With the overwhelming control and power growing integration of social media into marketing strategies, it can be easy to forget that email exists as a form of business-to-customer outreach. We’re not saying that social media isn’t an exciting and financially rewarding part of online strategy (because we’d definitely recommend plugging your company into social media)—but emails are still an incredibly useful tool for your company! While email may feel a little less “cutting edge”—
—our dependence on email is still going strong.
Business Insider recently did a survey that asked regular, average-Joe consumers how many times they check their email per day, and it’s still pretty darn often. That’s a lot of opportunity to connect with your customers and pitch your brand and products. In fact, it’s actually a higher rate of checking email than a poll conducted a few years ago would have garnered—the same survey found that the polled group checked their phones more than 150 times a day, on average, and email apps have made checking your inbox more convenient than ever.
If you’re not taking advantage of Ye Olde Electronic Mail, it’s still not too late to jump onto this bandwagon! It’s still kicking, still a highly productive avenue for both marketing and for branding, and we’ve got some general guidelines and tips to help you start up an email marketing campaign or revamp the one you’ve got.
We Need to Talk About Spam
Just like the canned, pre-cooked meat, spam is highly questionable and downright nasty (sorry all spam lovers, I’ll let you cook in peace). Online spam is mass-emailing junk mail, unsolicited, to hundreds or thousands of innocent emailers. They’re typically commercial emails that can range from the knock-off versions of As-Seen-on-TV Infomercials to phishing to happy little links to viruses that’ll crash your computer and leave it a fried mess.
No one likes spam. No one.
So back in 2003, the CAN-SPAM Act was created to deal with spam—sort of. The Bureau of Consumer Protection does say that CAN-SPAM doesn’t just apply to bulk email like spam: "It covers all commercial messages, which the law defines as 'any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,' including email that promotes content on commercial websites.”
Hint: that means you. Well, not you as in Pop Princess Britney Spears. You as in reader-trying-to-start-an-email-campaign.
That law applies to all of us too. In the quest to take out spam, we were kind of hit in the crossfire. The FTC (the Federal Trade Commissioned) fines $16,000 for each and every email that violates the CAN-SPAM Act. And you’re probably not just emailing a single customer each round of company emails, so… ouch.
You’re going to want to keep your email campaign within the CAN-SPAM guidelines.
Can’t Buy My Love
You might be tempted at some point to buy or rent email lists.
Not. Worth. It.
First, you’re not necessarily buying customers who have any interest in your product—you can’t even guarantee that they’ll even have heard of your company. Second, you’re damaging your brand immediately when you’re sending unwanted email. Who’s ever responded positively to getting an unasked-for ad clogging up their inbox? You’re immediately associating your brand with intrusiveness. And it’s not only your brand in trouble—your company’s reliability can be damaged by email lists, which make you look an awful lot like a spammer.
Finally, it can be extremely hard to buy lists legally. Hubspot drew the line in the sand and essentially said that you’re really not going to find a reputable company that’s trying to send you an email list. And they’re right. This is a game you don’t want to play. Instead, create good, shareable content, even in your emails, and focus on sending emails that have purpose, that’s how you’ll build an email subscription base.
Give your subscribers information, persuade them, or go for any engaging angle that best suits your brand and any specific campaigns you’re conducting. An email campaign can’t expect to maintain contact with each of its original subscribers. You’re going to lose a couple along the way. But you’re much less likely to lose as many subscribers if your emails fulfil a customer need. The specific need you fill might not be the same for each email—and that’s good! You want to vary your emails to keep your customers opening each new notification in their inbox.
Me and My Five Hundred Closest Friends—Know Your Audience
A visual representation of your audience, who all clean up very well
Like any other marketing campaign, the most important first step in starting your email campaign is to identify your target audience. Typically, this audience will be the same as your general customer base. But sometimes your email audience will represent only a specific part of your user-base; a lot of your Millennial audiences are more likely to keep up with your company’s updates through social media than they are to sign up to receive emails.
To help you identify your target audience, ask your customers to answer a few identifying questions about what they’re looking for from your company and what they expect from your emails. These fielding questions can be asked when your customers are submitting their email addresses, and the answers they provide can help you tailor the material that you’re sending their way.
Blowing Up Your Inbox
We’ve already talked about the dreaded result of being branded as spam from a legal standpoint. From a personal standpoint, anyone who’s ever received junk mail knows what an absolute pain a persistent spammer can be.
This graph created by TechnologyAdvice shows the results they generated from a poll asking “Why do you mark content as spam?”
The top result, that the company emailed too often, is often the reason why most subscribers unsubscribe from email campaigns. If your customers are constantly being bombarded by your company, you’re crossing into dangerous marketing territory. With email campaigns, you must understand that you’re on your customer’s home turf. You’re a houseguest. And no one likes a houseguest that pops in uninvited, especially one who’s popping in far too often.
So, then—how often is too often?
Marketingsherpa found in their survey that most consumers prefer to be emailed at least monthly—which makes sense. Any less than that, and you’re practically nonsexist as an emailing entity. The next highest percentage indicated that they preferred at least weekly.
Keeping that data in mind, plan out your schedule for your email campaign. You’ll want to plan which topics and opportunities your emails will promote, how many emails you’re going to send out per month, and what goals you want your marketing campaign to achieve: do you want to gain more traffic for your website? Do you want to build your brand? Create brand advocates? Offer new deals and opportunities for loyal customers? Having set goals can help you monitor the success of your email campaign and make adjustments as you go.
Email campaigns aren’t even close to being old school. They’re still a perfect method for maintaining contact with your customers and sharing valuable company information.
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