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With more than 1 billion email users worldwide, businesses are realizing email marketing is no longer something they can go without. Instead of spending their time filling a consumer's physical mailbox, businesses now target inboxes instead. Recent research shows that businesses are dedicating more money to email marketing than any other marketing strategy. From company newsletters to loyalty coupons, businesses are using email marketing in a variety of new ways to connect with their customers. For those just getting started with email marketing, there are a number of services that can provide the necessary software and tools to create and manage campaigns directly from your computer.
What is email marketing?
Email marketing is essentially the online version of direct mail. Instead of sending fliers and coupons to a customer's home, email marketing can send those same items digitally to a customer's inbox. However, where the impact of direct marketing impact can be difficult to track, email marketing gives businesses the chance to see exactly who is opening their mail and who is actually using and reading what's sent out. As with other forms of marketing, businesses owners can use email marketing in a variety of ways, from building brand loyalty and finding new customers to enticing existing customers to stick with them. Since there are many different strategies and ways for email marketing to be used, every type of business — business-to-business or business-to-consumer — can find a way to include it in their overall marketing plan.
Types of email marketing
There is a wide range of ways for businesses to use email marketing. Options include:
- Newsletters: These are a quick way to keep your customers informed on any business news or upcoming promotions. These are sent on a recurring basis, such as every week or every month.
- Promotional campaigns: These can be used to let customers know of upcoming sales. They can be sent in the days leading up to the sale, as well during the sale as a reminder for customers.
- Invitation emails: These keep clients up-to-date on upcoming special events. These can be sent weeks or days before an event occurs as a way to encourage a customer to attend.
- Catalog emails: These are sent out to highlight a specific product or service. The entire email is focused on that single item.
- Lead nurturing emails: These are designed to keep your brand top-of-mind for a prospective client. They are sent out regularly until a potential customer is converted into a paying customer.
- Survey email: These are sent as a way to learn more about customer and client needs and wants.
- Transactional emails: These are sent after a purchase is made, as a way to confirm the transaction and thank the customer.
Pros and cons of email marketing
Email marketing offers businesses several advantages over other types of marketing strategies. Cost is a key differentiator, as email marketing doesn't require any printing or mailing fees. All of the emails can be sent for free, just like any other email. In addition, they can also be designed and sent in mere days, as opposed to direct mail, which can takes weeks or months to plan and execute. Email marketing also provides businesses with greater tracking options. With email marketing software, a business owner can tell which emails were received, which ones went to email addresses that were no longer active, which emails were opened, which ones were deleted before they were read and which ones enticed clients to click through to the website. The main drawback to email marketing is that many consumers can consider the emails as spam and hold it against a brand's reputation. If a customer feels they are being bombarded by unwanted emails from a business, they are going to be turned off and less likely to become a new or repeat customer in the future.
What is an email marketing service?
An email marketing service provides all of the software and tools needed to create and execute email marketing campaigns. Specifically, they provide users with templates to design and create all types of email marketing campaigns. The design tools are created so that even those who don't have Web design experience can easily develop something eye-catching. Email marketing services also include features to collect and store customer email addresses, as well as keep track of what happens with each email that is sent out. The data and statistics provided by email marketing services make it simple to determine the success of a campaign.The services also provide the tools needed to send out a large number of emails at one time.
Cost of an email marketing service
Email marketing services charge users a monthly fee for access to all the tools and software needed for a successful campaign. The best services offer pricing options for businesses of all sizes. Each service's fees vary, but they generally offer the same type of pricing structure. The most common pricing plans are based on the number of emails that will be sent out each month. Prices range from between $7 and $15 to send emails to 500 consumers to as much as $90 to $300 to send out 25,000. Depending on the size of the campaign, some services offer options for sending out even more — from 150,000 emails for $400 a month to 4 million emails for $4,000 a month.
