Getting Started with Email Marketing

Getting Started with Email Marketing

email-marketing-infographicEvery day you get pinged with messages from other companies — Promotions, offers, sales letters, follow ups. And you may be asking yourself, how are they doing that? More importantly, how do I do that?

What you should be asking yourself is, should I do that?

Email marketing isn’t for every company. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to follow up with your customers, there may be thousands or millions of dollars in revenue waiting in your lead database. But — and this is a big BUT. If you don’t create a solid email strategy for those leads, you’re wasting both your time, and your customers.

The best way to tailor your marketing efforts is for you to understand your customer base. What does your average customer look like? What types of campaigns work best for those demographics?

So, we’re going to start at the beginning.

Reputation is everything

Before I get into the types of email campaigns, I want to be sure you understand another part of email marketing that needs to be in your mind from the get-go your reputation. This isn’t your reputation with your customers, though that is also important. Your email marketing reputation is how MSPs (mail service providers, e.g. Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail) see you as a business. MSPs combine different data points about your campaigns to create a reputation profile for your business.

These are the kinds of things that MSPs are looking for:

Are your customers interacting with your campaigns in a positive way? (Opens, clicks, replies)

Are your customers marking your emails as spam?

Are your customers marking your emails that ended up in spam on accident as NOT spam?

Are your customers unsubscribing in droves?

Types of Email Campaigns

Marketing Blasts– These types of campaigns are typically sent out to an entire list, or a segment of a list with a specific promotion. Save 15% with this coupon code, sale on X product, etc. These are blanket promotions that anyone on your list might enjoy.

Marketing blasts can also be more specific, a 15% off to only the customers who purchased a previous product. Or a discount on a product that would be considered an accessory for something they purchased recently. The more sophisticated your CRM  (Customer Relationship Management), the more relevant you can make your marketing blasts.

If your company has a focus on ecommerce, you should be doing these types of campaigns.

Triggered Campaigns – For triggered campaigns, typically you’re going to need a sophisticated CRM. These types of campaigns are set up within email marketing software to automatically trigger to customers when they reach a certain criteria.  If a customer has been in your database for three months and needs a follow up, an email goes out automatically. If a customer has been sitting for a year, and you still haven’t gotten them on the phone, an email goes out.

These types of campaigns are usually great for companies with sales departments that focus on typical lead gen, this is also a good fit for realtors.

Sales Letters – These aren’t seen as often, that’s not to say they aren’t effective. Some industries can be helped with sales letters. Products that have a longer sales life cycle, real estate, home improvement, interior design, etc. These letters typically not only sell the lead on a product, they also sell the sales person selling it, and the company. As a rule, keep your sales letter under one page.

These types of campaigns are best for high-ticket items, or products with a long life cycle. Home improvement, interior design, real estate, cosmetic surgery, etc.

Transactional Emails – These aren’t traditional campaigns per say, however, they are a very important part of an email strategy. Not only because they garner trust with your customer, but because transactional emails almost never get marked as spam. Transactional emails are more likely to hit the inbox, and they’re more likely to be opened. What does that mean for you? That’s a bonus for your email marketing reputation with ESPs. The more your customers interact with your emails, the better your reputation is.

These types of campaigns are sent for item purchases, refunds, shipping notifications, etc.

Newsletter – Newsletters are something that I don’t see often anymore. If I do see them, they’re from a mom and pop company. There are some companies that I think could be quite successful with newsletters. However, you need to balance the right amount of company/product/promotional information to keep your customer interested.

These types of campaigns are typically used by small businesses or insurance agencies to release small bits of information such as product releases, promotions, or changes within the company.

Sponsored emails – I will be honest. I think these types of emails are the devil. There, I said it. As a user, nothing makes me more angry than signing up for a company’s email list to be bombarded by offers that someone paid them to send me. Stop it. Please, just stop. If you don’t have anything to say to your customers, do NOT let someone pay you to say something to them. This dilutes your brand, this will raise your spam complaints, and you may very well scare these customers away for good.

More importantly, to me, these types of campaigns are simply skirting the CAN-Spam laws. Sure, you didn’t buy the list. But, you bought the ability to market to those leads — to me, that’s not much different.

These types of emails are sent when a business pays another business to send out a sponsored promotion to their list.

These don’t cover every type of email campaign. However, these do cover the main ones you’ll encounter. There are also campaign types that are subsets of those above. I’ll go into more detail about those in other posts.


Picking an Email Platform

This deserves a post of its own. There are a lot of factors that need to be considered when picking an email platform. The most important, opt in practices. Many Email Providers will ask that you ‘re-opt in’ all of your users upon signing. This means that you send a mass email to every user in your database so that they can verify they want emails from you. If an email provider asks you to do this, move on. These types of campaigns never work, and this will purge 90% of your emails.

Regardless though, should your spam complaint rate be too high, be ready to explain to your ESP where your leads came from.

Look at cost, cost per email, and what the ESP considers best practices. Not only will you need to comply with CAN-Spam, you will also need to comply with the standards the ESP sets.

Building your list

If you have a database with your customers in it, you already have a list. What you’ll need to do is get that list into your chosen ESP. You can either do this with an API connection (your IT team will be able to help you with this, or you can hire the ESP to handle it for you), or you can do this by exporting the data from your database prior to every send and synching it with your lists.

I recommend the automated route, you’re less likely to end up with problems. Manually updating a database with uploads before a send gets really frustrating, and time consuming.

After you get your list inside your ESP, I’d recommend segmenting the list. Contact the leads that are newest in your system first, then work your way back. Keep in mind, leads over three years old typically shouldn’t be contacted. Those email addresses likely are no longer good, or the customer no longer remembers your company.

Building a list from scratch? Place a widget on your website that allows users to opt-in to emails. Best practices ask that you do a double opt in, but you don’t have to do this for CAN-Spam compliance.

Writing your content

You have a list, and a platform — now what? You’ll need to decide what type of campaign you want to send. If you’re looking to send out a discount code, I’d recommend having some kind of promotion for the launch of your email program.

Also, though it’s not require by law, I recommend putting your unsubscribe link both at the bottom of the email and the top. Can spam laws require an unsubscribe link somewhere in your email, along with a physical address. If you don’t have a physical address for your business, you can use a P.O. Box.


When to send

To figure out the prime sending time for your list, it’s going to take some testing. As a rule, I don’t recommend emails go out on a Monday. If you’re trying to drive traffic to a retail location, Friday is good. If you’re trying to drive any action that’s more complicated than ‘purchase this’ or ‘click this’, send your email on Wednesday or Thursday. The earlier you are in the week, the more likely your customers are to be occupied with their jobs/work email.

Unless you have big promotions for a holiday, I would stay away from the week of holidays. Most people are not checking promotional emails during that time.

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Getting Started with Email Marketing
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Getting Started with Email Marketing
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