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Recently, I had the pleasure of being a panelist at ThinkBusiness Media’s Ready, Set… Grow! breakfast event. The subject was email marketing and it was a packed house. There seems to be great interest about getting started using email marketing and how to use it effectively.

Successful marketing involves a comprehensive, systematic approach.

The most effective marketing strategy involves targeting your audience/s well, crafting relevant messages to their needs and interests, and engaging in ongoing and consistent two-way communications. Recipients of virtually any marketing message usually ask themselves, “What’s in it for me?” If your email marketing campaigns can’t answer that compelling question, they’re falling short of their potential.

Take this article for instance. You may have reached it via a search engine, referral from a friend, or the Glimpse enewsletter section of our blog. More likely, however, is that you received a link to the article as a subscriber (if not, you can sign up here). It’s designed to provide valuable information to our enewsletter subscribers and if you’re reading it, chances are, you’re probably interested in email marketing as well. It’s called education marketing and it’s one of the most effective ways to utilize email marketing.

If you’re not currently doing email marketing, consider this: According to a 2009 study by the Direct Marketing Association, every $1 spent on commercial email marketing generated a $43.62 return on investment. This is the highest response rate for all direct response methods. As a comparison, the second highest marketing ROI came from Internet search advertising, which returned $21.85 for every dollar spent on it in 2009.

How to Get Started

Trying anything new can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. If you don’t currently utilize email marketing, as the paragraph above illustrates, you’re not using one of the most effective tools in your marketing toolbox. Here’s how to get started.

First: Strategize

– Email marketing is just a marketing tactic, albeit a powerful one. But without a strategy, tactics aren’t as effective. It’s important to think about the goals and objectives for your emails before deciding to take it a step further. Determining a schedule is also vital. Make sure you can deliver what you promise in terms of content, how often you’re going to send out the emails, etc.

Second: Segment

– Determining your targeted audience is the next step. Who do you want to target? What kinds of information and promotions are they looking for? Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself what you would be interested in. You’ll need to create your email list, either by building it yourself with your own contacts or by renting/purchasing a list from a list broker. Either way, make sure anyone you add to the list has authorized you to do so and will be interested in receiving your information. Otherwise, your email could be reported as SPAM.

Third: Develop your message

– After you’ve determined your primary audiences, segment them so that you can tailor your messages accordingly. Segmenting allows your marketing program to focus on the subset of prospects that are most likely to purchase your offering. Done properly, effective segmentation increases the ROI of your marketing campaign.

Fourth: Pick an ESP

– An Email Service Provider (ESP) is a service that hosts email marketing services on their servers, which are specifically optimized for this purpose. ESPs help ensure your emails are delivered, will provide you with detailed reporting of your email campaign, and will help make sure you comply with CAN SPAM Act regulations.

Fifth: Design and develop

– Many ESPs have generic templates you can use for your email marketing, but if you really want to make an impact with your brand and speak to your targeted audience, develop a custom email template instead. A custom template will help ensure consistency with your website and all other marketing collateral, resulting in a more compelling and credible brand experience for its recipients.

Sixth: Test, track, and adapt

– Once you start sending out your emails, be sure to test different types of content, subject lines, and email lists. Some techniques will work more effectively on certain audiences than others, so track your results (open rate, bounce rate, forward rate, SPAM reports, opt-outs, click-through rate, etc.), compare them against others in your industry, and make adjustments as necessary.

Seventh: Be consistent

– Once you’ve sent out your first email, stick to your schedule. In addition to the relevance of your content, messaging, and brand, your credibility will also be established through consistency and predictability of your email campaigns.

Incorporating email marketing is not only relatively easy to do, but it’s also very effective. The difficult part is taking the first step. Don’t let it intimidate you. Get started today on your strategy. If you need help, hire a professional to help guide you through the process. In no time, you’ll be sending out compelling emails and seeing the return-on-investment in terms of both increased sales and enhanced communication with your audience/s.

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M.B., Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc.

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