laws – Are there legal changes in your industry that affect your audience?
  • Case studies – Explain how other businesses have successfully used your products and services.

Most B2B email marketing is a compliment to a human sales force. So, don’t think of your B2B emails as a channel for instant sales. Think of your B2B emails as a place to nurture your relationship with your clients and prospects. B2B emails can showcase your company as a valued partner who gives out relevant content and doesn’t just ask for money.

E-newsletters

E-newsletters can contain most of the type of information previously mentioned. Your e-newsletters can contain offers, educational content, branding content, event listings, new products, and more. If you are a news media company, your newsletters may contain breaking news, or news related to certain categories (e.g. business, crime, sports).

The difference between e-newsletters and other types of email marketing are simply that e-newsletters are sent on a regular schedule, usually daily, weekly or monthly, so recipients know when they’ll be hearing from you.

Sending emails to someone else’s lists

There are two types of opportunities to send an email marketing message to a list that is not your own.

Permission-based national email databases

National vendors offer access to millions of opt-in email addresses that are collected from a wide array of sites. To gain access to these national email databases you typically need to work through a media company or ad agency. The first step in sending your email campaign through a national database is selecting the right demographic, geographic, and psychographic profile that you want to reach. Selections can also include intent to purchase items like homes, cars, appliances, and more. Some vendors even allow selections based on recipients’ job titles, which means these databases can be a great option for human resources for recruitment campaigns.

Many vendors offer a performance guarantee of a minimum open rate of 8% or a click rate of 1%. If these performance thresholds are not achieved, the campaign will be delivered again at no charge.

E-newsletter Takeovers

Media companies that have e-newsletters often offer advertisers an option for an e-newsletter takeover. Each e-newsletter’s list has subscribers who have different interests (such as crime, food, sports, and weather), so you’ll need to select the e-newsletter list that aligns most closely with your brand and message.

The e-newsletter takeover is a co-branded email design. The email will come from the media company’s sending address and will contain both their logo and your logo. Recipients already trust the media company because they have signed up for the media company’s e-newsletters. Having your brand and message cobranded on the campaign will let recipients know that your marketing message is coming from a trusted local advertiser.

As with the national email databases, e-newsletter takeovers are sent by the media company, so there is no risk to your sending domain.

Key terms

Here are some key terms in the world of email marketing. Being familiar with these terms will help you understand how to engage in email marketing in an effective and legally compliant manner:

CAN-SPAM law – This law governs the use of bulk emailing, which is what email marketing is. CAN-SPAM law does not apply to individual emails you send out of your personal or work email accounts. CAN-SPAM only applies to bulk email campaigns sent out to lists of more than a few people. A few of the key points of CAN-SPAM law are:

    • Business information in footer – You must include full business contact information in your email footer.
    • Clear sender – Your sending email address needs to clearly represent your business identity.
    • Clear subject lines – Your email subject lines cannot be misleading or confusing.
    • Opt-ins – You may only send bulk emails to people who have opted-in to receive bulk emails from you. An existing business relationship, however, is considered a form of opting in, although it is not the best quality opt-in. The best quality opt-in is a confirmed (or double) opt-in. With a confirmed opt-in, the user enters their email address to receive emails from you, and then they are sent an email with a link that they have to click to confirm that they truly do want to opt-in. This is the gold standard of opting in.
    • Unsubscribe link – You must include an unsubscribe link in your emails.

Deliverability – This is a critical and often overlooked part of email marketing. You may have a gorgeous email design with an amazing offer, but if it goes into recipients’ junk or spam folders, they will never see it. A full-service ESP may provide you with deliverability metrics, or you can pay separately for the services of a deliverability vendor such as Glockapps or Return Path. These services will tell you whether your email campaigns are landing in people’s inboxes or in their junk folders. You can also track deliverability directly with some email clients. For example, you can use Google Postmaster to track your Gmail deliverability.

Email client – An email client is what the recipient uses to open and read your email. Common email clients include Gmail, Apple iPhone, Yahoo, and Outlook.

