When businesses talk about email marketing, there can often be a sense of confusion. Many people, especially those who are new to the world of online business, don’t always know or understand what email marketing is and how it can help them.

Therefore, to clarify, email marketing is any form of email communication between business and customer, or potential customer, which aims to build custom, loyalty and awareness of the business and their aims.

Why email marketing?

The popularity of email marketing can be attributed to a number of factors. Firstly, email marketing is comparatively low cost. There are no printing or distribution fees for the business to pay and they can reach a large number of customers or clients in a very short space of time with minimal effort. For this reason, email marketing is said to offer a higher return on investment (ROI) than many of its counterparts.

In addition, studies have found that people tend to buy on impulse. Email marketing appeals to this by literally advertising a product or service and giving the customer the opportunity to purchase it at that very second. Thus anyone using email marketing has the opportunity to capitalise on this impulse.

Furthermore, email marketing offers users the opportunity to spread beyond any geographical limitations they may have. Just as the internet allows them to trade with customers outside of their own locality, email marketing allows them to target customers regardless of their base.

Finally, many people are drawn to email marketing because of the relative ease with which a campaign can be set up. Emails are simple to produce and little is needed in the way of technical skill in order to send or track the results of a message.

How to proceed

As with any marketing campaign, there are right ways and wrong ways to go about email marketing. The first thing to remember is that planning a campaign will go a long way to ensuring its success. Considering what your aim is, who you intend to target, when you intend to send out emails, and how you intend to follow these up is essential.

First, you need a mailing list. If you already have a list of existing customers’ emails, that’s great. You can build your list further by including calls to action on your site that ask people to sign up for your newsletter, the latest deals or some other incentive or free offer. We would not recommend building your lists by buying lists of email data, this are often questionable and may result in you spamming potential customers.

Consistency is key, so if you start by sending out a weekly bulletin, you should continue with this. Most software packages allow you to plan in advance so you can load an email and time it for later in the day/week/month if that suits your business needs better, but by staying consistent, you are telling your customers they can rely on you.

Once you’re armed with a plan and a list, you’ll need a way of communicating. Software offers a large number of benefits which could make you appear much more professional. For example, many packages offer an automated management of your contact list. Not only will they allow people who sign up to be added automatically (with a welcome greeting if you so choose) but those who want to opt out can also do so automatically without you needing to lift a finger.

Software also allows you to quickly track your results, successes and see information such as the number of people who clicked on a link or removed themselves after a certain message. Many programs also allow you to segment your mailing list, in order to automatically customise your emails to specific groups or individuals based on their profile. As you continue on your campaign, this information could be vital when you start to plot your results and plan your continuation.

The email

Once you have a plan and a package, your campaign and its success will hang on the actual email itself. Your subject line could be the difference between the email being opened and being trashed, so it must grab attention, be formal but friendly, and must be a true representation of the email contents. Again, the reason for this is to build up the trust that each customer has in you.

Any message you send should be simple, to the point and succinct. You should avoid long sentences or paragraphs as these will more than likely lose the attention of your reader. Jargon, buzzwords and colloquialisms are also off-putting.

Discuss the benefits of your product or services, using “you” rather than “us”. This way, you’re putting the idea in your potential customers’ heads that this product is intended for them.

You need to give a strong call to action. Your content is the reason for them to make the decision to use you, and the last lines of your message should tell them what to do. “Sign up today”, “buy now”, “call us” are all examples of strong calls that a customer who has been nodding along with your content is much more likely to follow if they’re directed to.

Finally and most importantly

On every email you send out, you should include an unsubscribe / opt out link. This gives customers the option to stop receiving emails from you. Ultimately, providing this option and ensuring you are only emailing people who have requested it separates your emails from useful email marketing versus spam.