Email Marketing 101: Why, What and Why Again
Email is a loaded word. With the average worker spending 13 hours each week (28% of the workweek) in their inbox, this five-letter word is sure to evoke feelings of frustration and resentment. But if you’re a marketer, comms professional, PR aficionado, or really anyone with a message to spread, the word “email” should also make you jump for joy (at least a little bit).
Stay with me here for a second, it’s about to get good.
Real Good! Especially if you Download this bonus guide: Jumpstart Your Email Marketing now!
Your inbox might be the bane of your existence, but inboxes in general represent a tremendous opportunity for your business -- to drive sales, build your brand, spread your message, and develop your community. Consider a few facts compiled by our friends at HubSpot:
- 91% of consumers check their email daily (source)
- 66% of consumers have made a purchase online as a result of an email marketing message (source)
- Email marketing has an ROI of 4,300% (source)
Like anything, you can’t expect your email marketing program to be an overnight success. But with some careful planning and consistent effort, you can join the 92% of marketers who “said that email is producing, or eventually will produce, a positive ROI for them.” In this post, the first of a special series on email marketing, we will personally walk you through the process of conceptualizing and planning your email marketing efforts. From identifying your ‘why’ to choosing the right email service, let’s explore this process, step by step.
If you’re a seasoned email pro, feel free to pass this along to a beginner who might benefit, and if you’re a newbie, keep reading!
Email Marketing: What It Is + Why It Matters
For our purposes, we are going to define email marketing as planned, regular email correspondence with a list of subscribers that supports defined business objectives. This can be anything from a weekly newsletter, to email campaigns announcing sales, and product launches.
Some marketers shy away from email, worried that they will get lost in the noise -- or worse, be considered a nuisance in the inboxes of their subscribers. Instead of letting that fear get in the way of a lucrative opportunity, let it inspire you to create real value in every message that you send. Done well, email campaigns are a great way to maintain regular contact with your customers, keeping your brand top of mind and nurturing your relationship.
To get a little more specific, here are three big ways that email marketing can support your organization:
- Drive sales: This is the most attractive benefit for many would-be email marketers. As we mentioned earlier, well-crafted email campaigns can have a direct impact on driving sales. In fact, according to past research, “70% of people make use of coupons or discounts they learn about from email” and “60% of people say that receiving special offers is the top reason they subscribe to an email list from a business.”
- Establish and strengthen brand voice: Think of each email campaign as a conversation that you are having with individual members of your community. It is your opportunity to remind them of what you offer them, what you stand for, and your place in their world. In our age of distraction, cutting through the advertising noise and going right to the source is a powerful way to develop your brand.
- Build community: The consistency of email marketing is what makes it a great community-building tool. It provides your list with a regular touch point and a regular invitation to engage with you -- from social share buttons, to invitations to comment on articles, or requesting their input and ideas in a survey.
Now that we’ve hopefully convinced you of the value of email marketing for your company, let’s tackle the next major obstacle on the route to sending your first campaign: figuring out what to write about.
But what if I have nothing to say?
Seventeenth century poet Ben Jonson might not have known much about MailChimp, but marketers would be wise to heed his message:
“To speak and to speak well are two things. A fool may talk, but a wise man speaks.”
Emailing your subscribers for the sake of crossing an item off your to-dos is a surefire way to alienate the people on your list. Each message you craft -- from the subject line to the call to action -- should have purpose and direction.
A great place to begin to identify that purpose is with your ‘why’, as Simon Sinek explains:
“Good marketing starts with a cause.
Bad marketing starts with a goal.
Good marketing drives loyalty.
Bad marketing drives transactions.
Good marketing promotes values.
Bad marketing values promotions.
Good marketing tells us exactly what a company really thinks.
Bad marketing tells us what the company thinks they want us to think they think.”
Take Tristan Walker’s Walker & Company, for example. They are a health and beauty products company, but their ‘why’ is to "make health and beauty simple for people of color.” This spirit and purpose is infused into their marketing, opening the door for their community to engage in a conversation that goes deeper than coupons and product launches. Connecting with your community around a shared vision, like Walker & Company does, is key to fostering long-term loyalty.
Another great example comes from the good folks at Contently. In their own words, “Contently was founded by journalists and technophiles with a vision of creating a better media world.” With that greater purpose in mind, Contently has created The Freelancer, a weekly digest loaded with advice, news, and tips to empower independent creatives to succeed.
So, if you’re stumped when it comes creating to your email marketing messages, consider these two simple questions:
- Why do we do what we do?
- How can our emails act as a rallying point to unite our community around our shared vision?
Don’t Shout Into the Abyss: Building Your List
Now that you are determined to send your first email and have decided on what it will say, you need some people to send it to. That’s your subscriber list, AKA one of your most important business assets. Each person on your list is a potential customer, a potential brand advocate, a potential candidate waiting to be hired.
From day one of your website being live, you should be collecting email addresses and building your list. Even if all you have is a simple landing page for now, that is no good reason to let qualified leads slip through your fingers by not giving them the option to leave their name and email! Many of the popular email service providers (ex. MailChimp) have plugins for WordPress that allow you to easily embed signup forms into your website. A great way to incentivize people to hand over their precious email is to offer them a free bonus for opting in, like a guide or access to an e-course. (Like we do here at Onboardly.)
There are also some simple tweaks you can make to your signup form to improve your conversions:
- Reduce the number of input fields (first name and email address is really all you need)
- Replace bland default button copy with something that inspires action
- Put color psychology to work in your signup form by updating the color of your signup button
Next Up In Email Marketing 101
If you thought you learned a lot from this article, you’re in for a treat as we unveil the next posts in our three-part series on email marketing. In this piece, we covered the basics of email marketing and the philosophies behind successful campaigns. In our next installment, we will be talking creation and deployment -- everything from signing up for an email service provider to hitting ‘send’ on your very first campaign.
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[Photo credit: Death to the Stock Photo]