How to get started with email marketing

Even though so many new online marketing platforms have been launched lately, there are still certain trusted tools that have a proven record of driving sales. Email marketing is one of them and DMA UK calls it better than any other direct marketing channel.

Email is not a passing fad. You can be sure that building relationships that start with an email address is a long-term proposition that can provide a steady stream of leads for years to come. Your challenge is to find an email marketing platform that suits you and your business so you can get started. That’s our subject here.

1. Define your email marketing goals

No matter what industry you operate in, email marketing can do a lot to attract new customers and drive sales:

  • it can increase the engagement of existing customers and acquire new ones,
  • it helps to turn interest into conversion,
  • it enhances your brand image,
  • you can use it to educate customers and build a community,
  • email newsletters can drive traffic to your website.

All of these can be accomplished through the proper use of various kinds of newsletters. Remember, it’s not always just about selling. Your email campaign’s content should be 20% promotional and 80% educational. Avoid sending only promotional communications full of discounts and calls to action like “Buy now”. First create a balanced strategy that will satisfy your company’s needs and is appropriate for its market position. Email marketing should work in harmony with your other marketing efforts. Plan your campaigns well in advance and decide which newsletters will be promote your offer and which will do something else.

2. The money is in the mailing list – start building it

Your subscriber database is a key resource for establishing profitable contacts with prospects, building your brand image and of course growing sales. So when you start with own email marketing channel you should start here.

Lots of beginners try to buy their lists or skim email addresses from the internet. This is a huge mistake and there’s no point in this kind of marketing “strategy”. You can only expect good results when subscribers voluntarily join your mailing list and share their addresses with you. This kind of relationship, called “permission marketing”, is the foundation of any successful email marketing campaign.

You can gain new subscribers anywhere your company meets potential clients. Start with your own online site or blog, where you can place a sign-up form with lead magnet content in exchange for a subscriber’s email address. Then expand to social media, mobile sign-up forms on tablets and elsewhere.

When you start with email marketing there is one more tricky thing to consider – database quality. Remember that all of your email marketing campaigns are monitored by anti-spam filters. When you send a lot of emails to non-existent addresses or, even worse, spamtraps, your reputation as a sender will be destroyed and future campaigns will be blocked by spam filters. The best way to protect yourself against this is to build your database using the double opt-in model, where new subscribers confirm their desire to receive your messages by clicking on a link you send them during the sign-up process.

There are key differences between single and double opt-in models than you can see in the graphic below. In the single opt-in model, a subscriber shares his email address on your website or newsletter subscription form, hits the “subscribe” button and everything is done. The address is added directly to your database and is active but you have no way of knowing if the address really exists or if it belongs to the person who gave it to you.

With double opt-in there is one additional step that confirms that the address is valid and belongs to someone who wants to receive messages from you. When a new subscriber types his email and clicks “subscribe”, he receives a confirmation email in his inbox. Only when he clicks “confirm” is the new address added to your list. You can be sure that this recipient really exists and next campaign and sending to this address won’t ruin your reputation with spam filters.

3. Choose the type of campaign

Email marketing provides you with a wide range of campaign types you can run to reach different business goals. You can simply use newsletters to build positive PR and personal relationships with recipients or provide them with messages with promotional offers and special discounts. There are also autoresponders that will save you time by automating much of the ongoing conversation with customers. These are triggered emails that will be sent automatically when new recipients subscribe to your mailing list, when he opens one of your previous campaigns or when he clicks on a specific link.

If you want your email marketing to generate revenue, you first need to get to know if the content of sent messages is suited to the needs of the individual preferences of your subscribers.

Collect information that you want to share with subscribers first. You can tell them about your company history, events that you will attend or educate them about your products. Create specific buyer’s guides, offer comparisons or different non-promotional content that will help recipients to choose the right product and enhance your image as an expert. It’s really not engaging to read about how cheap your products or services are. Let subscribers make their own shopping decisions and use discounts only from time to time, when they can be a powerful incitive to buy instead of an ordinary, standard feature of your newsletters.

4. Create your first professional campaign

Let’s dispel the myth that you need any coding or graphic skills to create professional campaigns and start your own newsletter. Most professional email marketing systems allow you to create appealing messages with the use of a drag & drop creator. It helps to build your message just like you would with building blocks – you pick from a range of ready elements and put your newsletter together exactly as you want it. Just upload your product pictures and it’s done. You can always use ready-made responsive email templates too.

Are you concerned that pro email marketing software might be too expensive for an SME? It isn’t, not by a long shot. Convenient pricing plans allow you to choose the package that works best for your needs and for your budget. Most systems have a free plan to allows you to try it out and use its full functionality so you can get an idea of easy it is to use. There’s no risk – just open a free account and look around!

5. Test new things and learn

The real power of email marketing is advanced targeting and message personalisation. Thanks to them, every subscriber receives appropriate content and offers that can be tailored to his needs and interests. Intuitive email marketing platforms offer a complete range of optimisation tools, expanded reports and functionalities that empower you to send the right messages to the right people and send content that has the best chance of engaging them.

The advantage of professional email marketing systems over ordinary personal email service providers is that they offer a range of features that let you test different subject lines, sender names and even time of delivery of your campaigns. It means that you can send messages with different parameters and then choose whichever version gets the best reception from a sample group. This allows you to gain an insight into which strategies do and don’t work and use that information to make your next campaign even better. All of this can be learned by anyone willing to invest a little time into exploring the possibilities of email marketing, even an absolute beginner!