What to look for in an email marketing service
When choosing between email marketing services, there are certain things business owners should look out for. Specifically, businesses want a service that provides an extensive feature list, including campaign wizards and templates to help get a new project started, preview options that show what an email will look like on a variety of devices and the ability to test certain wording to ensure the email won't be flagged as spam. The best services offer robust campaign reporting options that show everything from how many people opened an email to how many forwarded it to someone else. Like any other type of marketing campaigns, there are times a business is going to run into trouble crafting a campaign.When those situations occur, it is important a business owner has chosen an email marketing service that provides a vast amount of support, including a blog, tutorials and articles that explain how to create effective campaigns. The service should also provide ways of contacting them via email, phone or live chat.
The best email marketing services
Our sister site, TopTenReviews, has done extensive research on email marketing services. The services they rank as the best include iContact, which features design tools for both marketing experts and those who are just starting out, as well as an easy-to-use interface; Benchmark Email, which lets users include video, images and customization unique to their company and offers excellent reporting capabilities; and Constant Contact, which offers more than 400 different templates and a comprehensive help and support center.
Email marketing success stories
There are many factors that can make an email marketing campaign a success, from how many people opened the email or forwarded to others to how many clicked through to the brand's website and actually spent money there.
Annie Brody, founder of Camp Unleashed, which offers retreats for people and their dogs, has been using email marketing for the past several years and said she has seen increasingly better results. She said what has encouraged her most has been a rise in the number of people opening the emails she sends.
Specifically, Brody sends her clients and potential clients newsletter-type emails that highlight new aspects of the camp, registration information and links to other dog-related sources.
Brody said her most recent campaign, which she created with the help of the email marketing service Constant Contact, had a more than 50 percent open rate — the first time one of her campaigns had enticed more than 40 percent of her audience to open the email.
"When I see a high open rate I feel good, because I feel like people want to hear from me," Brody told BusinessNewsDaily. "I don't expect a high conversion off of that one email. What I expect is that people are interested enough to go to the website and consider [attending the camp]."
Gary Briggs, co-founder of candlemaker Aunt Sadie's, uses the Mad Mimi email marketing service to regularly send his customers coupons and other promotions. He saw great success right out of the gate.
For the company’s first campaign in November 2012, Briggs sent all previous customers a coupon for 20 percent off any purchase over $50. The email enticed 40 percent of recipients to make a purchase.
"November 2012 was our biggest retail sales month ever," Briggs said.
Aunt Sadie's has continued sending promotional emails every month, which continues to pay off, Briggs said.
"We've continued to do our monthly retail email offer campaign and were surpassing the previous year's monthly sales from 30 to 50 percent," he said.
Online clothing, accessories and decor retailer ModCloth has been widely praised for its use of email marketing.
Megan Walsh, ModCloth's director of retention marketing, points to a recent campaign supporting the company’s "Style Gallery" feature as a notable success. She said the campaign was designed to notify contributors when the photos they submitted received a certain number of "loves" from other community members.
Walsh said the campaign had high engagement, with a 65 percent unique open rate and a click-through rate of 22 percent, which was significantly higher than the company’s 10 percent average.
Even though the campaign resulted in a 0 percent conversion rate on immediate clicks, it was deemed a big success by ModCloth.
"It had a high interaction rate amongst our best customers, and drove those contributors to submit again based on the great feedback they received," Walsh said. "This reinforces the 'love triangle' we are building with our customer: content creation, crowd sourcing and curation."
Email marketing advice
Those have found success using email marketing say there are several keys to getting the most out of it.
Before getting started with email marketing, Brody encourages businesses to determine who their audience is, how they will get their email addresses and what their goals are for their campaigns.
"For me, it was growing Camp Unleashed and getting our name out to dog lovers as opposed to a specific sales campaign," Brody said.
In addition, Brody said email marketing should be considered just one tool within a business's overall marketing strategy.
"It should be as integrated as much possible with all your other marketing and communication efforts," she said.
Briggs said he would advise businesses that are just getting started in email marketing to set a strategy for a whole year — charting out what they want to send out and what each email would entail — rather than focusing on a single campaign.
"Just like print advertising, where a consistent series of ads run for a number of months is going to have much more success in building brand identity than an ad placed once and never again, the same can be said for email marketing," Briggs said.
Walsh recommends focusing email campaigns on the core customer over the potential customer.
"Focus on keeping your engaged customers happy and coming back, before focusing on chasing those who are ignoring you," Walsh said. "The return is better."