Budget email marketing #2 Before you start

Email Marketing Reports: 06/02/2009 12:35

business successOK, Part 1 of this series explained why email marketing is worth exploring even if you have a challenging financial situation (i.e. no cash for marketing).

But those looking to jump in and grab the benefits often fall victim to misplaced expectations and crucial knowledge gaps. Our panel of email experts identify four key points to grasp for the SME entering the path to email marketing success…

Be patient

The strong promise of email marketing is a double-edged sword. Although the good returns attract interest, they also tempt newcomers into setting their expectations way too high.

The message from our experts: be patient.

Justin Premick, Education Marketing Manager at AWeber, says that… “SMEs need to understand that email is a long-haul strategy, and that to make it work, they need to take a long-haul approach.”

Steve Adams, Vice President Marketing for Campaigner, adds:

“Like anything, effective email marketing is a skill that you hone over time.”

The first campaign report (and open rates in particular) often prove a shock to those expecting every outgoing email to be seen, read and responded to by every recipient.

Janine Popick, CEO of VerticalResponse notes that when reports show 40% of recipients ‘open‘ the email…

“…small businesses are surprised at that low number. When we tell them that’s a great open rate many are perplexed.”

“I think what they need to understand is that just like them and all of us, we don’t open everything. There’s no time and sometimes no interest in the subject line.”

Raj Khera, CEO of MailerMailer continues:

“Do not expect all of your readers to open your message, even those you have a very good relationship with. Keep at it, sending your newsletter regularly.”

This idea of consistency is echoed by Popick, who adds:

“Marketing shouldn’t stop after the first email is sent.”

This long-term approach also plays to the idea of email as a relationship builder, not (just) a one-off message seeking to gain a quick sale or three.

Many SMEs in the service sector, for example, use informational newsletters to keep in touch with clients and prospects over time, building a reputation and image through the quality and helpfulness of that information.

That process takes time and phones may not start ringing as a result for a few months.

Give as well as take

This brings us to the issue of value. Email marketing is often reduced to the idea of sending out an offer via email, watch sales pour in, send out another offer, watch sales pour in, etc.

This short-termism is eventually self-defeating.

Justin Premick explains:

“Some SMEs struggle with the concept that email is not a short-term sales lifter.”

“They send out an email promotion, they see sales go up, and they get an ’email high’ that they want to reproduce by sending out another promotion ASAP.”

“Of course, like any other addiction, that high gets harder to reproduce as subscriber fatigue sets in.”

Long-term success depends on recognizing that an email is a two-way exchange. If you want attention, loyalty and, yes, sales, then you have to offer value in return.

Dan Forootan, CEO of StreamSend confirms this, saying:

“…email marketing is a very effective tool when reaching out to an established customer base by sending email messages with true value.”

As well as special offers, promotions or discounts, Dan suggests including industry news or trends, asking customers for feedback through surveys or adding their product reviews.

Steve Adams continues the theme, advising SMEs to provide value by…

“…engaging your audience with tips and information they can use. Email is great for special promotions, offers and sales, but you also want your readers to get something out of it – not just a hard sell.”

“That’s one of the biggest knowledge gaps all marketers face – how do I engage my audience and offer value while also letting them know about my products, services and expertise? Taking time to answer that question for yourself will help you execute winning campaigns.”

Build a list respectfully

Of course, any benefits can only accrue if you have people to send your emails to. Not just any people, but those who explicitly asked to receive them (those who opt-in).

As Steve Adams puts it:

“The first step is building your email list and making sure everyone has opted-in.”

Too many SMEs are seduced by ads selling thousands and millions of email addresses for a few dollars. Unfortunately, there is no quick route to building your address list.

Raj Khera has some particular warnings on this issue…

“Never buy an email list. There is no such thing as an opt-in list that you can buy. Think about it: would you ever put your name on a list and give someone permission to resell it over and over, thereby flooding your email address with unsolicited offers? No, and neither would anyone else.”

(For more on this, see here.)

He also advises strongly against borrowing lists:

“What if you attended a trade show and the trade show management provided you with a list of all attendees, including their email address. Is it okay for you to email them? Not unless each recipient agreed that it was okay to pass their name on with the understanding that they would be receiving email offers. Most likely, the answer will be no.”

His rule of thumb?

“…unless a recipient wanted to hear from you (or your company) specifically, do not email them.”

As Dan Forootan reminds us…

“The key to success has always been in sending to a list with quality email addresses.”

This means (again) patience as you build your list.

Get specialist help

Of course, all our experts would suggest you use specialist software or services to manage your list and emails (all sell such services). But they’re absolutely right.

A temptation for those new to the field is to send out marketing emails using Outlook or similar email software. A mistake.

These were not built for that job, and for just a few dollars you can get specialist tools that take away the pain of managing address lists, help get your email delivered effectively and give you useful reports on just who clicked on what link in your emails.

(For more information on that, see this article.)

Next week, part 3 expands on some of these issues and looks at some simple things SMEs can do to make more of their email marketing.

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