How many emails do you get every day and how many of them should really be in your spam folder? Did you sign up for something and then the company sold your email address to everyone on the planet?
Every once in a while, so-called marketing gurus announce the death of email marketing, but Luke Middendorf, the owner of WSI Connect in Northern California, is happy to tell the world that it's still alive and actually thriving.
"I think it was about a decade ago that I first read an article boldly proclaiming that email marketing was dead," he said. "I laughed at the time as I could plainly see from our internal metrics that email marketing was still highly effective. Year after year, new technologies try to make the elimination of email marketing their claim to fame. Yet, year after year, email marketing continues to produce a better ROI than just about any other marketing strategy.
"Email marketing is still the best way to put your message in front of your target audience. You don’t have to wait for them to Google the types of products or services that you offer and you don’t have to hope that they will notice your Facebook campaign. Email marketing delivers the content directly to them."
Email marketing does not need to be expensive, Middendorf explained.
"It’s relatively low-cost," he said. "We actually utilize the free version provided by MailChimp for a number of our clients. Their only costs are content development and building out email lists."
What are the key elements of a successful email marketing campaign?
"There are two critical components to any effective email marketing campaign: providing high-quality content and building a great list," Middendorf said. "Building a list is the second important component of any successful email marketing program. There are tons of different ways to build an email list. The first one is just good old-fashioned networking. If you exchange business cards with another professional, you have their email address. I recommend sending them a personalized email before you add them to any email marketing campaign."
Educating and engaging your readers is paramount because they're savvy and can see an ad from a mile away.
"One of the best newsletters that I subscribe to is produced by a business consulting firm," Middendorf said. "Each week I receive 2--3 emails from them and I learn something useful in each email that I read. That’s the key. I learn something that I can apply to the growth of my business; therefore the content is very valuable to me. After receiving six months of valuable information from them, I decided to utilize their services. By giving away valuable information, the consulting firm was able to establish themselves as industry experts and convert me into a client."
Trading useful and pertinent information for an email address also works well.
"We often create an eBook or white paper, set up a landing page and give it away in exchange for an email address," he said. "Mine your LinkedIn contacts. Most people make their email addresses available to their first degree connections. I still recommend a personalized email beforehand. We also often experiment with lightboxes. We use SumoMe on a couple of the websites that we support. This provides an easy way for readers to add their email to the subscriber list."
Other tips for email campaigns
• Specialization is key. Some body shops do separate email campaigns for their customers and insurance partners with specialized content that caters specifically to each.
• Present your email using the same tactics as you use for blogs or social media. Open with interesting, engaging content and funnel readers through to your company’s landing pages.
• Think mobile: Most of your customers are perusing email on their phones today, so design your emails to be mobile-friendly.
• Present small bites: Separate content using headlines, subheads and bullet points. Give your readers information that can be quickly scanned and absorbed. People will not read lengthy articles, because they just don't have the time.
• Make it personal: Email is a personal form of media, so cater your campaigns to be as personalized as possible.
• Avoid spam: Set up a regular contact routine, but don’t flood your contacts with advertisements and products. You want your readers to look forward to hearing from you, so be consistent and courteous.
• Unsubscribe link: Make it easy to unsubscribe. Small or hidden unsubscribe links are very annoying.
So, the $64,000 question is: Does email marketing still work?
"Absolutely," Middendorf said. "Email marketing is considered an important part of any robust online marketing campaign. Your company should still consider other well-established marketing strategies, such as blogs and branded websites; however, email is an affordable way to reach more people with minimal expense. For the best results, turn your online marketing campaign over to a company experienced in the field that is able to assist you with keyword strategies and reaching target audiences."