Email inboxes everywhere are crowded with spam, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for marketers to stand out among the clutter. But does that mean email should be tossed aside as an outdated marketing strategy?
Not just yet. A 2013 Salesforce ExactTarget study found that 77 percent of consumers prefer receiving permission-based marketing messages through email than through other sources. And, according to 2013 data from digital marketing advisors Convince and Convert, 44 percent of email recipients say they made at least one purchase as a direct result of receiving a promotional email within the past year.
Clearly, email is still a valuable marketing tool. The challenge is standing out without becoming just another obnoxious spammer. The best way to do that is to craft personalized, highly relevant communications that your audience will respond to. The following five tips will help you do just that.
1. Create a Compelling Subject Line
Your email messages don’t stand a chance of converting if you don't make a good first impression because recipients will never open them. “The essential elements that [help] convert start with the subject line," says Jeremy Levi, director of marketing at CardCash, a gift card exchange website, "because without opens, you don't have conversions,”
But it doesn’t end there. “The same element that gets opens—a clear, concise message delivered in a pleasant way—needs to continue in the email as well," Levi adds. "[Explain] what you're selling, why I should buy it and how much it is.”
Email has been widely noted as one of the most significant time-wasters for busy executives, with dozens of programs available, such as the "Inbox Zero" method, that are designed to help users quickly filter through their inboxes and identify what’s important. That means an actionable, compelling subject line is critical for getting the attention your emails deserve.
2. Use Data on Past Behaviors to Create Relevant Email Campaigns
Shana Kelly, customer relationship manager at men’s clothing company Paul Fredrick, says generating conversions and building brand awareness is definitely possible using email marketing. One key? Relevance. It’s possible to create highly relevant, personalized campaigns even using basic email marketing software applications.
“Our real-time and batch-trigger campaigns focus on personalization," Kelly explains, "from the smaller details, such as pulling in a customer's first name, to larger efforts, like showing a customer the category he was previously browsing on the website. Pairing data with our customer's actions on the website is extremely effective in driving relevant messages.”
3. Incorporate a Call to Action
One reason some email marketers aren’t getting the results they want is that recipients aren’t sure what to do next. A clear call to action explains the precise action readers should take in order to reap the benefits offered in the sales message. Whether that means making a purchase and entering a promotional code to get a discount at checkout, signing up for a free webinar, requesting a sales call or something else, you need to tell your readers exactly what to do.
According to Kelly, “We want the customer to be drawn to click through to the site with compelling messages and imagery.”
4. Trigger Emails in Response to Specific Actions on Your Website
When you send an email marketing message is just as important as what you say. Some email marketing platforms enable users to generate targeted emails in response to an action a prospect takes on the company’s website. For instance, if a consumer searches for a specific product category, your software can automatically send a follow-up email offering a discount on those products. This targeted message is more effective and relevant to the customer than a generic message.
“When email campaigns are triggered based on the types of content downloaded from our website or how contacts have engaged with previous emails, we're able to deliver similar content that progresses from thought leadership in that area to Brainshark's solution, thereby encouraging further engagement,” says Lauren Pettiglio, marketing campaign manager for the cloud-based business presentations company Brainshark. “The personalization is authentic because it solves a problem that's important to the contact regardless of their position.”
5. Stop Selling!
It sounds counterintuitive to avoid making a sales pitch when sales are the goal you’re trying to achieve, but in some cases, backing away from the sales pitch will actually produce more results. “You have to approach it as purely building trust with the prospect,” says Joy Gendusa, CEO and founder of PostcardMania, a direct mail and postcard marketing firm.
“They've shown some level of interest in your company, either by filling out a form, calling in to your office or even by making a previous purchase,” Gendusa explains. “You're now taking the opportunity to reconnect with them to turn their interest into a sale, by educating them more about your company, your products, your services, your industry, your reputation with your clients, etc.”
Gendusa says that things like customer testimonials, a description of the benefits of your products or services, or interesting facts or background information about you or your company provide valuable email content that’s engaging without pushing too hard for a sale.
While these five best practices are a great place to start, ultimately, every business must customize its email marketing style and approach to match the preferences of its audience. Follow these tips, test your campaigns and fine-tune your approach over time, and you’ll find that email marketing can still be a highly effective way to reach your customers and generate more sales.
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