Email service provider (ESP) – An ESP is software you use to send out your emails. There are many, many ESPs. Some common low-cost options include Mail Chimp, My Emma, and Constant Contact. These ESPs can be used free of charge if your list is small. These are generally simple, easy to use ESPs without a lot of bells and whistles. More expensive ESPs have more options for automation, A/B testing, segmentation, deliverability tracking, and data integration.

Engagement – The metrics below are all measures of recipients’ engagement with your email marketing:

    • Open Rate – This is the percentage of email addresses that opened, or read, your email. However, this statistic is inexact. Opens are recorded when the recipient’s inbox downloads a single transparent image tracking pixel. If you have images set to download by default, then every email in your inbox will be ‘opened’, even if you haven’t looked at it. By contrast, an inbox with image downloading turned off will never record an email has having been opened, even if the recipient reads the text of the email.
    • Click Rate – This is the percentage of email addresses that clicked on a link in your email. Click rates can be counted as unique (by person) or aggregate (total clicks, even if some people click more than once).
    • Bounce Rate – This is the percentage of bad email addresses in your list. There are hard bounces (email is no longer in use and will be permanently not mailed to) and soft bounces (inbox is full or out-of-office, thus the ESP may try to email a soft bounce again).
    • Unsubscribe Rate – This is the percentage of email addresses that clicked the unsubscribe link in order to stop receiving emails from you.

From address – This is the email address that your campaigns will be sent from. For example, info@ABCCompany.com if you are sending from your corporate domain, or info@mail-ABCCompany.com if you are using a separate mailing domain.

Friendly-from – The friendly-from is the wording in front of the from address that tells the recipient a little more about the sender. So if the sending address is info@mail-ABCCompany.com, the friendly-from might be “Customer Service”. In your inbox, the full information would look like this: “Customer Service <info@mail-ABCCompany.com>”.

Landing page – The landing page is where your customers will click through to from your email. For an ecommerce business, the landing page may be a product page in your ecommerce system. For other types of campaigns, the landing page may be a stand-alone page that has additional information or that collects lead information from the recipient.

Lists/Segmentation – One of the most important aspects of email marketing is segmentation, which allows you to send the right message to the right person. For example, if you are an ecommerce company who sells products to both businesses and consumers, you would want to segment your list into two ‘buckets’ so that you can message businesses differently from consumers. Different ESPs provide different ways to create segments. Segments can be created based rules you apply, using tags, activity on your site, or based on subscribers self-selecting into a particular segment. While it is tempting to send all of your offers to everyone, you’ll get better deliverability and better engagement if you restrict your messages to the right audience.

Rendering – Your email may look great in the builder tool within your ESP, but how does it look in inboxes? This can vary, because different email clients may read your email code differently. Because of this you need to use an email testing and optimization tool, such as Litmus or Email on Acid, to test how your email design is rendered across multiple email clients.

Responsive – Your email designs need to be responsive, which means that the design needs to automatically resize and adapt depending on where it is being viewed. Your email design may have four horizontal blocks on desktop, but viewed on a phone those blocks will be vertically stacked. Responsive design is a standard for all email marketers because 63% of emails are opened on a mobile device.

Sending domain or mailing domain – Your company’s website address might be ABCCompany.com. This is your corporate domain. Many small businesses will send bulk emails directly from their corporate domain. However, when you use your corporate domain to send bulk email you run the risk of damaging your corporate domain’s reputation if your email campaigns are reported as spam. To avoid this, you may want to set up a separate sending domain, such as mail-ABCCompany.com. Setting up a mailing domain is considered best practice for medium to large businesses.

Final Thoughts on Email Marketing

Email marketing presents a wealth of opportunities for all types of businesses. If you are interested in sending an email to a list that is not your own, LNP Media Group offers effective, affordable solutions. E-newsletters on LancasterOnline are available for sending co-branded offers to a wide variety of opt-in lists, including food, entertainment, crime watch, sports, and business. We also work with national databases of millions of opt-in email addresses which we can target based on interest, intent to purchase, demographics, and more. Our team of digital experts create impactful email marketing designs with a performance guarantee. Contact us today to get started!

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