A step-by-step guide to starting your email marketing
What do you think is the best marketing practice in 2021? Did you say Social Media Marketing or SEO? No, that is not correct; Email Marketing is the winner. Though it started over a few decades now, it is still the best marketing practice. It is exactly 50 years since Ray Tomilson sent the first email in the year 1971. He was working on the famous ARPANET project (which we say was the beginning of the Internet too) when he sent the first email to the adjacent computer. The first email for marketing purposes was sent seven years later, in 1978, by a man named Gary Thuerk. There were 400 recipients of this email, and it made him around $13 million.
- What is email marketing?
- How to do email marketing?
- Advantages of email marketing
- A step-by-step guide to starting your email marketing campaign
- 11 Best Email Marketing Practices
What is email marketing?
It is no rocket science to understand what email marketing is. As the name suggests, marketing through emails is known as email marketing. You build an email list by attracting people to sign up to your email newsletters and introducing new products and offers regularly.
How to do email marketing?
Use an Email Service Provider(ESP) to send commercial emails. ESPs are software that is used to send emails to your email subscribers. It is not recommended to use Internet Service Providers(ISPs) like Google, Outlook, etc., to send mass emails for personal use. Such activity may lead to the deactivation of your account.
So, how to do it? In short, buy an ESP, build your email list and start sending emails. But, wait, it is not as easy as said than done.
Advantages of email marketing
With the wide usage of email year after year, it is essential to use email marketing for your business. There are over 4 billion email users globally, and this number is projected to grow even more.
- Your email subscribers receive the newsletters and find them personalized (if sent the right way). This will build trust over a while, and your one-time customers turn into your recurring buyers.
- 99% of the people check their emails every day. This is a good opportunity to showcase your products and offers because customers love offers. A recent study showed that 72% of the people want offers and do not educate them about the product.
- Email Service Providers allow you to send customized emails. That means you can add GIFs, emojis, your brand's layout and color palette, graffiti, and a lot many things that you want to add. The plus point is, all these can be done at a very minimal charge, and you get a huge Return On Investment(ROI) of 4400%.
A step-by-step guide to starting your email marketing campaign
Here is a step-by-step guide to starting your email marketing campaign.
Find the right Email Service provider for you: just like any other product, there are more than 100 ESPs available in the market. So, it becomes important to choose which one do you need right now carefully. To make a better choice, consider the following factors:
- Budget: If you are just starting, you do not need the fancy GIFs in your emails.
- Email volume: how many emails will you send to your subscribers?
- Do you plan to design the emails by coding or use an inbuilt template? In the former case, you would look for an ESP which comes with an HTML editor.
- What are the automation options available?
- How effectively can you use the segmentation offered by the ESP?
- Look for how much you may end up paying each month. Some ESPs charge you according to the number of subscribers, while others charge according to the email volume. It is very easy to get lured by the number of subscribers you can send emails for free initially, but beyond a certain number, the prices increase significantly.
Always consider your future needs because your list will eventually increase but don't pay more than what you make.
Build your list: Building your list is essentially very important because the more subscribers you have, the more sales you make. Sometimes, campaigns are run for the sole purpose of increasing the number of subscribers to your newsletters. You may try the following to build your list:
- Start with the people you know: import the emails of your existing customers from your CRM system. Some of the emails may be from the previous campaigns also.
- Start as soon as you can: as and when you can afford the monthly charges of your ESP, you should start sending emails. List building increases your revenue according to the compound effect. Make the compounding effect work for you from this moment.
- Create a blog section on your website: this is the best way to increase your subscribers. Creating content for your blog that calls for action may take some time and if you don't have the time to do this yourself, outsource it.
- Another way through which you can build your list is through a lead magnet or freebie. You may create a lucrative lead magnet with a compelling headline to attract your website visitors to sign up to your newsletter to access the freebie. Your lead magnet may be an ebook consisting of '7 Herbs to make your hair stronger naturally' or '7 essential oils that work magically' if you sell hair care products. You can change your lead magnet from time to time.
- Add a link in your email that makes sharing easy: this step may increase the CTR by over 158%. To make this possible, ask your current followers to share the coupons with X number of people to access the coupon. This may not work if the coupon doesn't offer attractive discounts.
- Make use of the A/B testing if your ESP provides that function: by using the A/B testing, you can send two variations of the email with minor changes. You may try a different Call to Action instead of 'Sign Up Now' to try 'Grab the eBook for Free.' You may try different pop-up messages.
Add value regularly: merely sending emails won't bring in sales; you have to continuously send valuable content. Set the expectations high and work on it; this will make sure that your audience is eager for your newsletters. Don't forget to follow up.
- Everything is now completely set in the background, and now is the time to work on your campaign.
Create a plan: Just like any other marketing campaign, an email marketing campaign has some similar steps to follow. Here is a list of steps to follow to create an outline of the plan:
- Create an audience persona: you should know your target audience. Only then can you send them personalized emails that would result in fruitful relations and, eventually, greater ROI.
