How to make e-marketing work for your business

Yesterday, we talked about adding email marketing to your business growth plan. When you want to make people aware of your product or service, persuade them to consider buying it, and get them to prefer it over the competition, email marketing is an inexpensive way to pull all three of these levers. But how can you get the most out of your email activities?

Determine goals

What, specifically, do you want to accomplish with your email campaign? Think about short-term promotions versus relationship building. If you're looking for new customers, free or discounted trials (promotions) may be the way to go. Seeking repeat purchases from previous customers? Focus on providing relevant and important information that ties into your business in some way. For example, share an article about "green" activities in your industry, and relate it to how you do business, thus imparting valuable information while positioning your business. This helps you maintain relationships with your customers – and is something to bear in mind if promotions don't fit the nature of your business.

Create compelling materials

Make sure that your communication is attractive to read, considering elements such as typeface, colour, and layout. Avoid complicating the page with too many graphics – and be aware that for security reasons, some people will have graphics disabled in their email clients. Test your newsletters and other marketing material on a few email clients, including webmail. Have several people scan for errors. It sounds elementary, but typos make a business look amateurish.

The big four

Every piece of e-marketing material you send must include four elements: "Feedback," "send to a friend," "for more information," and "opt-out."

Feedback

Always give your customers the opportunity to communicate with you; dialogue is always preferable to one-way communication. Make sure they have an easy way to get in touch with you. You may also solicit opinions from your target audience by asking them specific questions or including opinion polls.

Send to a friend

Make it easy for your customers to take content from your communication to forward on to someone else. There is no marketing tool more powerful than word of mouth. Make sure that what gets forwarded includes where it came from, an assurance that the third party's information has been kept private, and instructions telling the third party how to subscribe.

For more information

You can't possibly create an effective communication that covers all aspects of a given topic, and you probably wouldn't want to anyway. But some customers (or potential customers) are going to want to know more about some of the subjects that you cover. Make it easier for them to find the information they want by providing links to relevant additional content that you either host or have found on the web.

Opt-out

Don't omit this key feature, also known as "unsubscribe," "cease further communications," or "lose my address." Include a link and honour it.

The goal of your campaign is to increase revenue, and your main metric should be whether your missives help bring in money. Though email analytics shouldn't be the ultimate test of your program, things such as open rates and bounce-back message volume are important data points.

A number of tools on the market can provide you with campaign analytics, and working with a business consultant who specialises in email marketing can help you sort through what's available and what works. This should not be an expensive proposition. Be willing to experiment with content and design to discover what maximises readership. The goal is to find the combination of factors that gives you the best results, with the ultimate goal of reaching both new and old customers.