Following on from Sarah’s column in the Western Morning News about spam, here are some ideas and advice about using email to increase your business.
Do not spam
No one likes spam, it is the bane of everyone’s business life online. Unsolicited email is irritating and wastes inordinate amounts of time. You can use filters to remove most of it but if the filtering is set too aggressively you risk loosing bone fide messages that may be vital to your business. Email marketing, as discussed here, is not spam and it is important to understand the difference and follow the rules. Sending out unsolicited email is not necessarily an offence in this country (see below) but it is in the States and other countries. The potential damage to your reputation – your brand – could loose you business far in access of what you may gain and there is a very real danger that your company emails may be put on a black list and get blocked. The message is clear: don’t spam.
Buying a mailing list
A lot of companies, including some of the largest household brands, use targeted email marketing to great effect. List brokers offer lists of email addresses as well as physical addresses and phone numbers. Some lists come with contact names of ‘decision makers’ which enables emails to be ‘personalised’ and lists can be bought, for example, by region, market sector, socio-economic demographics or business turnover.
There are a lot of cowboys out there sending out spam offering email lists for sale. Beware, these are often old lists which will have a high failure rate and will almost certainly not be ‘opted in’. Some large, respectable companies offer mailing lists for sale – Experian, the credit scoring agency, is perhaps the largest in the UK. They will filter any sort of list for you and charge you something like 20p to 30p per address. You can buy list licenses once-off use, for a certain period or as often as you like. You can specify your target right down to ‘pregnant 25 to 35 year old working housewives living in Greater London’ if that is who you want to reach.
Just like any other form of advertising, a compelling message or sales proposition, supported by eye catching visuals are the essential ingredients. Repetition is also important because people rarely respond to the first or second exposure to any form of mass advertising. Other factors that will make or break a successful email campaign include a call to action (usually click through to a web page) and some form of financial incentive like a discount or special offer.
Some lists claim to be ‘opt in’ or even ‘double opt in’. Opt in means that – in theory – the companies or individuals on the list have agreed to be contacted for marketing purposes. Be careful to un-tick – or sometimes tick – those boxes at the bottom of online forms or you may be inviting an avalanche of email you probably have no interest in. Quite how purveyors of lists can claim that someone has agreed to any Tom, Dick or Harry contacting them because they once apparently agreed to ‘be contacted by us or affiliate companies offering similar products’ beats me. Let alone when the addresses get sold on to anyone who will pay. Follow this link for details of the UK regulations concerning commercial emails.
Building your own mailing list
All marketers know that your best source of new business will usually come from your existing customer base. Sending out a regular email newsletter to your customers is a great way of keeping in touch and ensuring your company is front of mind. If you haven’t got a list of all your customers’ email addresses you should start building it now. If your accounting software has the facility to send out invoices and statements via email the job is almost already done. But be careful to use the main contact’s address as it is unlikely the person in their accounts office will have much influence over purchasing decisions. ‘Dear Admin…’
It’s all too easy to commit to sending out company newsletters but is the time and effort involved worth it? You will need to gather news stories along with photographs, write it all up and somehow get it into an email program and send it out. The good news is that, even though you and your staff are, no one else is that interested in your company news! So instead of thinking about news stories use the knowledge built up in your business to compile lists of topical tips, advice, latest trends, things to avoid, anecdotes… Keep your ‘newsletter’ short, focussed and – if possible – entertaining. If you have a lot to say on a particular subject put a link in your email to a specific page on your website.
There are several email broadcasting services that are either free or charge a modest price – far less than the price of a postage stamp. MailChimp and Campaign Monitor are two of the better known email broadcasters. They provide reporting which shows which emails bounced back as undeliverable, which were opened and what links were followed. They also provide templates to ensure your email looks good and opens in all popular email client software. They do not allow you to use bought in lists and they automatically include the obligatory Unsubscibe link.
Email marketing has its place but it’s not a panacea. Done properly it can reap rich rewards but it can also waste a lot of management time and resources with little to show for it and, if done badly, it can do more harm than good. As with all marketing tools it should be considered only as part of a carefully planned marketing strategy which will define your target market, resonant messages, design and follow up procedure.
If you would like any help with your email or newsletter campaigns please call us on 01752 830000.