Sending out an email newsletter may seem like an easy task, but if you think that all you have to do is make a template, add in new content and hit send, you're not likely to see the results you want.
Email marketing requires a lot of careful planning and work to be effective, but when it's done right, it can drive traffic to your website, increase your customer base and boost sales. So how can you make the most of your email marketing campaigns? It's all about getting to know what your subscribers want, creating quality content and taking advantage of all the great email marketing tools at your disposal.
Ready to improve your email campaigns? Here are five great email marketing tips from entrepreneurs and digital marketing experts.
Create focus groups
Email marketing is pointless if you can't get your subscribers to open your emails in the first place. In order to make sure your campaigns are fully effective, you need to make sure you're sending people what they want, how they want it. One way to do that is by carefully observing your customers.
Business and digital strategist Kyla Roma suggested creating "virtual focus groups" to help you figure out what works and what doesn't. This way, you can better understand how what you do affects customers' day-to-day life, she said.
"I create a group of five people who are my ideal clients and follow them on social media, look at their responses to my past emails, and I'll look out for how they speak to and interact with others," Roma said. "I use that social information to help my client's join the conversation in an authentic way."
Roma noted that many brands are too impersonal and sound very corporate, which can feel awkward for customers and clients.
"Creating a virtual focus group lets you get specific, relax and help your clients while increasing your open rate," Roma said.
Make a content calendar
An email marketing campaign is nothing without quality content, and that means you need to plan ahead. After all, trying to create a promotional email or newsletter at the last minute can be stressful for you and translate into sloppy content for your subscribers. The best way to avoid this is to create a content calendar and stay ahead of the game by at least a few weeks.
"Great content takes time," said Marci Hansen, co-founder and chief marketing officer of eligibility verification service provider SheerID. "Create a calendar for your email marketing campaigns [and] brainstorm ideas for content in advance."
These ideas can include exclusive promotions for a holiday like Veterans Day or Teacher Appreciation week, white papers if you're marketing a B2B product, or strong blogs posts on buzz-worthy trends, Hansen said.
Then, Hansen said that you should pick the date you're planning to send out your email and back up from there to choose a deadline. Make sure you give yourself time to create artwork and have the email blast reviewed, and then set reminders on your calendar so you don't forget.
"[This way] you'll never be struck by the sudden realization that it's time to get a newsletter or promotional email out, and you have nothing to say," Hansen said. [Best Email Marketing Software for Small Businesses in 2015 ]
Cut sentences short
Once you've caught your subscribers' attention with great content, focus on facilitating click-throughs. Otherwise, people will be opening your emails but not purchasing your products or reading the content on your site, and all the effort you put into your campaign will be wasted.
Justin LeVrier, executive vice president of growth at training and consultant organization CHARFEN, said that a great way to increase click-throughs is to cut your sentences short. This leaves people wanting more information.
"In the text of our emails, the introductory paragraph closes with a sentence cut in the middle, followed by '… (continue reading),'" LeVrier said, noting that doing so has increased his company's email click-through rate to 22.5 percent.
Just make sure that what your subscribers are clicking through to is valuable to your customers and clients. LeVrier noted that it's important to make sure that the content you're sharing with your subscribers is worthwhile, because they trust you for information and insight.
How many times have you found your inbox so inundated with emails that you miss out on important messages? If it can happen to you, it can happen to your customers, too, so following up is a must. However, if you follow up with every email blast you send, it's sure to annoy your subscribers, so limit your use of this tactic to new subscribers.
"If a new email subscriber opts in to a campaign but doesn't open the initial message, I send an email one day later and another email the day after that [until they open it]," said Marc Prosser, co-founder of online publication Fit Small Business. "Email marketing best practices dictate that you don't want to overwhelm people, but this scenario is an exception to that rule. If that person misses your first email and your next email arrives a week later, there's a chance they won't even recognize you at that point."
Prosser notes that by reaching out multiple times after a new subscriber signs up, it ensures that they've received your first message and know to expect future emails from you.
Use marketing automation
You shouldn't automate your entire email campaign, but automating the way your email blasts are sent out to your subscribers can be a huge help. Digital marketing consultant Rob Watson said that using automation tools to follow up with further campaigns for people who open or click links in your email campaigns can help you generate leads and make sales.
"Imagine sending a campaign to 10,000 recipients and knowing that 2,000 of them opened it," Watson said. "All things being equal, those 2,000 people are probably warmer than the 8,000 who didn't open it, but that's not much to go on. It's also a lot of customers to follow up with."
But if you set up an automated three-step campaign instead, you can pinpoint and market to the customers that really matter.
"[For example, the] first email makes them aware of a new product launch and how it will benefit them," Watson said. "A second email is sent just to those who opened the first email — this time they can click a link to a time-limited offer on the new product. For those who open the second email and click the link, a third email is sent just before the expiry of the offer to remind them that they have only a short time left to respond."
Watson said that by the end of this campaign, the 2,000 people who opened the first email will have whittled themselves down to a few hundred or fewer, all of whom have shown a genuine propensity to buy. You'll also see greater open and click-through rates and save yourself a lot of time and effort.