Tara Hall

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Feb 09, 2016

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What is email marketing and is it right for your business?

In the first three articles of this marketing series, I introduced you to content marketing, search marketing, and social media marketing.

These three types of marketing are so closely related that some would argue that they are actually just content marketing. I break them out because you may not have the time or the inclination to implement all three.

For the fourth article in this series, I introduce you to email marketing. Unlike the other forms of online marketing, this one isn’t always free, but the results may be worth the investment to your business.

What is email marketing?

Email marketing is a form of online marketing that uses email to engage your leads and to convert them to clients. What makes email marketing different is your audience has to opt in to receive your emails.

When an audience member provides you with an email address, she has taken a step forward in her business relationship with you by inviting you into her inbox.

Generally, small business marketers use email marketing to send:

Advantages of email marketing

Email is still a proven and effective way in which to reach your leads. Billions of emails are still sent each day, and billions of email accounts exist worldwide.

Despite rumors to the contrary, email isn’t dead or dying. There has yet to be a significant threat to replace it. For better or worse, email is part of our daily lives.

Keeping in touch

People opt in to be contacted via email because they want to stay informed. While not every email can result in a sale, it’s a good way to communicate what’s happening in your business.

In the process, you stay top of mind with your email recipients. When it comes time for them to take action, you may be the first one they contact.

Driving sales

If you’re a business that provides special offers, discounts, or coupons, then sending these types of emails to your list can drive sales. These emails provide incentive for your recipients to visit your website, online store, or even your brick and mortar store.

Extending your content marketing reach

Email is a great complement to your content marketing efforts. There’s no need to develop unique email content if you have neither the time nor the inclination. Recycle content from your content marketing plan for your emails. Use email to direct recipients to your website.

Return on investment

Even if you don’t have much of a marketing budget, consider this statistic from one source:

For every $1 spent, $44.25 is the average return on email marketing investment.

With that in mind, a successful email campaign can pay for itself sometimes several times over.

Not only does email marketing have a proven ROI, but according to McKinsey & Company,

the rate at which emails prompt purchases is not only estimated to be at least 3 times that of social media, but the average order value is also 17% higher.

There are many more good reasons and statistics to show how effective email marketing can be. Take a look at your own inbox to see how many newsletters you subscribe to or how many promotional emails you receive each day or week.

Email marketing tools

If you’re going to invest in email marketing, then it’s a good idea to invest in an email marketing tool. Do-it-yourself (DIY) solutions that include a spreadsheet of contacts and sending bcc emails are not a good idea.

Email marketing tools provide features that make email marketing simple. These features are not easily replicated with a DIY solution, in particular tracking email statistics, such as open rates, and account management options, such as unsubscribe.

These tools also help you comply with anti-spam laws, so it’s one less issue for you to worry about.

MailChimp is known for offering free accounts for those with 2,000 or fewer email addresses. But a free MailChimp account, doesn’t offer the analytic tools that you need to measure effectiveness as of this writing.

You may want to pay for a monthly or annual plan that provides access to analytics. There are plans that start at less than $20 per month, and some tools offer free trials. Keep in mind that the cost for some of these plans is based on the size of your email list. The more email addresses on your list, the more you can expect to pay.

How to acquire email addresses

Speaking of email lists, how do you build one? There are two common ways to do this:

Purchase a list

There are services that will sell email lists for your marketing use. These lists include targeted prospects who meet a set of criteria. Most often, these lists contain current contact information and do not include contacts who have opted out.

Purchasing a list has a few disadvantages:

Provide email sign-up

A less expensive way to build a list is to provide an email sign-up form. To convince a web visitor to provide her email address, you need to offer her something valuable in return.

Typically, you provide an incentive worth signing up for, such as:

With the contact’s permission, you can add an individual email address to your list. To avoid violating anti-spam laws, do not add anyone to your list who has not provided permission.

Someone who has not given you permission to receive your marketing emails can report spam, which can result in blacklisting and even fines.

One thing to keep in mind is that it’s not the size of your email list that matters, but the quality of the list. It’s better to have a smaller list of qualified leads than a larger list of unqualified ones.

You have a better chance of converting qualified leads to customers than converting unqualified leads.

Measuring your success

How do you know if your email campaigns are successful? Your email marketing tool gathers various metrics on each email sent. Here are a few metrics to observe:

Research email marketing benchmarks for your industry to find out how well your emails are performing relative to others in your field. And use these metrics to help improve future email campaigns.

Wrap up

Having introduced you to these four forms of online marketing, I’ll put them all together for you in the last installment of this series. In that article, I’ll show you a plan for a small business that you can adopt and tailor for your business.