A 2011 MerchantCircle.com survey of over 8,000 US local business owners found email marketing cited by 35.8% as a “Top three most effective marketing or advertising method.” Likewise, the 9th Annual Merchant Survey (2010) conducted by The E-tailing Group asked merchants to list which initiatives they would be using to improve website performance. 79% chose “send more targeted email” as the top answer. No other marketing tool gives you direct interaction with clients in a platform that incorporates graphic design, valuable content, web links, and incentives like an email newsletter does.
Done right, email marketing can have a strong, positive impact on your business. Here are the strategies to ensure your email newsletter is as effective as possible.
Share great content. This is the bread and butter of effective email marketing because interesting, appealing, and humorous content compels your clients and prospects to read your e-newsletter and visit links. It takes time to produce good content, so don’t wait to pull it together at the last minute. Create a project folder for your newsletter so that you can add a new picture, feature story, or content idea whenever ideas come to you you.
Headlines and top stories don’t have to be related to your business. In fact, fun anecdotes, inspirational quotes, product reviews, pro-tips, and even editorial copy is more likely to engage your readers initially and keep them on the page. You can sell your product or service later, but try to make the first impression and subject line as intriguing as possible. Consider capitalizing key words, mentioning deals, or using friendly copy in the subject line to lure readers to open your email.
Many businesses will recycle content week after week for e-newsletters. Be wary of this, as sending emails too frequently with stale information or too many graphics will quickly lead to a rush of unsubscribes. If you must re-use content, take the time to paraphrase or rewrite your content so that it stays fresh.
Engage readers by asking for their help. This can be as simple as voting in an online poll, filling out a survey, or asking for product reviews or testimonials. You’ll e amazed how quickly your readers will offer up their time when prompted. Reader reviews and testimonials are invaluable for new businesses, and also make for great copy in subsequent newsletters. Getting readers to interact with your newsletter is the best way to make sure they open it every time.
Remember to provide links. One of the biggest assets of email marketing is the ability to dispatch web traffic. Offer links back to your website, specifically to new products or services, or to valuable areas of your site. This is your opportunity to directly stimulate web traffic. Include links to events, social media pages, and other sites if they will return the favor for you.
Sign up for other email newsletters. Any newsletter designer or graphic artist will tell you to always do your homework before designing. Sign up for competitors’ newsletters. Read them every week. Notice what works and what doesn’t. Check out graphic design styles, determine what you like, and then integrate that into your design. Pay attention to email marketing trends and consider how you can use them to your advantage.
Check your statistics from previous newsletters. Most email newsletter providers have reports and stats to allow you to see how many impressions and clicks your email received. This is important information. You can find out which headlines and links got more clicks, and apply that intelligence to upcoming emails. You may be surprised to see that a fun fact or product review got more attention than a coupon or featured deal.
Make sure you seek lots of feedback before pressing “send.” The preview button is there for a reason! Send a test email to associates, friends, and business partners to get their feedback on your design — then apply them. Your email is a reflection of your business, so make sure it’s just right. Avoid typos and grammatical errors costs and verify all data is correct to avoid ever sending a “corrections” blast.
If you take the time to create powerful and valuable newsletters, email marketing can be a winning tool for your business. When your clients and prospects look forward to your emails, your newsletter is a lot more likely to get the impressions you want, and stay out of the trash folder.
About the author: Industry veteran Anita Brady is the President of 123Print.com, a provider of high quality customizable items like business cards, letterhead and other materials for small businesses and solo practitioners.