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Email has revolutionised business communications over recent years and has rightly earned the label of the Killer Application of the Internet. The use of email marketing has had a similar and profound impact for companies looking to promote their products and services.
It has been especially powerful for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs). Without the marketing budgets of larger organisations, SMEs nevertheless have the same requirements for a cost effective, successful and measurable method of communicating with their customers. Email marketing offers not only this but can be used in every element of the marketing process, from building your brand, driving traffic to your website or marketing special offers, to providing customer service or technical support.
But just why does email marketing offer such possibilities to small business and, indeed, organisations of all sizes? Below are outlined 8 reasons why email marketing has to sit right at the top of every SME’s marketing activities checklist.
First and foremost, email marketing produces results! A well designed campaign using a properly managed mailing list will give response rates which are much higher than other direct marketing methods.
While there are many variables that contribute to response rates, indications are that overall email marketing gains a response rate about 5 times higher than direct mail. By getting a much larger percentage of people interested in what you are offering, immediately you are massively increasing the number of potential sales. Added to this, the quick response methods allow a much faster turnaround of questions and objections thus clearing a way through to closing the sale.
Even though the unacceptable rise in Spam has had a detrimental effect on the proper commercial use of emails in marketing, the success levels of well run, targeted and fully compliant campaigns using full opt-in lists continue to advance in leaps and bounds. Effectively, whatever your goal, email marketing delivers in a way that few , if any, direct marketing methods can match.
The more targeted your marketing message is, the more likely it is to be successful. Email marketing provides the means of customising each message which is sent out, so that the information, promotion or offer can be individually personalised and targeted.
Effectively, using targeted HTML emails gives you the opportunity to quickly and easily tailor the message to directly respond to each prospect’s own needs and interests. Results consistently also show that the more you can personalise your messages, the higher your response and conversion rates will be.
In many respects, a well run email campaign makes the concept of “one to one marketing” available to all, because of the way that it is perfectly suited to segmentation and personalisation. Whereas printed mailers are created, printed and fixed, with email marketing you remain in control of the process for longer giving you more flexibility both in the overall approach and offering.
3. Economic and Cost Effective
Email marketing eliminates the significant time and expense of full graphic design, printing, postage, handling and so on which is associated with printing and processing traditional direct mail campaigns. Yet with graphic html emails, you are able to create the same imagery and provoke the same responses with the added benefit of having follow up information instantly available via your website.
Perhaps just as importantly, with the correct maintenance of an email list, the cost benefits increase as does the ROI through the closer relationship established with the recipients. Coupled with the higher response rates that email marketing attracts, you therefore get more positive responses, more quickly and at a lower unit cost! Win – win situation!
When using email marketing, you can track the results of your campaign in real time thus providing you with instant feedback on its success. This allows you to respond to developments as they happen and to follow up while the campaign is still in progress.
For each message, you can see whether:
* it was received successfully;
* it was opened and read;
* the recipient used the links in it to reach your site.
There are two immediate benefits of this level of information: firstly, it puts you in a position to be able to make changes to a campaign already underway to improve its response rate; secondly, when sending out follow up messages, you have the possibility to segment your mail list according to the action taken on receipt of the initial one. This allows you to respond immediately to any issues which arise and to complete the feedback loop quickly and effectively.
Moving forward, you also have a complete record of those elements and links which worked best for you and those which require changes to improve their performance. The experiences taken from the campaign can then be applied to future campaigns with a high degree of accuracy.
As the adage goes, “If you can’t measure it, then you can’t manage it” and measuring the success of your marketing spend is more important today than ever. To make best use of your budget, it is essential to keep track of not only the costs but also the results and the revenue that the campaign specifically generates. This will allow you to focus your activities with the most appropriate methods in future.
In addition to tracking the recipients’ reaction to the email, you can also follow their subsequent path through your website, with the appropriate software. This allows excellent visibility as to the success of the landing page and the anticipated route through to the purchase or sign-up page, according to your campaign’s objectives.
Together, this information is invaluable when planning future campaigns or being able to precisely calculate the costs and sales generated by any email marketing activity that you undertake. Hopefully, the ROI (Return on Investment) you achieve will be as good as the campaigns run by companies which have reported ROI rates 40 times higher than those achieved with direct mail!
To achieve the best possible response rates, it is common practice to send any intended piece of marketing material to sample groups to test its effectiveness before starting the main campaign. With traditional direct marketing, this process can be time consuming and costly.
However, with email marketing, this process is fast and effective with results available almost immediately, thanks to the instant measuring of the results. Additionally, as there is no printed material involved, the turnaround for any changes in layout or wording required as a result can be incorporated into the main mailing quickly and easily.
The speed at which business happens is constantly increasing. Email marketing allows you not only to keep pace with these changes but stay ahead of them, not only in terms of the speed of response to the campaign but also the creation of the campaign itself.
Firstly, the “Call to Action” can be immediate and ideally handled through the website. When you read a compelling offer in an email you can respond using the links in the message itself, usually taking you to a specially created page with additional information and recommendations. Responding to a direct mail piece, on the other hand, requires a much more active response, such as completing and sending off a form or even just picking up the phone. Just as importantly, the responses start to come back immediately! On average, 80% of the responses happen within 3 days as opposed to the weeks which is more normal for traditional direct mail.
Secondly, the creation and distribution of the email campaign is also much quicker. Carefully constructing, producing and sending a good html email which is going to bring the top level results, need only take a matter of days (or indeed hours if you are working with a supportive partner!) rather than weeks for a printed mailer.
8. Flexible & Adaptable
Email marketing is adaptable enough to support your business in many different ways and can help to achieve a variety of different goals. While email marketing is often considered stronger when you are looking to maintain customer relationships rather than forge new ones, it is in fact able to fulfil a variety of different purposes for your business. Some of these are:
* Increase the number of visitors to your website
* Attract new clients, leads or registrations
* Build stronger relationships with existing clients
* Provide improved levels of company, product or service information
* Build brand awareness
These goals can be achieved through the use of emails to distribute different items, each offering different opportunities for strengthening the relationship with the company’s customers. Some of the more common ones include:
* Sales promotions / vouchers
* Account statements
* Company Newsletters
* Press Releases
* Product Announcements
Email marketing is in itself an excellent method of communicating and distributing information and an essential part of an integrated marketing strategy. Like all marketing methods, it is most influential when used in conjunction with other media with the result that the sum of the parts being more powerful than the individual parts themselves.
With the use of RSS feeds and blogs gaining greater acceptance as corporate communications media, there will undoubtedly prophets of doom announcing the imminent demise of the use of email marketing as a tool for the future. The astute marketer will, however, develop these up and coming channels alongside their email marketing program and so be ideally placed to offer our customers the information they require by the method they prefer.