When companies harness the triumvirate of advertising, public relations and marketing, the latter often receives less attention. As a more strategic and less overt type of communications, marketing lacks the visual impact of advertising. It also misses the immediacy of PR photo shoots or social media campaigns.
Even if companies set aside funds for marketing, email campaigns might be overlooked. And yet as a method of communicating, email offers many benefits in terms of attracting and retaining customers. A cheap email campaign generally achieves higher response rates than hit-and-hope advertising – not least because emails are usually sent to people who’ve agreed to receive them. It shouldn’t need stating that buying third-party mailing lists is counterproductive, given the proliferation of dead accounts and unwilling recipients who’ll (rightly) label messages as spam.
Is cheap email fact or fiction?
In reality, email marketing deserves consideration even during periods of budgetary constraints, such as during a company’s first year of trading. Email is a free communication platform apart from hosting costs, and WestHost currently charges just 50 cents per month for our Personal Email package. With 2GB of storage and 10MB attachment limits, it’s ideal for a small business to send out targeted email campaigns. It’s possible to add a hundred separate mailboxes, which automatically synchronize across multiple devices and include round-the-clock technical support.
Once cheap email hosting has been taken care of, it’s time to start thinking about marketing strategies. Specifically, consider how email can achieve a particular objective – there’s no point firing out messages indiscriminately. Despite email effectively being a free communications platform, significant amounts of effort are usually invested in generating engaging and original content.
Time is often one of the most valuable resources a company has, so it’s crucial to streamline the marketing process into a few simple steps:
#1. Identify an objective, like boosting sales or raising awareness.
#2. Develop a message capable of achieving your objective.
#3. Design a one-column message, displaying equally well on desktop or mobile devices.
#4. Choose a short, compelling subject line to maximize open rates in preview panes.
#5. Incentivize recipients to complete an action by offering discounts or freebies.
#6. Track response rates, and note any lessons learned for future email campaigns.
Marketing experts have identified a number of ways to increase the emotional connection between brand and client. Contrary to popular opinion, personalization doesn’t just involve using someone’s name in an opening sentence. Instead, messages should address preferences, past activities or stated intentions. A dog owner isn’t going to be interested in discounts on cat treats, but they’ll probably welcome occasional reminders to reorder
consumable items like dog food. Achieving this requires detailed database management – but again, the only cost involved in building an effective database is time.
Speaking of time, research suggests the highest open rates are enjoyed by emails dispatched between 8 pm and midnight. Strangely, late evening is also the least popular slot in terms of sending messages. Open rates are best on Tuesdays, while multiple weekly emails should ideally be sent on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Do try to avoid excessive email distribution, as fatigue soon leads to unsubscribe levels rising.
Ask the experts
Conversely, people love being asked for their opinions. Invite opt-in mailing list recipients to give their thoughts on branding, past purchases and future intentions. Not only is this another way to increase engagement, it brings them back onto the company website – and keeps them there. Search engines measure average site visits as part of their ranking calculations, and a feedback form is a great consumer of time. Positive feedback could be used as a promotional tool, but even negative comments may be turned into positives following swift resolution. Customers know things occasionally go wrong, which is why they’re more interested in how issues are dealt with than the problem itself.
Rise of the robots
Automation has made email marketing far simpler. Software tools automatically dispatch mail in batches at specific intervals, monitoring how many messages are read. They’re able to track whether people click through to a website, which pages are visited and what actions get undertaken. Since 20% of customers generally make 80% of ecommerce purchases, it’s advisable to monitor what everyone else is doing – or not doing.
Another interesting statistic involves the 22% rise in purchases when an email marketing campaign is supported by related social advertising. Social campaigns can themselves be automated to target consumer demographics, ranging from location and age to interests and past behaviors. A synchronized campaign also implies professionalism and consistency – two valuable attributes for building confidence in a brand. And once again, this reinforces how even a cheap email marketing campaign is capable of performing better than its modest impact on the balance sheet might suggest.