- Audience segmentation: divide your audience into small groups based on various demographics such as age and location, their interests, newsletter subscribers, daily email list, etc. This way, you can send more relevant emails for the campaign's success. This will increase your click-through rates because you know what the audience wants to see.
- Decide the content: each campaign has different content based on the goals of the particular campaign. Your goal may be to increase subscribers, launch a product, or introduce a flash sale.
- Decide the frequency of emails: how many emails would be good to go? Make sure you are not spamming their inboxes; otherwise, they'll unsubscribe from your list.
Testing: check how your email looks on various devices. In other words, see how responsive are the designs that you selected. You may do this by sending a few emails to your friends and asking for their feedback. Also, ask them whether the email has any mistakes.
Automate your email: as, and when you get new subscribers, automation will send a series of emails from the welcome email to follow-ups. Once set, you need not worry about sending emails to each new subscriber. This way, you can save more time, and your previous emails will continue bringing sales for you.
Measure the success of your campaign regularly: keeping an eye on the analytics will give you clarity over what is working and what is not. This will help you make smart decisions in the future. You may analyze the following data:
- The opening rate of your emails: it is the percentage of subscribers that open your emails. According to a survey by MailChimp, the average email open rate is found to be 21.33%. You may improve your open rates by improving your subject lines(keep it short yet persuasive) and segmenting the audience properly.
- Click-through rate of your emails: it is the percentage of people who clicked a link in the email. The same survey by MailChimp also revealed that the average click-through rate is 2.62%. You can improve this number by adding better CTAs and embedding relevant links.
- Unsubscribe or Opt-out rates: this is a signal that something went wrong. Though it is bound to happen, you should try to keep this number low. Sometimes, some people should unsubscribe because they are not your prospective customers.
11 Best Email Marketing Practices
- Don't buy email lists: Not only is it unethical but also illegal. Many countries have strict rules against this. When people don't subscribe to your emails, they will likely mark you spam or report you. Getting marked as spam repeatedly will make you unfit to send emails because the Service Provider would not allow you to use their platform.
- Send a confirmation link as the first email to make sure that the customer is interested and this also makes sure that your emails will not get bounced off.
- Send personalized emails: Address your subscribers with their first name and schedule the email according to their time zone. Use behavior triggers to entice them to read your email.
- Send mobile-friendly emails: Though it is an in-built feature of most ESPs, there is no harm in checking this twice. Most of the emails are read on mobile devices, so it is important to take care of that.
- Avoid spam trigger words in your email: certain words will land your email directly into spam folders. Here is a list of such words.
- Always add an 'Unsubscribe' button at the end of your email: this will make sure you are spending money only on potential customers. Make this option very much visible.
- Always plan the emails and follow-ups
- Add the 'Subscribe' option in your emails to make sure the new recipient can subscribe easily if the email is forwarded.
- Add a link in the email that will take the recipients to the website version of the email. Something like 'Click to view in browser.' This will make sure the recipient can read the email with a low internet connection also.
- Don't use email templates wider than 650 pixels: you are making your recipients scroll horizontally by not doing so. This can be a negative point if the recipient is reading your email on a mobile device.
- Last but not least, use short but compelling subject lines. Average subject lines that work well are not more than 50 characters. Use these characters wisely to make your subscribers open your emails. Otherwise, how much ever good content you write in the body will be useless because it is not getting opened. Try to create urgency and behavior triggers for better results.
Now that you are aware of the benefits of Email Marketing and have not done one before, it is high time to try it out. Email Marketing has the highest ROI when compared to other marketing campaigns. It is said that an email list of 10,000 subscribers has the potential to bring $50,000 in revenue when run once. Isn't that huge?
Remember that each email has the potential of either making or breaking it. You are either one click away from a sale or getting a subscriber to get off your list. So make full use of this opportunity because people are permitting you to enter into their inboxes.
Be aware of the laws and regulations regarding emails across countries. Never try to do anything unethical or illegal, as it will completely tarnish your reputation and cause you heavy fines. European countries have the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which ensures that you have the recipient's consent. Similarly, the US has an important guideline CAN-SPAM.
According to this rule, you can not use "no-reply" or similar phrases as your email sender's name, i.e., your email cannot look something like "[email protected]" Do you know this rule came into play? This is because such emails prevent the recipients from opting out or even replying.
Finally, understand that no hard and fast rule will make your subscribers buy your products or services. All these come down to whether you are emailing the right audience, is the content relevant and compelling, and all the nitty-gritty that we talked about throughout this guide.
About the author
Dennis Hoinkis has been working as a web developer and in online marketing since 1998. After building up a marketing agency and the exit in 2013, he consulted international groups as a freelance consultant. Since 2020, he and his team now offer staffing services in this field.
Dennis Hoinkis CEO, FSOM Group Corp.